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Need Feedback from Whole Foods Aficionados

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Some of you know that I've been a full-time freelance writer since I closed my restaurants in early 2011. I currently have an interesting assignment on my plate, and I'd like to get a bit of feedback from those of you who frequent Whole Foods. I'd originally intended to ask a few of you through private messaging, but site staff opined that a forum thread would be appropriate. 

 

My assignment is to pick seven or more healthy foods (however I choose to define the term) that are cheaper at Whole Foods than at mainstream supermarkets (this should probably include Walmart and Costco, as well as Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons and their regional counterparts such as Publix and HEB). It's not as far-fetched as it sounds; the company has made a deliberate push to lower many prices since the crash of 2008-2009. The difficulty for me is that I live in Atlantic Canada, far from Whole Foods and its competitors, so I have to do my research at arm's length. 

 

I've Googled some similar articles, and could complete the assignment by cherry-picking individual items from those and then price-checking them at a handful of representative stores, but I have two quibbles with that approach: 1) It doesn't "add value" for readers; and 2) Where's the fun in that? :)

 

I felt that soliciting the collective wisdom of my peers here at eG was a happier alternative, and that it might make an ongoingly useful "reference thread" for those with a WF in their vicinity. So how about it, Whole Foods aficionados? What surprising bargains do you find there?

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I don't know that my input will be of much help, as I don't NOW frequent Whole Foods, since there's not one nearby while there ARE two other natural grocers in town. But when I did, I often found bargains in two areas: the seafood, which was at worst no more expensive, and often quite a bit less expensive, than other grocery specialty seafood counters (particularly for shellfish, which was what I generally bought). I could routinely buy large shrimp for $12.99 a pound at Whole Foods when they were $14.99 at Kroger. Tuna and salmon were also about $1 to $2 a pound cheaper. 

 

The other bargain area was cheese. This was at a point when I was first beginning to explore the world of cheese outside the packaged and deli-sliced varieties, and Whole Foods always had a basket of small pieces of cheese priced at $3 or less. It was a wonderful way to sample all kinds of cheeses without sinking a lot of money into a cheese you might not like (not that there are many of those for me!), and they were just the right size to put two or three kinds on a cheese board for two and have no leftovers. I still head for the cheese basket when I visit a Whole Foods.

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I was surprised to find a box of 20 Kind bars for a dollar each.  Usually, they run about $1.89-2.00 each.  They also have a wider selection, where most stores carry only the sweet, WF has the savory as well.

 

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On 02/02/2017 at 11:51 AM, kayb said:

I don't know that my input will be of much help, as I don't NOW frequent Whole Foods, since there's not one nearby while there ARE two other natural grocers in town. But when I did, I often found bargains in two areas: the seafood, which was at worst no more expensive, and often quite a bit less expensive, than other grocery specialty seafood counters (particularly for shellfish, which was what I generally bought). I could routinely buy large shrimp for $12.99 a pound at Whole Foods when they were $14.99 at Kroger. Tuna and salmon were also about $1 to $2 a pound cheaper. 

 

The other bargain area was cheese. This was at a point when I was first beginning to explore the world of cheese outside the packaged and deli-sliced varieties, and Whole Foods always had a basket of small pieces of cheese priced at $3 or less. It was a wonderful way to sample all kinds of cheeses without sinking a lot of money into a cheese you might not like (not that there are many of those for me!), and they were just the right size to put two or three kinds on a cheese board for two and have no leftovers. I still head for the cheese basket when I visit a Whole Foods.

I'll follow up on the seafood. I don't think I can plausibly put the cheeses forward as a health-food option, at least not in a way that would be accepted by the archetypal fad-driven health-conscious shopper. 

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18 hours ago, tirgoddess said:

I was surprised to find a box of 20 Kind bars for a dollar each.  Usually, they run about $1.89-2.00 each.  They also have a wider selection, where most stores carry only the sweet, WF has the savory as well.

 

Thanks, I'll take a look at those. 

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I am usually in WF once a week, so if there is a product or category you'd like me to check, ask away. I buy instant soup cups by Dr. McDougall's which are healthy (vegan or vegetarian, reduced sodium) and they are usually a bit cheaper than the supermarket, but you are talking about something that sells for less than $2 so its probably a 10 cent difference. In the produce aisle, the organic fruits and veg are often cheaper, especially the ones sourced locally. Fage yogurt usually cheaper unless supermarket is running a sale.

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I'm going to Whole Foods here this weekend so let me know if you want me to check on anything.  They have marinated chicken wings on for $9.99 per kilo and depending on the kind they have, I may get some. 

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16 hours ago, BeeZee said:

I am usually in WF once a week, so if there is a product or category you'd like me to check, ask away. I buy instant soup cups by Dr. McDougall's which are healthy (vegan or vegetarian, reduced sodium) and they are usually a bit cheaper than the supermarket, but you are talking about something that sells for less than $2 so its probably a 10 cent difference. In the produce aisle, the organic fruits and veg are often cheaper, especially the ones sourced locally. Fage yogurt usually cheaper unless supermarket is running a sale.

The instant soups and Fage yogurt are both good picks, I'll follow up and see how they stack up regionally. From what I've been seeing, WF is very competitive in organic products generally, and especially so with their store brand. 

 

16 hours ago, ElsieD said:

I'm going to Whole Foods here this weekend so let me know if you want me to check on anything.  They have marinated chicken wings on for $9.99 per kilo and depending on the kind they have, I may get some. 

 

I don't think I could successfully position chicken wings as any sort of "health food," unfortunately. Do you have WF there in Ontario, or are you border-hopping?

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11 minutes ago, chromedome said:

The instant soups and Fage yogurt are both good picks, I'll follow up and see how they stack up regionally. From what I've been seeing, WF is very competitive in organic products generally, and especially so with their store brand. 

 

 

I don't think I could successfully position chicken wings as any sort of "health food," unfortunately. Do you have WF there in Ontario, or are you border-hopping?

 

Chicken wings aren't a health food?  Shocking!!!

 

We have a WF right here in Ottawa.  We are probably going there this afternoon.

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Canadian pricing wouldn't do me any good, alas, as the article is for a US client/audience. Thanks, though. 

 

 

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Here are my standards from Whole Foods that are cheaper than the equivalents elsewhere.

365 natural peanut butter

365 basic marinara spaghetti sauce. This has just about the fewest grams of sugar of anything I've found and is inexpensive.

365 canned fire-roasted tomatoes. A staple in my pantry. 

 

All of those have good everyday prices and often go on sale.

 

And, of course, there's the bulk food section, which is often a good deal, especially since you can buy just as much as you need and no more.

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Excellent. All three of those suggestions were new to me. The bulk foods section will probably account for at least a few of the products in the finished article. 

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Happy to help. I just remembered that the peanut butter and spaghetti sauce, and maybe the tomatoes,  have a regular and an organic variety. I buy the regular, but you might want to investigate both to see what works best for your article. 

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If you use the bulk foods section in your evaluation, make sure to actually compare pricing to pre-packaged.  Most of the bulk foods prices are the same as the package prices at all three WFs near me, just FYI - almonds, walnuts, quinoa, oats, etc.

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The one thing I reliably buy from Whole Foods because of its price is coffee. I don't know if it counts as food per se, but it's arguably healthy. The 365 Brand coffees are very, very good for the price. My favorite is the Organic Pacific Rim Blend which I buy for the flavor, not because it's organic (it's a dark roast, but not super-dark). My father, who had been buying beans from a local artisan roaster for years, is a recent convert to this blend; he likes the flavor much better and it's less than half the price of what he had been buying. FWIW, neither of us are hardcore coffee people, but we're hardcore compared to the average consumer (we both have burr grinders, Technivorm Moccamaster drip brewers, Chemex pour-over setups, french presses, and Aeropresses). For everyday coffee, it's really hard to beat.

 

Also +1 for kayb's suggestion about cheese-fragments. They're not really less expensive on a per-pound basis, but you can try a variety of cheeses in small quantities for just a few bucks, and if you don't like it you're not out $15 for a big wedge.

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This older topic might have some good detailed comparisons for you to check out. It also seems to suggest the protein/meal-replacement bars are a good deal there. I'm not sure if that is still true as I can get decent prices on boxes of them at Bed, Bath & Beyond with 20% off coupons since my local BBB store carries food items. Otherwise, the gist of the thread indicates WF has comparable prices on staples and higher on most other.

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Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. The article is now completed and submitted to the client, and should be "live" on the site at some point in the next week or so (this client is quick to publish, one of my others has just now published an article I wrote back in November). Dave said it would be fine to post a link, for the satisfaction of everyone who chimed in with suggestions, so I'll do that at some point in the next few days. 

 

Not everything made it through to the final version of the article, but often following one suggestion led to something else that *did* work out, so everyone's input was of value. The tricky bit with this particular client is having to find demonstrable, linkable online pricing, which many supermarkets just plain don't have on their sites. Even when they do (eg, WF) it's often behind a paywall and direct linking doesn't work. I had to do screen grabs and submit them to the editor along with the article, which was something of a PITA. 

 

Every occupation has its own trivial irritations, I suppose, and those are mine. :)

Looking out the window at the howling blizzard -- again -- I think it's a pretty fair trade-off for not having to commute anywhere for work. 

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Did this ever get posted? I'm curious how it turned out! Plus, I might pick up some tips ....

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Thanks for the reminder! I've been busy with family matters this past two weeks, and hadn't thought to check whether it was "live."

 

Here's the link.

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7 hours ago, chromedome said:

Thanks for the reminder! I've been busy with family matters this past two weeks, and hadn't thought to check whether it was "live."

 

Here's the link.

 

Nice piece, Fred. Thanks for the link.

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Thanks again to all of you who made suggestions. Not all of them panned out for various reasons (it's a bear, trying to get pricing on non-sale items from most stores' websites) but almost everything there began with a suggestion from someone here or on the group page my freelance colleagues and I share. 

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