I was going to use this “I need to pick up milk” experience to see what kind of bargain I could find on milk. Turns out I needed to pick up a few other things, and so I was able to do a cross comparison of prices of five items in five different stores–CVS, Superfresh, Wawa, Giant and Walgreens. I went in looking for a gallon of fat-free milk, fat-free half and half, orange juice with pulp, Thomas’ cinnamon raisin bagels, and coffee. Here’s what I found for saving money.
Gallon of fat-free milk
The Everyday Cheapskate, Mary Hunt, had recently written about good bargains on milk in places other than the supermarket, and boy was she right. My local Walgreens was selling a gallon of fat-free milk for $2.93. Unfortunately, they were sold out so I couldn’t take advantage of that bargain. The next best price was back at the supermarket–Giant–where a gallon of fat-free milk could be had for $3.18.FYI, prices in other stores ranged from a high of $4.14 (Superfresh) to $3.39(CVS).
Fat-free half and half
I normally don’t buy half and half to use in my coffee, but with my mom coming for a visit, I wanted to pick up some items that she’s used to having at home, including fat-free half and half for her coffee. (She’s also the reason for my buying the OJ and bagels.) Giant ended up coming out the winner on the price of a quart of fat-free half and half, at $1.89. CVS was also selling a quart at the same price but it wasn’t fat-free. Wawa was even cheaper at $1.29, but again, it wasn’t fat-free. Walgreens didn’t carry half and half, and Superfresh had the fat-free quart for $1.99.
Orange Juice with pulp
Again, the OJ is for my mom and she specifically requested the Florida’s Natural brand with pulp. (I was looking for a half-gallon container.) Walgreens didn’t have any OJ to speak of, and CVS carried Tropicana at $4.29 for a half gallon. Ouch. At Superfresh her preferred OJ was much cheaper than CVS, at $3.79, but just like with the fat-free half and half, Giant came up the winner: they were running a special of two half-gallons of Florida’s Natural OJ with pulp, 2/$6 or $3 each.
Thomas’ Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
CVS, Wawa and Walgreens didn’t stock these bagels so the only comparison I could do was between Superfresh and Giant. At Superfresh the bagels were $3.49. Giant, once again, had the best price: $3.14.
I’m a big fan of flavored coffees–hazelnut is my favorite–but when mom comes into town, I know that it’s time to get a can of boring old coffee. She’s not a fan of the flavored coffee. Not surprisingly, Wawa sold no cans of coffee, because it’s the place in town where everyone stops in for their morning cup of Joe to go. (By the way, a 20 oz coffee there will set you back about $1.20.) The brand that the other four stores carried was Folgers, so that’s what I used in my comparison so I was doing an apples-to-apples thing. At CVS, you could get two 13-oz. cans of Folgers medium roast for $5.00 (2/$5), or a 39-oz can of the same coffee for $10.99. At Superfresh the 13-oz can was $4.89 and the 39-oz. can was $8.99. Walgreens only stocked the 13-oz can, and it cost $3.99. At Giant the 13-oz can was $3.49 and the 39-oz. can was $8.89. So which one did I buy? None of them. Giant was having a sale on its own brand of coffee, and I was able to get a 13-oz can for $2.00.
I was really surprised that I ended up finding all of the best prices at Giant, because I’d always assumed it was an overpriced market. Of course, if I had been able to get the milk at Walgreens (which is in the same shopping center at Giant), I would have saved $.25. Not much, I know, but those kinds of savings add up.
Probably the hardest thing about this experiment was after I’d decided that I was going to do all of my shopping at Giant, I knew that I couldn’t browse around and see what else they had on sale or what items looked good to me. I put my five “necessities” in my cart, put on imaginary blinders and made my way to the checkout lane. I was able to get out of the store for under $20 (actually, $19.39), and I paid cash.
I’d be curious to hear from folks how the prices on these kinds of things vary based on location. Let me know.