questionswhat makes you shop at your supermarket?

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Depends on what I'm buying.

Most of the time, I go to the Super Target down the street from my house. It's only because of it's close proximity that I select that store.

Sometimes, this particular Super Target doesn't have a product that I need so I have to drive downtown to a Whole Foods or a Walmart or even Publix.

Price does make a difference but I'm not going to drive all over town to save a dollar. I'd spend more money in gas doing that and my time is worth something too. So, if the price is within reason, I'll buy it in whatever supermarket I happen to be in at the time.

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We generally go to both Shop Rite and Pathmark. Picking the best sales from each one.
And the local produce market for fruit and veggies.
Big Savings.

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There are 3 grocery stores within a quarter of a mile from each other where I live (and they are the only 3) - Giant (PA), Super Walmart, and a smaller, locally owned store that sold out partially to a bigger company. I buy 95% of my groceries at the Giant because I earn gas points and I use their pharmacy. I buy the other 5% between the other 2 stores based on what it is and if I am near them for other reasons.

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I tend to shop at smaller markets, meaning that they are still chains but not the huge grocery store type. My favorites are Trader Joe's, Fresh and Easy and Sprouts. Since I am a single guy, I like going to these places because things tend to be packaged in smaller quantities.

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We are getting a Trader Joe's soon in the area - I have never been to one, but so many people are truly excited about it, I must go see when it is open. I like Whole Foods but have to travel about 35 miles to go to one - through miserable traffic at that. Albertsons just closed, as did WinnDixie. I never shopped those two, but they were here. Now all we have is Publix (which has always been my favorite even tho it may cost a tad more), Walmart, SweetBay, and a few independents Our Target does not carry produce or meats or fresh baked.

Publix has an awesome bakery and deli. They go overboard to please. They are very competitive when they have their 2 for one deals and markdowns - but being a single person, that is not so much a consideration of mine.

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We have a Kroger Plus loyalty card, which gives us 10¢/gallon off on Kroger gas for every $100 we spend. Yes, I know, that works out to about a 1.3% rebate; when you put it that way it doesn't sound great. Also, for using the card we get "discount" prices on various items--discounts that are accounted for by jacking up the price of everything storewide a minuscule amount. Also, we pay for our discounts by surrendering marketing data about our shopping habits.

Still, we'd probably be shopping Kroger anyway. Good selection, reasonable quality produce, prices no worse than elsewhere in town, and the location is right for us.

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I do most of my shopping at Albertsons. It's clean, it's close, and it caries a broad range of products. I trust the meat and produce. But I also do a lot of shopping at Lowe's Big 8 and Sprouts. Big 8 has produce from closer by, and while it isn't as nice looking at that sold at Albertsons, it's often more flavorful and usually much better priced. Sprouts is similar to Whole Foods, their produce and meat department are top-notch, and their prices are very reasonable. I also shop at Farmers Markets when I can. I get certain products such as Greek yogurt, packaged sushi, whole roasted chicken, nuts, health supplements, and canned chicken, salmon and beans at Costco.

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I have seven super markets/big box stores with groceries plus a Sams and Costco within three miles of my house. Within about six miles adds Central Market, Trader Joes and a few duplicate stores. Crazy competitive grocery market and I'm all about getting the best price items at a reasonable quality (I'm fine with most store brands...except Walmart's milk. It just tastes funny to me.)

Mostly I shop at Aldi and Albertsons. Aldi has the best prices and good quality on things that I use a lot like milk, eggs, bread, oatmeal, some produce. Albertsons has reasonable prices and still doubles coupons. The stores are also nice and clean and, for the most part, the staff is friendly and knowledgable. I get produce at Sprouts, as they have the best sale prices. But their regularly groceries are too high.
I used to shop at the Kroger a lot more before they stopped doubling coupons. I still get a few things there but usually only when they have good sales.

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Product and price. It doesn't matter if those apples are half the price if they don't taste like apples. I'd rather buy fewer and eat a fresh off-the-tree that's-what-apple-picking-tastes-like apple.

I am fortunate to have a lot of choice where I live. So that means there are lots of trader joes among everything, lots of farmers markets. And you can go and weave in and out and pick out the great from the merely good and the ok, and find a lot of it at prices comparable to or better then what the large chains are selling mediocre (or less then) stuff for.

There are also wonderful Asian markets and Kosher markets etc, where you can pick up great things you can't get elsewhere (the "international" aisle of your supermarket doesn't count)

I don't really believe in one-stop-shopping (unless I'm really rushed and need a few things fast). I get my bread from a great local bakery. I either plan meals, or I see what looks great and say, I'll cook something around this eggplant or this fish.

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We have a Mariano's that opened near us, so that has been our store of choice. It's run by the guy who used to be CEO of Dominick's and is very Whole Foods-esque without the high prices. They have lots of fresh items, a clean store, and always have a fair number of samples. We also stop by Trader Joe's every so often to pick up random items we've grown to like. But if we see any good sales in the weekly flyer, then we definitely stop at Jewel or Dominick's (Jewel being the better of the two options for us) as we would rather pay less for the same exact item, no matter what store we buy it from. Every now and then we'll pick up an item or two at a Super Target or Walmart, but that's usually rare. So we aren't really overly loyal to one store or another, but have an order of preference, starting with Mariano's.

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My Monster Energy Drinks are half the price there than they are at the average gas station :)

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I think if you have or can make the resources, you'll find that shopping is more enjoyable and it's less of a chore-cooking as well. And the burden is easier to split and it's something easier to pass on.

Even in the most suburban and urban places you can find a peach guy or have a local bakery you visit once or twice a week. And you can create a lovely community out of that. It tends to lend itself to healthier living altogether anyway.

It may not be something you can do much of. But try doing a little. Growing up, I didn't have a lot of these options, but a couple times a year we drove out to the nearest farm (which was a ways) and we got to pick out food that was fresh, that still had dirt on it. And see where it had been picked from that morning. And everything tasted great and every year we each got just the right shaped pumpkin of our own.

I can't afford to buy all local-organic, but the way I was raised made a lasting impact on how I think about food and its importance.

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I like Trader Joe's a bunch, but usually for proximity I'll head to QFC.

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WinCo. The bulk bins is my biggest reason for shopping there; their regular prices on groceries as low as (or even lower) than other supermarkets' sales prices is the second reason.

99-Ranch market. They're the closest Asian ethnic market here.

Trader Joe's and Fresh & Easy. The vast majority of their products are without all the artificial crap that are present in the major brands, yet are still very reasonably priced.

Super King. A bit of a drive, considering there are 6 other Latino ethnic markets between there and here, but the prices and quality are better. A decent selection of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean items is a plus too.

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I've been loyal to Ralphs markets in Southern California (part of the Kroger chain now) for over 25 years, however, more and more I find myself going there only for the staples and coupon items and splitting the rest between Trader Joes and Costco.

I was very disappointed when Ralphs changed their club plan and eliminated both double coupons and the quarterly rebates. They said that their "new lower prices" would compensate for those, but I haven't really seen that yet.

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We have a choice between Wal mart (NOT a Supercenter) and a mom-and-pop. We use both.

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@elforman: did you continue to shop at Ralphs during the strikes? they lost a ton of business then as people didnt want to cross picket lines, and its not like there arent other options. some people just never went back because of how it ended and they got used to shopping somewhere else.

it was a huge blow for them.

of course nowadays that would hardly even be a labor scandal given recent events but it was a big deal

[b]Edit:[/b] just caught the Kroger chain bit.....in terms of actual ownership--how many big chains (as opposed to names) are there still?

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@elforman: My local Ralph's closed (Diamond Bar), so no more shopping there. For a while, there were two of them; when they bought over Alpha Beta, it was cheaper for them to keep that second store open than to terminate the lease.

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I mainly shop at Vons, but only because it is so incredibly close to my house. Aside from the convenience, the store sucks. I go in there to buy stuff for a meal and they almost never have all of the ingredients. I would much rather go to Albertsons or Ralphs, but would have to drive another 15 minutes or so to get to either one.

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@klozitshoper:
One of the truly great things about Trader Joes, is they have awesome customer service. They don't see employees as a cost (there was a great piece on this recently, I'll have to find it), and do what other stores do--try and reduce costs. They see that not having good, happy, well-trained employees lead to mistakes that cost them money. Trader Joes tends to sell great quality stuff (I've hit a few duds, but not many), but also their service is awesome. The staff likes working there, are knowledgeable, will be honest with you about products and will help you find things, grab something from the back, help you put together a dinner menu. If you can't find something or have a question, ask.

Also, you can head straight for the sample section, make yourself a coffee, and snack on whatever they are tasting before you start shopping.

And if you try something and dislike it or there is a problem with the product, bring it back, they'll replace it or give you your money back.

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@anoted: During the strike I did still go to my local Ralphs only when it was unavoidable. There are some things I just couldn't get at Trader Joes or just didn't want a lifetime supply of from Costco, plus I'm a big coupon shopper. I figured I was doing the store more harm than good by continuing to shop there. Also, I've never shopped at Vons (i.e. Safeway chain) since I saw maggots in the produce section of two different Vons stores, and the nearest Albertsons was too far away.

@narfcake: The same thing happened in Granada Hills, CA. Ralphs opened up a big new store, then after they acquired the Hughes chain across the street, the Hughes became a Ralphs as well. Both stores remained open for several years until one of them finally closed as the lease expired.

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For my weekly groceries, I usually go to ShopRite. they have weekly sales, a full selection of whatever groceries I need, plus the kosher chicken is always 25% off.
When I just need produce and/or milk I will usually go to Food Basics as I pass by it twice a day on the way to my kid's school.
When I am stocking up on things, I will go where the various items are cheapest: Costco, Walmart, Shoprite or Food basics.

Then there is the shopping that I do on Amazon. With Prime, subscription shopping and no tax (for now), often times they are the cheapest option.

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I shop mostly at Trader Joe's; I have several significant food allergies and food at Trader Joe's tends to be "safe" for me. For single-ingredient staples, I find that Trader Joe's is either cheaper than my local grocery store or the best intersection of price-and-ethics: I can get "regular" eggs cheaper at the grocery store, but Trader Joe's free-range eggs are significantly cheaper than the grocery store's free-range eggs.

Costco is a great alternative for certain "safe" foods (chicken broth, frozen berries, and sausage come to mind), as well as where I buy red meat: Costco is the only major retailer that tests every batch for e. coli instead of randomly spot-testing. I find their produce to be competitively priced, but I no longer live near a Costco. I miss going on a Saturday and just wandering around Costco, people-watching!

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@elforman: Wow. Everyone says the same thing. Went to Trader Joes (some did a Trader Joes/Bristol Farms combo) for most of the stuff, did some Costco and some Smart and Final, and got a couple things from Ralphs they really needed and they didn't want a 10 year supply. I think some Trader Joes extended their hours over it.

I've never really liked vons or safeway much (never had problems with them either), but pavillions, which they bought out stayed at a fairly high quality for a number of years. The customer service has started to drop and they offer less variety at some, but they still seem quite decent. Vons and pavillions do seem to be the only place to get Caffeine-Free Diet Dr. Pepper. I'm serious. No one else carries it. They'll carry twelve other kinds but not that. But in a six mile radius I probably have 20 supermarkets I can go to and that's not counting the small independent markets I prefer, so I'm used to popping into a place for one item.