Grocery

12 Surprising Kroger Secrets You'll Wish You Knew Sooner

Highly useful shopping tips from our Supermarket Whisperer.

January 20, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Guess who has two thumbs and had never been to a Kroger? Yep, it’s me.

Despite the fact that there are over 3,000 Kroger stores in dozens of states (including my own), I had astonishingly never set foot in one.

Luckily, I was able to fix that when I went to visit my friend Linda in South Carolina, where Kroger reigns supreme. Being the very good friend that she is, Linda—without complaint—followed me around the supermarket for an afternoon as I took pictures and made notes, all the while mumbling to myself about the vast array of store-brand milks and wide selection of cooking tools. She even took dozens of reference photos on her own camera after mine ran out of juice and sent them to me later.

Most Krogers are big compared to other grocery stores, but this particular location was huge. We’re talking 87,588 square feet huge. For comparison: a football field is 57,600 square feet—and doesn’t have any aisles. So it’s easy to see how it took us more than two hours (at a fairly brisk clip, I might add) to make our way through the entire store.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“These are only "secrets" to people like the author who have never been in a Kroger store before. Here are some tips for more advanced shoppers: 1. Log in to your Kroger account every Friday to see if there's a Free Friday Download that week. It's a digital coupon good for a free item. They show up once or twice a month. You have to download the digital coupon that day, but you have two weeks to use it. 2. Sign up for the Kroger Rewards Plus MasterCard. You'll get 3 points for every dollar spent on Kroger-brand products, 2 points for every other dollar spent in-store, and 1 point for every dollar charged on the card out of store. Once a quarter, you'll get checks in the amount of 5% of the points accumulated in the previous quarter. The checks can be used like cash at any Kroger store. 3. Use that same Rewards Plus MasterCard at Kroger fuel stations. You'll get an extra 5 cents off per gallon when you redeem fuel rewards points. 4. Make sure you put all your contact information in your profile in your Kroger online account, including your snail-mail address. You'll then start getting "MyMagazine" and "Best Customer Bonus" coupons in the mail. 5. When you log on to your Kroger account, under "Save," click on "Digital Coupons" and then be sure to click on "Savings for You" and "Best Customer Bonus." These are additional digital coupons based on your purchase history. 6. Also under "Save," click on "Kroger Cash Back." Then select items that you are likely to buy. When you purchase those items, you get a credit in your Kroger Cash Back account. You can transfer those credits onto your shopper card and you'll get a discount in that amount on your next purchase (be sure to tell the cashier you want to apply those credits; you won't get them unless the cashier selects "Yes"). Or, when you hit $20 in KCB credits, you can transfer those funds into your PayPal account. Kroger Cash Back offers are often duplicated on Ibotta, so you can get "double dip" to get credit in both. Also note that you will not receive Kroger Cash Back credit if you use a coupon on the item. (You'll still get Ibotta credit, though, if you loaded that offer.) 7. Find out your store's policy on BOGO sales. At some Kroger stores, BOGO items ring up for half-price each, in which case you can use a coupon on both items. (Not true if your store rings up one item at full price and the other at $0; then you can use a coupon only on the item you've paid for.) 8. You may have a Kroger store in your area even if it doesn't say Kroger on the sign. The company operates stores under about 20 different names. In Southern California, for example, it's Ralphs on the outside. But once you step inside, all of the store-brand items are Kroger (or Simple Truth, or Private Selection, etc., as noted in the article). 9. Look for clearance tags in addition to "Woohoo!" tags. Clearance tags are white with a red border. Usually (but not always) you can use paper and/or digital coupons for these items. Last week I bought three bottles of L'Oreal Elvive "Extraordinary Oil" shampoo on clearance for a total of $2.41 after coupons. 10. Be prepared for less variety than described above. The author shopped at one of the stores called a "Kroger Marketplace." The vast majority of Kroger stores are not that size, and don't offer that enormous selection and variety. Hope this helps someone!”
— Chip L.
Comment

So, what shopping tips and Kroger secrets did we discover as we got in our 10,000 steps for the day? A lot. Starting with their thousands of store-brand items.

1. They Have More Than One In-House Brand.

  • The Kroger Label: The company’s core in-house brand offers good quality at budget-friendly prices, with thousands of items across categories. Think: tomato sauce, dishwasher detergent, ice cream (in flavors like Strawberry Surf and Brookie, which is a brownie-cookie combo), and more; you can save a lot on these items without sacrificing flavor.
  • Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic: This is Kroger’s line of clean-label foods that are priced well and made with simple ingredients. Products you might find with these logos include frozen cherries, baby spinach, nuts, and so on.
  • Private Selection: These are sophisticated, prepared offerings, like pimento cheese, harissa potato chips, and frozen paprika shrimp wrapped in applewood bacon.
  • HemisFares: You’ll find regional specialties from around the world (Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Spain, and more) under this small curated line. During my trip to Kroger, I found bronze-cut pasta from Italy and red miso paste from Japan.
  • Luvsome and Abound: Got a pet? These are their in-house pet food and supplies brands.

2. Their 3-Day Digital Sales Are Worth Planning Around.

Every weekend (plus Friday), Kroger presents digital coupons that you can use up to five times in one transaction, and the savings are notable. You can find these on the Kroger app, or on their website once you log into your account.

A few finds: Nestle Toll House morsels were on sale for $1.49; Johnsonville Brats and Italian sausages were on sale for $2.49. They also have other unique ways to save, like a mix-and-match coupon series where they highlight a wide selection of name-brand products, and if you buy five of them, you save $5. Deals like these make it worth planning ahead and shopping wisely.

3. Kroger Label Products Are Consistently Cheaper.

Like I said, Kroger’s store-brand products tend to be more budget-friendly than their name-brand counterparts—and I’ve got the facts to prove it. Here’s how Kroger stacked up against national brands during my visit to the dairy aisle:

  • Kroger pie crusts were $1.20, compared to Pillsbury for $2.50.
  • Kroger butter was $3.39 for a pound, compared to Land O’Lakes for $4.69.
  • Kroger sour cream was $1.88, compared to Daisy for $3.19.
  • Kroger cream cheese was $1.19, compared to Philadelphia for $1.99.
  • Kroger shredded sharp cheddar cheese was $2.29, compared to Kraft for $3.59.

4. They Have So Many Milks to Choose From.

No matter what your dietary needs are, it’s likely that Kroger has a milk you can drink. Let’s just look at the lactose-free, half-gallon milk choices: The Kroger brand offers lactose-free milk (fat-free, 1%, 2%, whole, 1% chocolate milk, and more) for just $2.99 for a half-gallon. For comparison, a half-gallon of Lactaid’s whole milk (which they also carry if you are brand loyal) is $4.49. In Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic Line, there's a wide variety of lactose-free milks with different fat contents—all organic, of course.

That’s not all: You’ll also find Kroger Carbmaster milks (which have 11 grams of protein per serving), soy milks, almond milks, and more. And yes, there’s regular old cow’s milk, too.

Recipes: Cookies and Cream Chocolate Oreo Milkshake; Parmesan Mashed Potatoes; Best Banana Cream Pie

5. You Can Find Almost Any Type of Broth or Stock Here.

Kroger’s in-house brands and national name brands sit side by side to create a well-rounded offering of stocks and broths. Choose from free-range broths, organic broths, bone broths, roasted broths, vegan no-chicken broth, pozole broth, chicken broths, beef broths, vegetable broths, 99% fat-free broths, reduced-sodium broths, pho broths, miso broths, ramen broths, Thai coconut broth, seafood stock… I’m getting tired just typing this.

Recipes: Spicy Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with Parmesan Croutons; Farrotto with Golden Beets, Mixed Herbs & Crispy Shallots; Creamy Tuscan Chicken

6. Their Frozen Section Has Top-Notch Party Appetizers.

Whether you’re planning a party or just love snacking on appetizer food (who doesn’t?), Kroger has an endless variety of ready-to-heat options all under their in-house label. Think: Stuffed Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip Bites; Stuffed Mac and Cheese Bites, and Mini Quiche Duos. In the Private Selection area, you’ll find everything from Vegetable Samosas to Feta and Sun-Dried Tomato Buttons, for starters.

7. Find Special Discounts on Items With Woohoo! Stickers.

What are Woohoo! stickers, you may ask? These special stickers indicate that an item is on sale (often, for a steep discount). The reasons vary, but a product might have a Woohoo! sticker because it’s going out of stock, it’s nearing its expiration date, or it’s a seasonal ingredient that’s no longer in season.

Sometimes these items are just nestled in the shelves, and sometimes they’re clustered in designated spots. For example, there was a section of shelves in the store marked “Manager Special,” where I found loads of items (from flax seeds to walnuts) marked down by about 50 percent.

8. It’s the Best Place to Stock Your Spice Cabinet.

Kroger carries lots of name-brand dried herbs, spices, and extracts, but they have pretty much everything the average (or even adventurous) cook is looking for within their own product lines. This includes the basics (dried basil, garlic powder, turmeric, etc.), but they also stock chipotle chili powder, berbere, Jamaican-inspired jerk powder, a Japanese-inspired sesame seaweed blend, truffle Parmesan seasoning, shawarma seasoning, gochujang-infused sea salt, espresso coffee seasoning rub, and harder-to-find extracts (like pure anise, orange, and lemon).

Spices can easily get pricey, but I was able to find a huge 18.8-ounce container of whole black peppercorns for just $13.89, so there are deals to be found.

Recipes: Fattoush; Instant Pot Vegetable Chili; Swedish Meatballs

9. Their Barbecue Sauce Selection Is Legendary.

Maybe it has something to with the fact that this Kroger was in the South, but their assortment of barbecue sauces was beyond impressive. They have plenty of options within their house brands, one of the most notable being a Craft BBQ Sauce line. Flavors included: Red Lager and Roasted Tomato, Pale Ale and Mustard, Kentucky Bourbon, Dark Ale and Chipotle Pepper, Hot Huli Huli and Rum. There were also a number of sauces inspired by places with specific styles of barbecue, like Kansas City, the Carolinas, and Texas.

Recipes: Slow Cooker Barbecue Pulled Pork Loin; Chipotle Barbecue Turkey Burgers; 2-Ingredient Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

10. It’s a Cheese-Lover’s Paradise.

New York City’s much-loved Murray’s Cheese company was purchased by Kroger in 2017, but even before that they had small Murray’s Cheese boutiques within their stores. Known as one of the best names in specialty cheeses, Murray’s has a curated selection of cheeses in all Kroger stores. Picks including everything from quality cheddars and real imported Parmesan to Fromage d’Affinois and Whiskey Maple Gouda.They also carry other products to round out your cheese board, like a three-pack of Murray’s preserves, Marcona almonds, sausages and other cured meats, and crunchy picaquicos (spicy giant corn kernels).

Recipes: Cheesy Baked Brussels Sprouts; Chicken Parmesan Baked Ziti; Burrata and Prosciutto Pizza; One-Skillet Beefy Enchilada Casserole

11. You Can Build Your Own Frozen Meals.

This was something I’ve never seen before: Kroger has self-serve freezer cases where you can select your own combination of entrees and sides to cook up later. The individually packaged dishes are ready to serve in about 10 to 12 minutes (all you need is a hot skillet), and cost $7.99 per pound. It makes an easy and totally customizable solution to weeknight dinners.

12. They Sell More Than Just Food.

When I visited the store, it was clearly stocked up for the holidays, and there were loads of non-food items for sale. A few examples: games, fuzzy blankets, Play-Doh kits, coffee makers (including a traditional Mr. Coffee pot for $9.99), Crock-Pots ($34.99), Instant Pots ($79.99), wallets, jewelry, and even beauty products. You’ll also find a lovely selection of kitchen tools and cookware, like Lodge cast-iron pans and accessories, OXO products (from vegetable peelers to can openers), KitchenAid items, dozens of cute dish towels, and more.

Do you have any Kroger shopping tips or secrets? Tell us in the comments below!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • WminPhoenix
    WminPhoenix
  • Charlie Ireland
    Charlie Ireland
  • Jim Walsh
    Jim Walsh
  • Longgone
    Longgone
  • Traci Wicker
    Traci Wicker
Comment
Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.

155 Comments

WminPhoenix February 18, 2020
At Fry's Markets (Kroeger) they have the worst selection of broth for people who are allergic to garlic and onions. We have to buy broth at Safeway because Fry's will not stock Progresso chicken broth without and garlic and onions. Fry's have cut down the amount of gluten free products they used to sell. Now we go to Trader Joe's, Sprouts and Whole Foods. Fry's/Krieger has become a big disappointment.
 
Charlie I. February 17, 2020
You didn't mention the fuel points. Saving on gas is a big plus.
 
Jim W. February 16, 2020
In the Denver Area, King Soopers is Kroger, we shop there for most of our shopping. Everything you have said about Kroger's is so true. Safeway is not even close. Walmart is less expensive, but does even come close when it comes to customer service me I will take Kroger over those 2 any day.
 
Longgone February 16, 2020
An article on a mega Kroger does not replicate the experience of many people shopping in a medium or small Kroger. I like Kroger but don't shop at Kroger in Winchester, Ky if you are looking for great selection. Since it is the only grocery store in town we are thankful for it
 
Traci W. February 15, 2020
I've shopped at Kroger all my life. There are actually 2 in my small town. Huge new store and a regular store. Sometimes the s regular store is out of things but all Kroger store's I've been in even while growing up have all been really good store's and I'm not a spring chicken. Ohio is where there home base is I guess.
 
Dianne H. February 15, 2020
I'm saddened and in fact angry at Kroger. The small communities that for many decades help make them a giant is where they're closing stores with little notice and not leasing their bldg. Most of these stores are in middle to low income areas, minorities,seniors and many without transportation.
We have supported Kroger from the beginning and now you're causing a food desert.
SHAME ON YOU KROGER
 
Jim W. February 16, 2020
I see your point, you can't expect them or any company to keep stores open that are not profitable.
 
Carol G. February 15, 2020
For folks who feel that complaining to the store manager will change things - they are wrong. The pharmacy clerk told me just yesterday when I said the store was so cold that they have complained to the manager and he said "wear a sweater". I have talked to the manager and he had lots of excuses of why stock was low, etc. This store is a big business and run by a big company and as long as there is little competition Kroger can sell whatever they want and ignore the complaints. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are getting quality when the prices are lower than any other store. It's not!
 
Marie H. February 16, 2020
The problem is not with the store itself, it is with the management.
 
Kelly S. February 15, 2020
If you have a kroger card/app..... You can also download your coupons rite to your card. Every so often they give a free friday item and sometimes a best customer freebie. Not too shabby.

To the complainers... Say something to the corporate about your store... The management should be taking care of them.
 
DMStenlake February 14, 2020
We do not shop there. And if you do pay cash! Yep, they track you, sell your personal info and everything else you can think a “big brother” watch would do and you would not like. Food for less owns them. Don’ t shop Kroger, Ralphs or F4less. BTW the one nearest us is loud and like shopping at a Home Depot (WLA CA)
 
Foodtimebuddy February 17, 2020
Ummm, no, Food4Less does not own Kroger. Kroger owns Food4Less, Ralph's, and many other chains. They do not sell your data, but they do use it to send you coupons and offers that you might be interested in.

If you do not like them, that is one thing, but you can at least get your facts right 🙂
 
Foodie214 February 14, 2020
This article was a waste of time
 
Carol G. February 14, 2020
They may have lots of BBQ Sauce but often they don't have regular food because they always seem to be behind on ordering or stocking. No powdered sugar before Christmas, or often they don't fresh herbs, Russell Stover Candy was very old and whitish, no Haggen-Dazs chocolate ice cream, no Bumble Bee Albacore Tuna - you know regular stuff out of stock.
I think they push their label food too much - for rice they have mostly their brand - like only their brand of Basamati Rice which is true of many products. I don't particularly like store brand substitutes and would like a choice! The store is also 65 degrees inside all year and it is really uncomfortable. I'd kill to have a Central Market where I live.
 
Marlena February 14, 2020
I have stopped shopping at Kroger after being a customer for many years. I’m disgusted with the rotten, wet produce, crowded aisles, dirty entrance, low restocked shelves, etc. As it is one of only three grocery options, Kroger corporation doesn’t really care to improve the shopping situation in my area. I now shop at Food Lion or Walmart.
 
conni February 14, 2020
I notice she didn't say much about the produce department. They have a wide variety of organic produce in my community, but the quality isn't always what it should be. I have seen potatoes being unpacked and they are already green. Not to mention lettuces that have wilted. On the other hand, they are clearly the number one grocer around here and they have a unionized work force, which is important to me
 
Rene M. February 14, 2020
wow - Kroger is impressive - but you would think you'd gone to heaven at a Wegmans!
 
Joy February 14, 2020
I love Kroger, sadly there isn't one where we currently live. Sure wish Kroger would build a store here.
 
Annab February 13, 2020
They have great all natural baby wipes, and have a decent amount of sustainable seafood.
 
Linda M. February 13, 2020
I have been to Fred Meyers in Fairbanks Alaska. The barbeque brisket is some of the best around. We live in Reno now and make the 7 mile trip to Smith's for the brisket and Boars Head meats. Both are owned by Kroger. The store brands are sometimes better than name brands. I love the hot sauces.
 
Brad M. February 13, 2020
Their private label box wine Provisions is delicious! Such a good value and so tasty. I stopped buying Bota and Black box after trying Provisions.
 
Chris M. February 13, 2020
WOW! Nice advertisement for Kroger!! Did their Marketing Department help you write this? They have some low prices but then many items are higher than the other big chains whose names I will not mention since I’m not being paid to advertise them. Honestly, you live in a state with Kroger everywhere and you have NEVER been in one up to that point? Hard to believe.
 
Robin1234 February 13, 2020
wow. This seems like a paid advertisement to me. Nothing but obvious statements of what they (supposedly) stock on their shelves. And unlike Trader Joe's or Wegmans, or other actually GREAT stores, not all Kroger stores are as great as you say. I can say that the stores they bought-out in Washington have all gone downhill (QFC, Fred Meyer). The author even says she's never been. Disappointed in you, Food52.