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We crunched the numbers to find you the best deal in town.

Arielle Weg
May 23, 2018

Whether you’re into meal prep or you’re someone who dives in head first into your fridge each night to see what ingredients spark a meal—you probably always keep some kitchen staples on hand. After all, keeping a handful of basic ingredients stocked at home can help you make a number of easy pantry meals during those weeks when you haven’t quite made it to the supermarket.

You probably keep the same sorts of versatile staples around as many home cooks (dried grains, jarred sauce, etc.), but are you snagging the best deals when it comes to re-upping on your pantry must-haves? We compared prices for 12 kitchen essentials at Kroger, Target, Publix, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Aldi to find where you should generally look to load your cart for the cheapest price tag.

Canned Beans

Comparing 15- to 15.5-ounce cans of store brand chickpeas and black beans, there’s not a huge price difference between stores. If you’re really counting pennies, Aldi wins out with their Dakota’s Pride brand at $0.55 per can. The most expensive of the bunch is Publix brand at $0.85 for chickpeas and $0.83 for black beans.

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Publix

Dried Pasta

Publix knocks this out of the park with the highest price of $1.33 for a 16-ounce box ($0.08 per ounce) of Publix brand spaghetti. Aldi sells Reggano brand spaghetti for half the price — $1.39 for a 32-ounce box ($0.04 per ounce). Other brands teetered in the same price range at about $0.06 per ounce.

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Publix

Broth

You can score a 32-ounce box of chicken broth under Aldi’s brand Chef’s Cupboard for $1.19 ($0.04 per ounce), with Target’s Market Pantry close behind at $1.39 (also about $0.04 per ounce). Unless you want broth that breaks the bank, we recommend you skip Whole Foods 365 organic broth. It sells for $3.29 for a 48-ounce box ($0.07 per ounce). Publix brand’s non-organic broth also comes close at $2.09 for a 32-ounce box ($0.07 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Frozen Vegetables

Kroger offers major steals when it comes to frozen veg. Their brand’s broccoli cuts sell for $1.79 per 32-ounce bag ($0.06 per ounce) and peas sell for $1.99 per 32-ounce bag ($0.03 per ounce.) Compare that to the most expensive options being Trader Joe’s brand (organic) 16-ounce bag of frozen peas ($0.12 per ounce) and Publix brand’s 14-ounce bag of (non-organic) broccoli florets at $1.89 ($0.14 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Kroger Most

Expensive: Trader Joe’s and Publix

Sugar

When your love for baking calls for always having sugar on hand, snag Aldi’s Baker’s Corner brand. The four pound bag sells for $1.85 ($0.03 per ounce). Target’s Market Pantry and Kroger brand sugar comes close at $1.99 per bag ($0.03 per ounce), which is a steal compared to to the most expensive, same-sized bag from Whole Foods 365 at $6.99 ($0.12 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Tomato Paste

A small 6-ounce can of tomato paste doesn’t waver a ton pricewise. Aldi’s Happy Harvest brand offers the cheapest option at $0.39, followed by Kroger brand for $0.45, and Target’s Market Pantry for $0.49. Whole Foods gets a little pricey at $0.99 per can, but you really can’t go wrong.

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Tomato Sauce

For last minute, throw-together meals a jar of pasta sauce can be a real lifesaver. Aldi’s Reggano brand tomato, basil, and garlic pasta sauce sells for $0.99 per 24-ounce jar ($0.04 per ounce)—but that’s not the only cheap deal this time around. Kroger sells their brand tomato and basil pasta sauce for the same price. The most expensive is Whole Foods 365 25-ounce jar of marinara pasta sauce for $1.99 ($0.08 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Aldi and Kroger

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Rice

An attempt to compare plain, long-grain white rice had us lost in Trader Joe’s. The closest option was a Trader Joe’s brand 32-ounce bag of Basmati rice for $2.99 ($0.09 per ounce) which is way pricier compared to all the other competitors. Compare that to the second most expensive option—Target’s Market Pantry 16-ounce bag for $0.89 ($0.06 per ounce) If you’re looking for a cheaper deal, Aldi’s Earthly Grains brand offers a 48-ounce bag of white rice for $1.29 ($0.03 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Trader Joe’s

Oats

Whole Foods 365 organic oats sell for $2.99 per 18-ounce container ($0.17 per ounce) which is far more expensive than competitors. Aldi’s Milville brand sells a 42-ounce container of oats for $2.39 ($0.06 per ounce) as the cheapest option, with Target’s Market Pantry and Kroger brand charging just a few cents more.

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Eggs

If you’re shopping for plain old 12-count large white eggs, then Trader Joe’s is the way to go. Note that prices do fluctuate often, but the $1.29 price tag is why eggs are one item we always buy from TJ’s. Kroger and Publix brands tip a few cents over $2.00 a dozen, with Whole Foods 365 managing to sell a carton of eggs for $2.99.

Best Bargain: Trader Joe’s

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Butter

We almost always have a pound of butter stored in the fridge. Target's Market Pantry offers the cheapest pound of butter for $2.59, followed by Kroger brand at just a few cents more. Publix brand surprisingly sells the most expensive butter at $3.88 per pound.

Best Bargain: Target

Most Expensive: Publix

Crushed Tomatoes

If you’re going to make your sauce from scratch or use a can of crushed tomatoes as a base to a pantry dish, buy Aldi’s Happy Harvest brand for $1.99 per 28-ounce can ($0.03 per ounce). For the most expensive option, we were surprised Trader Joe’s was missing crushed tomatoes from their shelves. They do sell organic diced tomatoes for the price of $1.49 per 14.5-ounce can ($0.10 per ounce). Being that TJ’s option isn’t really crushed tomatoes, we’ll call Whole Foods 365 organic 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes the most expensive. Going with this organic option will cost you $1.99 ($0.07 per ounce).

Best Bargain: Aldi

Most Expensive: Whole Foods

Overall Winner

If this research proved anything, it’s that Aldi is by far the cheapest option when it comes to pantry essentials. Of the 14 items we compared, Aldi boasted the most inexpensive option 10 times. As for the most expensive—Whole Foods (unsurprisingly) has the most expensive item seven times. While yes, many of Whole Foods store brand products are organic, looking at the grocery list from a purely price-oriented perspective… they’re probably not worth the visit when you’re looking to restock your staples.

We did learn a few surprising tidbits during the investigation. Publix was unexpectedly expensive (at least, I didn’t expect it, considering that’s where I typically do my pantry staple shopping) with five counts of ranking most-expensive. Kroger and Target were almost always a few cents off from each other (rumor has it they may merge), and fall closely behind Aldi on the cheaper end. Trader Joe’s prices fluctuate quite a bit depending on the product—sometimes ranking more expensive and sometimes a bit cheaper, but not much.

NOTE: Prices are subject to change based on availability and location.

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