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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.