Smart Buying

Best Things to Buy at Whole Foods

Despite its reputation for high prices, the organic supermarket stocks many items that cost the same (or less) as at other stores.

Whole Foods Market is often jokingly referred to as “Whole Paycheck” because this natural-foods chain sells higher-priced organic fare and specialty items. Check out with a cart of grass-fed, hormone-free ground beef, organic heirloom tomatoes and artisan-crafted cheese, and you could easily pay twice as much as you would spend for similar conventional items at a grocery store. But is the ritzy reputation always warranted?

 

Surprisingly, there are deals to be had at Whole Foods. You heard right: Even bargain-conscious shoppers can find well-priced goods at this high-end grocer. That's great news for those of us who are in the habit of making one trip to Whole Foods for splurge items and a second trip to the grocery store for staples such as milk and pasta.

We visited Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Trader Joe’s and even Walmart to compare prices on a number of popular products. We also consulted a recent comparison of Whole Foods and Safeway conducted by Cheapism.com. Prices may vary across the nation, but the list below shows that some items are cheaper or the same price at Whole Foods than similar items sold in the grocery stores we surveyed. All are original full prices -- not sale prices. Of course, you may be able to find better deals when items go on sale or when discounts are offered. Download a coupon app to your smart phone, or try one of these strategies to save on groceries without coupons.

Organic Items

Frozen organic yellow corn. A 16-ounce package of store-brand yellow corn was the same price at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Kroger -- $1.99 -- and a buck less than at Safeway.

Organic brown sugar. The price of a 24-ounce bag is the same at Whole Foods as at Trader Joe’s and Walmart and about $1 less than at Safeway.

Organic chicken broth. A 32-ounce carton of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value organic chicken broth was at least 40 cents less than at the supermarkets we checked.

Organic coconut oil. This oil, which can be used for cooking and for skin and hair care, is about $2 less for a 14-ounce jar of the 365 Everyday Value brand at Whole Foods than same-size jars at Kroger and Safeway.

Organic maple syrup. On first glance, the prices of organic maple syrup appeared to be cheaper at some of the supermarkets we checked -- but their bottles were smaller. Per ounce, the Whole Foods brand was the cheapest we found (along with the Trader Joe’s brand).

Organic milk. Whole Foods had the lowest price on a gallon of organic milk by far. Its 365 Everyday Value brand was at least $1 less than a gallon of organic milk at several of the other stores we checked. It was priced at an incredibly low $3.69 at the Whole Foods in Nashville, Tenn., that we checked and $4.99 in a Seattle Whole Foods that Cheapism.com checked. (Walmart actually had the highest price, at $6.48.)

Organic peanut butter. At $4.99 for an 18-ounce jar, Whole Foods had the best price for its 365 Everyday Value organic peanut butter. Trader Joe’s had the same price for a 16-ounce jar.

Organic peeled carrots. A 1-pound bag of small, peeled carrots sold for 20 cents to 30 cents less at Whole Foods than at the other stores we checked. The exception was Trader Joe’s, which had the same price of $1.69 for a 1-pound bag.

Organic popcorn. A 6-ounce bag of organic popcorn was $1 less at Whole Foods than at Kroger and about 70 cents less than a 5-ounce bag at Safeway.

Non-Organic Items

Baguettes. At $1.29 per baguette, Whole Foods beat the price of baguettes at the other stores we checked -- even Trader Joe’s -- by 70 cents.

Cereal bars. We found the same price -- $1.99 -- for a box of six cereal bars at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The Whole Foods’ price beat Walmart’s by a penny. And a box of eight cereal bars at Safeway was $2.99, according to the Cheapism study.

Extra virgin olive oil, cold processed. At $6.49, a 33.8-ounce bottle of Whole Foods 365 brand olive oil was several dollars less than the same-size bottles of olive oil at all of the other stores we checked except Trader Joe’s, which had the same price.

Grains. The prices on some grains -- not all -- sold at Whole Foods were cheaper. For example, the per-pound price of jasmine rice sold in the bulk ("scoop your own") section of Whole Foods was nearly half as much of the price of bagged jasmine rice at Walmart. Whole Foods also had the lowest per-pound price that we found of quinoa and buckwheat.

Greek yogurt. A 32-ounce container of Greek Gods brand yogurt was almost 70 cents less at Whole Foods than the same brand of yogurt sold at Walmart and the Trader Joe’s brand.

Pasta. At 99 cents per 16-ounce package, the price for Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand pasta matches the price of pasta at Trader Joe’s, and undercuts the prices at Kroger and Walmart by a penny.

Salsa. Some varieties of the 365 Everyday Value 16-ounce jars of salsa were priced at $1.99 -- 50 cents less than Trader Joe’s 12-ounce jars of salsa and 40 cents less than Kroger’s Private Selection salsa.

Shredded mozzarella. Prices on imported and specialty cheeses at Whole Foods can be high. But for $3.99, you can’t beat the price on a 16-ounce bag of 365 Everyday Value shredded mozzarella -- even at Trader Joe’s and Walmart. An 8-ounce package of cream cheese also costs slightly less at Whole Foods than at the other stores we checked.

Whole almonds. At $5.99 per pound, whole almonds were at least $2 less than at all of the supermarkets we checked except Trader Joe’s, which had the same price.

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