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The Best Traditional Super Market (An Ode To Publix)

Let’s take a quick break from vacation posting (although I edited like 50 more beautiful photos to share with you last night) and talk about super markets.

Wow, how they have changed since my childhood. I remember growing up and going to the grocery with my dad to do the weekly shopping (it was called “the grocery” back then because it certainly was not a “super market”) at our small local Kroger. I can close my eyes an picture everything about the layout of the store. It was compact and included all of your staple sections – produce, meat, bakery, deli, etc – but that was about it. No specialty items, little variety when choosing brands and certainly no organic/natural choices. But that was okay…it was the standard back then and I have to say that we ate very well growing up.

It’s all different now. We now live the era of super stores, local/sustainable, organic, specialty, import and more. AND we expect to find it all at our local super market. Even my small hometown grocery is now a “Super Kroger” and quadruple the size of the old store. While there was a certain simplicity about the way it used to be, as a lover of all things food and cooking I seriously enjoy the way that food and food shopping has changed.

I kind of put food shopping into two categories. The first is traditional super markets like Kroger, Wegmans, Publix, etc. and the second is specialty and/or upscale markets like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, etc. I used to do most of my shopping at traditional stores and supplement with the second category but now I find that I do more of my shopping in the second category due to my food preferences and the fact that I’m only shopping for one. If I were shopping for a family I would be doing the bulk of my shopping in the first category.

I find it fascinating how much super markets vary from region to region and how certain markets have a “hold” on certain areas. I’ve had a chance to shop in many different stores by living in different states in the south over the course of my life (Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Bi-Lo, Winn Dixie, Publix, Harris Teeter) and I have to say that my favorite super market by far has been Publix. I shopped there consistently for three years when I lived in Birmingham.


Here are some of the reasons why Publix comes out on top for me:

  • No store card – you know those “discount cards” that most stores offer that you scan when you check out (that really just allow them to track your buying behavior). I admit that as someone who works in marketing that I see the value of capturing customer data so that you can better serve your clientele but it’s kind of refreshing to know that the price you see is what it is when you walk into Publix.
  • Penny items – each week Publix offers a mystery penny item. It’s always something of the Publix store brand and yours with a purchase of $10 or more. They have it displayed in store and you can either ask for the penny item coupon when you check out or bring in a printed one from the paper. It’s just a fun little surprise.
  • Customer service – Publix prides themselves on their customer service. They are continually ranked as one of the top places to work. They emphasize having as many full-time employees as possible versus a lot of part-time staff and really give their employees a sense of ownership as far as customer experience goes. You will always be asked if you would like help with getting your groceries to your car and you will never have to self-checkout. Publix does not offer that option.
  • Good quality store brand – they offer a wide variety of good-quality store brand, including their natural “GreenWise” line (see more below). You know how much I love their ice cream! That’s just the start of it.
  • GreenWise – these reasonably priced products include everything from all-natural to organic to minimally processed items such as meats, vegetables, paper products and more. Publix has even started opening smaller specialty GreenWise Markets in select areas.
  • Great bakery items – I am not a huge fan of grocery store bakeries but Publix has a pretty solid bakery. Believe it or not, they are actually known in the wedding circuit for their delicious and affordable wedding cakes. I like their breads and other baked goods. In fact, the catalyst for this post was shopping at the local Publix here with my mom and picking up this for dessert last night.

Store-made peach pie with Publix brand vanilla ice cream. I mmm’d my way through this.

Tell me more about how you food shop? Are you store loyal? Do you lean more toward shopping at traditional “super markets” or more high-end or specialty markets? 

*Publix totally did NOT have any part of this post…I was not compensated or incentivized to write it. I am just THAT passionate about food shopping! 🙂

{ 61 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Erika October 8, 2012, 10:40 am

    I love our local grocery store Fareway. It is an Iowa grocery chain and it is a grocery store – not a super market. It is small but I can find 90-95% of what I want there. I also like that they don’t ask if you want help with your grocery out to your car – it is the standard and you will automatically get groceries out to your car that the bag boy bagged for you. I also like the meat counter and that there are butchers there so you don’t have to just pick up prepackaged meet from a case.

    • 2
      jennyv October 8, 2012, 11:09 am

      I’m also grew up as a Fareway shopping Iowan 🙂 Their meat department is well-known for great quality too!

      My husband & I do most of our shopping at Trader Joe’s, Costco, or Target now — easy locations for us and items that we love.

    • 3
      jennyv October 8, 2012, 11:09 am

      I also grew up as a Fareway shopping Iowan 🙂 Their meat department is well-known for great quality too!

      My husband & I do most of our shopping at Trader Joe’s, Costco, or Target now — easy locations for us and items that we love.

    • 4
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:33 pm

      erika – i love stores with good butchers and fish guys!

  • 5
    Kerry @ Totes My Oats October 8, 2012, 10:46 am

    I miss Publix so much! I used to shop there when I was at school at Auburn but now I’ve moved back up North so for me its Stop & Shop which is similar to Publix and Trader Joe’s.

    • 6
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:34 pm

      i have never been to a stop & shop but doesn’t sound so bad!

  • 7
    Ally October 8, 2012, 11:06 am

    I’ve never heard of Publix until now. It’s awesome that you have so many options. For groceries I’m super lucky to live in Eugene. Our “super market”, Market of Choice, is local and carries your typical staples, generics, it’s large like a big chain market, but it’s loaded with local items and carries a huge amount of what the little natural food stores here have. It’s like Whole Foods, but also has less expensive and “non-natural” items, too. It’s great. I’m lucky to have our CSA and farmer’s markets just down the street and they support many of our needs for most of the year, too. The Willamette Valley is very abundant!

    • 8
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:35 pm

      ally – that sounds like the ideal grocery store. i love that! i really need to join a CSA. i think i’d love it given how much i enjoy the farmers market.

  • 9
    Sara October 8, 2012, 11:08 am

    I miss Publix SO much. I grew up in SC and we were always in there multiple times a week. Great deli/subs, great bakery and I love their store brand yogurt and ice cream. And of course they have fantastic customer service. (My sister worked there in high school and they treat their employees very well.) We live in St. Louis now and the local chains just don’t compare. Anytime we are out of town and anywhere NEAR a Publix, I insist on stopping in (even if it’s out of our way). My husband is completely baffled by my cultlike (his word) affection for a grocery store. 😉

    • 10
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:36 pm

      i love the subs too. they are great! it’s easy to get hooked on grocery stores that you grew up with. it’s such a part of your routine.

  • 11
    Kimberly @ Healthy Strides October 8, 2012, 11:08 am

    I have only been to Publix once when visiting Florida, and I loved it. I am pretty sure that I could have walked around for hours if I had the chance. I live in a nice neighborhood but it’s on the edge of a food desert, and the options are LIMITED. I shop at Kroger, mainly out of convenience. It’s a smaller store like the one you describe but they do carry more specialty items than in years past. I try to supplement at farm markets as budget allows.

    • 12
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:38 pm

      kimberly – i know that it can be a challenge to have the limited options you describe but it sounds like you’re making it work for you. my dad always had luck with continually requesting that they start carrying certain items until they gave in and tried it. 🙂

  • 13
    Sarah October 8, 2012, 11:14 am

    Agreed! I live in Davidson, NC and had never been to a Publix before a few weeks ago! We need to start a petition or something to bring Publix to this area!

  • 15
    Erin October 8, 2012, 11:26 am

    My favorite store from the south is Kroger because the prices are really good and they have the best selection of organic food products (outside of Earthfare/The Fresh Market) in my area. I agree that Publix is REALLY nice though – especially their store brand. Their chocolate trinity ice cream is literally my favorite thing ever.

    I know I’m in the minority on this, but I hate Publix cakes. I had to eat them at every single birthday party growing up and I’ve never liked them. My sister is completely in love with them though – her wedding cake was from Publix 🙂

    Now that I’m further up north and in a big city, my grocery store options are far more limited (although I don’t have to grocery shop as much because I have a college meal plan). Mainly now I go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for staples to keep in my dorm room (that I can’t get in the dining hall) like almond butter, greek yogurt, dark chocolate, and protein bars. The good stuff 😉

    • 16
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:40 pm

      i’ll have to check out that chocolate trinity ice cream! that is funny about the cake but i can see how you may not love them if you ate them so much growing up. it sounds like you can get all the staples you need at WF and TJs now!

  • 17
    jena October 8, 2012, 11:31 am

    I grew up grocery shopping @ Publix, and still shop there. I refuse to shop anywhere else. I had no idea about that penny item deal, interesting. The area I live in has 3 publix, and out of those I have my favorite, lol.

  • 18
    AL October 8, 2012, 11:32 am

    I love Publix also, you left out their BOGO (buy one get one free) items! My personal fav!

    • 19
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:41 pm

      ohhh! i did! love all those bins of BOGO!

  • 20
    Kate October 8, 2012, 11:34 am

    Grocery stores are my haven, I just absolutely love them. I’m a Trader Joe’s girl for the most part, but I supplement with various “super markets.” I have to say though, my favorite grocery to shop at is a local one in my hometown called Blue Goose. They have an amazing bakery, and homemade salsas and dips. Seriously, the best guacamole outside of authentic Mexican restaurants 🙂

    • 21
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:41 pm

      i love them too! definitely not a chore that i dislike! blue goose sounds amazing!

  • 22
    Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile October 8, 2012, 11:40 am

    I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, so I’ve always gone to publix to get groceries. I love it! I do wish we had a Trader Joe’s though 🙁

    • 23
      Krystina October 8, 2012, 11:55 am

      We have 2 (soon to be 3)! Do you live in the UF area? If so, I think they’re getting one soon. Unfortunately none are coming to central Florida anytime soon. 🙁

  • 24
    Krystina October 8, 2012, 11:42 am

    Publix is my favorite grocery store. I love Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but Publix is amazing. Their baguette’s are delicious, their pizza dough is better than the dough I make, and their store brand ice cream is superior to most other brands you can find in store. Also: their subs! Publix subs are way better than Subway; they’re big, you can ask for any cheese in the deli and they’re always fresh tasting.

    Plus, where I am in Florida, there is literally one on every block so they’re extremely accessible and reliable.

    • 25
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:43 pm

      mmm…love all the things you listed! and yes, the subs are awesome! jealous you have so many close by!

  • 26
    Addy @ Six-Kick Switch October 8, 2012, 12:57 pm

    Publix must really have an awesome bakery – so jealous! Many of the grocery bakeries around here make terrible pies 🙁 Though I won’t complain about the white, fluffy, so-bad-for-you French bread… Definitely a Trader Joe’s devotee though!

    • 27
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:43 pm

      haha – the grocery store “french baguette” is definitely a guilty pleasure!

  • 28
    Tara October 8, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Gosh I love Publix!! I always look forward to grocery shopping while on vacation in Florida because we don’t have Publix in Indiana!

    • 29
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:44 pm

      ditto! love going while i’m here with my mom!

  • 30
    Marli October 8, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I live in Lexington, KY and to get everything I want for a two week haul I go to 3 places. The supermarket I use is Meijer. I get all my staples there to keep the cost low. I go to Trader Joes or Whole foods to get my yogurt, milk alternative, and some of the great frozen items that TJs has. My last trip is to Fresh Market. They have incredible prepared salads that I take in my lunches to work. I’ve never been in a Publix before but it sounds like a great quality place

    • 31
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:44 pm

      ohhh…i love fresh market! they do have great prepared items.

  • 32
    Kayli (Running on Sunshine) October 8, 2012, 2:17 pm

    I do the bulk of my shopping at Trader Joe’s and supplement with Whole Food’s and the farmers market. Most supermarkets in the midwest still consider organic/natural/health foods to be “specialty foods” and this is reflected in the higher prices of these items! At least in this region, you can’t beat Trader Joe’s prices!!
    I am a dietitian, so food shopping is FUN for me, but it would be nice to have a supermarket that I liked enough to do one-stop shopping.

    • 33
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:45 pm

      i hear you on the premium pricing for organics. part of the reason why i don’t shop organics at harris teeter in charlotte.

  • 34
    Linda October 8, 2012, 2:34 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Publix. I do most of my shopping at TJ and then get those “specialty” items at Whole Foods and Earthfare. That said, there are still things I go to Harris Teeter for but I’m definitely willing to make the trip to Publix once they open in Tega Cay.

  • 36
    Jordan Falcone October 8, 2012, 4:05 pm

    I grew up in Florida and now live in Connecticut. Publix is high on that list of things I miss!! I love to go there when I’m home visiting!!! That and now Total Wine are in my attractions list.

    • 37
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:46 pm

      yes, total wine! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • 38
    Rachel October 8, 2012, 4:13 pm

    I’m in Texas, and love, love, love HEB stores, especially Central Market. I don’t think they have them outside Texas and Louisiana. I’m not such a fan of Whole Foods, because I feel like I get better variety and value and more local options at HEB or Central Market. You would think Whole Foods would try to have more local options considering it’s a Texas brand itself. We recently got a Trader Joe’s so I am branching out, but I am an HEB fan at heart! Plus, no customer card at HEB, either!

    • 39
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:47 pm

      my parents lived in houston for a while and i LOVED central market. maybe my favorite grocery store ever!!!

  • 40
    Ann October 8, 2012, 5:04 pm

    Yes! I grew up Lakeland where Publix is based and first opened so needless to say I LOVE Publix. There is even a high school in Lakeland named after the founder of Publix.

    I moved to DC a few years ago and really miss Publix. Safeway and Giant just do NOT compare (pricey, no customer service) and I am not close to the Harris Teeter in DC. I have come to love Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods but nothing beats Publix. I still crave the bakery’s sugar cookies. I also miss bag boys; no stores have them here and it really holds up the line.

    • 41
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:48 pm

      oh wow – i bet y’all have quite the publix stores in lakeland. i am not crazy about harris teeter – you’re not missing out. i would stick with TJs and WF!

    • 42
      Dave A. January 26, 2013, 2:20 pm

      You didn’t mention Wegmans. Wegmans is by far the best choice in the DC area for price, quality, and service. According to http://www.checkbook.org/interactive/spmkt/other/w/article.cfm , Wegmans is 11% cheaper than Safeway and Giant. Wegmans also beats Publix in many other studies and surveys. Worth the drive if there is not one in your immediate area of DC. 🙂

      In comparison shops I have done in my area… Wegmans and Walmart are always neck in neck in most prices, with Target being more expensive. Interesting that the link I posted above shows Walmart to be the cheapest, with Target being between Wegmans and Walmart.

  • 43
    meredith October 8, 2012, 5:30 pm

    i live in new york but since i have good friend and family in florida, i know publix very well – and love it! as a kid i loved their airbrushed cupcakes, rainbow bread and chocolate chip cookies. i do a majority of my shopping each week at trader joes, and i go to all of the local supermarkets as well depending on the deals. shoprite, king kullen, waldbaums, stop and shop, fairway, best market etc- we are loaded with supermarkets here!

    • 44
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:48 pm

      i have never been to any of those stores! so crazy how it varies so much regionally!

  • 45
    Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes October 8, 2012, 8:08 pm

    I grew up in Wegmans territory and absolutely love it! Their sushi is outstanding, and whoever they have manning their Twitter account always replies to my tweets. 🙂 Anyway, since I just moved to NYC, I’ve been doing my shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

    • 46
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:49 pm

      i’ve heard good things about wegmans but never experienced one! i love your twitter comment 🙂

  • 47
    Laura October 8, 2012, 8:54 pm

    I shop mostly at make grocery stores like Publix and Kroger and supplement with Whole Foods and occasionally Trader Joe’s. As much as I love Whole Foods, I definitely consider the customer service and bakery at Publix to be much better. Whenever I’m at Publix, I feel like I get asked at least five times by different employees if they can help me find something. And if I do need anything, they go out of their way to find it or provide a rain check.

    Surprisingly, I’m finding though that my local Kroger stores have better – and more affordable – organic selection than Publix.

    • 48
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:50 pm

      that’s so interesting about kroger and their organic selection. i think it’s been a focus of theirs although i hate how they separate it out in a different section than the other food. do they do that where you are?

      • 49
        Laura October 9, 2012, 7:12 am

        They do, and I agree. I wish they would integrate the organics into the entire store. A few of the local Publix stores did that up until about a year ago, but thankfully everything is now mixed together.

  • 50
    Jayne October 8, 2012, 9:13 pm

    I absolutely love Publix. I think that is one drawback about moving out of Florida. But maybe it would save me some money because they end getting a large amount of my paycheck.
    Although I have been shopping at Publix for most of my life I have never heard of Penny Items. Where have I been? Thanks for the heads up. I will be looking for the coupon on Sunday.

    • 51
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:50 pm

      that is so crazy! usually they only have the penny item on sunday and monday.

  • 52
    Lee October 8, 2012, 9:23 pm

    I like Publix but the one near me has a really small produce section that I hate. It is a nicer experience than going to the [closer] Kroger though. I have a blog post somewhere on Publix vs. Kroger! I forgot who won.

    • 53
      Jen October 8, 2012, 10:51 pm

      it’s strange how stores can vary so much depending on location and the layout/age of the store. i’ll have to look up your old post!

  • 54
    Taylor October 9, 2012, 7:22 am

    I moved to Philadelphia a few years ago, and I must say, besides the warm weather and the beach, missing Publix is pretty much third in line.
    Favorite items? (beware: unhealthy) Yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting AND chicken tender subs!!!!
    This post has me salivating for Thanksgiving when I can return home and shop till I drop!

  • 55
    Ann October 9, 2012, 2:10 pm

    I love Publix. Not that you need any more reasons to love Publix, but as far as their employees go, Publix is very good about promoting within their own store. If you work at Publix long enough, you can work your way all the way up to become a Store Manager. Yes, even if you start off as a bagger or cashier. In addition, with regard to your comment about the employees having ownership in Publix, they also give employees great stock options!

    Somewhat related note – I spent $38 last night in Publix and saved $30… all by playing their BOGOs and 2 for $X deals!! No coupon clipping required!!

  • 56
    Lea @ Greens and Coffee Beans October 9, 2012, 6:47 pm

    I’ve only been to a Publix once (one in Charlotte actually!) and I LOVED it. It’s basically the coolest grocery store I’ve been in. They’re talking about building one in Raleigh and they need to get on that ASAP!
    I typically shop at a mix of places. I buy the bulk of my groceries at Harris Teeter because they have decent prices and selections of my diet staples, I pick up a few specialty and bulk bin items at Earth Fare and I shop my local farmers market most of my produce. I’m a college student on a budget so I’m really mindful of prices which is a big factor in where I shop!

  • 57
    Jillian October 9, 2012, 7:56 pm

    Man do I miss Publix! We lived in FL for four years and I loved that place! The employees were always so nice and helpful! I never had any trouble finding fresh produce. It was seriously a pleasure shopping there. We are lucky enough to live close to a wegmans and trader joes now but I still miss Publix!

  • 58
    Joanna October 9, 2012, 8:07 pm

    No Publix in Omaha 🙁 When I go home to Atlanta I ALWAYS shop there with my mom! I got my Wedding Cake from there too and it was fabulous (white with raspberry fillng and buttercream YUM) probably cheaper than a specialty shop too! We have a Midwest version of Kroger here (same chain, sells Kroger brand) I do most shopping there and sometimes Trader Joe’s… all their recalls are getting annoying though.

  • 59
    Lindsay January 13, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I have never been to Publix! I live in Richmond, Va, and my spot is Ukrop’s. It was a family owned grocery store for YEARS, and was recently bought by GIANT, and is now Martin’s. The customer service is just not the same. But, they did keep the Ukrop’s kitchen and bakery and I had my wedding cake made there!!!

  • 60
    Brian January 11, 2014, 12:37 am

    Wegmans is the best grocery store on the planet when taking quality and value into account. Unfortunatley there are no Wegmans in Charlotte. Harris Teeter is horrific and very slowly Publix is moving in.

    • 61
      Linda January 11, 2014, 8:30 am

      Brian, how funny that you bring up Wegmans. I was at my friends last night who are originally from upstate NY and they were raving about Wegmans. I agree, I can’t stand HT and am looking forward to Publix getting to Southend. I do most of my shopping at TJ and a little here and there at WF, EF and HT for fish specials mostly.

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