Sometimes my passion for penny-pinching scores me amazing deals that pump me up with pride, and other times my cheap tendencies are a real pain in the ass. The day I decided to open three tabs on my browser and bounce from store to store to store accessing each one's online ordering interface was a dark day in my household.
My intentions were pure: I wanted to clip coupons and snag sales at three different stores to get the cheapest total dollar amount possible. And man oh man, was that an adventure.
Shopping for Groceries Online: Meijer vs. Kroger vs. Target
The decision to explore three different stores was not a random one. Where I live, Target, Meijer, and Kroger are all located in one convenient loop, so I thought, "I won't have to spend any extra gas money to go on this grocery pickup quest." So, I pulled up the Meijer, Target, and Kroger websites.
All three of the interfaces are similar and straightforward, so there wasn't much fuss on each individual site. Instead, the headache was fueled by jumping between three different tabs and search bars, typing each item on my list into each. And then hopping back through the tabs to determine which offered the best price. Talk about whiplash.
Online Grocery Prices: Meijer vs. Kroger vs. Target
I'm not sure what I was expecting to discover in terms of price discrepancies. I've noticed before that some of the items I buy at Meijer are a little bit cheaper at Target and vice versa, so that's what inspired me to try this out. Kroger really just entered the mix for good measure.
Generally, the price differences between the three stores weren't all that profound. On staples like milk, flour, and bread, the prices were virtually identical. It was on random items, like Laughing Cow spreadable cheese, that I saw as much as a dollar difference between the most expensive and least expensive stores.
In the end, I'm pretty sure I didn't even save $10 overall, so while the Laughing Cow felt like a win in the moment, it was the most micro-victory imaginable.
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Using Grocery Coupons: Meijer vs. Kroger vs. Target
Going into this endeavor, I thought the coupon situation would be how I harnessed the best prices. I figured each store would offer its own unique coupons so I could grab the lowest price on a variety of items. Instead, I discovered that each store offered really similar coupons on the same items. Blasphemy, I tell you.
Meijer does have a new rewards program that allows you to exchange points for money off your gas or groceries, and that's quite lovely. But Kroger has a similar program. And Target Circle's offers are pretty flashy. I can't tell you how many times I cash in on the "buy three household essentials and earn a $10 gift card." If I was Superman, that deal would be my Kryptonite.
Checking Out: Meijer vs. Kroger vs. Target
The checkout process is also similar at all three stores. You can add any relevant notes, choose substitutions, set preferences, and input your payment and vehicle information. Super simple stuff. Just annoying to type it all in three times. So, no clear winners here.
Related: How to Save Big at the Grocery Store
Curbside Grocery Pickup: Meijer vs. Kroger vs. Target
About two hours into ordering my groceries online, I looked at the clock and already felt like I had taken a wrong turn. But when it came time to actually pick the groceries up, that's when things really went south. I headed to the Kroger I thought I placed my order at (the one right next door to Target, in a plaza) and they burst my bubble in epic fashion. I placed the order at a Kroger about 8 miles away, and the Kroger I drove to didn't even offer curbside services, due to the fact that it was located in a plaza, an employee told me.
I haven't shopped at Kroger since because I hold firm to my belief that in this day and age, every grocery store should offer that service. Seriously, the Ulta and Target stores sandwiched between the Kroger store I went to both provide curbside pickup. Get with the program, Kroger!
Otherwise, Meijer's pickup process lets you know about any substitutions once your order is ready, so you can confirm or deny them before you get there to make for a more seamless experience. I use curbside services at Meijer all the time, and I almost never make it through an order without substitutions or out-of-stock items.
Target is the absolute MVP when it comes to its drive-up service. Through the app, you can let the store know when you're coming so it can start preparing your order. Its quickness is unmatched, and I rarely find myself faced with out-of-stock items. When I do, Target will offer me the option to have the item shipped free of charge.
The loser is evident. I have shown my cards. You know it's Kroger. I have friends who are so loyal to that store and I'll never understand why.
As for the winner, I feel like Meijer has to take the cake just because its selection of grocery items is more vast than Target's. There are plenty of things I get at Meijer that I can't find at Target. But when it comes to everything else — ordering, offers, and picking up — it's Target. No question.
Was Simultaneously Online Shopping at Three Grocery Stores Worth It?
I'll resist the urge to only put "hell no" in this section. It wasn't worth it, guys. Work smarter, not harder. The amount of time I wasted doing this is time I will never get back. Don't try this at home.