One of the advantages of living in an area with a lot of mouths to feed is the competition among supermarkets.

An accompanying disadvantage, however, is the confusion sparked by supermarket advertising slogans, most of which promise the same thing: the lowest prices around.For example, Albertson's offers us "low warehouse prices," and we all know that Smith's, thanks to six audits in 18 months, is the "certified low-price leader."

You wonder how that can be, however, when Storehouse markets boast of having "Utah's lowest priced foods" and promise to "beat advertised prices." Motorists driving by the market are even warned by caution signs that they're entering and leaving "low-price zones."

If Utah's lowest priced foods don't attract you, try a Ream's Food Bargain Warehouse. Ream's offers "Utah's lowest food prices" - and the feeling that you've paid your tithing after every purchase.

"The sale never ends" at Food-4-Less. Why? Because you "stretch your dollars at Food-4-Less," where their goal "is to save you money every day."

Allen's Super Save gives us "super low prices," "super savings" and "values every day.' At Dove's Happy Service, "Happy buys save you money." The local chain, however, is in bankruptcy. So don't expect service with a smile too much longer.

At Macey's, "You do a little work, you save a lot of money." The work refers to the aerobic exercise you get while bagging your own groceries. Storehouse and Food-4-Less offer similar exercise programs.

Norton's, meanwhile, doesn't get into the skirmish of slogans over prices. Rather, "It's your market place," whether you know it or not.

If the ads and slogans are telling the truth, it really doesn't matter where we shop because every supermarket has great bargains.

So what's a confused shopper like you and me supposed to do? Do a little comparison shopping at the area's nine store chains, of course.

If you're like me, all you'll need is a pencil, some paper, a tank of gas, good soles on your shoes and a will to shop till you drop.

I fought the temptation to compare prices of things I really eat - like Cap'n Crunch and Oreos - and picked the following mother-approved foods: a gallon of 2 percent milk, a loaf of wheat bread, a 16-ounce can of frozen orange juice, a dozen large eggs, a pound each of chicken and hamburger, a pound of margarine, a gallon of cooking oil, 10 pounds of russet potatoes, a box of oatmeal, a pound of small tomatoes, a large can of vegetable soup, a pound of bacon, 10 pounds of sugar and 10 pounds of flour.

In all cases, prices of the same name brands or individual store off-brands were compared. Here are the exciting results:

1. Food-4-Less - $24.69

2. Smith's - $24.77

3. Storehouse - $25.02

4. Norton's - $26.60

5. Albertson's - $27.66

6. Allen's - $27.73

7. Ream's - $28.04 ($25.49 plus 10 percent)

8. Macey's - $28.09

9. Dove's - $29.52

If you shop the ads or eat foods different from those listed above, you'll likely want to ignore this column anyway and do your own comparisons.

Just a small warning before you embark: Stay away from the free samples of frozen pizza, take a fork along to scrape the gum off your shoes and wear a Walkman to drown out the supermarket Muzak.