Debunking a Myth: Groceries are not Always Cheaper at Walmart

These days my trips to Walmart have one purpose only: buy Yobaby yogurt. It is the only store in my town that sells it. Not too long ago I did the bulk of my grocery shopping there. That was until I learned how to shop at my grocery store. Here are the three main reasons I save more money by shopping at my grocery store than at Walmart:

Loss Leaders

Through the sale of loss leaders grocery stores get you to walk through their doors. At Walmart its “Everyday Low Price” means there are no rock bottom priced items to attract your business. By shopping your grocery store’s sales circular and stockpiling loss leaders you can save more money than at Walmart.

Register Promotions
Even if your grocery store doesn’t double coupons chances are it offers other promotions. For example, my local store currently has an offer where if you buy 6 boxes of cereal at regular price you get $10 off your order at checkout and a coupon for free gallon of milk. Other register promotions grocery stores have include buy X number of items or spend $X and get a coupon for $X off your next order. With the right coupons you can turn promotions like these into lots of cheap or even free food items. Also if you use coupons you love getting those coupons that print out at check out. They are usually based on previous purchases so chances are they will be useful to you.

Loyalty Reward Programs
Almost every grocery store offer additional savings to members who sign up for store savings card. In addition, grocery stores also offer additional incentives such as gas rewards when you accumulate a certain level of spending on your account.

You also may have read my post comparing warehouse shopping versus drugstore shopping. So you know that most health and beauty items and also paper goods can be found cheaper at Walgreens or CVS. All you need are a few tools, a little bit of effort and the right disposition to start saving big by shopping smartly.

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  • Jennifer

    You are right. Overall groceries are not cheaper at Walmart. As with anything you have to know your prices. For me, there are a few things that are much cheaper at Walmart, therefore I go once a month and get those things and maybe other items that I need, but aren’t on sale else where that week.
    I used to spend $100 a month on toiletries at walmart! With shopping at CVS I have lowered my toiletry budget to about $25 a month and most of what I need is free or almost free at CVS. I love that store!

    If you don’t have time to be bothered with sales flyers and coupons, walmart is your best bet, but the deals are better elsewhere.

  • Kimberly

    True, but if you don’t want/need the loss leaders, and it’s not time for a register reward promotion, then you’re paying more.

    If I’m grabbing certain items I know I need, I usually end up paying less overall if I just go grab them at the Wal*Mart (I hate to admit it). I only buy as much as I can carry in my hands – it helps me not overbuy.

    We don’t have extra savings around here for loyalty programs – I mean, you do have to be a member but that just gets you the sale price from the flyer.

  • Dana

    One thing that helps me spend less is just not ever entering a Walmart. They are clever with their placement, and it’s easy to end up buying things you don’t need because you had to walk by three miles of stuff to get from the shampoo to the tomato paste. I used to “have” to go there when I needed toiletries, but thanks to CVS and WAGS, that’s no longer the case!

  • PollyS ( marypauline at stankus dot com)

    I must disagree with you. I do indeed shop the loss leaders and take advantage of register promotions and such at other stores. But for OVERALL value and everyday prices, Wal Mart cannot be beat. And on weeks when I find I am pressed for time, a trip to Wal Mart combined with coupons and price matching gets me just about the same deals had I chosen to drive all over town. After thinking about it, with the price of gas, I’m probably coming out about the same.
    I find if you look at the bigger picture rather than just the “sales” you’ll find your budget comes out just about even.
    An aside: for example, when Safeway or Kroger runs their rolling catalinas for Sara Lee or other manufacturers I usually set aside 3-4 hours to spend in the store because I am going to spend some time getting almost free groceries. But around here, the super sales are hard to come by. We have very little competition for grocery stores so there is no incentive for these stores to offer double coupons or in store savings. Just the regular ad and nothing else.

  • Sisters Savings

    I agree with you….my biggest problem is the couponing at Walmart. I hate using coupons there! It is always a problem…I am digging through my bags, showing that I did buy this or that…so I quit…Plus when my grocery stores double my coupons, it comes out around the same and takes a lot less time. So, I stick to my local grocery stores…I am lucky I have Kroger and Meijer. I can find everything I need there!

  • Kim and Ken Carlile

    I also disagree. I am a bargain shopper to the core and follow all the sales and coupons and play the drugstore game, but I still spend around $30 – $40 a week at WalMart. Getting my meat, cheese, yogurt, milk, and a lot of Wal-Mart brand products saves me a lot on items that aren’t often featured in ads or have coupons. I have found many times that even if one of the other stores near me doubles a coupon, I can get it cheaper at Wal-Mart with their low price and my coupon (not doubling it). You can definately score great deals at other stores, but for my basics, Wal-Mart does me well!

  • JANE4girls

    I can’t remember the last time I stepped foot in a wal-mart, lol. We have 3 very close but I never go. Why would I price match an ad there when I can get it at Randalls or Kroger for the ad price PLUS get my coupon doubled or tripled?

    Once you have a stockpile built up and the whole couponing thing down, there is really no reason to ever step foot in there. They always have problems with multiple coupons or coupons in general.

    You can save so much more money by going to other stores, grocery and drug, than shopping at Wal-Mart.

    On a side note, the only thing I have found cheaper or a better deal on at WM is frozen name brand veggies…unless of course they are on sale someplace else.

  • Get Out of Debt Guy

    Great post that lead me to your other on warehouse pricing. Food for thought. 🙂

    Really, really good tips.

    I’m coming back for more.

  • Sharon

    I tried Walmart about 2 weeks ago and I was NOT impressed. Besides being out of pretty much everything that I went there to buy–and I went Monday morning–would have thought it would be fairly well stocked. They checked every one of my coupons and disputed about half of them. A big pain when you are shopping with kids. Not to mention all of the coupons/products were accounted for! I might try one more time since I don’t like to give up too quickly, but I will definitely go next time with no kids.
    By the way, this is not for food items. I agree with you that it is cheaper to shop at your local grocery store.

  • BusyMom

    One of my grocery stores doesn’t take IP, so if they are having a good sale and I have IPs, I will head to WalMart for the price match so that I can get the sale price and use the coupon.

    Two of the three stores in my area do not offer double coupons. So, there isn’t always an advantage in that regard to shopping the grocery stores, but I think the service at the regular grocery store is just so much better too.

  • Anonymous

    I think it depends on your area. Where I live, Walmart beats every store except the military commissary and frankly, many times it beats that too. Wal-mart price matches the drugstore and grocery flyers so in the rare event they are not the better deal, they’ll match the advertised price/deal of the competitors. Aldi’s has some decent bargins but they’re in addition to, not instead of, Walmart.

  • Leslie

    I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think the hassle of putting up with bad attitudes, poor customer service, and very weird stocking issues is worth my time or money. I used to shop there about once a month and I just can’t do it anymore. My blood pressure is through the roof by the time I’ve left.

    And in response to Polly…

    “We have very little competition for grocery stores so there is no incentive for these stores to offer double coupons or in store savings. Just the regular ad and nothing else.”

    Cause and effect. I can guarantee you that Wal-Mart’s presence in your town had a big hand in that.

  • Mercedes

    Maybe in my article I wasn’t clear enough. When you make a regular price comparison between your grocery store and Walmart, across the board Walmart will generally win hands down. However, if you take a comparison between sale prices and register promotions your grocery store may offer and what Walmart offers, chances are your grocery store will have the better deal. This is the reason Walmart has price matching, because they know that other stores will be lower priced in certain items than they are and they want to compete for that business. But notice that price matching is not a widely known practice. That is because the regular Jane or Joe who doesn’t know about this will just head to Walmart and fill their cart with groceries thinking they are getting the better deal there.

    Don’t get me wrong the deals are not dead at Walmart. However, shopping around your grocery store sales circular, stockpiling loss leaders and taking advantage of register promotions will more than likely result in a more successful savings strategy than just heading to Walmart and buying their everyday low priced items.

  • Happy Apple Studios

    Sorry about deleting the comment earlier… I have been having computer problems all night.

    Anyhow, I think your article is great. I know many people around here think that it has to be the lowest price if they bought it Wal-Mart or the Dollar General.

    That’s why sites like your as so great… helps to educate and inform people, with the added benefit of helping us save time and money.

    Funny thing is that this week I took some Wal-Mart deals with coupon match-ups from a site this week and bought these items at Kroger. Using the same coupons and buying the items listed on the deal site, I spent less at Kroger.

  • Justine

    I agree with you to a point, but no matter what sales or coupons I have there are still items I can’t get cheaper anywhere than Super Wal-mart!

  • Jenni

    I like loss-leaders too. It’s amazing how regular they are if you keep an eye on them. Since we only have a normal-sized freezer, I usually stock up 3-4 of a particular item that goes on sale, but can often get things like Foster Farms chicken for $0.79 a pound (and out here in the San Francisco area, I consider that a good deal!)

    Do you ever have issues with the quality of the meat? I stocked up once on chicken breast that was on sale for $1.99/lb, only to discover that it was injected with extra fluids and preservatives, up to 19% of the weight! I couldn’t stand the taste or the texture of it!

  • Polly

    In response to Leslie~
    Actually, WM Super Center’s precense along with Costco’s has actually helped…a little. One store began doubling coupons, but their regular prices are so high that the doubling doesn’t help. Others have started price matching, so yes, they felt the crunch.
    This was a problem before the super center opened. It’s just this area. Too many Bay Area (you know who you are!:) ) people that are accustomed to higher prices have moved into the area. Makes my frugal life fun!

  • Anonymous

    Great article. I have a few questions.
    If my store doubles coupons up to .99, does that mean a .75/1 is really 1.50/1 ?
    If you don’t by a lot of prepackaged items is couponing really worth it?
    Many of the things we buy don’t usually have coupons.


  • Mercedes

    Hi Jen!
    Yes, if your store doubles up to 0.99 then a 0.75 off one coupon becomes savings of 1.50 for each coupon.
    We don’t eat a lot of prepackages foods either. But even if you coupon for health and beauty items and the few things you find you use and have coupons for the savings quickly add up and free a lot of your budget so you can spend o those things you don’t have coupons for.

  • Carrie

    Thank you for this. It helps me not feel jealous of those who shop at WalMart. I have never shopped there because of the way they treat their workers and for other such reasons. It’s not something I push on others on my blog but it’s the way it is at our house.

    I used to buy toiletries and paper products at Target, and CVS has allowed me to completely stop that. In fact these days I hardly EVER make the drive to Target. Sure, I miss it because Target is fun, but I can’t argue with saving gas and saving money.

  • Lori

    I also agree with this post. I used to believe that Walmart was the only low price “game in town.” I found CVS and Walgreen’s at the beginning of ’08 and can’t believe how my household budget has decreased. I just got 16 rolls of paper towels, two large packs of Kotex and a box of Kleenex for $5.17 after using my ECB’s at CVS today, and they gave me back $10 ECB’s to use for next weeks deals! And I am not a constant CVS shopper, there are some weeks I don’t go if the deals don’t warrant my time. I have accumulated a stockpile of health/beauty and paper products to last 6 months. I donate extras I don’t need or won’t use to area food banks or to family members who will use them.
    In addition, I have become much more attuned to my local grocery store’s sale ads and using double coupons.
    Because I realize such large savings by using these tactics, we were able to discontinue our membership at Sam’s, a savings of $50 in itself. We don’t have to buy in bulk when we can get the products for free or almost free elsewhere.

  • captured magic

    I have to agree and disagree at the same time. We have a pretty sad selection of grocery stores in Tulsa, and I only shop at the three main ones when I have coupons. I buy loss leaders and double my coupons at the ones who will let me do that. I get awesome deals, but one’s family can’t live on Toaster Streudels, Electrasol tablets, and Ronzoni SmartTaste pasta alone. So I still have to go somewhere for the rest.

    When I have coupons, I have two stores who double. Otherwise, though, it’s FAR cheaper for me to buy things at Walmart, especially if they’re things I have to have right away. Plus, Walmart matches prices, so I can get any of the advertised loss leaders matched there, anyhow, without driving all over town to get my deals.
    It may help that we have Walmart’s Neighborhood Markets here, too, so I don’t have to brave the chaotic mess that reigns supreme at the Super Walmarts, but either way, it’s still a far better option for us and worth that chaos in the long run. And they’re the only place to get Red Box videos in town, so it’s a one stop deal.

  • Mark

    I haven't seen anyone mention it, but I usually make a trip to my Dollar Tree store for any brand name items they may be carrying. My local store even carries day old bread. As an example, Nature's Own 12 grain bread: Walmart $3.29, Dollar Tree $1. I usually buy about six loaves at a time and freeze them. They also carry name brand toiletries like antiperspirant, toothpast, shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, etc. I find that I say an enourmous amount buying whatever brand names they have available. I only go into Walmart for things that I can't get at my local grocery store. Better meat at my local Sweetbay store and I live in an agricultural area, so there are fruit & veg stands all over the place with fantastic produce at great prices!

  • Just be aware that some Walmart’s price match. When I used to shop at Walmart, I would grab all the circulars, figure out which ‘loss leaders’ I’m interested in, then buy them while I was at Walmart, having them match the prices. Easy and efficient. I hated going to lots of different stores.

    I don’t shop there now because our local grocery store contributes 5% of what I spend to my daughter’s marching band expenses–it’s just too valuable of a way to save money for her expenses.

  • Amy

    I’m glad to hear this discussion! A lot of people I work with don’t believe me when I say that I do better than Walmart shopping at Safeway or Frys. I agree, there are a few things that Walmart has that will never be cheaper elsewhere, but for the most part, once you get into a habit of shopping loss leaders and using coupons, I can shop at a “mainstream” grocery store for about 1/2 the price I would shop at Walmart! Throw in CVS and Walgreens and we get off cheap!

  • Jen

    Walmart is one of the stores I shop & I usually get things for less there. The only place in my area that’s cheaper is Aldi’s, where I buy most of my groceries. I buy most of my toiletries & cleaning supplies at Walgreens by shopping with coupons & rebates. I never buy anything full price there because they are almost double Walmart’s prices in my town. It’s the same with the grocery stores in my area. If it’s not on sale, it cost more. Only one of my local grocery stores will double coupons & even then, it’s still more than Walmart most of the time.

    I don’t think it’s a myth that Walmart is cheaper. I do think that different locations have different prices & you should do your homework. If you find the grocery stores cheaper in your area then I agree that you should shop there but other parts of the country may not have the choices or the reward programs your local stores do so each person needs to compare for themselves. I live in an area with a lot of choices, at least six or more national brand grocery stores but Walmarts prices still are lower overall.

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