How Expensive Is Whole Foods?


While activists in New York and D.C. kvetch about Walmart invading poor neighborhoods and providing cheap goods to low-income shoppers, activists in Boston are grumbling that Whole Foods is invading middle class neighborhoods and providing expensive goods to middle-income shoppers. Boston Globe blogger Rob Anderson wonders if Whole Foods ("Whole Paycheck") is really that much more expensive than the competition:

Two points of interest: Even if Whole Foods had some more expensive individual items, price fluctuations between stores tended to average themselves out. While a Whole Foods shopper may spend extra on toilet paper, for example, he could make up for it if he also buys dish soap, which tends to be cheaper there than at other stores. And something important for Jamaica Plain residents to keep in mind: Their neighborhood Stop & Shop has some of the best deals in town. If they don't like the price of dried red beans at the new Whole Foods, they will be able to find the cheapest ones around just a short 10 minute walk away.

A comparison of grocery stores in Jamacia Plain, the site of the planned Whole Foods:

Whole paycheck?

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  1. Rob Anderson wonders if Whole Foods (“Whole Paycheck”) is really that much more expensive than the competition:

    Interesting analysis, even if it’s a given that WF has the right to charge any price they wish.

    1. It’s the nice cheeses, fresh food, and other items that tend to eat more paycheck.

      People just have to have more self-control and treat those as splurges and not everyday items.

  2. I actually specifically go to Whole Foods for things like condiments, olive oil, and vinegar because Whole Foods’ store brand is cheaper, yet better, then Metropolitan or even QFC, and though I hate Safeway with a passion and never go in, I believe they are cheaper than them as well.

    I mean, I can get Spanish extra virgin olive oil for $5.99 for 32 oz at Whole Foods. Anywhere else that would be $15 minimum.

    1. Agree with Epi. For a very few things, WF’s 365 brand is cheaper than store brands of Randall’s, Kroger, HEB. Bread can be very cheap at WF as well.

      Most of their other stuff is full-bore retail and then some, though.

    2. not first pressed?

      1. They are first press.

        That’s my point: it’s an amazing price for very good oil.

        1. You should have known stone-crushed is the gourmand oil-you little wap fraud

          1. Kettle…could you please call me?



            1. now show me yours

    3. Alright, I’m jackin’ this thread. Until less than a month ago, I lived within easy walking distance of where that proposed Whole Foods is going.

      Here’s the deal, Jamaica Plain pretty much half-ghetto, half-stuff-white-people-like. (Rich white people.)

      That Hi-Lo was really sketch and the Stop ‘n Shop that’s listed in the grid above was right next to the ‘jects and it was not unknown for there to be crime in the store. (I remember overhearing a little old lady who had her purse grabbed at that Stop & Shop.) Mostly it was fine but, still, who wants to be thinking about that shit when you’re trying to buy some cod or canned beans?

      Bottom line: this is a fight about gentrification. Which is total bullshit because if a place like whole Foods didn’t move in, community advocates would complain about “food deserts” and a lack of fresh produce…

      Can’t fucking win with these professional activists.

      1. Can’t fucking win with these professional activists.

        Sure you can. Just hand them your wallet!

      2. A regular at the Sam Adams tours?

      3. I was looking over the neighborhoods and wondering – Jamaica Plain – Dorchester – South End – middle class?

        I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Boston, but Jesus…

        1. When I moved here (Houston) from Brookline in 1998, a lot of those areas south and east were already gentrifying rapidly. It doesn’t surprise me at all to read this and to hear about the complaints.

          As with anywhere, if the neighborhood demographics change, the people who are the “leaders” of those neighborhoods start to lose their sway and they will protest mightily as it happens. That’s all this is about. Houston has has similarly complaints about how all the new houses in the 3rd Ward are “ruining” the neighborhood, even if the existing residents make a lot of money when they sell their shotgun shacks and move to some other rundown part of town. It’s not so much about the neighborhood as it is about who gets to exploit the neighborhood: owners of new businesses or “community leaders.”

          1. You know, the fact that you pointed out things were already happening in 1998 reminded me just how long it’s been since I’ve been in Boston. Let me retract my comment.

      4. As a JP resident who is not a retard, I agree with the retard, it’s about race. The whole price thing is just a proxie war over the fact people are mad that an Hispanic store is getting replaced with a white one. And for clarity, “ghetto” means “not overwhelmingly Caucasian.” Still, Whole Foods will employ twice as many people, so I say gentrify away.

      5. I am so god damned sick of hearing about you bean holes and your cod capes and shit like that. When is that motherfucking earthquake going to get here?

        1. I think it’s once every 200 years, and it’s been over 200 since the last one. With all those brick buildings sitting on landfill, it’s going to be awful.

    4. Trader Joe’s. Good quality olive oil and balsamico, much cheaper than Whore Foods. Wish we had one in Austin. On the bright side, the Mother Ship store on Lamar has the best wine selection in town and notably better prices than the yuppie wineshops.

  3. Provincial much?

    In any case, there are many ways this comparison could have been fudged. The choice of items, types of the items chosen (you’re giving me one price for cereal? get real) the choice of brands, etc.

    1. “In any case, there are many ways this comparison could have been fudged.”

      Much as the comparisons showing WF to be the ‘high-priced spread’.
      Read Tim Harford on grocery

      1. “Tim Harford on grocery pricing”

  4. Am I reading that chart wrong, or is there a screw-up in it? A ? gallon of milk is $2.59 at Foodie’s and it gets the red “Most Expensive” X, yet Stop & Shop charges $2.79 for a ? gallon.

    Meanwhile, milk is $2.45 a gallon in South Texas.

    1. $5 a gallon for milk in Hawaii is considered the cheap price.

      The Whole Foods prices here are even more exorbitant.

      1. Cows milk is for baby cows! I drink straight from the Sleepytown Water Treatment plant. No filters or majik ion stimulators. Cheap too at $0.01/gal. delivered!

    2. Milk is run by a legally enforced cartel in the northeast. Anti dog-eat-dog legislation, you see.

  5. No liveblogging of Watson’s appearance on Jeopardy!?

  6. Watson’s first correct question: What is shoe?

    1. I read Watson tied the human.

      1. Yes, but they’re going to stretch it out over three days, so this was only the first round. I have no idea how they’re going to stretch out Final Jeopardy into an episode.

        Funny moment: For an “answer” in a category about decades, Ken Jennings responded with the question “What is the 1920s?” and was told that was incorrect. Watson immediately rung in and gave the same question as a response, causing a burst of laughter from the audience.

        Apparently Watson doesn’t take into account the other contestants’ attempted responses.

        1. That was a function that got added, but obviously it only works when there is enough time for assistants to feed in the wrong answer (textually) – since Watson doesn’t listen.

          1. So how does Watson get his clues? Do they type each one in, or are they fed in automatically?

            I was watching at work and missed the crucial explanation phase of the experiment. From what I saw I was impressed though.

  7. Some people just can’t be happy unless the government is forcing people to do something…

    Wal*Mart’s providing the poor with groceries and merchandise they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise–which some people would be perfectly happy with if only the government were forcing Wal*Mart to do that instead of them doing it of their own free will to capitalize on an underserved market.

    Meanwhile, Michelle Obama and Company are caught red handed trying to force Wal*Mart to do what Whole Foods is already doing–of its own free will…!

    People doing what they want of their own free will is apparently the new definition of sin, and forcing them to do what they don’t want to do–whatever that thing is?

    That’s what passes for good and holy. If nobody forced you to do it, then it can be good?!


    1. Some people just can’t be happy unless the government is forcing people to do something…

      And seriously, some people need to just fucking die.

  8. There’s only one Whole Foods in South Jersey, and one on South Street in Philly. They’re probably afraid to compete with Shop-Rite. Not only does Shop-Rite have the best prices, they have the best business model(s). They are a co-op of independent store owners (not a franchise), who pooled their purchasing power. Each store has the flexibility to meet their individual community’s needs. Many buy directly from local farmers, and a few are even owned by local farmers.

    1. Shop-Rite does have the best prices, but we don’t have them out here in Seattle. Probably the cheapest out here is Fred Meyer, but I don’t like to have to go to Interbay for my shopping needs. And I’m a snob.

      1. Freddy’s in Ballard. You must be one of those geographically challenged (newcomer) snobs…

  9. I’m diggin’ Fresh & Easy.

    I was a Whole Foods fan for a long time, but Fresh & Easy, for the stuff they have? Prices rock.

    They’re not very good on produce–I’ve seen better produce at Trader Joe’s. But their store brands are mostly organic stuff, and it’s really cheap.

    I think that’s Fresh & Easy’s business model–they basically sell you their store brand on organic stuff, and they can give the regular chains significant price competition on organic stuff that way.

    Their chicken and beef is actually cheaper than what I get across the street at the chain grocery. And Ben & Jerry’s is like a buck less a pint.

  10. By the way? I bought WFMI back in the early ’90s.

    …because I’m a genius?

    Yes. Because I’m a genius.

  11. I like chocolate and long walks on the beach.

    1. Suzy, is that you? I still have a sand-covered snickers bar that we shared on “that night”.

  12. As a JP resident, you miss an important point – Whole Foods is chain, price is irrelevant.

  13. I was in Jamaica Plain this summer, and I can’t help but notice the lack of beer in your comparison chart…

  14. The grumbling is because the CEO was against ObamaCare.

    Subtract that, and there’d be no grumbling.

    1. No JP is a lot of whacked out liberals, it makes the rest of Boston look conservative. If the CEO was an ObamaCare supporter, they’d still be against – it’s a chain.

  15. So… do you guys give free advertising to all self-proclaimed libertarians in the business world, or what?

    1. No, just free buttsecks.

      Buttman has Gillespie on 24 hour booty call.

    2. cynical|2.14.11 @ 9:42PM|#
      “So… do you guys give free advertising to all self-proclaimed libertarians in the business world, or what?”

      So do you statists gripe about any business, or just those that might reflect something of libertarianism?
      Or what?


  17. I don’t like Whole Foods, that place is dominated by tree huggers, progressives, global warming alarmists, democrats, Haavaad elitists, socialists, Marxists, communists, limousine liberals… Yeah, I’d rather hang out with normal people at Wal-Mart where the second amendment is supporter and the company doesn’t push their green agenda down your throat.

    New Budget, New Tax Hikes: Obama does it again.…

  18. Tim Harford in his book The Undercover Economist addresses this issue pretty well. He notes that for items that are exactly the same — say, Breyer’s ice cream — Whole Foods is pretty much in line with other stores such as Safeway. It’s more difficult to compare something like “eggs” because of quality differences. But for specific name-brand goods WF is pretty much the same as everyone else. After I read this I started comparing prices at WF versus other stores and noticed this this is basically correct.

    1. “Tim Harford in his book The Undercover Economist addresses this issue pretty well.”

      Yep, and it is widely ignored.

  19. Whole Foods is fairly competitive on staple items like those listed above. But nobody shops Whole Foods for the staples. You go there because the neighborhood grocer doesn’t carry much in the way of specialty items. My wife and son are both gluten-free. So I end up paying $4 for the GF pasta (and a competitive $2 for a jar of very good sauce), because they stock 5-6 varieties from 5-6 different manufacturers (so about 30 choices for GF pasta), compared to 2-3 brown rice noodles at the local grocer. To maintain a sense of normality, I can continue to make fettucini Alfredo, instead of ziti Alfredo. It’s a little thing, but it reduces the stress for people on special diets.

    1. Or you go because you want low-sodium bread (1/10th the salt of typical bread) or other items. The interesting thing is that it’s quite possible for them to make bread that tastes as good or better than other brands without dumping shitloads of salt and corn syrup in it.

      1. I have a severe soy allergy. I eat anything with soy in it, and really, really bad stuff happens.

        Whole Foods labels all their stuff really well. Even their prepared foods!

        That’s awesome for me. I love those bastards!

    2. I’m allergic to milk protein and wheat protein. I pretty much have to go to Whole Foods for decent wheat-free bread and they have the largest selection of soy cream around. It’s the best place for me to meet my need for an ice cream substitute. So I gotta go to WF. As jB pointed out early in the comments, you have to avoid the urge to splurge on luxury items at WF.

      Some of their store brands are excellent. I love their brand of natural sodas – much less syrupy than Hansen’s and they are only 49 cents per can!

  20. Whole Foods has a mastery of what to price up and what not to price up. You can shop at WF and Trader Joes and do so rather cheaply and get great food. You just have to watch for what you are buying where.

    1. I was thinking – how could no one mention Trader Joes, and there you did.

      1. Trader Joes is great for frozen food and alcohol.

    2. And the poor who don’t have the transportation flexibility to shop around are SOL, I take it.

      1. But the left is always telling us about the joys and virtues of public transit.

        1. Tulpa, the poor are supposed to drop-dead in the new libertarian society. I hope the Rand film flops-otherwise a whole knew generation of ‘teh children’ assholes will come of age.

          1. Then YOU pay for us!

          2. When they finally get around to spiking your melon, I hope it’s on a pike made of highly-compressed copies of Atlas Shrugged.

      2. Tulpa, you’re intentionally ignoring the point in the article about the Whole Foods and Stop and Shop being a 10 minute walk apart.

        And Jamaica Plain has plenty of bus routes through her, and a T stop. Why do you think it’s being gentrified in the first place.

      3. Probably.

        And that is a problem why?

    3. If only TJ’s would regularly stock wheat-free bread and decent soy cream, I’d almost never go to WF. It IS annoying that I have to go to three grocery stores (Safeway being the third) to cover it all. TJ’s has terrible produce and WF produce is more expensive, I think.

  21. Shoppers should take advantage of Whole Foods’ bulk bins, which sell a variety of organic grains at prices much lower than you would pay for non-organic versions at supermarkets such as Safeway which do not have bulk bins e.g. Safeway buckwheat groats about $4 for a 13 ounce package, WF price under $2 per pound. Organic produce is usually less expensive at WF than at Safeway. So are gluten free foods. Buy your toilet paper and Kleenex in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco.

  22. All I know is if I’m I’m driving late at night with the radio on, I’m not going to drive to the Whole Foods.

  23. I use to think that all healthy and natural food was more expensive. It is true in some cases like this one, but since I’ve been on a diet I’ve found some reasonably priced places. Either way it’s worth it though.

  24. I spent $220 at WF, got home, unpacked, and realized I wound up with high quality food for one week. For the same amount of money I could have gotten really good quality food for a month at Trader Joe’s. Whole Foods lost me as a customer.

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