Cheap Whole Foods Products
Since the retailer's humble beginnings as a health-food store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods prices have developed a reputation for unaffordability. Is the store critics have dubbed "Whole Paycheck" essentially off-limits to frugal consumers? Or is it possible that, hidden amid the sustainable seafood and fair-trade coffee, there are bargains to be had? Cheapism priced out more than 200 commonly purchased products at a Seattle-area Whole Foods Market and compared the cost of equivalent products at a neighborhood Safeway. In the end we came up with a long enough list of deals to justify an occasional trip to this specialty grocer.
365 Everyday Value Organic Frozen Vegetables
If you're trying to introduce more organic veggies into your diet, throw some of these 16-ounce bags into your freezer. Perfect for weeknight meals or adding to soups and stews, they ring up as much as $1 less than the organic frozen vegetables in the freezer case at Safeway.
25 Items That Are Cheaper at Whole Foods
Whole Foods frequently offers low prices on organic items in its 365 Everyday Value line, beating out name brands and other private labels such as Safeway's O Organics. There is also no question that Whole Foods, which helped expand awareness of organic and alternative foods, offers a superior selection of such items.
Organics isn't the only category where Whole Foods manages to be competitive, however. If you look closely, you'll find conventional products and even brand-name goods that cost less at Whole Foods. Two of the products with the most dramatic price differences are olive oil (a $4 savings) and whole nuts such as almonds (a full pound for the price of 9 ounces at Safeway). Other good buys with narrower price gaps include organic frozen vegetables ($1.79 or $1.99 vs. $2.79) and organic balsamic vinegar (a $2.60 difference). In some cases, the price difference isn't worth a special trip. While you can save a few cents on elbow macaroni (99 cents vs. $1.29 for a 16-ounce bag), the bendy noodles are a deal only if you're already planning a Whole Foods excursion. And, of course, there are still plenty of products that are more expensive at Whole Foods than at Safeway.
Meg Major, chief content editor at Progressive Grocer, a leading publication for the retail food industry, explains why consumers might see reduced pricing on targeted products at Whole Foods. "Each retailer does have some signature values in most departments that can best their competitors, because something's a popular seller and they do lots of volume with that product," she said. "Either that or it's a loss leader." In the latter case, Major said, "if you lose a little money, you're still able to attract customers to other higher-priced products." With that in mind, try not to stray too far from the following list if you venture into a Whole Foods Market. In our price survey, these 25 items turned up cheaper at the specialty retailer: