Top Grocery Stores in North Carolina: Pro and Cons

When you begin your health and wellness journey, the grocery store becomes your best friend. I spend more hours in the grocery store than anywhere else! And all of my money is spent on food! Go figure. I have spent so much time in grocery stores, I can tell you the top grocery stores in NC and I can tell you where they are weak at.

Finding the best quality food I can find is pivotal for my lifestyle. I don’t eat out so my meals are prepared at home. With that being said, I need the freshest ingredients to make my meals throughout the week.  I live in the grocery store, literally, I can spend hours there shopping. 

I know most health and wellness gurus emphasize the freshest high-quality food, but I also emphasize buying food that will not hurt my wallet! Below, I have compiled a list of my top grocery stores and I also have listed their pros and cons! Check it out.

Table of Contents

Top grocery store must-haves

  1. Quality
  2. Reasonable Prices
  3. Knowledge staff/customer services
  4. Location and Proximity

#1 Sprouts 

I am a little biased here with Sprouts‘ number one ranking, but with good reason. The sprouts farmers market has everything that I am looking for and it compliments my lifestyle.

As far as I know, there are two locations in North Carolina, Durham, and North Raleigh. Sprouts number one attraction is their fresh (Farmers like) produce and their 48 and 72-hour sale. Their weekly ad can be found online as well as in-store.

Pros:

  • High-quality produce, Farmers market-style but Walmart price! 
  • Pop-up sales
  • Online coupons
  • Organic food and food products
  • Great quality
  • Diverse food products 
  •  Organized and labeled clearly 
  •  Vegan, keto, paleo, and plant-based sections/labels 
  • Dark chocolate aisle and candy aisle is on point! 
  • Bulk items 
  • Vitamin and Natural selection
  • The frozen food section is top-notch

Cons: 

  • Location 
  • Cheese is expensive 
  • No membership to further savings 
  • Buy 1 get 1 free (you can’t buy the single item for half-off) 
  •  Meat is expensive
  • Cold bar and hot bar is small 
  • Plastic bags are used instead of paper
  • Ice cream brands are expensive!

#2 Harris Teeter 

Harris Teeter is a fan favorite of mine. I have been going there with my mother since I was a tot! As an adult, I don’t shop there as much as I used to but I will still go there on occasions to buy fresh produce, bread, pasta, and chips/popcorn. If seafood and meat were still part of my diet, I would eat there, because they have high-quality meats for reasonable prices.

What makes Harris Teeter ultra-competitive is their hot and cold bar in larger stores, their partnership with Starbucks, and (gas) fuel. You can grab a sub sandwich, a coffee, and fill up your gas tank in one stop!

Pros:

  • Fresh produce 
  • Meat quality! Meat goes on sale often. Manager Special for the win
  • Deli section serves Boar’s head
  • High-quality cheese does have sales from time to time 
  • Great selection of yogurt and dairy products 
  • VIC members, if you become a VIC member you will save money
  • Fuel points/gas 
  • Wine selection 
  • Samples 
  • Location

Cons:

  • Organic food and produce can be expensive 
  • Need a VIC card to save
  • Specialty items are expensive 
  • Frozen food items lack diversity 
  • Limited bulk items/section 
  • Gluten-free selection is small 
  • Plant-based items are not labeled 
  • Subs lack variety 
  • The hot bar doesn’t taste that great
  • Vast selection of protein bars and variety!

#3 Wegmans

The arrival of Wegmans in Raleigh, NC was like the Beatles’ first time coming to America. I have never seen so many people camp out for a grand opening of a supermarket! Unfortunately, I was one of those people. I wanted to see if Wegmans lived up to the hype.

Wegmans is a massive supermarket. I was surprised and at the same disappointed, it is not an organic grocery store nor does it market itself as one. I should have done my research!

Pros: 

  • Variety of produce
  • Great mushroom selections 
  • Great cheese selection 
  • Fresh seafood 
  • The hot and cold bar section is huge and diverse 
  • The wine selection is vast 
  • Vast bakery selection 
  • Vegan and gluten-free selection is vast 
  • Nice cold drink selection 
  • Tremendous customer service 
  • Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner at different stations 
  • Has seating/dining and microwave 
  • Nice selection of protein bars and protein supplements 

Cons: 

  • Crowded 
  • Overwhelming 
  • Regular branded items are not that cheap 
  • Produce aren’t cheap 
  • Not an organic grocery store 
  • Loud /Noisey 
  • Hot bar doesn’t taste that good 
  • Meals to go are expensive 
  • Location 

#4 Trader Joes

Trader Joes has a cult following and I am a member of this cult! I love Trader Joes and it is within walking distance from my job. Trader Joe’s sales items that you will not find anywhere else. Their selection of products is hand-selected and they all taste amazing.

I have told everyone who I know about Trader Joes after my first experience there.

Pros: 

  • Compact store
  • Variety of snacks
  • Every item tastes good! 
  • Specialty/private items
  • Awesome cheese selection and inexpensive! 
  • Cheap meals on the go! 
  • Friendly and unique staff 
  • Cheap produce! 
  • Cheap bagged greens! 
  • Good selection of frozen desserts 
  • Vegan/vegetarian items! 
  • The best bang for your buck 
  • Organic  items 
  • Paper bags
  • Samples 
  • Great beer selection 
  • The best-dried fruit and nuts selection hands down 

Cons: 

  • Limited spicy food items 
  • Location not many in the Triangle
  • Small selection of produce–no variety 
  • Crowded 
  • Seasonal private items go quickly they do not restock 
  • Some fresh food items expire very quickly and some meals-2-go are not fresh
  • Meals-2-go do not change
  • No microwave to heat meals-2-go
  • Small cold drink selection  
  • No in house butcher 
  • No hot bar/cold bar

#5 Kroger 

No longer in NC but it was awesome while it lasted! I miss this place 

#6 Whole foods 

I remember the first time I walked into the store. “Is this heaven?” I asked my dad. The whole foods market was one of the first in the healthy food supermarket. I had never been to a grocery store like it before.

Because Whole Foods was one of the first, I have to give it props. It made a way for other healthy food stores that aren’t as expensive. I will say Whole Foods has gotten better with prices, but I still find them to be outside of my budget.

Pros:

  • High-quality produce
  • Meat substitutes
  • The cheese section is awesome
  • Local products 
  • Knowledge staff 
  • Hotbar is life! Taste good too
  • Cold bar 
  • Baked goods 
  • Smoothie bar 
  • Ice cream bar 
  • Bread 
  • Deli taste great
  • Sandwiches made to order
  • Candy and Chocolate section 
  • Bulk items and dried fruit 
  • Good soap 
  • Vitamin section

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Limited Asian options 
  • Need an Amazon Prime membership to save
  • Runs out of bakery items quickly
  • Bulk items are expensive

#7 Publix

I will be honest, I’m not a fan of Publix. There are so many grocery stores in the triangle that I don’t think it is necessary to have a Publix. I have heard about the savings and the deals, but nothing I have seen has piqued my interest. I ranked Publix a 7 because their customer service is awesome and I like the style and look of the supermarket, but I do not shop there.

Pros:

  • Atmosphere
  • good selection on protein bars and cereal items
  • Samples
  • Deli section can get sandwiches to go
  • Location

Cons: 

  • Nothing stands out to me about Publix not sure what makes them, them. 

#8- The Asian Market or any Asian market 

If you have an Asian or Mediterranean market near you, please go! Asian Markets have all the tools you need to make the best world’s cuisine. I have found that produce in these markets is relatively cheaper than the cheapest supermarkets. I buy my rice and noodles from here instead of the typical store. Also, if you like different foods and different kinds of food this is a place that you need to start shopping.

If you are lucky, you can find a larger Asian supermarket that has a hot and cold bar. The food that is served is authentically delicious.

Pros: 

  • Variety of produce (domestic and imported) 
  • Fresh seafood and poultry 
  • Cheap spices, grains, rice, and noodles 
  • Cultural items 
  • Cookware 

Cons: 

  • Cultural differences 
  • Language barriers

*These Cons are only Cons if you go into the store with a closed mind*

#9 Lidl 

Many people rave about Lidl, if I live closer, I would rave too. This store reminds me of Aldi, but better. Produce is fresh and the store design is modern and simple. Many private items are sold here. Stock up on snacks and frozen food items.

Pros: 

  • Private specialty items 
  • Snacking
  • Inexpensive produce and snack items 
  • Clothes 
  • Bakery 
  • Canned goods 
  • Unique store 
  • Modern look

Cons:

  • Location 
  • Fresh frozen meats 
  • Cost a quarter to get a cart 
  • No butcher 

#10  Aldi 

Aldi’s is a great place to shop when you are on a budget and when you have a large family or group to serve. When I used to cook dinner in college, Aldi’s was my number one store. I couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else. I think every college student should shop here for box dinners, deli meat/cheese, and sandwich bread.

Pros: 

  • Location 
  • Inexpensive  
  • Good cheese selection 
  • Name brands 
  • Best bang for your buck 

Cons: 

  • Cost a quarter to get a cart 
  • No bags 
  • Small 
  • Not a ton of a variety 
  • Produce not the best quality

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