From the corner of Colorado Boulevard and 8th Avenue, Trader Joe's appears to be the best thing that's happened to grocery shopping since sliced bread.
In car after car, shoppers have been funneling in and out of the parking lot at the Colorado Boulevard location since it opened Friday morning. Lured by the promise of low prices and unique items, Trader Joe's shoppers flocked to the three new locations Friday.
"The frozen products are a working mom's dream come true. They are usually less than $5. Rip open the bag, throw it in the pan and you have dinner," Katie Houlihan said Friday while waiting in the checkout line.
Houlihan, a mother of three, had been shopping at Whole Foods Market, but will now be a Trader Joe's regular.
"It is the best place ever," she said. "It will lower my grocery bill by hundreds of dollars each month."
Trader Joe's says that its mission is to give its customers the best food and beverage values that can be found. But competing grocers have been sharpening prices and offering promotions on key items.
We visited four local grocers and the bustling Trader Joe's last week to compare prices on kitchen staples. We chose store brands in seven categories for a snapshot of how much a consumer would spend in each store.
While promotions affect daily pricing at grocers — some items will be on sale one week and not another — a simple survey of everyday items showed that King Soopers and Trader Joe's will stretch your dollars the furthest, with Sprouts and Whole Foods eating up the most.
The 19-cent bananas may grab your eyes when you enter Trader Joe's, but per pound you will pay less for bananas at the other stores. Pre-sliced lunch meat also had a price spread: Sprouts' approaches $7 for half a pound. If free-range eggs are important to you, King Soopers, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's offer a dozen for $2.99.
"The grocery budget represents a significant portion of people's monetary budget and we try to provide value to our customers," King Soopers spokesperson Kelli McGannon said. "In addition to our competitive prices our weekly circular ad passes along value to the products our customers buy often."
And Whole Foods has made a concerted effort to combat its "whole paycheck" image over the last few years.
"We work incredibly hard everyday to be competitive on key products such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded cheese, and milk," Rocky Mountain Whole Foods spokesperson Ben Friedland said. "We equate value on two levels — as it relates to price and as it relates to quality."
Which grocer provides the best quality or best-tasting products is a debate left to consumers, but which offers the lowest price on like items is clear at the checkout.
Kate Gibbons: 303-954-1016, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter/ByKateGibbons