Save a little or a lot at Save-A-Lot?

  • Article by: JOHN EWOLDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 14, 2009 - 6:20 AM

Twin Cities grocery shoppers should expect big savings -- and a 60-mile drive.

It's rare that Twin Cities shoppers envy non-metro shoppers. After all, we have Ikea, H&M, Pottery Barn, Lowes and Coach. But Litchfield and Duluth have Save-A-Lot.

What's a Save-A-Lot? It's a no-frills grocery store, similar to Aldi but owned by Supervalu. Although there are more than 1,200 Save-A-Lot stores in 39 states, the closest ones to Minneapolis are nearly 60 miles away in Litchfield, Minn., and Amery, Wis.

I wanted to know how its prices compared with those of Aldi or Wal-Mart.

Save-A-Lot's claim to fame in the early days of the recession was its "feed a family of four for $5" promotion. In a visit this month I could find no endcap that identified such items, although Save-A-Lot spokeswoman Maureen Shannon mentioned low prices on breakfast items.

Despite that less-than-impressive bit of info, Save-A-Lot's prices were lower than even Aldi on nearly half of the 11 items I checked.

Even more surprising was that the Litchfield Save-A-Lot's prices beat Wal-Mart's (also in Litchfield) by about 16 percent. But it was no shock to Hugo Rusch of Hutchinson, Minn. He finds that SAL beats Wal-Mart on many items, including its sale items such as Imperial margarine (two for $1) and everyday low prices on items such as bananas ($1 for 3 pounds) and bacon ($2.49 for 16 ounces).

"Save-A-Lot is usually cheaper than Wal-Mart; the store brands taste good, and the employees are friendly and accommodating," said Rusch.

My price comparison showed Aldi in Minneapolis had the lowest prices on 11 private-label items ($17.59) compared with Save-A-Lot ($19.61) and Wal-Mart ($23.42), both in Litchfield. Aldi may have been about 10 percent cheaper than Save-A-Lot, but SAL's customers don't have to pay for grocery bags or cart rental.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Save-A-Lots to open in the Twin Cities, said supermarket analyst David Livingston of Waukesha, Wis. "It would undermine Cub," he said, which is also owned by Supervalu.

For more information, go to www.save-a-lot.com.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633 or jewoldt@startribune.com

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