Don’t worry, Market Basket is still cheaper than most grocery stores—even with a rise in prices

Newbury, MA: 06-23-2015: The produce department of the Burlington, Mass. Market Basket store.
Newbury, MA: 06-23-2015: The produce department of the Burlington, Mass. Market Basket store. –The Boston Globe

Market Basket prides itself on having some of the cheapest prices around. However, according to an annual study by ConsumerWorld.org, those savings may be getting slimmer for shoppers.

Edgar Dworsky, who runs the site, sampled a small number of Boston-area supermarkets and found that prices for selected goods at Market Basket had increased 9 percent since his survey a year ago, when the supermarket chain was in the midst of the Demoulas family feud.

Dworsky compared prices of 16 items between the two years — including peanut butter, spaghetti, and ground beef— across six grocery store chains: Star Market, Stop and Shop, Market Basket, ALDI, Price Rite, and Save-A-Lot.

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Prices rose 8 percent at Star Market and 7 percent at Stop & Shop for the products sampled in the survey.

ALDI, Price Rite, and Save-A-Lot consistently offered the lowest prices, up to 19 percent cheaper than Market Basket.

Even so, Market Basket prices were still significantly lower than those of the two larger chains: Star Market and Stop and Shop. Prices were 29 percent higher at Star Market for the sampled items and 15 percent more at Stop & Shop, according to the study.

The Boston Globe spoke with representatives from each of these chains, who agreed that the study itself was far from comprehensive, calling out a small sample size and unaccounted differences in product quality or market availability to Massachusetts consumers.

Market Basket operations manager Dave McLean also told the Globe that the national rise in prices for items like eggs or beef affected the data.

“It’s really not fair to any of the companies, including ours,’’ he said. “Take eggs out, take ground beef out, and you’ll say, ‘Where’s the increase?’’’ McLean said.

Dworsky told Boston.com that McLean is correct in saying that those two items have seen terrible price increases over the last year, but that the company still would see a great self-inflicted increase.

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“When the company itself drops a discount of 4 percent, that means in this year’s prices right out of the gate you are likely to raise your overall prices,’’ Dworsky said. “They in essence caused almost half of their 9 percent increase themselves.’’

Dworsky recognized that the basket of items he chose does not replicate a grocery list for a family of four, but said his intention was to more to show consumers how prices of regularly purchased items can vary from store to store.

Few perishable items were included in the study, but most of those items were not available at Market Basket in August 2014 due to the boycott. The survey also did not include Massachusetts grocery staples Roche Bros., Hannaford Bros., Wegmans, or Whole Foods.

“People need to understand that grocery prices absolutely vary store to store, and if you only are shopping at a single store you are probably not getting the best deal,’’ Dworsky said.

And for off-brand items, the best deal can often be found at limited assortment markets—if you can find one.

Among the three limited assortment markets,there are only 35 locations in Massachusetts, compared to 42 Market Baskets.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the overall cost for food consumed at home went up 2.9 percent year-over-year from February 2014 to February 2015.

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