We compared the grocery-shopping experience at 6 major chains in 2018, and this one impressed us the most

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  • We visited a lot of grocery stores in 2018, and some were a lot better than others.
  • The stores we shopped at included Target, Walmart, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods 365, ShopRite, and Stop & Shop.
  • After visiting each store, we found that one had a lot more to offer, at lower prices, with a great shopping experience. Here's the verdict.

We visited a lot of grocery stores in 2018, and some were a lot better than others.

While two of the stores we visited - Target and Walmart - are not exclusively grocery stores, each has been working on improving its grocery offerings, especially when it comes to e-commerce.

Walmart offers free two-day shipping on orders over $35, free same-day store pickup on certain orders, and same-day delivery in New York City through Jet.com, which it acquired in 2016. Similarly, Target offers free two-day shipping on orders over $35 and in-store pickup, and it announced earlier this year that it plans to offer same-day delivery of groceries from half of its 1,800 stores using Shipt, a delivery startup it acquired last December.

The remaining stores we visited are more traditional grocery stores.

Trader Joe's is known for its inexpensive and healthy products, and customers are willing to wait in sometimes outrageous lines to get groceries from the store. Most of the products it carries are private-label products.

Whole Foods, which is typically more expensive than Trader Joe's, recently expanded its chain of 365 stores to compete more directly with lower-priced grocers. Whole Foods 365 is designed to be more accessible and less expensive than a traditional Whole Foods store, and it emphasizes the retailer's private-label brand, also called 365.

We also visited ShopRite and Stop & Shop this year, two regional chains that have a large presence on the East Coast.

Based on price and overall shopping experience, this was the best grocery store we visited in 2018:

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When we shopped at a Target store in Jersey City, New Jersey, we found the grocery section underwhelming. The prices were relatively low, but the produce didn't seem very fresh ...

When we shopped at a Target store in Jersey City, New Jersey, we found the grocery section underwhelming. The prices were relatively low, but the produce didn't seem very fresh ...

... and there were a lot of empty shelves throughout the grocery department.

... and there were a lot of empty shelves throughout the grocery department.

The deals were great, but the aisles were narrow, and there wasn't a huge product selection.

The deals were great, but the aisles were narrow, and there wasn't a huge product selection.

Groceries at the Walmart we visited in Secaucus, New Jersey, were less expensive than at Target, and there was a bigger selection of products throughout the grocery department.

Groceries at the Walmart we visited in Secaucus, New Jersey, were less expensive than at Target, and there was a bigger selection of products throughout the grocery department.

Read more: We went shopping at Walmart and Target to see which was better for groceries, and there was a clear winner

It also offered a pleasant shopping experience, with wide aisles and very clear labeling.

It also offered a pleasant shopping experience, with wide aisles and very clear labeling.

But there weren't very many healthy options besides produce.

But there weren't very many healthy options besides produce.

This Stop & Shop store in Tarrytown, New York, offered a very similar shopping experience to Walmart ...

This Stop & Shop store in Tarrytown, New York, offered a very similar shopping experience to Walmart ...

... but it was more expensive to shop at. Most products cost $2 or $3 more than at other grocery stores we visited.

... but it was more expensive to shop at. Most products cost $2 or $3 more than at other grocery stores we visited.

Groceries at the ShopRite we visited in Scarsdale, New York, were less expensive than at Stop & Shop.

Groceries at the ShopRite we visited in Scarsdale, New York, were less expensive than at Stop & Shop.

Read more: We visited ShopRite and Stop & Shop to see which was a better grocery store, and the winner was clear

But it didn't have quite as big of a product selection when we visited, and it was very stressful to shop at because of the narrow aisles and poor layout.

But it didn't have quite as big of a product selection when we visited, and it was very stressful to shop at because of the narrow aisles and poor layout.

Still, the prices were low enough that it was worth the hassle.

Still, the prices were low enough that it was worth the hassle.

Trader Joe's was even less expensive than ShopRite was. There was a long wait at check-out at this location in Brooklyn, New York, but there were a lot of perks to shopping there.

Trader Joe's was even less expensive than ShopRite was. There was a long wait at check-out at this location in Brooklyn, New York, but there were a lot of perks to shopping there.

One perk was the free samples.

One perk was the free samples.

Another was the inexpensive private-label products. By selling mostly private-label, Trader Joe's is able to keep its prices low.

Another was the inexpensive private-label products. By selling mostly private-label, Trader Joe's is able to keep its prices low.

Read more: We went to Trader Joe's and the store that Whole Foods launched to compete with it — and it's clear who does it better

But the best grocery store we visited this year was Whole Foods 365.

But the best grocery store we visited this year was Whole Foods 365.

In addition to the grocery store, this Whole Foods 365 location in Brooklyn has a bakery, juice bar, vegan burger joint, and other vendors. There was also a big seating area to hang out in. No other grocery store we visited had something similar.

In addition to the grocery store, this Whole Foods 365 location in Brooklyn has a bakery, juice bar, vegan burger joint, and other vendors.  There was also a big seating area to hang out in. No other grocery store we visited had something similar.

The groceries were similarly priced to Walmart, ShopRite, and Trader Joe's, and there was a huge selection of products.

The groceries were similarly priced to Walmart, ShopRite, and Trader Joe's, and there was a huge selection of products.

It also was a nice store to shop in — there were wide aisles, short lines at the register, and a lot of sales and savings opportunities.

It also was a nice store to shop in — there were wide aisles, short lines at the register, and a lot of sales and savings opportunities.
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