You may have heard that the Cub Foods and Walmart stores in St. Paul's Midway area, which face each other across a common parking lot, are engaged in a nasty corporate catfight. According to a Pioneer Press story this week, Cub's parent company, Supervalu, based in Eden Prairie, has sued Walmart over its recent expansion of its food section, claiming Walmart now has more square feet devoted to groceries than its lease allows and is selling unallowed products (such as freshly baked items and dairy foods). Walmart says "eat it"--it's operating within its lease on all counts.
All the legal tomato-throwing got us thinking: Which store really is the best for shoppers? So we decided to pit the stores in a battle of another sort. In a thoroughly unscientific and hopelessly subjective study, we compared prices at each store on a range of 15 grocery staples (milk, eggs, Cheerios, bread, hamburger, Skippy peanut butter, paper towels, etc. And Oreos--got to have Oreos). We also noted the food amenities at both. Here are the results:
Cub Foods: A sign out front advertised price cuts on 8,000 items "in every aisle," and indeed the store was plastered with little yellow tags marking reduced prices. A dozen eggs were just $1.39, a half-gallon of Tropicana orange juice was a decent $3.49. The all-important Oreos were $2.98. The store is immense, with plenty of shopping extras, including a large section of organic foods, a spacious deli and bakery, fresh soups, and a big aisle of ethnic foods.
Walmart: Even Walmart's expanded food department was still pretty small--in fact, it might all fit in Cub's produce section. But true to its reputation, Walmart's prices were almost always better than Cub's, and sometimes way better: $2.25 for a Lean Cuisine dinner (vs. Cub's $3.49); $3.98 for a 12-pack of Coke (vs. $4.59). Cub beat Walmart on only one item: Cheerios for $2.69 (vs. $2.88 at Walmart). But we also couldn't buy a few of the items on our list (ground beef, oranges, and broccoli) because Walmart has no fresh meat or produce sections. It does, however, have a Subway in the store, in case grocery shopping makes you hungry. And, of course, you can't buy lawn furniture or a throw pillow at Cub. The winner: For the 12 items on our list that both stores carried, Walmart prices were clearly better, which is no doubt why Cub is pitching such a snit. Our grocery bill at Cub was $48.45. At Walmart, $42.61. But Cub's huge size, bigger selection, and wealth of amenities was a far richer shopping experience for a roughly $6 difference in price. In this food fight, Cub is our winner, hands down.