Supermarkets Vs. Grocery Stores - What's The Difference And Why It Matters

When you head out to do your weekly food shopping, you probably don't spend much time thinking about what category your local destination falls into. Whether or not you realize it, whether you shop at a grocery store or supermarket can have an enormous effect on your budget and even impact your ability to qualify for credit card rewards, explains Mental Floss.

Grocery stores were born at the beginning of the 1900s, when people needed a convenient one-stop shop to buy all of their food without stopping at the bakery, produce shop, and more, according to Reader's Digest. Grocery stores originally offered shoppers a completely personalized shopping experience, complete with a clerk to collect items for each shopper. That lasted until the first American supermarket, Piggly Wiggly, came around in 1916 and inspired the independent shopping experience we know today (via Time). Though today's grocery stores don't offer the same level of one-on-one attention, they still provide a more intimate and relaxed shopping experience than a trip to a supermarket thanks to a few key differences.

Shopping at a supermarket may help you save money

Many grocery stores are independently owned with small teams, giving staff the chance to cultivate relationships with regular customers. Think about chains like Trader Joe's, where it's easy to circle the entire store in a couple of minutes and track down a crew member if you need help. The smaller size of grocery stores can be linked to the available items — mostly food and a small selection of home and health products — and the fact that they stock "based on demand," per Chron.

Supermarkets like Kroger, meanwhile, stock items in bulk so they have a surplus. If you can't find that one specific item at your local grocer, you might opt for a supermarket, as it will have more food brands and products. These large retailers generally feature other departments, such as housewares and cosmetics. This variety means shoppers can purchase their weekly grocery items, toiletries, and other essentials without the need to visit multiple stores. 

Knowing the difference between grocery stores and supermarkets can help inform the way you shop. Because supermarkets have a lower price margin, says Grocery Corridor, they're able to offer lower prices, more frequent discounts, and more rewards opportunities (both in-house and through outside businesses like credit card companies) than grocery stores. This means that if you're looking to save money on groceries, shopping at a supermarket is usually your best bet. If you want to save time on deliberating between options and walking numerous aisles, though, choose a grocery store.