Raley's, Wegman's, Publix Top Consumer Reports Survey

YONKERS, N.Y. -- To help consumers sort through the growing options and make the best grocery-shopping decisions, Consumer Reports (CR) surveyed more than 25,000 readers about their experiences at 52 chain stores.

No store was found to be great in every respect. Among conventional stores and supercenters, CR's readers gave high scores to Raley's (83 stores in California, New Mexico, and Nevada), Wegman's (65 stores in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania), and Publix (763 stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

Raley's and Wegman's were praised for checkout speed, service, cleanliness, and the quality of meat and produce, but prices were judged no better than average. Two alternatives to regular supermarkets, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, also fared well in CR?s survey.

Stores that were found to have great prices and are located in many states include Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, Aldi, and Costco. Trader Joe's, with 199 stores around the country, was unusual in having both low prices and commendable service. With Wal-Mart and Costco, however, low prices were accompanied by worse-than-average service and longer checkout lines.

Because readers could rate more than one supermarket, CR's ratings reflect more than 48,000 shopping experiences at conventional supermarkets (from A&P to Winn-Dixie), warehouse clubs (BJ's, Costco, and Sam's Club), stores with more limited selection (Aldi, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods), and supercenters (Fred Meyer, Meijer, and Wal-Mart). Only Wal-Mart has a big presence nationwide. Still, consumers should find at least one or two good choices within range of where they live.

CR?s September "Supermarket Showdown" report also ferrets out shopping strategies that can save money, time, and aggravation. CR sent two shoppers to the same supermarket to buy equivalent groceries, asking one to use CR's money-saving strategies and the other to shop without a care for saving.

The smart shopper spent $56 on her groceries, while the other spent $135 -- a difference of $79. Saving that much each week would put a shopper ahead by more than $4,000 a year.
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