11 Best And 3 Worst Grocery Stores To Buy Frozen Food

Frozen food has long been a staple for many shoppers and it's a segment of the grocery industry that has seen increasingly positive focus in the past few years. Market.US has forecast that frozen foods will represent $437.1 billion in grocery sales by 2032, already reaching $269.1 billion in sales in 2022. And it's no wonder — frozen foods retain their nutrition and quality for far longer than fresh foods, which helps shoppers ensure they can have nutritious food without worrying as much about waste.

However, that doesn't mean that every grocery store is going to be the best place to buy frozen foods for every single shopper. Personal preference and regional availability mean most markets will have their fans and detractors, often with conflicting views. Sometimes the love for a particular chain is so apparent that you know you can't go wrong if you shop there, and other times practical matters make an otherwise lovely company not such a great place for your weekly frozen food shopping trip. We've reviewed several chains to find the best and worst grocery stores to shop for frozen foods, so you're sure to be delighted every time you open your freezer. 

Best: Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's has a selection of frozen foods that contains everything from frozen broccoli to seasonal ice cream flavors you'd never find elsewhere. The chain has one of the most dedicated customer bases in the country, with social media accounts showing off weekly hauls and reviewing new products. Fans spread the word quickly when seasonal products return, and in general, many of the brand's items are routinely championed as being among the best. For example, Insider compared Trader Joe's frozen food with Whole Foods and Wegmans and found Trader Joe's portions to be the most satisfying and the post-microwave texture to be consistently better. Redditors love the Indian-style frozen entrees and the mac and cheese variations.

There is one drawback: Short seasonal runs and discontinued favorite products can break your heart. Even long-time products can suddenly disappear, never to return again. If you're lucky and can find out which external company made the product for Trader Joe's, you might be able to find a perfect substitute if that company makes an identical product under its own name. If you can't find out, however, there's not much you can do other than contact the company and hope they change their minds. Still, you're more than likely to find something you love during every visit. Trader Joe's ranks among the best for frozen food based on the sheer love from customers and creative variety of products available.

Best: Aldi

Aldi is a German chain that has established itself as a favorite in the U.S. grocery industry. Its focus on store brands and low prices (so low, as CNN points out, that they often beat Walmart) has gained it a huge number of followers whose enthusiasm rivals that of Trader Joe's fans. You'll often find copycat products that let shoppers buy brand-name quality for lower prices. For example, Insider says the company's high-protein ice cream could be a dead ringer for Halo Top.

The stores often stock items on a rotating basis, including in the frozen section, meaning that sometimes shoppers will have to wait for their favorite products to return. But ask people what they like in the frozen section, and you'll get a range of products with enthusiastic reviews. The combination of low prices, detailed re-creations of popular brand-name items, and all-around good reviews make Aldi one of the better frozen food sellers out there. 

Best: H-E-B

Are you in or near the Lone Star state? If so, you've more than likely got an H-E-B within driving distance (except El Paso, despite rumors that keep circulating). This Texas-based chain is another fan favorite, known for terrific prices and quality, as well as community spirit and support. Remember that store that allowed people to just take their groceries and leave without paying when one location lost power before a terrible snow and ice storm hit? That was an H-E-B. 

Goodwill aside, the company is known for having a wide variety of unique frozen foods. My San Antonio lists pepperoni lasagna, vegan meatless southwest fiesta tacos, and breakfast flautas among recommended frozen products for customers to try. If you want further proof as to the quality of H-E-B's frozen foods, look no further than this Redditor who claims they normally don't like frozen meals. Even they extol the virtues of the store's frozen mac and cheese, claiming the company "really knocked it out of the park." Between the selection, the great reviews, and the company's ability to convert frozen meal haters into dedicated consumers, H-E-B is a sure bet when it comes to frozen products.

Best: Walmart

Walmart tends to get a lot of criticism regarding pay and benefits, and for putting smaller stores out of business. However, it's also true that sometimes the larger number of offerings at Walmart is actually welcome because those smaller stores just don't always offer what people need. The company also looks at putting centers in areas that don't have a lot of low-priced options, and some of those centers have contributed to the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Considering the criticism, you might think that Walmart would not be a great place to go for anything. But customer dollars speak loudly, and despite everything, Walmart has become one of the largest grocery retailers in the country, achieving the top spot in 2022. This actually isn't a surprise. Walmart's huge footprint and expansive selection means that you can find just about everything you need for very affordable prices. And believe it or not, the company's Great Value brand is well-liked. Talk Business & Politics reported in 2019 that Walmart was focusing on improving its frozen food. Redditors have been pleased with the results, admitting that the brand is actually rather good. That makes Walmart one of the better grocery chains for your frozen-food haul.

Best: Target

People sometimes poke fun at Target for being a big-box retailer that presents its products as higher-end. It's often called a "bougie Walmart" or as this Quora thread mentions, "the Walmart for people who think they're too good for Walmart." In reality, people like to go there a lot because they genuinely like the store. Target manages to create a shopping atmosphere that makes you feel relaxed, as well as one that seems to always have things you didn't realize you needed.

Luckily, Target's frozen food is good quality, according to consumers, and the loss of favorite products can hurt. For example, Target has been closing out its Archer Farms brand, causing some customers to lament the loss of their favorite frozen pizza. Market Pantry Mac N Cheese Bites are a winner, too, according to this YouTube review, because of the excellent texture of the macaroni. Redditors often mention the frozen foods as great products to get from Target, be they store brand or something else. While we sympathize with the frustration over not being able to get out of the store without spending more than you intended, we'll place Target among the best places for frozen food due to its prices and penchant for creating customer favorites.

Best: 99 Ranch Market

You may have noticed 99 Ranch opening more locations across the country over the past few years. Along with H Mart, this large California-based retailer has been compared to Walmart in terms of its share of the Asian grocery industry in the U.S., according to the Austin Chronicle. 99 Ranch sells mostly Chinese products but also offers pan-Asian and some non-Asian selections, with low prices on produce and other foods.

As far as frozen food goes, the company keeps getting kudos specifically for its frozen dumplings. Oregon Live calls the selection "insane," and readers are urged to try a new brand "or 20." The dumplings are a favorite on Reddit; two separate Redditors in this thread recommend buying the frozen dumplings there, and no fewer than four different people in this other Reddit thread about Asian markets in general recommend the frozen dumplings specifically at 99 Ranch. Most grocery stores now carry dumplings in one form or another, and most cities have several Asian markets to choose from. So, when people keep identifying 99 Ranch as the place to buy frozen dumplings, then you know that's where you should go — and that makes 99 Ranch one of the better grocery stores for frozen food.

Best: Kroger

Kroger is a major player in the grocery industry, doing business under names ranging from Kroger itself to Ralph's, King Soopers, and Harris Teeter. The company was even planning to buy the Albertsons/Vons/Pavilions group of stores, although Reuters says that's been the target of a recent lawsuit hoping to block the acquisition. With that kind of reach, Kroger had better have a stellar frozen food section, and luckily, it does; its products are favorites, and its stores don't skimp on what they offer.

The company's Private Selection ice cream is a star, with the Churro and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavors specified by Redditors as being particularly delicious. The store's take-and-bake pizzas also get a lot of positive attention, with Redditors singling out the Self-rising Crust Pepperoni and Grilled Mushroom and Truffle Oil Thin Crust pizzas for compliments. But what really makes Kroger the place to go for frozen food is simply its reach and selection. When you have staples garnering enthusiastic reviews on top of easy availability no matter the city or state, you have a winning frozen food section.

Best: Publix

Publix routinely ranks as one of the more popular grocery chains in the U.S. If you really want to know what's good at a grocery store, look at what the employees eat. And you can do just that in this Reddit thread, where Publix employees list their favorite foods under $6 to get on a lunch break. Many of the winners are frozen, including the frozen pot pies, the frozen pizza, and any "buy one get one" frozen meal.

Of course, most stores will have food that is preferred by its employees, but Publix also has another advantage: Its employees take inventory control very seriously because they and their managers do not want to have anything go out of stock. This Reddit thread shows the extent to which employees are careful about changing products and monitoring how fast something is selling in the freezer section. With that dedication, customers should have an easy time finding anything they need, and that makes Publix one of the better places to find frozen food.

Best: Costco

Perfect for bulk buys; not so perfect for people with small freezers. Thus is the lament of the Costco shopper, such as these Redditors who jokingly admitted they had to get bigger freezers to take advantage of a 30% discount on 2.5 gallons of vanilla ice cream. Just like Trader Joe's and Aldi, Costco has a fan base that watches product movement and announces sales to other fans. Also just like Trader Joe's, according to CNN, Costco monitors how well products sell and will discontinue those that aren't moving. That makes room for additional products that customers may like better. While this can lead to someone's favorite product being taken off the shelves, it lets each store stock items with wider appeal.

Among the frozen foods that have captivated customers are multipacks of Amy's Cheddar Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos; 42-oz. boxes of frozen Mandarin Orange Chicken; and, to continue the Trader Joe's comparison, a 48-oz. pack of Chicken and Cilantro Mini Wontons. While you do need storage space if you're going to shop there — and the crowds can be intimidating if you don't have a plan — Costco's prices and focus on selling only what customers really like maintains its place among the best grocery stores for frozen foods.

Best: Piggly Wiggly

This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Piggly Wiggly, or "the Pig," as it's often called. This staple of the midwestern and eastern U.S. is historically well loved. In fact, it was the first self-service grocery store in the country. Today, each market is an independent entity that licenses the name, which allows the owners and managers to run each location as a local store. 

With such a large fan base, you'd think assuming the Pig was a great place for frozen foods would be a no-brainer. However, there's really not much information available about the company's frozen foods. But given that each market is configured to meet local community needs, and it ranks in polls as a favorite market in states from Wisconsin and Alabama, it's hard to see why it wouldn't be worth going there for frozen foods. For its sense of humor and consistent appearances on best-of lists far and wide, we're going to treat Piggly Wiggly as one of the better places to go.

Best: Save-A-Lot

Not every grocery store chain has to go the ever-expanding mega-market route. Save-A-Lot has decided to keep its locations small, even as the company expands the number of stores and products. It also focuses on its own in-house brands, with only about 25% of Save-A-Lot's stock coming from outside brands. This has proved to be a winning strategy in terms of economics, as the smaller scale lends itself to creating well-ordered markets, and loyal shoppers are pleased with Save-A-Lot's convenience and the ability to get in and out of the store quickly.

As for frozen foods, the company has worked on expanding some of its offerings. And given the company's dedication to keeping prices low, inventory choices reasonable, and shopping experiences efficient, the company actually ranks as one of the better places to buy frozen food. If you need to shop quickly but still get a full freezer's worth of food for the week, you may want to head to Save-A-Lot if the market is in your area.

Worst: Grocery Outlet

Grocery Outlet is a fun place to look around because of their constantly changing stock. They sell overstock and clearance items that their buyers score by searching far and wide for opportunistic purchases. It's the same tactic that a lot of discount stores use, but Grocery Outlet's buyers strive to find the types of deals that create memories, such as when they sold four Halo Top pints for $6.  VP of Marketing Layla Kasha told Forbes that was her "favorite buy ever." Store stock is also highly tailored to the community that each location is in and can contain high-end items like antibiotic-free meat and organic foods. However, that means the products on the shelves can change frequently and are different from store to store.

Each location should have basic items like frozen vegetables, but you can also discover some hot deals on other frozen foods, including dessert. For example, one Redditor enthusiastically urged fellow keto-diet followers to rush to Grocery Outlet for $1.99 Halo Top ice cream, a product that can easily top $5 at other stores. However, the random changes in product selection actually makes Grocery Outlet one of the worst places to shop for frozen foods on a consistent basis. If you're set on buying specific brands regularly and don't want to settle for whatever happens to be available, this is not the place you want to go.  

Worst: Big Lots

Big Lots used to be a lot more like Grocery Outlet is now; while the company has sold household goods and supplies at very reasonable prices for years, they used to also be known for their eclectic non-perishable food selection that consisted mainly of overstock and closeout products. Around 2014, Big Lots started transforming its food selections to look more like that of a conventional grocery store, with company brands and more consistent offerings (known as "never-outs") stocked among the nostalgic candy selections. But since then in more recent years, it has scaled back and moved away from frozen goods in many locations. 

That's one of two reasons why Big Lots is one of the worst places to go to for frozen food: You can't count on each store actually having a good selection. And even if you know the location you're going to has a freezer section, it's not likely to be that extensive. Big Lots started scaling back their frozen offerings in 2019, claiming a lack of consumer interest. If you just need a few basics and know your location sells frozen foods, you're in good shape. But for packing your freezer for your comprehensive weekly shopping trip, or looking for fun new things to try, Big Lots is one of the worst places to hedge your bets. 

Worst: Erewhon

The high-end, celebrity-favorite organic market Erewhon may have only a few locations limited to southern California, but its prices have garnered it national attention. Tales of $12 water, $50 vinegar, and other astounding markups have spread across social media and baffled shoppers who don't know why people would fork out $3 for an individual slice of bread or $9.99 for dental floss. One Redditor wrote that they like to think Erewhon's prices were created by Lucille Bluth from "Arrested Development," known for guessing that one banana cost $10.

The market offers a decent selection of frozen foods, a fair number of which are under $10. But the company's prices in general are higher than what you'd find at other markets. For example, Erewhon lists Alden's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream at $13.99 for 1.5 quarts, while the same product costs only $9.99 at Sprouts when it's not on sale. If you don't mind paying those prices, then it wouldn't be a bad place to shop at all. However, for anyone who shops on a budget or the majority of folks who likely can't bring themselves to pay that much, those prices make Erewhon one of the worst places on our list to buy frozen food.