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3 On Your Side: Grocery Price Test

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Supermarket prices are on the rise! But what if we told you that you could save up to 20 percent on your bill, depending on where you shop? The same items, just lower prices. That's what Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan found in this 3-On Your Side Grocery Price Test.

Visit any supermarket and the prices are climbing. Whether clipping coupons or scanning the sales, shoppers are looking to save anyway they can, even shopping at stores where they believe the prices are the lowest. But that's easier said than done according to Consumers' Checkbook President, Robert Krughoff. "It's very difficult for people to really do accurate comparisons of the prices at different supermarkets," said Krughoff.

Consumers' Checkbook has been doing supermarket price comparisons for 30 years. According to Krughoff, "We talk to people all the time who we know actually have the wrong impression about which stores are cheaper than others."

Bottom Dollar Food, a rapidly growing chain in our area, boasts it has the lowest prices in town, guaranteed. "We offer quality meats, fresh produce, and a wide variety of national brands, and private label grocery items all at unbelievable prices," said Operations Merchandising Manager Joe DeGrazio.

So 3 On Your Side teamed up with Consumers' Checkbook to put Bottom Dollar's lowest price claim to the test.

Following along as Checkbook researcher Brandon Warner visited Bottom Dollar Food, Acme, ShopRite, Redners and a Wal-Mart Super Center. We were armed with an identical shopping list. "We have a market basket of about 150 items which includes canned goods, boxed goods, fresh produce, fresh meat a whole range of things," said Krughoff.

For example a 64 ounce bottle of Mott's apple juice was priced lowest at Bottom Dollar, $2.24, followed by Wal-Mart $2.48, Redners $2.95, ShopRite $2.99 with the highest price of $5.29 found at Acme.

The day we shopped a pound of smoked whole boneless ham was $1.87 at Bottom Dollar Food, but $2.58 a pound at Wal-Mart, 71 cents more.

"It is striking that Bottom Dollar prices for fresh meat and fresh produce were very good," said Krughoff. For example, green seedless grapes were only .89 cents at Bottom Dollar Food, while priced $1.88 at Wal-Mart.

As we compared prices, Bottom Dollar Food took the low price lead followed by Wal-Mart, Redners, ShopRite and Acme.

Depending on location, Bottom Dollar Food has up to 8,500 items to choose from. Far less than the average 38,000 items carried by most supermarkets. "Many people could be able to do their complete supermarket shopping at Bottom Dollar they just wouldn't have as many choices on each type of item," said Krughoff.

Despite their "lowest prices in town" slogan, Bottom Dollar didn't always have the lowest price. A 30 ounce jar of Hellman's Real Mayo was priced $3.48 at Wal-Mart but $3.98 at Bottom Dollar, 50 cents more. While a 6-pack of Thomas' English muffins were $1.89 at ShopRite but $2.99 at Bottom Dollar, over a dollar more.

That's when Bottom Dollar says its lowest price guarantee comes in. "If a customer has a copy of an ad and an item in the ad is priced cheaper than an item in our store, the same item, we will beat the competitor price by a penny," said Degrazio. When 3-On Your Side tried out that guarantee, they passed the test with flying colors.

Prices at Bottom Dollar Food were about 20 percent lower than the highest priced chain, Acme. Consumers' Checkbook found that an average family that spends around $150 a week on groceries could save up to $1,500 a year by switching from the one chain to the other.

Previous Consumers' Checkbook grocery price surveys have included more chains and multiple locations. For the next week you can access those results and see how your favorite chain performed in the past by visiting:

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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