Welcome to Southern Savers, where finding deals and steals is simple and rewarding!

See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.

grocery store pricing differences in the same city

By now you’ve probably realized that grocery prices vary between regions and that some regions have better deals than others. This week I got an email from someone finding different prices within the same chain of stores in the same city. I know it may be upsetting to realize, but this is very common.  I would venture to say every chain does this.  The stores can even be 5 miles apart, they will have different prices.

Why price differences in the same city?

In general every store needs to have the same chance of profit.  A store may be in a higher retail area paying more in rent or property taxes, that will be rolled out in small price changes throughout the store.

Another big contributing factor are nearby competitor grocery stores. If grocery stores are competing, you could either see higher or lower prices than other stores simply because they are more focused on their competition than keeping all the prices within a region the same.  If they feel that their competition regularly marks items higher then they do, they may actually raise prices slightly.  If a Walmart or discount store moves in with-in a few miles you may see prices drop slightly as they try to remain competitive.

Remember too that you will also see product differences between stores in the same city.  A higher end side of town will tend to carry more trendy products priced higher.  With their trendier products and wider product selection this may actually raise store costs as those items may not move as quickly as other products.  They want to offer what will be asked for from their clientele but also will incur loss if the produce isn’t sold etc.

What can you do?

I am a numbers person so when we first moved to the area, I hit a few different stores and noted their price of some staple items for our family.  Milk, bread, cereal, etc.  You want to note their full price not sales price as this will help you to see the price difference better between stores.  I quickly was able to compare three different Publix stores and two Bi-Lo stores all with-in 7 miles of my house.  The Publix that is built in the center of a major shopping area consistently had prices 50¢ or more per item versus the Publix less than a mile from me that is a more rural area.  When a Walmart was built down the road a couple years ago we saw prices at that more rural Publix drop another 25¢ on average on those staple items!

Once you compare prices the next big decision is to decide whether the price difference will make up for extra time and gas if you end up having to go farther to shop.  For some of you the answer is no, others it may mean 2 more miles and at 50¢ per item it is well worth it.

In general there are three key things that may help in picking a store…

Stay away from areas that are high retail, it means higher rent for that store or at least higher property taxes

Choose stores away from destinations.  In other words if you are headed to the beach, do you shopping either before you go or in the town before the beach itself.  If I’m headed to the beach near Charleston SC for example I want to do my shopping in Summerville not Mount Pleasant (and really not in the Big Red on the island!).

If you live along state or country lines learn what area has lower sales tax.  For example if you live in NC on the border between NC and SC…  guess what we don’t have sales tax on food in most SC counties.  In my area while there is no state sales tax, one county has put a 1% tax on food that another county doesn’t have.  So think about where stores are located for that extra savings.

Do you have any tips on finding the cheapest store in your area to shop at?

See more Frugal Living conversations and ideas.

    • Almsw119

      Another interesting fact is that grocery stores in depressed areas/”poor” areas of town tend to have high prices, and the food tends to be closer to an expiration date.  I participated in a study in college (for a social work major) and found this to be true.  “Middle class” neighborhood grocery stores tend to be the best. 

      • Brooke

        I believe that is also true about the poor areas, because the store figures items are being purchased with WIC or Food Stamps and the shopper doesn’t care much about the price.

        • belaglik

          Also because stores in poor areas tend to be in food deserts. There’s much less competition and the people who shop there have less access to reliable transportation. They charge more and offer poorer quality food because they can get away with it. 

          • AJax

            That’s a travesty.

    • Frittsd

      Excellent story Jenny!  I used to get frustrated when I found out that a store 17 or so miles away had a better deal on some items.  I had to decide if it was really worth the time, gas etc. to save a few more dollars and most times it was not.

    • Amy Lauren

      Our CVS stores here in town have very different prices. Two are actually located on the same street, maybe three miles from each other, but there can be up to a 40-50 cent difference in an item! I do suggest comparing prices at stores on staple items like that though (at a CVS the sale price will probably be the same if it’s in the same town/area), it helps you know where to shop (and neither of those stores is inconvenient for me for driving, but of course the cheaper is better!)

    • Yazpistachio

      I live near the NC/SC border, and the counties closest to me both have the same sales tax on food (2%). I didn’t know most SC counties don’t do this! Lucky for you!

      Another interesting note, usually prices in SC tend to be cheaper then the area of NC where I live, BUT, SC sales tax on regular items is 8% (in Lancaster county), versus the 6.75% in my home county!

      • belaglik

        I live in York county and it’s 2% on food and 7% on everything else. I had no idea that other SC counties didn’t have sales tax, but I would need to buy A LOT to make up for the gas to drive to another county. 

        • belaglik

          Oh and of course the weight of the extra items in the vehicle would also minimize any savings not to mention my time means something. 

    • Pat

      This is very true in my area.  I live in between a fancy rich neighborhood and a middle class area.  There are 2 bilo stores within 3-4 miles of each other and between my home.  The one closer to the rich area is MUCH higher than the one closer to middle class homes.  Obviously, when sales are on the price for that item is the same but I never shop for everyday non-sale items in the higher bilo.  I even find that in the fancy bilo (as I like to call it)  they aren’t as friendly.  I just don’t like it.

      • Lisa

        Enjoy the low rates. I am in Alabama and we have a 10% sales tax on everything-even food…. It stinks!! When you are buying anything you have to figure in that it is really going to cost you much more by the time they get done adding all that tax! It is crazy expensive.

    • redteapot

      I ask an Aldi manager the other day, “How can Aldi sell produce so much cheaper than Publix ? His answer was quick and makes perfect sense, they have 3 employees and the other stores have 50-75. I also spoke to the produce manager at Walmart and told him that Aldi has 4# bags of navel oranges most of the time for .99 to 1.99. She took note and said she will look into it because they are about 1/2 mile apart. Also mentioned the cost of all produce is comparable lower and very good quality. The only bad thing is so many have caught on to the great savings at Aldis and it is a crowded little store most of the time. But you will never find faster cashiers anywhere. I pick on them that they must have a timer of who can check out the fastest. More stores should mimic the no nonsense, basic approach that  Aldi has.

      • Goldilocks250

        I have a friend in TN that takes her Aldi ad to Wal-Mart and they price match her produce.  Wal-mart has the best produce in her area.  Hopefully they will do the same for you. 

    • mamaof4

      But if it is on sale at Bi-Lo in Greenwood isn’t it on sale for the same price at Bi-Lo in Charleston?  So as long as we stick to on sale items we should be ok or not?

      • mrs b

         That is true, unless it is a buy one, get one free or buy one get one 50% off deal. If you are paying more for the buy one portion, you aren’t getting the true benefit of the bargain.

        • Niddi

           you are correct. I have been paying more for BOGO items at the Bi-lo closest to me for years until I realized their higher prices by stopping at another nearby Bi-lo store while running errants and picking up identical items.
          That’s what made me realize price differences among stores that were located within 5 miles of each other. The manager of my fav store had no idea he was priced higher and after some research found out it was because his store as well as 2 others in our city fall into a different price market because of their proximity to Publix.

    • mrs b

      I have a similar problem in the area of Louisiana where I live–two of our CVS stores are considered to be in the “tourist district” (as one employee called it)–if they scan your extra care card, the prices do not automatically come up. They do not keep ads in the store either. You have to bring your ad in, walk the cashiers through the transaction (pointing out what is on sale on each page), scan your card, then they usually have to force the ECBs to print.
      So, we almost never shop those two stores, which is a shame because they are within walking distance and we could “go green” by shopping in them.

      On the other hand, because the prices are higher, the amount of savings on the receipt is amazing (haha)!

    • flower_mom

      There is 10% sales tax here on EVERYTHING…Food  too.  I can’t get over how high it is.  It has really cut my couponing down quite a bit.  :(

    • Linds

      I disagree with the high retail at least as far as my publix is concerned. The Publix at Atlantic Station (in Atlanta, GA) is consistently a little cheaper than the Publix in midtown. Both are in retail complexes, but I’d say that the Atlantic Station seems like it would have the higher rent based on the area and other stores. My guess is that Atlantic Station management gives Publix lower rent to keep them there and draw people to the other shops. Whereas the Midtown Publix has fewer shops (and less high end retail- more restaurants, tanning salon, nails, etc.).

    • Niddi

      Thank you for a very informative article that helped me to understand why there may be price differences at stores located within a few miles of each other. I still have not received an explanation from the District Manager at Bi-lo other than that their pricing was higher due to their proximity to Publix and that it was being looked into and hopefully changed. That was over 6 months ago and there have been no price changes so it appears there won’t be. 
      My only option is to compare prices between 3 Bi-lo stores close to my house and shop wisely.
      The real shame is most people don’t realize that there is a price difference between stores located within a few miles of each other.

      Thank you for bringing this to light so we can get the best deals for our money.

    • Faerybreath

      Which publix do you shop Jenny?

    • Deesc38

      Thank you so much for this article.  I have been driving to a different city for years now to do our big shopping trips because their prices are less.  I did not know why the prices were lower and this article shed some light on it.