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Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck = Whole Fallacy


weinoo
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I can't tell if Whole Foods from processed, pre-packaged anything. I have a meat and egg share from a is massively more expensive, because I started shopping there more as my diet/buying habits shifted further and further away local farm, and I buy my seafood frozen at Costco, so I'm immune to the high priced meat counter. (I also think the grocery prices across the board having been rising for years.) In the summer I have a CSA, so WF is really only my primary grocery store in the winter. I don't find it to be outrageously expensive, doing an apples to apples comparison, so to speak. Produce costs a little more, but it's definitely higher quality, and can be controlled by thinking seasonally. Bulk items are a pretty good price, as are canned things like beans, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Frozen veggies and berries are definitely comparable, as is bakery bread,not-from-concentrate orange juice, and local milk. I think where people get into trouble is with all the "value-added" stuff like cut fruit or diced mirepoix, or the takeout counter, or the prepackaged stuff in the middle aisles. But "organic" "natural" junk food is expensive anywhere you shop. And don't even get me started on the crazy prices on all the vitamins, supplements, and cleaning products. My cat definitely gets food/litter from the grungier grocery store, too.

It's funny though. I took DBF shopping with me because he wanted to buy stuff to make a pot of chili (he doesn't cook normally). He was standing in the produce department, holding a small head of iceberg lettuce, and complaining, "can I get a head of lettuce that's grown to NORMAL size. You know, using CHEMICALS?" Then he asked the cashier if the AA batteries were organic. The boy knows how to guarantee he won't have to grocery shop with me again for a while.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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Here in Vancouver there is only one Whole Foods (plus a small handful of Capers Community Markets, which are part of WF). WF isn't Whole Paycheque for me, as I rarely buy staples there, just specialty items that are harder to find elsewhere. Echoing others, it definately has the potential of sucking up a week's salary if I were to buy all my groceries there, every week.

But I've also found certain products that are very good value. The cheese selection is as good as (and as comparable to) many of the specialty cheese shops in the Lower Mainland. I also get whole cakes at WF, more often than at "proper" bakeries. A large black forest cake comes out to $25, it's delicious & fresh, comparable to high-end bakery cakes which might run me about $35-40 a pop. Same with their breads. And the staff is usually more helpful and knowledgeable than other grocery chains.

Since I rarely buy meat or produce from WF, using up my entire paycheque to eat is never a problem. Except when I impulse buy and leave with over $50 of gourmet cookies, chips, chocolates, sodas, and other stuff that I don't need (or should eat!).

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Surely WF prices their wares differently in different markets. They will charge what they can. I move around a lot, and while I don't have specific numbers to show, I can note my behavior.

In Santa Fe, NM, the local grocery stores are pretty limited with respect to the quality of their fresh meat and vegetables, so when living there I shop at WF all the time even though it is hugely more expensive than, say, the local Albertsons. In Atlanta, GA, the local grocery stores were better than in Santa Fe but only OK, and WH in my memory seemed only somewhat more expensive than, say, Publix. I shopped at both. In Orange County, CA there is stiff competition from quality grocery stores like Gelsons (which is expensive compared to Albertsons but has much better meat and veg), and the prices at WH are pretty competitive with Gelsons. I rarely go to WH there as it is out of my way, and doesn't offer that much more that I need. I just moved to Hyde Park, on the south side of Chicago, where we have a pretty nice Treasure Island. The nearest WF is a short drive away. I've been a couple of times. This WF does not seem very expensive compared to Treasure Island, and may even be less pricey than my regular (expensive) grocery store in California.

Too bad I didn't keep track of actual numbers - these are just my perceptions. I notice that housing costs differ hugely in all of these places too, so perhaps they index to that.

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In my part of the Chicago burbs, Whole Foods is head and shoulders more expensive than any other supermarket, including the two big chains, Jewel and Dominick's. (I don't shop at either.) I admire WF's cheese case, but that's it. I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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As far as a one-stop grocery shop, Whole Foods would definitely qualify as whole paycheck here. I rarely buy staples such as butter, OJ, sugar or flour there because they will never be able to sell it as low as my local chain Safeway or Giant which are 5 minutes away, usually has them on sale and doubles my coupon! It's best treated as a hybrid-specialty store.

eta: my WF is extremely walkable but I pass the both other stores each day on my drive home from work. Plus they are offering gas rewards for $ spent which is definitely something I'm minding these days.

Edited by natasha1270 (log)
"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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I stocked up a bit on Kerrygold when Giant had it on sale a few weeks back 2 for $5. I'm not much of a milk person and I usually get my milk/heavy cream/creamer at Balduccis because I prefer the brands they carry. It's probably more than WF but at least I can use a 10% or 5% coupon there (I must be a loyalty card marketers dream!). Although WF fairly recently started carrying Snowville products which is supposed to be very tasty.

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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Trader Joes is very competitively priced in the butter dept.

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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I find I never go to Whole Foods, unless I am looking for a certain cheese, given the lack of cheese shops in Nashville. I get good veg and meat at various international and farmers markets. And, as previously mentioned in other posts, being an East-Coaster I don't eat fish while I'm here, just in the summer when back in RI. I think WF IS expensive, and also sort of...too pristine for my taste. Like for suburban ladies.

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I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

Actually not -- I said I was lucky. None of these stores are farther than three miles away, most within a mile and a half. My WF is within that geographical circle.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

Drive? I can easily get 30 pounds of groceries in my bicycle panniers. Cambridge is small and flat; most of the places I shop aren't that far away.

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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I buy almost all my food at Wholefoods in Boston.

To me the issue is more merchandising related then anything else.

Why for example is my local market phasing the cheaper greek yoghurt out, well cheap at 1.69 a small container, and increasing shelf for the more expensive option which is 2.69the same sized container.

For pine nuts, they had a huge increase in price for some reason, yet the local wholefoods carries only the organic type.

They need to be more conscious, not just in direct product to product comparison with other retailers.

Obviously one can visit multiple markets but that easily adds an extra hour that I don't have to begin with.

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I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

Actually not -- I said I was lucky. None of these stores are farther than three miles away, most within a mile and a half. My WF is within that geographical circle.

Yes, the western suburbs are truly remarkable in the variety of markets they offer. They also have at least one horrible WF; honestly if I'd first stepped into that one, I would be mystified about why people ever went into a WF at all. (The people who work there are perfectly nice; they just have an awful selection.)

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They also have at least one horrible WF; honestly if I'd first stepped into that one, I would be mystified about why people ever went into a WF at all. (The people who work there are perfectly nice; they just have an awful selection.)

That's interesting to me. Are these terrible Whole Foods markets that the company bought which were pre-existing as something else? It's hard to believe that they would build a brand new market and make it terrible.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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There is no Whole Foods where I live. But, I have been in their stores when I travel. Are they not all about conspicuous consumption? Their scheme is getting people to pay more for the same stuff they can get someplace else for less just so those folks can feel good about themselves.

I shop at Whole Foods, you go to the Acme, and therefore I am better than you.

Just like, I drive a Mercedes and you drive a Chevy.

In the executive offices of Whole Foods I'll bet they have pictures of P.T. Barnum hanging on every wall.

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There is no Whole Foods where I live. But, I have been in their stores when I travel. Are they not all about conspicuous consumption? Their scheme is getting people to pay more for the same stuff they can get someplace else for less just so those folks can feel good about themselves.

As noted above, oftentimes one actually pays less at Whole Foods than at other markets; that's certainly the case here in NYC.

And yes, I feel good about that, while driving my "vintage" Camry. Though not driving it to Whole Foods.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Reminds me of an NYT article written back in 2008, here. They compared staples and found WF pretty much had the same price as other NYC stores. They argue you pay more for veg, fruit and meat because its much higher quality.

I used to hate WF back in 2007. It was just before I moved to NYC and I thought it was expensive, yuppie food. I shopped at Larry's Market (before the divorce took it down), the pike place market and sometimes Fred Meyer. Then, I moved to NYC and I started to love WF because it was the only real market nearby in the Lower East Side. It was awesome. Tons of beer options, veg, etc. I also started to believe that while some things seemed pricey, it generally wasn't as bad as people said - I think this is especially true in NYC where everything seems expensive to a non-native.

I'm back in Seattle now and I'll still stop by on occasion but I generally will go to AJ meats in Queen Anne for meat and Metro market (also not cheap) for most grocery items. And while I think that impulse buys def add up in price, they are also a good way to find good deals. They had 5 pound bags of lemons the other day for $3 and amazingly juicy oranges for 99 cents a pound.

To the person who talks about the Asian markets as if they are the same... Look. I shop there too. We have a great chinatown. But you also have to realize that most likely your chicken is being trucked in from the south, your shrimp was probably being over farmed in long nets stretching across rivers in Thailand, etc. Asians (and I mean this with great respect) tend to care a lot more about cost than quality or sustainability. I'm not saying WF is the the more ethical option but you need to take this into account,. if you care about that sort of thing.

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I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

I'm definitely in exactly the same position as Maggie, though I do drive once a week to a market that is 1/2 hour away from my house, but that's only because it's simply the best market in my 10 county metro area, and I get a lot of enjoyment from shopping there as well. There are lots of other good markets around here - it's a very competitive area in terms of groceries - but I almost never end up buying anything from Whole Foods because it's so much more expensive than everywhere else.

We do have one or two of those "terrible" Whole Foods here as well. Older, too small and not much selection. Perhaps they simply bought too small a property in some of the earlier years that they were expanding. They're utterly worthless because you can't count on, say, getting the cut of lamb you'd like or nearly anything else, simply because there's no knowing what they'll have in stock.

I find it interesting that people keep mentioning cheese. Locally, our better Kroger stores are now offering many of the same cheeses as Whole Foods is, and in some cases, they have cheeses that you cannot find at Whole Foods. Up until last November I was working for a large cheese distributing company here in Atlanta, so I can tell you that both companies are buying the same cheese from the same source, but Whole Foods is simply marking it up a heck of a lot more. I could say a few unflattering things here about WF, but I probably shouldn't, even though I no longer have a conflict of interest. Suffice it to say that I buy my gourmet cheese at Kroger or at the market that I mentioned above, which also buys from the same supplier.

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New York supermarkets are notoriously overpriced due to the high rents and captive market due to the lack of cars and unwillingness of shoppers to schlep mass quantities of groceries on the subway or buses. If Whole Foods is pricing at about their national level in NYC, I could see where they're competitive with local stores. But that's definitely not the case in the suburban USA

Having said that, I find WF very competitive with local stores on certain items and sometimes lower priced (for example Plugra butter), but I would never do 100% of my shopping there.

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I was shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joes today, so I compared the prices of a few staples. Whenever possible, I compared store branded items. Most of the produce could not be compared due to Trader Joes pricing items by the piece instead of weight.

Item Whole Foods/Trader Joes

English Muffins 2.49/1.49

Milk 1.99/1.99

New Potatoes 1.29/1.86

Chives 2.49/1.69 (Whole Foods only sells organic vs. Trader Joes conventional)

Arugala (bagged) 2.50/1.99

Unsalted Butter 3.29/2.99

Jarred Tomato Marinara 2.29/1.99

Conventional Avocados 2.50/1.69

Apple Sauce cups .50ea/.50ea

I plan on going to the local independent store tomorrow and will compare the prices there as well. Take it for what it's worth.

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Yes, I'm guilty of referring to it as Whole Paycheck, although the truth is I almost never shop there except when visiting my mom in NY, since it is the closest large store to her apt. We're in car country here I'm afraid, and the extra 10 minutes it takes to drive to Berkeley Bowl is worth it, considering it is our main weekly shopping trip. It's easy to make assumptions about value based on too small a sample of products. I'm guessing that any large market that counts on relatively upscale clientele and in addition devotes so much square footage to prepared dishes is going to come at a price.

In addition, I'm not the primary shopper in the house, my husband is. He never goes to WF and he thinks everything is cheap compared to the Berkeley farmers' market. It would be interesting to note some actual comparison prices. My sense has always been that produce especially is priced high at WF. I had some very minor shopping errands to run this morning, including one that necessitated a trip to WF. Before going to WF however, I needed a few things at my closest carniceria.

Poblanos--smelling spicy and looking fresh--at the Mexican grocery cost .85 per lb. I also paid 1.99 for a half gallon of Berkeley Farms milk there, which is good quality milk but not organic. At WF the poblanos were 2.99 lb, smelled like nothing and were not as fresh. How much does a half gallon of milk cost at WF? I forgot to check.

The next time my husband treks to Berkeley Bowl I'm going have him price some specific items.

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To the person who talks about the Asian markets as if they are the same... Look. I shop there too. We have a great chinatown. But you also have to realize that most likely your chicken is being trucked in from the south, your shrimp was probably being over farmed in long nets stretching across rivers in Thailand, etc. Asians (and I mean this with great respect) tend to care a lot more about cost than quality or sustainability. I'm not saying WF is the the more ethical option but you need to take this into account,. if you care about that sort of thing.

Totally agree. And anyone who walks through NYC's multitude of Chinatowns in the summer, and still buys their fish there, is nuts.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I was out today and decided I had a chance to gather data. So I went into Whole Foods, and then immediately into a Kroger literally across the street. But I didn't want to walk around writing in a notebook so my memory has failed me in some cases.

Tomatoes - WF: $2.49/lb, Kroger: $1.79/lb. Both were smallish tomatoes on vine clusters. They looked identical. No mention of organic at either place.

Strawberries - WF: $3.99/container, Kroger: 2 for $5. I can't swear that the containers were the same weight. Quality looked about the same.

Boneless Chicken Breast - WF: $5.99/lb (no mention of organic, free range, or much else), Kroger: Quite a bit less (sorry for that less-than-precise measure). But there appears to be a lot of little distinctions in chicken breast packaging ('whole' breast, tenderloin, and the various combinations of those) that I'm not fully understanding.

Milk - Mostly inconclusive. WF was a minimum of a dollar more per gallon than Kroger, but they were nearly all organic. But, just last weekend I was talking to a guy who is a manager at a grocery and he said he's buying milk at $4/gallon and selling it for 2 for $5 just to lure people into the store.

De Cecco Pasta - WF: $2.99/lb, Kroger: N/A. It was disappointing that I couldn't find this at Kroger because it would've been truely apples-to-apples. A quick search online reveals that I can buy 5lbs for $2.35/lb plus shipping. But that's not a fair comparison.

In general, I came away with the impression that WF is indeed much more expensive than a general grocery for general products. Does this apply to items I can only get there? Well, that's hard to answer.

I do agree that their employee's are very helpful. One day I was trying to find some kosher salami and the meat guy didn't know if they had any but he wasn't going to give up until he had exhausted all departments.

Then again, I don't think I've ever seen a Whole Foods flyer, whereas I get them weekly from Kroger, Marsh (our regional grocery), Aldi, Walmart and sometimes Target - even TJ's flyer. For the sale buyer, I think Whole Foods gets buried price-wise.

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Then again, I don't think I've ever seen a Whole Foods flyer, whereas I get them weekly from Kroger, Marsh (our regional grocery), Aldi, Walmart and sometimes Target - even TJ's flyer. For the sale buyer, I think Whole Foods gets buried price-wise.

In the interest of science, I decided to take a walk up to Whole Foods today, in order to price out a few of items...some were on sale, others at their regular price.

I'll point out that there were 3 sale flyers available (one food, one health & body, and one the monthly booklet with coupons in it) in the area where you pick up your shopping cart. No, they're not mailed, at least not to me; perhaps they're passing those savings on to the customer? I'll do some comparison the next time I head to my local.

Org Loose Carrots - $1.29 / lb.

Brussels Sprouts - $2.49 / lb.

All winter squashes - $ .99 / lb.

Portobellos - $4.99 / lb.

Baby Bellas in Pkg. $2 ea. or $3.20 / lb. (basically cremini)

HH tomatoes Mexico - $1.99 /lb. - they offer about 10 different types of tomatoes, including 3 or 4 cherry types, on vine, romas, etc. These were cheapest.

Various clamshell greens: Satur Farms, Earthbound Farms, other local, all approx. $3.99/ 5 - 7 oz.

Loose mesclun, baby spinach, arugla - $7.99 / lb.

Org Avos - Bag of 4 - $5

Ataulfo Mangoes - $1 ea. Sale

Vidalia Onions - $.99 / lb. Sale

Giant Beautiful Artichokes with about 2" of stem - $2 ea. Sale

Whole Bell & Evans Chickens - Air chilled - $1.99 / lb.

Whole WF Organic Chicken - $2.69 / lb

Bell & Evans Bone-In Breast - $3.99/lb. Sale

Finn Crisps - $2.79

Wasa Crisps - $2.99

Dececco Pasta - $2.69

Montebello Org Italian Pastas - $3.19

WF Spanish EVOO - $5.99/ liter

28 oz. Cento San marzano DOP = $5

28 oz. Muir Glen tomatoes = $3.39

28 oz. Binoatura Tomatoes - $3.39

WF Flour A/P and W/W - $2.99 5 lbs.

KA $4.99 5 lbs.

St. Dalfour marmalades - $4.39

Hero marmalades and Jams - $3.99

Whole Foods Milks

1 Qt $1.29

1/2 Gal $1.99

Gal $3.49

Organic 1/2 - $3.69

Organic Valley Milks

1 Qt $2.99

1/2 Gal $4.49

Gal $6.69

Local Unhomogenized Milk I've been buying

1 QT. $2.99

1/2 Gal $4.49

Whole Foods Butter - $3.29 / lb.

Kate's Maine Butter - $5.19 / lb.

Kerrygold - $2.99 7 oz.

Whole Food Cream Cheese - $1.69 8 oz.

Organic Valley - $2.99

Philly - $3.39

Friendship Cottage Cheese - $3.39 1 lb.

Fage Yogurt - $4.39 1 lb.

Parmesan - 2 varieties - $13/lb. and $20/lb.

I think it's safe to say that, in my case at least, I wouldn't be paying any less at my local grocery store; I'd probably be paying more. I also can safely say that a lot of the stuff above won't even be available there.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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