Whole Foods vs. Giant Foods

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a Whole Foods, about twelve years ago (back then, it was called Fresh Fields). The “foyer” area between the two sets of doors was stocked with floor to ceiling crates of Clementines. I walked into the store, into the produce section, and was faced with pyramids of the most beautiful apples I’d ever seen, not a single one with a bruise or cut. Walls of bell peppers piled almost vertically, looking as though one pepper removed would send the entire section tumbling down onto the pristine floors. The greens and herbs were the freshest and crispiest I’d ever seen.

[source]

The rest of the store was just as glorious. The freshest, highest-quality cuts of meat. The most beautiful selection of fish, gracefully draped atop huge piles of ice. And don’t even start me on the personal care aisles. Essential oils, herbs, supplements, homeopathic medicines. Back then, I didn’t take any conventional medicine, not even Tylenol for a headache. For my ailments, I took homeopathic pills and brewed herbal teas. (The story of why I stopped that practice is one for another day.) Whole Foods was paradise.

[source]

About six years ago, Whole Foods and I had a falling out. The house I had recently moved into was mere blocks away from a Whole Foods, and I was in Heaven! A year later, the store closed to move to a swankier part of town, and I was livid. I felt snubbed. I decided that Whole Foods was elitist. I held a grudge, refused to shop there anymore. For years. I wish I was kidding.

[source]

A couple of months ago, Whole Foods and I had a reconciliation. All of a sudden, one day I felt ready. Ready to forgive, forget, and move on. After all, things have changed. I live in a different neighborhood. I am a mother now. (<- irrelevant, really, but seems to be the basis of so many of my important decisions these days) Ready to drive the 4.7 miles to the nearest Whole Foods. When I walked through the doors into the produce department, it was like no time had passed at all. The pyramids of apples were still there. The walls of bell peppers were stacked up high next to piles and piles of fresh greens and herbs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZOhm7qS-AI&feature=fvwrel

I’ve been really happy shopping at Whole Foods again. They always have exactly what I need (and plenty of things I don’t). For the most part, their food is healthier than regular grocery store food, with wholesome ingredients and many organic options. My biggest (and really only) concern about shopping at Whole Foods is the cost. For produce, meat/fish, etc., I am comfortable paying a slight premium for the quality of food at Whole Foods. But what about staple items where I am buying the exact same thing as at the Giant Food? How do those prices stack up?

To try to answer this question, I did a price analysis of my purchases today, where I could find a comparable product on Peapod.com. According to this, I would have spent roughly the same amount shopping at Peapod (in fact, $6.10 more). If I had hours to spend on this project, I would stop by my local Giant Food and do an item-by-item price comparison. But guess what. I don’t. For now, I am satisfied with my cursory comparison and will tell myself that shopping at Whole Foods doesn’t cost me an extra dime.

Item WF Price Peapod Price Difference
Horizon Organic Cream Cheese 2.19 3.49 -1.30
Fiesta Green Chiles 1.49 2.99 -1.50
Organic Herb Salad 3.99
GT Kombucha 3.39
Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce 3.99 3.29 0.70
365 Brand Marinara 2.29
Baby Spinach 4.99
Kashi Go Lean Crunch 3.49 3.00 0.49
Pacific Almond Milk 1.69 2.99 -1.30
Tabbouleh 3.39 4.79 -1.40
Coconut Milk Ice Cream 5.19
Kale 2.49 2.99 -0.50
Dried Mango 5.99
Amy’s Brown Rice Bowl 4.69 5.19 -0.50
365 Vanilla Whey Powder 9.99
Organic Vegetable Broth 1.99 2.79 -0.80
Organic Garbanzo Beans 1.19 1.29 -0.10
Brussels Sprouts 2.99 2.99 0.00
Larabar 1.29 1.00 0.29
Bell Pepper, Orange 2.69 2.49 0.20
Bell Pepper, Green 1.11 0.99 0.12
Bell Pepper, Red 2.07 2.49 -0.42
Vine Tomatoes 4.43 4.99 -0.56
Bananas 2.73 5.07 -2.34
Organic Cilantro 1.99 1.99 0.00
Organic Baby Carrots 1.69 1.99 -0.30
Jalapeno 0.20 0.20 0.00
Organic Fuji Apples 3.01 2.78 0.23
Asparagus 4.15 1.99 2.16
Chocolate Chips 3.49 2.39 1.10
Mixed Berries (Fresh Fruit) 5.67
Baby Cucumbers 2.99 3.49 -0.50
Bartlett Pears 1.27 0.89 0.38
Organic Kiwi 0.69 1.00 -0.31
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour 2.69
-6.16

Have you ever done a price comparison of Whole Foods with your local grocer? Do your results look similar to mine?

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36 Responses to Whole Foods vs. Giant Foods

  1. lindsay says:

    Oh i love this. What a great comparison. Oh and at Natural gRocers here in TX, you can get kombucha for 2.50!!! crazy!

  2. Christine says:

    Incidentally, Lindsay, on my spreadsheet I identified things as staples, purchases for a recipe, etc. Next to kombucha it says “Lindsay made me do it.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Cherry Lane says:

    Baby cucumbers? I've never seen such a thing. I'd claim it was because I don't shop at swanky groceries, but you say Giant has them, too.

  4. Christine says:

    They are also called Persian Cucumbers. They are small, and you eat the skin. The skin isn't hard like on a regular cucumber. They are seedless, or close to. J-Man prefers them, which is the only reason I buy them.

  5. I hate to admit I don't look at prices much. I shop one store for the best produce, another for cheaper (and bigger selection) of bulk product. those two things make up 80% of my grocery shopping, so I think I do okay… ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hahaha, love the Peaches and Herb reference, hilarious. I have never done a side by side price analysis, but I usually stick to things that I can only get at Whole Foods that don't cost an arm and a leg, and I also buy the 365 brand when possible. I usually just go there for a couple things and then I hit up the salad bar. I used to spend a fortune there so I've gotten more careful about what I buy there, it also helps that there's a Trader Joe's less than a block away, so I go there first, then WF second.

  7. Hannah says:

    If a Whole Foods ever deigned to open in Australia, and in my city, I would never shop anywhere else (until I went broke), because it does feel like paradise to me. Oh, the happy, happy memories I have of wandering around Wole Foods for hours on my travels!

  8. i shop almost 100% at whole foods and i agree – they do not deserve the bad rap they get on pricing! many of the generic/365 products are prices really well, and it's all about choosing the right items. of course, beautiful out-of-season fruits will be expensive, but that would be true anywhere! they do carry more tempting, gourmet items so it's easier to walk out with a cart full of $$$$$, but if you stick to a list i think it's a great place to shop.

    (oh, and i am ~1 mi away from WF in one town, and we are moving to an apt across town that is ~1 mi away from another one! i don't think i would want to be much farther than that . . .)

  9. lindsay says:

    now thats what i like to hear!! did the kiddo try it?

  10. I'm a 10-hour drive from the nearest WF, so when I'm anywhere close to it, I go… and frolic! I try to do as much browsing and as little purchasing as I can, however… Except I *do* love the cheese section—maybe the best I've ever seen since leaving Quebec! The WF I go to in West Vancouver is right next to a quasi-bargainy store and not far from a Safeway, and I *have* price compared the three… sometimes, WF is cheapest! I just spend more at WF because there's more temptation, I think. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. I actually have never done a comparison this way, I usually just do it from memory while shopping(“hmm Stop & Shop bananas are cheaper than Whole Foods”), but since i am a grad student on a budget, I probably should sit down and figure this stuff out. Great idea, thanks for sharing!

  12. Wow! I always think of Whole Foods as being so much more expensive, but it looks like it really worked in your favor! I should pay more attention to if it's really that big of a difference!

  13. Missy says:

    Reunited and it feels so good!
    WF is amazing company to work for, so you can feel good about that, too!

    I hardly ever buy veggies at whole foods except when they have the loss leader sales….0.99 lb organic apples? Yes!
    Otherwise I just get the “weird” stuff that I “need” like nutritional yeast and tofu and whatnot and it is almost always cheaper at whole foods.

    Seems to me we have to pick and choose (like the Kashi…)

  14. We don't have WF in Germany, but other organic supermarkets. Unfortunately they're much more expensive. Fruit and vegetables usually cost 1 or 2 โ‚ฌ more per kilo, and meat and fish are 2 or 3 times as expensive than regular. I love to shop there, but mostly I just can't afford it. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    I love the idea of walls of piled bell peppers, and of course I'd love to know what happened if I plucked one out from below, but I'm a good girl so I wouldn't try it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Jeebus I had no idea how expensive coconut ice cream is! woah! but you get your organic valley cheeses cheeeeap there girl! I find mine at my commissarry and its super expensive even with my coupons!

    I. heart. whole. foods. FOREVER! even though they didnt hire me in high school. jerks =)

  16. Allie says:

    I love your descriptions at the beginning, they made me hungry hahah
    I have never been to WF but I have heard a lot about it in the blog world and i'm sorry you had a bad experience!!

  17. I have a Whole Foods a couple blocks away, and I've only been there once! That's mostly b/c when I did go there, I bought so much stuff! I've never done a price comparison, but I think that's a great idea. And the best part of Whole Foods for me is the fact that they have a food bar, so you actually go and eat lunch there!

  18. […] all together! ย In fact, Christine has already done this, and much better than I could so check out her post…But really โ€“ get WFโ€™s Whole Deal print out flierโ€ฆor even easier, print the […]

  19. I love WF. I have an addiction to it that those who aren't food lovers will never understand. In comparison to regular grocery stores it is more expensive. I don't mind paying for wholesome real food and that is where the difference exists – priority! I do see how a family working on a shoe string budget would struggle to buy everything from WF. It would add up. I try to show people it is cheaper to eat healthy and be healthy than to eat crap and buy medication.

  20. Great comparison! Everyone I talk to who have not been to Whole Foods assumes it's way too expensive and I have to convince them it's not – there's a huge price difference in WF prices and the “health food” sections of regular grocery stores.

  21. LauraJayne says:

    I love that you researched this. I actually came to the exact same conclusion this week, when I went to a store that was supposed to be WAY cheaper than Whole Foods. I ended up leaving that store for Whole Foods, where the prices were equivalent but the quality was WAY better. Plus, I can get falafel at the whole foods bar…. I'd pay a little extra just for that!

  22. Christine says:

    That's exactly it, Christine! I'm sure I could shop cheaper at the regular grocery, if I bought cheap quality food. But to get wholesome, real food with natural, safe ingredients, the regular grocery charges much more! It's a simple supply and demand thing.

  23. Christine says:

    You got it, Allison! I โค Jillian Michaels, and she always says the same thing. Most people really can afford to buy organic and high-quality food, because the long-term benefits are tremendous. The long-term cost of not eating organic, not eating grass-fed beef, not eating tons of fresh fruits and veggies, is high. It's hard for people to wrap their heads around it, but it's true.

  24. What great whole foods info! I had heard that some prices were actually lower there but I've never done a comparison. I should!

  25. Love that comparison! I actually tell my husband all the time that so many things at Whole Foods are actually much cheaper than our local grocery store. He has a really difficult time believing me though because I end up buying so many OTHER things that our regular grocery store doesn't carry…so our bill is much higher than it would be at that regular grocery store. Oops…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Walls of food…build me a house from that! I've actually never been to Whole Foods. Am I going to get kicked out of the blog guild now?

  27. Christine says:

    Whole Foods are EVERYWHERE around here. Hard to avoid them!

  28. Meri says:

    I'm really impressed by the work you did- I tend to just complain about “whole paycheck” and continue to go there for about 1/6th of my food shopping (I split it between the two co-ops closest to my house, the two giant/discounts, whole foods, and the last one is maybe between trader joes and ethnic markets)
    I have sort of a “running tab” in my head of how much certain commonly bought products cost at different places, and buy them when they are on the cheap end of that. And sometimes I just stick my head in the sand and fill my cart. eep!

  29. I wish WF was cheaper than my grocery store, but alas, it's not. Between Safeway and Trader Joe's I can get double what I can get at WF…

  30. Rach says:

    Unfortunately Whole Foods is quite a bit more expensive than other local options here (Aldis, Kroger, Walmart, etc). For us it's more a place we go to discover new things and occasionally buy something, but not a regular thing. Where we live, there isn't much of a healthy living community so it's possible the WF prices are even higher than normal in order to cover that deficit. I have no idea, haha! Anyway, I love the way you describe it 'cause that's really how it is! Such a great place to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. So interesting! I'm interested in comparing my organic CSA produce to WF. I always think my CSA is cheaper, but I've never done a side-by-side comparison.

  32. I've never done an actual comparison of how Whole Foods stacks up against other stores – but now I'm really interested to do so!

  33. I've never done a comparison, but just assume WF is more $$, haha. But I love it there. I remember my first WF too…maybe 6 years ago? I was like a little kid in Disney!

  34. I'm with you – my only concern with WF is the price! But I absolutely adore Whole Foods and so I let myself go once a month :). In the other weeks, I stock up on my staples at other stores so that when I'm in Whole Foods I can spend on the items that are totally worth it.

  35. katie says:

    I love Whole Foods! I do not have one close to me anymore : p I used to have one 5 minutes away, i was spoiled! Not anymore!

    My natural food co-op though is awesome and the prices are pretty much the same as whole foods ; ) pricey but worth it!!

    have a great day! xo

  36. Cool comparison! Everyone always thinks WF is more expensive, and sometimes it is, but I've found plenty of things that are cheaper there! Glad you two could reconnect! ๐Ÿ™‚

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