My family’s weekly grocery bill packs a wallop. I cut coupons, invest time in menu planning and scan ads for good deals. But our food budget climbs — especially during the holiday season. Every time I peer into my refrigerator, I wonder: Am I getting the best deal on groceries?

So I decided to answer that question once and for all. For this column, I visited seven different grocery stores in one day — and did nothing but take pictures of pricetags. On my shopping list were eight items I typically pick up for the week: a gallon of milk, a carton of eggs, butter, rice, potatoes, carrots, chicken breasts and ground beef. Actually, make that 16 items total, because I also compared the prices between conventional and organic foods.

I visited Fred Meyer, PCC, QFC, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, WinCo and Whole Foods, all on Dec. 12. Except for PCC in Edmonds, all of the stores visited were in Lynnwood. I didn’t include Albertsons in my comparison because the one in Lynnwood is now a Safeway.

I looked for the cheapest brand available for each item, which typically was the store brand. If some items weren’t available, I found the next best thing: When I couldn’t find a 3-pound bag of potatoes, I marked down the price for 5 pounds. If the store didn’t have 85 percent lean ground beef, I looked at 93 percent lean.

Though the prices listed in this column might differ from current offers, they still offer a fair comparison of stores and items.

Gallon milk

Fred Meyer: $2.59 conventional; $5.99 organic

PCC: not available; $6.49

QFC: $2.69; $5.99

Safeway: $2.99; $5.99

Trader Joe’s: $2.99; $5.49

WinCo: $1.88; $5.98

Whole Foods: $3.79; $5.99

Dozen cage-free eggs

Fred Meyer: $2.49 conventional; $3.99 organic

PCC: $3.50; $4.70

QFC: $2.49; $4.29

Safeway: $2.99; $3.79

Trader Joe’s: $2.99; $3.99

WinCo: $3.15; $4.66

Whole Foods: $2.99; $3.99

Pound salted butter

Fred Meyer: $2.50 conventional; $4.99 organic

PCC: not available; $5.99

QFC: $2.50; $5.99

Safeway: $3.59; $4.49

Trader Joe’s: $2.99; $4.49

WinCo: $3.24; not available

Whole Foods: $3.49; $4.49

Pound brown rice

Fred Meyer: 89 cents conventional; $2.99 organic

PCC: not available; $3 ($5.99 for 2 pounds)

QFC: $1.59; $2.35 ($4.69 for 2 pounds)

Safeway: $1.50; $2.50 ($4.99 for 2 pounds)

Trader Joe’s: $1.50 ($2.99 for 2 pounds); $2.25 ($4.49 for 2 pounds)

WinCo: 99 cents; $2.56 ($5.12 for 2 pounds)

Whole Foods: not available; $2.40 ($4.79 for 2 pounds)

3 pounds russet potatoes

Fred Meyer: 95 cents ($1.59 for 5 pounds) conventional; $2.49 organic

PCC: not available; $2.99 ($4.99 for 5 pounds)

QFC: $1.19 ($1.99 for 5 pounds); $3.87

Safeway: $1.19 ($1.99 for 5 pounds); $3.99

Trader Joe’s: $1.69; $2.39 ($3.99 for 5 pounds)

WinCo: 77…