I’m sure you’ve heard by now that food prices are climbing with no end in sight for Californians. But everyone has to eat.
While people have their preferences on where they like to buy their groceries in Sacramento, many are looking for ways to soften the blow of their next grocery bill.
National grocery prices absorbed their largest increase since 1979, The Sacramento Bee previously reported. In the western region of the U.S., including California, consumers are paying significantly more for their staple food items including dairy products, fruits and vegetables, meats and cereals.
The data used in this interactive line graph below, collected by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, was last updated July 2022. The values are not seasonally adjusted. Here is the percent change in the Consumer Price Index of food in the West region from July 2021 to July 2022.
I put some of the area’s most visited supermarkets to the test (Safeway, Bel-Air, Save Mart and Foods Co.) to determine which store has the cheapest prices.
Before we dive in, here’s the method behind the grocery experiment.
The Bee took the foot traffic of Sacramento’s top four most-visited supermarkets from July 2021 to July 2022, excluding Costco and Walmart, to determine where to shop. We chose the four most-visited stores in that time frame. Raley’s was also excluded as Bel-Air, which is under the same ownership, had higher foot traffic.
The data used in this interactive line graph, collected by Safe Graph, was last updated July 2022. According to the visualization, a visit is defined as staying at the location for more than four minutes. Here are the most visited supermarkets in the Sacramento area from July 2021 to July 2022:
I then priced the 10-item grocery lists of service journalism editor Savanna Smith, service journalism reporter Hanh Truong and summer intern Vivienne Aguilar at each grocery store to determine which supermarket would give them the most bang for their buck. If I wasn’t given a specific brand to look for, I priced the cheapest option.
One more thing
It’s almost time for me to show you the prices, but first, a few disclaimers.
I shopped between July 19 and July 25, so by the time you read this story, some items unavailable on my trip may be stocked.
Prices may also vary depending on the size of the item available. For example, the Peet’s coffee was available in 10.5 oz. one place, but 14 oz. another place.
All totals are calculated before sales tax. The City of Sacramento’s sales tax rate is 8.75%.
I wanted to give you a realistic grocery haul — with all the quirks of our own grocery store trips. There’s no one-size-fits-all to budgeting individual food needs. Here’s how our team made out:
Safeway’s shelves are stocked with name-brand items, but if you’re looking for ways to save, its non-brand items are the way to go. A carton of eggs and regular milk were $3.99 each and a loaf of bread was $3.49.
Safeway has a free program with perks exclusive to its members including personalized deals, discounts on groceries and gas, free items, digital coupons and more, according to Safeway’s website. And when you shop at Safeway as a member, the store prices are cheaper.
Here’s a comparison of shopping the chain’s member prices versus non-member prices:
Bel-Air supermarket, acquired by Raley’s supermarket in 1992, sells both name brand and store-brand items. A carton of eggs was $3.98, a gallon of regular milk was $3.98 and a loaf of bread was $3.49.
Unlike Safeway, which makes its deals exclusive to its members, Bel-Air’s sale-tag prices can be redeemed by all shoppers. Shoppers can save more if they join the supermarket chain’s rewards program which includes personalized deals, gas rewards and more.
Here’s how the service desk team made out:
Foods Co. has competitive deals and if you’re not a stickler for name-brand items or specialized products, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Foods Co.
Savanna would’ve paid around $32 for her groceries, but she wouldn’t have gotten all of her items. If she really wanted Peet’s coffee grounds, thin spaghetti and sourdough bread — she would’ve had to make a second stop at a different grocery store.
The same goes for Vivienne’s family-sized Life breakfast cereal.
Nevertheless, Foods Co. has the cheapest staple products, compared to the others grocery stores on the list. A carton of eggs was $3.29, a gallon of regular milk was $3.79 and a loaf of bread was $2.99.
Foods Co.’s rewards program has limited perks including access to exclusive savings. But the supermarket chain has digital coupons that can be redeemed both in-store and online and its weekly sales are available to all shoppers.
Save Mart grocery store had some of the most expensive prices compared to the other stores on the list. A carton of eggs was $5.49, a gallon of regular milk was $3.99 and a loaf of bread was on sale for $2.88 (originally $4.49). Save Mart’s rewards program is different from the other supermarkets as members receive rewards depending on how much money they spend. Members earn a point for every $1 they spend on “qualifying purchases.” Once enough points have stacked up, they can be converted into money off. Members don’t earn points from the following purchases: prescriptions, dairy, lottery tickets, tobacco, alcohol, postage stamps and more, according to Save Mart’s website . The grocery chain also has weekly sale prices open to all shoppers including meat, vegetables, cereal, vitamins, dairy and more.
Where should I shop for groceries in Sacramento?
I understand a lot factors are weighed when choosing your go-to grocery store including the proximity of the store to your home, its prices and quality of food.
So while I can’t answer the question of is it worth switching your favorite grocery store because the eggs and milk are cheaper somewhere else, you now know that cheaper options are out there.
After testing three grocery lists at four different popular grocery stores in Sacramento, I’ve learned a few things that might help you save wherever you get your groceries.
Buy store-brand items and be aware of the current grocery deals before you shop. Lastly, sign up for your grocery store’s rewards program because you’re going to spend money regardless, so you might as well gets perks for doing so.
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