Having access to quality grocery stores can make or break your relationship with food. A good grocery store sends customers home satisfied with reasonably priced bags full of fresh, tasty food, while the bad ones can leave shoppers frustrated for any number of reasons. For as much as grocery chains seems to have in common on the surface, experienced shoppers know they can be wildly different.

So what do the best grocery stores have in common? Is it food selection? Customer service? Good product organization? A survey of more than 75,000 Consumer Reports members ranked grocery stores on these and a number of other categories to determine what makes the best grocery store.

The survey’s findings pit 96 different national and regional grocery chains against each other to determine the very best grocery stores in America โ€” and what makes them so great.

So what’s the one thing most of the top grocery stores had in common?

Reasonable prices.

Survey respondents said their number one reason for frequenting a certain store was its low prices. Stores with perceived high prices could still be ranked high overall, the survey showed, if they also offered excellent products or a great experience, like Whole Foods, for example.

The survey included categories such as price, customer service, in-house brand quality, breadth of products, quality of products, online grocery availability, organic options, and more.

Regional grocery stores including Central Market (Texas-based), Wegmans (mid-Atlantic), Heinen’s (Ohio and Chicagoland), Gelson’s Markets (California-based), and Market Basket (Northeast) received high marks in customer satisfaction. It’s worth noting the only nation chain to receive an high overall satisfaction score was Trader Joe’s. (Trader’s Joes fan probably don’t find this surprising at all.)

Five total grocery stores received what the survey considered disappointing overall scores. Walmart, Acme Markets, Shaw’s, Tops, and Key Foods could use a little TLC from their directors, it seems.

The survey found that people return to grocery stores because of fair prices, but they love them for a number of reasons: Selection, friendly employees, cleanliness.

So while price is king, when it comes to the grocery experience, it really is all about balance.

Other price-competitive chains, according to the survey:

  • Crest (Okla.)
  • Fareway Stores (Iowa, Ill., Minn., Neb., and S.D.)
  • Costco (nationwide)
  • Military Commissary (nationwide)
  • Cinco (Okla., Texas and either other Western states)
  • Aldi (Calif., Midwest, and Northeast)
  • Woodman’s (Ill., Wis.)
  • Lidl (Eastern Seaboard from N.J. to G.A.)
  • Grocery Outlet (Calif., Ore., Wash., Idaho, and P.A.)
  • Save-A-Lot (stores in 36 states)
  • Marc’s (Ohio)

Also see, 18 ways to save money at the grocery store but still eat healthy.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. Sheโ€™s thrown away just as many meals as sheโ€™s proud of.