Apples to apples: Price comparisons

How much does it cost to make spaghetti?

Statistics and white papers tell you only so much. To get a hands-on feel for what’s available, I comparison-shopped at stores in west Atlanta, looking for staples and the ingredients for a simple spaghetti dinner. On my list: bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter, cereal, spaghetti, sauce, ground beef, some kind of green salad, and, naturally, apples. I visited all four stores on January 14. At each I tried to find the highest quality and healthiest groceries at the lowest price—for instance, whole-grain cereal in a cheaper store brand

Walmart Supercenter
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
I could have spent even less at Walmart, but I sprang for a bag of salad greens ($2.98) and the leaner ground beef ($3.08/pound). A pleasant discovery: a loaf of baked-in-store whole-wheat bread—a frugal $1.68. 
Total: 21.65

Super Giant Food
Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway
While my outlay here was barely more than at Walmart,
I got slightly less beef (fourteen ounces versus a full pound)
and half the amount of pasta. I did spring for organic Ragu ($3.49) but saved on salad greens, just 89 cents. 
Total: 21.84

Shoppers Supermarket
Joseph E. Boone Boulevard
While nondescript from the outside, this tiny store is well stocked—with a loaded produce case. Apples were only sold in prepackaged foursomes ($1.69) and there was no low-fat milk. My big-ticket item? Cheerios; $4.49 compared with $2.18 for Walmart’s Great Value box. 
Total: 25.30

Simpson Food Mart
Simpson Road
The closest thing to an apple at this corner store was the Tropicana, and no V8 to stand in for the veggies. Honey Bunches of Oats was the lowest-sugar cereal in stock. I do hope no one would actually pair “meat-flavored” sauce with canned ham ($4.99). 
Total: 28.95

Read the main feature: “Stranded in Atlanta’s Food Deserts

This article originally appeared in our March 2014 issue.