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Cornelius News

The Price is Right at…

Just like the grocery cart comparison you see when entering Publix, the Cornelius Today grocery price check results in Publix having the cheapest total for our list, with Food Lion and Harris Teeter following in that order.

Cornelius Today did its pricing at Food Lion, Harris Teeter Antiquity and Publix, with a spot check at Harris Teeter Jetton Cove that showed a slight difference at the meat deli counter and with manager’s specials.

The 27 items cost $132.07 at Publix, $133.24 at Food Lion and  $149.13  at Harris Teeter representing a $17.06 difference between highest and lowest. We triple-checked the math.

Beyond the price differences, the chains have a different feel, with Harris Teeter at Jetton Cove delivering the best experience. More on that later if you’re interested in shopping being an experience rather than just loading up the pantry and refrigerator, and eventually your stomach.

You, readers, picked the items Cornelius Today priced with suggestions on the Cornelius Today Facebook page,  and a few offered to help shop and share impressions. Thank you!

Cornelius Today passes along this  advice from readers: watch at the check-out to make sure the prices are ringing up as advertised on the shelves and make sure coupons on items are removed and scanned (some chains train cashiers to go for speed and not remove coupons).

What we did

We opted to have one shopper to ensure the exact items were looked at, and any differences could be noted like with Folgers coffee and Beneful Originals dog food pricing. We did not use sales prices, coupons, specials or MVP or VIC prices. Publix doesn’t use a customer loyalty card program.

Not all of the store chains had some brands Cornelius Today was looking for so we did not include those items in the grocery list comparison chart.

Food Lion, for example, does not carry Boar’s Head deli meat. The Boar’s Head ham varieties we compared at Publix and Harris Teeter Antiquity were $10.99 per pound. Harris Teeter Jetton Cove had fewer Boar’s Head ham varieties and were priced at $10.79, $10.89 or $10.99 per pound.

Items that were available at all chains in the same size are in the grid chart.

We talk about other items here.

Harris Teeter and Food Lion have Keurig brand coffee pods, a box for 10 cups at $9.99 or $8.99 respectively. All three groceries carry other brands of coffee pods for Kuerig machines. Popular brands include Dunkin’ Donut  (Food Lion $10.59, Harris Teeter $8.99, Publix $9.49) and Starbucks (Food Lion $8.99, Harris Teeter $9.99, Publix $9.99)  boxes for 10 cups.

Special requests

You asked about organic and gluten-free foods. Cornelius Today found a sampling at each. In general, Food Lion, the smallest of the stores, had the fewest selections. Publix offered highly visible organic bananas for 79 cents a pound, or 20 cents per pound more than its other bananas.

The three chains carry Eggo frozen waffles in various varieties/flavors in boxes of 10 waffles; only Harris Teeter have gluten-free, which come in boxes of 8. The prices:  Food Lion at $2.99; and Publix at $2.67; Harris Teeter at $3.69, including gluten-free.

For the cheese lovers in Cornelius, here’s the scoop on what you’ll find shredded in bags. Some of you asked for the Sargento brand in particular, others poopooed that.

We priced Sargento, Kraft and the Harris Teeter brand. Food Lion sells Sargento at $2.79 a bag and Kraft at $3.09. Harris Teeter sells both brands for $3.79. Publix sells Sargento at $4.19 and Kraft at $3.79.  Harris Teeter brand sells at $3.39 a bag; the buy two and get three free special runs frequently.

You asked about nut alternatives to traditional cow milk. Cornelius Today checked out Silk brand nut milks, which come in half-gallon containers. We didn’t include these in the price chart because Food Lion prices were different for various flavors, ranging from $2.99 to $3.29. Publix sold all flavors for $3.13 and Harris Teeter for $3.99.

Size matters

About the differences we noted above in coffee and dog food: The price per 30.5-ounce container of Folgers was $8.99 at Food Lion, $10.69 at Harris Teeter. Publix selections of Folgers were in 24.2-ounce cans for $8.85.

Publix displayed a sign saying the price was for 24.2-ounce to 30.5-ounces cans, but only had 24.2-ounce cans on the shelf. That comes to 29 cents an ounce for Food Lion, 35 cents at Harris Teeter and 36 cents at Publix for what we saw on the shelves. The larger size, if Publix had it available, would cost 29 cents an ounce, the same cheaper price as Food Lion.

While Food Lion and Publix sell 15.5-pound bags of Beneful Originals dog food for $17.79 and $14.59 respectively, Harris Teeter weighed in with a 31.1-pound bag at $39.99. Per ounce that comes to $1.15 an ounce at Food Lion,  $1.29 cents at Harris Teeter, and  94 cents at Publix.

A reader who shops at Publix gave the store the highest  mark for organization, having a good number of cashiers and having shelves stocked. Harris Teeter may suffer from rearrangement confusion in the transition to Kroger. All four stores score high marks for friendliness of staff, store cleanliness, cart availability and parking. The Harris Teeter stores designate parking spaces for customers with child and for veterans. Parking at the Jetton Cove store can be chaotic.

Food Lion offers cut flower bouquets, but the selection is small.  Harris Teeter Jetton Cove has the largest flower and plant section.

Most people shop close to home or work, and may drop in several times a week instead of making  a weekly grocery trip. So Cornelius Today didn’t travel to Aldi, Walmart or BJ’s Wholesale because they’re not located in 28031.

Shopping experience

Harris Teeter offers the best grab-and-go experience with a salad bar, Asian and hot food bars for breakfast and later, bakery, in-store pizzeria,  pharmacy, extensive cheese selection, cut fruit, bread counter, prepared sandwiches and like — and a Starbucks coffee shop.

Publix offers many of same amenities, some smaller and less flashy.  You can get a cup of coffee, but it’s not Starbucks. Publix has a place to sit and eat. At Harris Teeter Jetton Cove, you can buy a Starbucks and sit in the coffee shop area.

Food Lion falls short in experience shopping and is geared to a utilitarian visit. No cup of coffee, no pharmacy.

If you’re hoping for lower grocery prices in Cornelius, hang that hope on 28031 attracting a Lidl store. When the German grocer enters a new market,  competitors including Food Lion, Walmart, Publix, Kroger (which owns Harris Teeter), Aldi and Walmart respond by lowering prices to stay competitive, according to a recent UNC Chapel Hill study.

But for now, the Cornelius Today price comparison shows Publix had the cheapest overall total for the items we checked, although some individual items such as ground beef, bagged salad and broccoli were pricier than the competition.

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