Price comparison at Save-A-Lot, Aldi and Wal-Mart

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

In today’s Dollars & Sense column I wrote about Save-A-Lot, a Supervalu-owned grocery store similar to Aldi. It’s a smallish store selling mostly private labels with a few brand names thrown in. Although Save-A-Lot’s prices aren’t as cheap as Aldi, they’re close. In Litchfield, Minn., Save-A-Lot beat even Wal-Mart in my admittedly small price comparison of private label items (and one brand name). I did not taste test the various store brands, but consumers should know that all stores usually guarantee private label brands. Ask for a refund or replacement if you’re not satisfied with any store brand. (I have found that a receipt is rarely required since a store knows its own brand couldn’t have been purchased from a competitor.) Prices were checked on July 2 at the Save-A-Lot and Wal-Mart stores in Litchfield and Aldi on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.


SAL: 50 cents (on sale)

Wal-Mart: 88 cents

Aldi: 69 cents

BANANAS (3 lbs.)

SAL: $1

Wal-Mart $2.01

Aldi: $1.17

KETCHUP (24 oz., store brands)

SAL: 93 cents

Wal-Mart: $1.04 (pro-rated from a 36 oz. bottle for $1.56)

Aldi: 77 cents

CANNED VEGETABLES (14.5 oz., various varieties, store brands)

SAL: 49 cents

Wal-Mart: 63 cents

Aldi: 49 cents


SAL: $3.99

Wal-Mart: $4.77

Aldi: $2.49

ASSORTED PEPPERS (green, red, yellow)

SAL: $4.29 for 4 (2-green, 1 red, 1 yellow)

Wal-Mart: $5.01 (pro-rated price of $3.76 for three)

Aldi: $3.32 (pro-rated price of $2.49 for three)

CHICKEN BROTH (14.5 oz. can, 99% fat-free, store brands)

SAL: 86 cents

Wal-Mart: 86 cents

Aldi: $1.29

CORN FLAKES CEREAL (18 oz. box, store brands)

SAL: $1.48

Wal-Mart: $1.48

Aldi: $1.35

SKIM MILK (1 gallon, store brands)

SAL: $1.59

Wal-Mart: $2.42

Aldi: $1.89

SUGAR (4 lbs., granulated, store brands)

SAL: $2.19

Wal-Mart: $2.11 (pro-rated based on 5 lbs. for $2.64)

Aldi: $2.34 (pro-rated based on 5 lbs. for $2.93)

GROUND BEEF (73-27 fat content, per lb.)

SAL: $2.29

Wal-Mart: $2.22

Aldi: $1.79 (fat content of 80-20)


Save-A-Lot: $19.61

Wal-Mart: $23.43

Aldi: $17.59

Is a fancy hot dog an oxymoron?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

An institution at the ballpark and the fair, the hot dog tastes like plain and simple Americana. Exotic, it’s not, no matter how fancy the mustard or relish. But today I got an email from iGourmet, the top notch specialty meat and cheese etailer in Pennsylvania. The company is selling a package of 16 dogs weighing a total of 3 pounds for $36. What’s exotic about the assortment is the meat. Four of the weiners are made from Canadian buffalo, four from Heritage pork, four from Pekin duck and four Angus beef.

All are uncured, fully cooked, skinless and made without artificial ingredients, antibiotics, growth hormones, nitrates or ’trites or preservatives.

A few local meat counters such as Lunds, Kowalski’s, Brothers or Kramarczuk’s sell bison or pork sausage/brats, but I could find no one selling a duck hot dog. According to igourmet, it’s the only duck dog on the market. Be the talk of the neighborhood grillout with your quacking dogs. Igourmet can also be reached at 1-877-igourmet.   

Don’t need both BOGOs? Buy ‘em anyway.

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

In my column last week about Buy One Get One Free sales at grocery stores, I commented that sometimes buyers might not want two of an item. Barb Schaller wrote that she uses the BOGO program to its fullest by buying what she can use (even if only one) and donating the second ones to local food shelves. For information on a food shelf near you, call the United Way’s 211 service or drop the non-perishable items off in the food shelf bins at most supermarkets.

Since the food shelf needs are expanding, this is a win-win. Plus, the donations are tax-deductible. Keep your receipts.  

Burger King offers free food (in tiny portions, and only to Minneapolitans)

Friday, March 13th, 2009

The free Denny’s breakfast that millions took advantage of last January still seems like the gold standard when it comes to free food. Burger King’s deal on Saturday isn’t quite as generous. Here’s the deal: Get one of BK’s new Burger Shots, a mini-version of a hamburger. BK normally sells them for $1.39 for a 2-pack or $4.09 for s 6-pack. The freebie will be available at participating Minneapolis Burger King restaurants from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14. Sorry St. Paul, suburban and exurban residents, Burger King apparently thinks you’re less in need of a free bite. It’s only offered in Minneapolis, said the BK contact.

Don’t flame me if the Minneapolis Burger King you visit did not participate in the offer. The key word is “participating.” Honestly, I am not going to call each Burger King in Minneapolis and ask if they will be giving away mini-burgers tomorrow. Neither is the PR person who alerted me to it. 

OK, this tip is not one of my finer ones, but I’d walk across the street for it. Give a guy who lives across from a Burger King a break.  

Cub Foods offers big spenders a 10 percent discount

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Cub Foods announced a new program today to help shoppers save up to an additional 10 percent. OK, a 10 percent savings might not sound like much, but in the grocery store, where profit margins are razor thin, 10 percent can be a big deal. Here’s the pitch: Starting Sunday through April 15, purchase a Cub gift card for $250 and get a credit of $20 on the card ($270 credit for $250) or purchase a $300 gift card and get $30 credit ($330 for $300).

The gift card does not expire or have any nasty fees. The fine print is pretty harmless: The bonus amounts cannot be used to purchase alcohol, fuel, tobacco, lottery tickets, prescription drugs or additional gift cards.  Grocery gift card purchases cannot exceed $1,250 per household. Gift cards purchased for less than $250 will not receive any bonus amounts. 

To take full advantage of the bonus savings, buy items on sale and with coupons when possible.  I’ll continue to shop Aldi for the best savings on staples, produce, dairy and a few meat products, and then use my Cub gift card for items I can’t find or don’t like at low-price leader Aldi.

If Willy Wonka had a candy sale, it would look like this

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Candy and chocolate lovers, your prayers have been answered. Route 29 (5197 Winnetka Av. N., New Hope) is having a warehouse sale Feb. 7, a week before Valentine’s Day. Guittard chocolate, similar to Godiva, that retails for as much as $12 per pound will be $1 per pound at the sale. Other treats: turtles, peppermint, almond and green mint barks, licorice, taffy, pretzel rods and others. Naturally, you may be wondering if there’s anything, er, wrong with it. J.J. Weiland of Route 29 assured me it’s simply overstock and it’s fresh.

The assortment includes lots of gift packages including Valentine themes. For example, a Valentine gift box of Yum Dilly sold at Wal-Mart for $5 will be $1 at the sale. Besides Wal-Mart, the local company also makes candy for Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Williams Sonoma and Caribou. The company also owns Maud Borup, which no longer has any retail outlets in the Twin Cities. 

Gift boxes, ribbon, foil, baskets and tins will also be discounted.

 Caramels are a company specialty. Free samples will be available for tasting during the sale from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 only. This is the company’s first ever warehouse sale in the Twin Cities area. Let me know if you liked it.  

Soda, pop (whatever), you’re dead to me

Friday, January 9th, 2009

As a Dollars & Sense columnist, I feel the pressure of people who assume that I can spout off the current prices of milk, eggs or a can of Spam at a moment’s notice. You know– so I don’t appear out of touch with the common folk as happens occasionally to presidential wannabes. I confess that I only have a vague knowledge of the price of Spam or eggs because they’re rarely on my shopping list. But I know the price of groceries that show up frequently on my list.

 That used to include pop. I’d buy Coke or Pepsi when it was on sale. I knew that a good price on a 12-pack was $2.50 or less. A 24-pack was $4.99 or less. In case you haven’t noticed, 12-packs are now $3.50 on sale and 24-packs are $6.50 or so. You know what? That’s too much. I won’t pay it for a product that offers no nutritional benefit. I’d rather drink cold, filtered water from my frig or orange juice or lemonade than pay $7 for pop. Occasionally, in a weak moment I’ll buy the 2-liter bottles on sale for $1.50 (used to be $1 on sale).

I know that nearly all food products have gone up in price, and I’ve responded by doing most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. I buy good stuff there such as spinach bags, premium orange juice, meat and chicken, and fruits and vegetables. What Aldi doesn’t have I buy at Cub, Rainbow or Lunds. I know I’m paying more for everything, but paying more for stuff that’s nutritional doesn’t hurt as much.

Anyone else who’s kicked the Pepsi can to the recycling bin for the last time? Or considering it? Anyone else want to join my boycott?

Discounted restaurant gift certs

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

There are so many restaurant discounts out there that it’s almost spendthrifty not to pull out your savings card when the bill arrives. Here’s a deal you need to jump on by 10 a.m. TODAY (Dec. 16). Go to TC Originals for gift cards discounted 30 percent. They sell out very quickly. The $50 cards sell for $35 and the $25 cards sell for $17.50. Restaurants such as Broders Pasta Bar, Murray’s, the Dakota, ike’s, Luci Ancora and Saffron are included. Most of the certs will be sold out by 10:30 a.m. today.

If 80 percent discounts are more your style, go to Use the discount code “SANTA.” Many of the restaurants at are not available at TC Originals. The 80 percent discount continues through Dec. 23.

 If you’re a frequent diner at a restaurant, take advantage of the discounts on multiple gift card purchases. Parasole, which owns Manny’s, Figlio, Chino Latino, Muffuletta, the Good Earth and Salut offers a $25 gift card for each 4100 gift card purchase. Morton’s offers $100 free with every $500 in gift card purchases. Kincaid’s offers $20 for each $100 spent.

Too rich for your appetite? Don Pablo’s has a great deal. Spend $25 in gift cards and get a gift card with five $5 coupons, one good for each future visit. Applebee’s gives you $5 for each $25 gift card and McDonald’s offers a premium coffee with each $10 gift card.  

Finally, no matter what restaurant you choose, go to website to look for additional discounts. When I used a discounted gift certificate at Murray’s recently, I added to the savings by ordering their sirloin steak special ($20) if ordered before 5:30 p.m.  

Thanksgiving meal for 4 under $30

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Food prices may be higher than anyone can remember, but Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be an expensive meal. The good news is that the entree costs less than $1 per pound. That’s right, anyone should be able to buy a frozen turkey for 99 cents a pound or less. The best deals I’ve seen are at Aldi and Rainbow. Aldi’s turkey price is 99 cents per pound and Rainbow’s is 58 cents with a coupon and a $25 purchase. SuperTarget’s Market Pantry turkey is 78 cents on sale through Saturday.

If you’re really watching the pennies, Aldi is the place to go. You can get a 14 lb. turkey for $13.86, stuffing (6 oz.) 79 cents, gravy (12 oz.) $1.19, dried cranberries (6 oz.) $1.19, fresh dinner rolls (12 ct.) $1.69, frozen green beans (16 oz.) $1.39, cream of mushroom soup (10.5 oz.) 49 cents, French fried onions (6 oz.) $1.99, sweet potatoes (15 oz.) 69 cents, deep dish pie (42 oz., apple, peach or berry) $4.49, and whipped topping (8 oz.) 69 cents.  

The prices above are all private label brands except for the Butterball turkey, but let’s get real. Private labels are much, much better than they used to be and in my experience, often exceed the quality of the name brands. And you can save 30 percent on store brands compared to name brands.

 That’s my bargain tip for this Thanksgiving meal. Start by paying less than $1 per pound for your frozen turkey (Cub and Rainbow will both match a competitor’s ad if you bring it in) and then buy all private labels (unless the name brand is cheaper on sale with or w/o a coupon). Based on my past price comparisons, Aldi will probably be the overall low price leader, followed by Wal-Mart SuperCenter, SuperTarget, Cub and Rainbow. 

If you’re going organic, I’d do one-stop shopping at Trader Joe’s. Runner up: Whole Foods 365 brand.

Send me a note if you think I’m off-base here, but this is a time AND money saver. By the way, Aldi even takes care of holiday recipes with the above ingredients at Final point: save your receipt if you’re worried about private label quality. Save the container and demand a refund if the pie or dinner rolls tasted like tofu.

Steal a base, steal a taco today only (expired)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Okay, I admit that I’m not really following the World Series, but Taco Bell is. It is stealing the thunder from Taco John’s taco Tuesday specials by offering one free crunchy taco on Tuesday from 2-6 p.m. if you mention the “steal a base, steal a taco” campaign. The free offer has something to do with someone stealing a base at some point in some World Series.  What’s to prevent a cheapskate from going to every Taco Bell to collect multiple free tacos? Only the gas bill and a little pride. The only caveat I can see is the word “participating” Taco Bells.