Where can you find the cheapest groceries in State College? We compared prices for you

Although nationwide inflation is starting to cool, higher prices at the grocery market are still putting pressure on the average American shopper.

Food-at-home prices, which cover food purchases at grocery stores and supermarkets, have increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. The agency’s recently published food price outlook indicates overall food-at-home prices increased by 11.4% in 2022 and another 5% in 2023. Current statistical models forecast a more modest 1.3% increase for 2024, but each jump — no matter how small — can create significant strains for those shopping on a budget.

If money is tight, where can you find the best deals for your favorite grocery store and supermarket foods? To find out, we shopped around at State College’s major grocery stores to compare common items and see which franchises offered the best options for budget-conscious shoppers.

How did we track our grocery price comparisons?

Before diving into the data, please keep the following points in mind regarding our methodology.

Where did we shop? — We visited State College locations of the area’s biggest grocery store chains: Aldi, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Weis, plus Target and Walmart. All seven of these stores are along North Atherton Street, though some have additional locations throughout State College and across Centre County.

Which stores were excluded? — Stores with membership requirements, like Sam’s Club, were left out, as were specialty and international markets, which may have lacked comparable items to our selections.

When did we shop? — Prices at these stores were documented in a spreadsheet during individual visits Feb. 8 and 9.

What did we shop for? — We picked 35 items sold at almost all of these stores, ranging from fresh produce and store-brand pantry staples to name-brand snacks and baking needs.

What items did we leave off the list? — This exercise works only with common items, so some variables — deli items, baked goods, flowers, pharmaceuticals — were excluded. Others, like baby needs, may wind up in their own price comparison story.

Were sale prices a factor? — No. Some stores, particularly Giant, offer huge catalogs of weekly sales and specials, but it would be unfair to compare them to stores without discounts. We counted only regular prices for these items, but savvy shoppers can likely find even cheaper options when they visit.

Looking at the data on grocery prices

You can use this Datawrapper visualization to flip through each of our 35 items included in this comparison project, ranging from eggs and tomatoes to Oreo cookies and Tostitos tortilla chips.

Prices are visualized for every store that sells each item. For example, all seven stores we shopped at sell boxes of dry spaghetti, but not all offer boneless chicken breasts or name-brand dish detergent.


Store shopped: 1798 N. Atherton St. in State College Feb. 8

Aldi is the new kid on the block when it comes to State College-area grocery stores. The company has another recently opened location along Benner Pike, but both offer low-cost, almost exclusively house-brand items.

Aldi wound up leading the way with cheap prices on more than a dozen items, including produce (avocados, bananas and tomatoes on the vine), whole wheat and white bread, oatmeal, rice and butter, among other selections. Although this chain does not carry many name-brand items, we found it selling cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup at the cheapest price in town ($1.26).

Giant Food Stores

The produce section inside the 255 Northland Center Giant offers bananas for just $0.49 per pound, landing among the cheapest prices in the area.
The produce section inside the 255 Northland Center Giant offers bananas for just $0.49 per pound, landing among the cheapest prices in the area.

Store shopped: 255 Northland Center in State College Feb. 8

There are three Giant stores in the State College area, but we shopped at the location off of North Atherton Street. The company is known for its extensive catalogs of weekly sales and, more recently, its expansion as a gas station at some locations. Giant’s opened a new location along Benner Pike in December 2022.

Our survey found Giant often came near the cheapest local option for its produce, dry goods and meat products, including store-brand bacon and value packs of boneless chicken breasts. However, our analysis also found Giant offering among the highest nondiscount prices in the area for some name-brand products, including bottled Coca-Cola six-packs ($6.99) and Heinz ketchup ($4.99 for a 38-ounce bottle).


Store shopped: 315 Colonnade Blvd. in State College Feb. 9

Groceries likely aren’t the first thing people think of when they’re making a shopping list for Target, but the company’s stores offer a decently wide selection of items, including staples under in-house brands.

This Target, located just off of North Atherton Street, does not sell fresh produce or meat, though it does offer Oscar Mayer hot dogs, bacon, eggs, milk and other pantry staples. We found the cheapest State College-area prices for store-brand peanut butter ($1.79) and a dozen eggs ($1.99) at this location.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is known for its popular house-brand items, including plenty of offerings in its frozen section.
Trader Joe’s is known for its popular house-brand items, including plenty of offerings in its frozen section.

Store shopped: 243 Patriot Lane in State College Feb. 9

State College is home to the only Trader Joe’s location between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The California-based chain is known for almost exclusively selling products under a unique Trader Joe’s label, many of which are organic or locally sourced.

Unlike some other stores in the area, Trader Joe’s sells some of its produce (namely bananas and apples) individually rather than by weight. As such, some items are not included in our price comparison data visualization.

During our survey, we found Trader Joe’s selling a dozen eggs for $1.99, tying the cheapest price among the area’s grocery stores. But some items — including loaves of white bread ($2.49) and a pound of bacon ($5.99) — were among the most expensive compared to State College’s other stores.


Store shopped: 1665 N. Atherton St. in State College Feb. 9

Walmart offers a huge grocery store section at its State College Supercenter. Most items are available through the company’s Great Value private label, which generally offers cheaper products compared to national brands.

Walmart’s State College store offered the cheapest prices in the area on bunch of items, including Gala apples ($1.37 per pound), Oreo cookies ($3.98 per 13.3-ounce box), Oikos Triple Zero Greek yogurt ($1.18 per 5.3-ounce cup) and store-brand bacon ($4.48 per pound). Conversely, the store offered among the most expensive prices in the area for baby carrots and butter, among other items.


The Wegmans at 345 Colonnade Boulevard in State College has specialty sections for cheeses, beer and wine and more.
The Wegmans at 345 Colonnade Boulevard in State College has specialty sections for cheeses, beer and wine and more.

Store shopped: 345 Colonnade Blvd. in State College Feb. 9

Just a few steps over from Target, the only Wegmans in Centre County offers some of the lowest prices in town, plus specialty sections featuring fancy cheeses, beer and wine and an always-popular bakery.

Our analysis found the Rochester, New York-based chain offers the best prices for several items, including family packs of chicken breasts ($1.99 per pound), baby carrots ($0.99 per pound), white bread ($1.29 per loaf), pasta sauce ($1.19 per 24-ounce jar), Cheerios ($4.79 per 12-ounce box), russet potatoes ($2.49 per 5-pound bag) and rising crust frozen pizzas ($3.99 each).

Weis Markets

Store shopped: 1471 Martin St. in State College Feb. 8

This Pennsylvania-headquartered grocery chain has stores across Centre County in State College, Bellefonte and Philipsburg, but we chose to visit its location off of North Atherton Street.

During our visit, we found Weis offered the best price in the area on a few items, including Coca-Cola soda ($4.33 for a six-pack of 16.9-ounce bottles) and Bush’s Best baked beans ($1.89 for a 16-ounce can). Some of this no-frills grocery store’s other selections, including Hillshire Farm sliced turkey, store-brand bacon and avocados, were sold at some of the most expensive price points for our surveyed supermarkets.

So, which store has State College’s cheapest prices?

Across the board, Aldi seems to be our overall winner.

According to our surveyed prices, Aldi wound up tying or leading these seven chains with the lowest prices for 15 items, ranging from oatmeal, rice and spaghetti pasta to fresh produce, loaves of bread and even Dawn dish detergent.

Aldi’s drawback, if you consider it as such, is its lack of name-brand items, so its affordability does not do much for shoppers searching for deals on the most popular brands.

Our analysis found Walmart leading the way in price for eight of the 11 name-brand items included in our survey. As for the remaining national-brand items, Wegmans offers the cheapest price for Mission flour tortillas ($2.99 per 23-ounce 20-count), while Weis has the best prices for Bush’s Best baked beans ($1.89 per 16-ounce can) and bottled Coca-Cola six-packs ($4.33).