Walmart may not have the cachet of Trader Joe's or the devoted, paying members of Costco, but it is the place to shop when you want to spend as little as possible.
"When it comes to the lowest prices almost nobody beats Walmart," says Joanie Demer, co-founder of the Krazy Coupon Lady.
Part of the reason for those low prices is that Walmart is the largest grocery store chain in the country. When Walmart's team meets with vendors, their size gives them leverage to be very tough negotiators. "Walmart can demand the lowest price from vendors and manufacturers and get the lowest price from them because they have so many stores," says John Karolefski, grocery store analyst and editor of Grocery Stories.
That said, just because something is the best price doesn't mean it's the best quality or the right choice for you. So what items should be on your list? Shopping experts recommend seven types of products.
"On the brand-name products, you'll typically find the cheapest prices at Walmart," says Phil Lempert, food industry analyst and editor of SupermarketGuru.
On trips to Walmart, Demer stocks up on essentials like peanut butter and jelly. A 16-ounce jar of Jif creamy peanut butter is $2.22 at Walmart, while traditional grocers such as Acme and ShopRite regularly sell it for $2.99 and $3.19, respectively, according to New York City metro area prices analyzed by CNBC using Basket, a grocery price comparison app.
Plus, if an item is cheaper elsewhere, you can use Walmart's Savings Catcher tool within the store's mobile app to get an eGift card for the difference. The tool compares the prices you paid at Walmart with other local competitors such as Aldi, Target and Walgreens.
If you've ever needed to stock up on herbs and spices, you know it can get expensive fast. But Walmart's Great Value brand spices are a lot cheaper than even the other brands of spices sitting next to them on the shelves. And the best part is, they're produced by brand-name manufacturer McCormick, according to the Krazy Coupon Lady.
A 3.4 ounce bottle of Great Value garlic powder is just 98 cents at Walmart, compared to a 3.12 ounce bottle of McCormick brand that sells for $3.59 at Acme, according to Basket.
The Krazy Coupon Lady finds that Great Value canned vegetables are the same as the Green Giant ones. And Walmart's tubs of whipped cream are made by the same manufacturer as Cool Whip.
By buying the same exact products under the Great Value brand, the Krazy Coupon Lady estimates shoppers can save between 20 and 50 percent.
To figure out if a store brand product is the same as the national name brand, Lampert recommends looking at both the nutritional information and ingredients list on the item. "If the ingredients are in the same order and the nutritionals are the same as the leading brand, then that brand is probably making the product for the retailer and it's the identical formula," Lampert says.
"The best things to buy at Wal-Mart are often food items because they are notoriously difficult to save money on and Wal-Mart has competitive prices every day," Demer says. So, rather than wait for your favorite snacks to go on sale, you could try Walmart, where they're cheaper almost all the time.
That includes items for school lunches, which Demer says are a great buy at Walmart. A 32-pack of Frito-Lay single snack bags sells for $9.98 at Walmart compared to $10.99 at Shoprite, according to Basket.
Even full-sized snacks are generally a good deal. A 13.5-ounce bag of Cool Ranch Doritos is $2.98 at Walmart, compared to the regular price of $3.99 at Target, Basket reports.
If you cut coupons or wait for a sale, you may be able to find name-brand cereals for less at your local grocery store. But if your pantry is bare, Walmart will likely have a low price on your favorite when you need it.
A 15-ounce box of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes sell for $2.38 at Walmart, compared to $3.99 at Acme and Shoprite and a whopping $5.79 at CVS, according to Basket.
Walmart's healthcare and beauty products are sold under the Equate brand, which has "traditionally been rated excellent and won awards," Karolefski says.
For example, the store brand product comparison app Brandefy ranked the Equate Beauty facial cleansing towelettes a 91 percent duplicate of the Burt's Bees version. The Equate brand's versions of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen and Eucerin's Original Healing Cream also scored high.
When it comes to over-the-counter medications like Aleve, Advil and Tylenol, store brand medications need to work the same way that the name-brand versions do. So buying Walmart's Equate brand can save you money for the essentially the same formula.
General non-food staples like paper plates, trash bags, Kleenex, Glad Press'n Seal and toilet paper are routinely cheaper at Walmart than at its competitor Target, according to the Krazy Coupon Lady.
A 48-count package of Dixie paper plates sells for $2.78 at Walmart, beating out even the dollar store price of $3, according to Basket, while a single box of Kleenex is 98 cents at Walmart, compared to $1.87 at CVS.
Overall, the Krazy Coupon Lady finds that Walmart beat out Target on price in about 10 different household product categories.
- 6 foods you should never buy at Whole Foods
- 5 foods you should always buy at Aldi
- 8 foods you should always buy at Trader Joe's
- 9 foods and grocery items you should always buy at Costco
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