PNW/Oregon Post: Groceries are NOT cheaper at Winco. Really.

Groceries are not cheaper at Winco

by brenda on July 5, 2017

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I personally don’t like shopping at Winco, and don’t usually go there. I believe it’s one of the local *myths* that, if you live in Oregon and you want to get cheap groceries, you must shop at Winco. Last week, I decided to go there and see if this myth is really true.

Let me explain. I keep a crazy huge grocery price sheet with prices per unit for most local stores. I prefer shopping organic, so my focus has been on organic ingredients. We have a family of 7, and shopping completely organic is a huge stretch and usually not completely possible (unfortunately). I feel like the best way to get the best deals for the money we spend is to be aware: to know how much groceries cost. It is naive to claim that all organic foods cost more than GMO, pesticide and herbicide-laden foods. That simply isn’t the truth. I can prove that with my price sheet. I also wanted to see if it’s a given that yes, for sure, shopping at Winco will award me with the best deals possible…And that, also, is untrue. Here is what I found:

You can buy these items cheaper ORGANIC, elsewhere:

  • Bell Peppers–this is a big one to me, because Bell Peppers are one of the most sprayed vegetables and are on the Dirty Dozen List. The non-organic variety at Winco is .88 per pepper–and I have purchased organic bell peppers for .67 each at Grocery Outlet (red, orange and yellow peppers–not the underripe green ones). To be fair, organic bell peppers are $1.33 each or more at other stores.
  • French Fries. If you care about organic frozen french fries (I recommend reading up on the chemicals used on potatoes. Ick. They are also on the Dirty Dozen List.), you’ll be interested to know that Alexia french fries (not organic) are .17 cents per ounce at Winco, but I find the Alexia organic fries on sale often for .16 or .17 per ounce at Whole Foods, Natural Grocers and Fred Meyer.
  • Honey. The cheapest honey I found at Winco was .24 per ounce. The organic, raw honey at Costco is .14 per ounce.
  • Mushrooms–the non-organic variety were .24 per ounce at Winco, and I have found them for .22 per ounce, organic, at Natural Grocers. It is .29 per ounce for organic mushrooms at Trader Joes.
  • Pizza Sauce. One of my boys makes homemade mini pizzas nearly every week, and I like to have a jar of simple sauce for him. At Winco, the Classico jar of pizza sauce is $1.72 for 14 oz, and it isn’t organic. Just down the road, at Target (or online), I can get Organic Market Pantry Pizza Sauce for $1.29 for 14 oz.
  • Romaine Hearts: when lettuce isn’t plentiful at our local farmer’s market, I stick to organic romaine hearts from Costco for .67 each, or at most, the organic romaine hearts from Trader Joes for .83 each. The conventional romaine hearts (not organic) are .83 cents each at Winco.
  • Tomatoes (jar). At Winco they don’t have jars of diced or crushed tomatoes, only cans. This is a problem, because tomatoes are so acidic and will soak up any of the toxins in the can coating. We don’t eat tomatoes that were heated and stored in cans. The canned Muir Glen Organic tomatoes are .11 per ounce at Winco. I get Bionature organic crushed tomatoes in a glass jar for .12 per ounce on sale at Azure Standard, or sometimes Eden organic tomatoes for .08 per ounce at Grocery Outlet. The next best cost is Vitacost for .14 per ounce for Bionature–and even that is worth it to me, considering the chemicals in the canned tomatoes.
  • Vanilla. I found organic vanilla for .81 per ounce through Azure Standard, and Simply Organic Vanilla is $1.86 per ounce on Amazon. McCormick Vanilla at Winco, which is not organic, is $3.15 per ounce–the most expensive vanilla I have seen at any store yet.

These items are simply CHEAPER elsewhere:

  • Annie’s GF Macaroni & Cheese box mix is .39 per ounce at Winco, but I buy it on Amazon for .36 per ounce.
  • Broth. I don’t think I need to remind y’all (because you’re smart!) that broth is nearly free to MAKE. But if you want to buy it or simply want some stocked in your pantry, don’t go to Winco. Pacific Organic broth is $3.20 for 32 oz at Winco, which is .10 per ounce. You can find Simple Truth Organic Free Range broth for .05 per ounce at Fred Meyer on sale, and the Kirkland Organic Chicken Broth cartons are always .06 per ounce at Costco.
  • Butter. The cheapest butter I found at Winco was .21 per ounce. The Kirkland butter is .16 per ounce. This is an .80 cent difference per pound of butter.
  • Cheddar Cheese. The bags of shredded cheddar cheese at Winco cost .21 per ounce. At Costco, you can purchase the Kirkland shredded cheddar cheese for .17 per ounce. That’s a $3.20 difference if you purchase 80 oz. If you don’t need that much cheese, remember, you can freeze it! :)
  • Franz Gluten Free Sandwich Bread: it’s .28 per ounce at Winco, and .22 per ounce at Costco. What does that .06 per ounce translate to? $1.08 per loaf.
  • Gluten Free Oats. I usually buy Bob’s Red Mill GF Oats or Montana Gluten Free. If you purchase the GF Oats directly at Bob’s Red Mill or the Montana Gluten Free Oats in a large bag through Azure Standard, they cost .11 cents per ounce. The only GF oats available at Winco are Bob’s Red Mill Oats for .18 per ounce. That’s $2.24 MORE per 32 ounce bag, if you buy these oats at Winco.
  • Kettle Chips: I usually buy the huge Costco bag for .14 cents per ounce, and these go in my kids’ “Snack Drawer.” I really wish they were organic, but alas, they’re not. (I’m re-reading the article I posted above about chemicals used on potatoes and pondering this…Ugh…) :( The same Kettle chips are .29 per ounce at Winco. That’s a $4.80 difference for a 32 oz bag!!!
  • Pretzels–another snack item I buy for my kids is Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzels. I get them for .37 per ounce at Fred Meyer, but they’re .40 per ounce at Winco.
  • Salsa. Emerald Valley Organic Salsa is .21 per ounce at Winco. You can sometimes find organic salsa as cheap as .12 per ounce at Grocery Outlet, and it’s .14 per ounce for yummy organic salsa at Costco.
  • String Cheese. Wow, this price is surprising. The Winco brand string cheese is .40 per ounce! That’s .40 per stick. My kids gobble those up like crazy! If these were better quality or organic, I might consider it…But I can get string cheese for .17 per stick from Costco or .25 each from Target…So why would I pay .40?!

These items BARELY cost any more to get ORGANIC elsewhere:

  • Cabbage is .78 per pound (not organic) at Winco, and it’s .87 per pound for organic cabbage at Fred Meyer. It’s about .25 more for a head of ORGANIC cabbage than it is for the sprayed cabbage at Winco.
  • Baby Carrots–the organic variety is at Costco in a 5 lb bag for $1 per pound. Non organic baby carrots are .99 per pound at Winco. That’s a .05 cent difference for a 5 lb bag, to get the organic ones!
  • Jam. Smucker’s All Fruit Jam is .11 per ounce at Winco. I didn’t price out the cornsyrupy, icky ingredient jams, sorry. I wanted real food. I can get a large jar of organic strawberry jam at Costco for .14 per ounce…To me, that’s worth it. It’s approx $1.26 more to get the organic version of this large jar of jam, and I’m ok paying that $1.26 (have you read about the icky stuff they spray on berries? Now heat those organic chemicals and process them into a jam and let them sit on the shelf for months, and feed them to children?! UM, NO…I can’t do it, and it’s just $1.26 more per month for our family to get the organic version).

These items are actually CHEAPER, or at least a decent price at Winco and might make me take a trip there every 6 months or so:

  • Carrots–the organic carrots in a 2 lb bag (not baby carrots, but big carrots) are .49 per pound, and they’re .60 per pound at Costco, and more elsewhere.
  • Cheerios. If you’re into GMO-laden breakfast cereal (more on that in a later post), it’s cheapest at Winco, at .14 per ounce…It’s .16 per ounce at Costco, which means the 40 oz box at Costco is .81 cents more total than if you bought 40 oz at Winco.
  • Guitard Chocolate Chips, .21 per ounce (nut-free chocolate chips for our peanut allergic daughter and myself). They’re .26 per ounce at Target
  • Heavy Whipping Cream. If I am going to make a bunch of ice cream and I don’t care if it’s organic, I’ll be going to Winco. The heavy whipping cream is .09 per fluid ounce and it is .14 per fluid ounce at Costco.
  • Kerrygold butter. I really like Kerrygold. It’s a treat here, because we can’t afford to butter all of our bread and fry all of our veggies in this beautiful bright yellow butter! When I am able to get it and it’s not available at Costco, I will stock up at Winco, because it’s $2.74 for 8 oz, which is .34 per ounce. It is $2.99 at Trader Joes, which is .37 per ounce. When it is available at Costco, it is .32 per ounce.  
  • Ketchup. I like Portlandia Ketchup in the glass bottles. Previously, I purchased it through Azure Standard by the case for .26 per ounce. I was delighted to find it for .26 per ounce for a single bottle at Winco. It’s .33 per ounce at Natural Grocers.
  • Organic Milk. Touchstone Organic milk is .05 per fl oz, the same price as organic milk at Fred Meyer, Trader Joes and Whole Foods. Organic Valley is .06 per fl oz, the same price as Organic Valley milk at Natural Grocers. If I am at Winco for anything else, I might grab the organic milk.
  • Salad Dressing. I know it contains canola oil, don’t remind me. ;) For a simple, bottled dressing, my family likes Briana’s poppyseed. Yum. It is .21 per ounce at Winco and .25 per ounce or even up to .39 per ounce everywhere else.

There are many other items I have not priced out yet, but I don’t think I’ll be heading to Winco again soon because of my findings.

Do you shop at Winco? If so, what do you buy there?

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  • Jenne

    That was quite informative. I do not shop sales because i don’t find it worth my trouble. I shop almost exclusively at winco because overall you can’t beat the prices of your total bill. Natural Grocers is wherei get some specialty items (I love supporting them). I avoid costco because I can’t seem to stop myself from impulse purchases and snacks I would not otherwise stock. HOWEVER, I might change my habits around a bit thanks to your research. Thanks, brenda!

  • Julie

    I was quite interested in your post, as I shop WinCo quite often, and find it to be relatively lower priced in general, except for the lost leaders I’ll pick up at Fred’s. It’s been years, however, since I produced a spreadsheet of local grocery prices, and since I was heading out shopping today, I thought I’d do some documenting of what I found at my local Grocery Outlet, Costco and WinCo.
    Interestingly, at least half of the items you listed are not items I purchase at all, so that makes a bit of a difference.
    I’m not sure if you are aware, but each WinCo prices things differently. I live on the Westside, and frequent the WinCo on the West end of Hillsboro, but occasionally drop in on the WinCo in the East side of Hillsboro, or the one in McMinnville. Prices can vary quite a bit.
    That said, my WinCo, as of today, had their brand of string cheese at a regular price of $.19/oz for the larger package (24), $.20/oz for the smaller pkg (12).
    I didn’t compare everything you listed. I didn’t even compare everything on my own shopping list. But I do evaluate every single purchase with the thought of price/oz and where I might find the best deal. Interestingly, today I discovered that Grocery Outlet had Tillamook sliced Swiss cheese 2lbs/$5.99 while Costco had the same for $8.99. I don’t frequent Grocery Outlet, but it’s nice to find some great deals there. I also found organic whole milk yogurt for $1.99/qt.
    I’ll touch on the items you listed that I purchase:
    Honey we’ve talked about before. I have not purchased honey from a store for years, as I’ve been finding local raw honey. However, the two sources I have been using are not harvesting for a couple of weeks, so because of this post I opted to try Costco. I’m leery of store honey, with all of the news saying that *EVERY* commercial brand of honey is laced with HFCS, and can do so legally without declaration, up to 40%. But, hey, what can I do until my sources spin their combs?
    About vanilla – I’ve been using Costco’s for awhile, as I haven’t got back on the Azure wagon. How does that compare on your price sheet?
    GF Oats – I prefer BRM, but have moved so far away, I really never get out there anymore. I purchase them from WinCo by the case, which gives an additional 10% discount. AND, all of the WinCos I’ve been at in the last 7 years carry GlutenFreeda brand GF Oats in the bulk food section. Again, I prefer BRM over GlutenFreeda, but I have to look at cost here. Maybe you could check your WinCo and see if they have the GlutenFreeda brand in the bulk foods. Mine has rolled, instant and steel cut versions. And the case price is listed in fine print at the bottom left of the price tag on the bin.

    You mentioned Smucker’s All Fruit Jam, which I purchase. However, you didn’t compare it to a like product. Instead, you said you purchase the sugared brand at Costco. Sure, they may not have corn syrup, but they do have organic sugar. I’m not doing added sugar. I do find WalMart to have a slightly better price on the Smucker’s All Fruit jam, but only on select flavors. Otherwise, they are the same price. WalMart has a better flavor selection though.

    I don’t buy Portlandia ketchup, but I noticed it in a 3-pk at Costco today. Sorry, I didn’t snap a pic to remember the price.

    Where do you find Touchstone Organic Milk? I’m usually picking up Organic Valley at Winco, or whatever’s cheapest organic at Fred’s.

    The rest of the items listed I don’t purchase, for one reason or another. Some things I make, like broth and salad dressing.

    I blend my own GF flour, so I utilize the Winco bulk bins for some of the ingredients for that.

    Also, my Winco has some organic produce. The one on the other side of town has a lot of organic produce. Does yours not?

    I’d love to hear your feedback.

    BTW, I love that you’re blogging again. I enjoy your blog, and it’s even more fun knowing you IRL too. :)

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