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.