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Jun 11, 2008 12:14 PM

Which is less expensive: Whole Foods or Rainbow Grocery?


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    1. I'm going to go with, in large part, that it depends on what you buy.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ccbweb

        True. On the other hand, someone trying to stretch a tight budget might well do a fair amount of shopping at Rainbow, particularly in the bulk section, and would probably best avoid Whole Foods except maybe for the occasional loss leader.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          I resemble that remark. Of course, the 10 percent discount for senior citizens at RF helps, too.

        2. re: ccbweb

          Depends on what you buy. Some items are comparable. Rainbow has excellent prices on bulk foods and cheeses. Can't be beat by WF except for maybe occasional loss leaders.

        3. Most definitely Rainbow, although Whole Foods might occasionally beat Rainbow on certain items. Of course if you want to buy meat products @ Rainbow you're out of luck, they don't carry anything to do with meat which is a bummer for me. I would probably shop exclusively at Rainbow if they carried meat, but as it is I rarely shop there and bounce around to various stores to get everything I need at prices I can afford that meets my quality standards.

          Why why why Rainbow, what is so wrong with meat, especially supporting sustainable producers like Niman or Prather Ranch???

          5 Replies
          1. re: virtualguthrie

            Rainbow is a worker-owned collective / cooperative that grew out of a vegetarian ashram. Most of the worker-owners are still vegetarians and they choose not to sell meat.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I guess I really can't hold it against them it's just that here in SF proper we have dearth of quality grocery stores with affordable prices and high quality food. I'm certainly not going to a regular supermarket, Whole Foods is just too damn expensive, and most of the other markets that care about quality are also too expensive or don't have everything I need. Enter Rainbow, great prices due to high volume, massive selection, high quality products, good cheese department, perhaps a bit lacking in the gourmet items department but alas, no butcher.

              In Berkeley, you have the Berkeley Bowl which I believe has a butcher, Santa Cruz has a plethora of great markets with natural foods and quality butchers, I guess what I'm wondering is why San Francisco can't have just one?!?!

              1. re: virtualguthrie

                I'm with ya, vg. I really wish they sold meat, but I love them for their bulk selection. Why would someone buy a container of oregano for $4 when you can get the same amount for 20 cents? I love them for their cheese selection. WF has its own set of rules for what it won't carry (maraschino cherries, Muscovy duck [or maybe it was Grimaud], and Wondra cake flour spring to mind). I wish WF had better choices in chicken too. I don't want Rocky or Rosie!

                The big bummer for me with Rainbow is that I usually want a cup of coffee to carry around that giant store. They apparently have been discussing having a coffee stand for a couple of years and can't agree. One guy claimed they'd need two extra staff members just to clean up the cups and/or spills. Hmm?

                1. re: Atomica

                  I chuckled in recognition at your comment about WF's set of rules for what they carry. I once asked the cheesemonger if they carried Old Amsterdam, and was regaled with a lengthy lecture about why they don't (the upshot being it contains preservatives). Finally he offered me an alternative four-year-aged gouda, which is all I really needed.

            2. re: virtualguthrie

              I doubt that the Rainbow workers are impressed by the fact that a major portion of Prather Ranch's business is supplying tissues to the pharmaceutical industry; and I imagine Niman Ranch gets enough "support" from the likes of Costco and Chipotle to keep Rainbow workers from worrying about thier bottom line.

              I'm a carnivore myself (and who says I have to do all my shopping at one store?) but I admire the democratic way Rainbow is run. At one point, you might recall, management proposed boycotting Israeli goods to support the Palestinian cause, but were overruled by a vote by the rank and file.

              They are not particularly rabid or doctrinaire about their vegetarian beliefs; at one time their website had a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium's sustainability "cheat sheet" for customers who CHOSE to eat fish.

            3. Probably Rainbow. For instance, fresh Morel mushrooms were $18 a pound last Sunday. Does anyone have a recent datapoint for Whole Foods? That may sound expensive, but I'm finding dried morels for $160 and up a pound online, and the mushrooms I bought were far from water logged. Certainly not 80% water.

              Plus which, I trust Rainbow's relationships with local foragers more, especially considering Whole Foods had to pull morels from its shelves in Northern California May 10 2008 because some were supposedly poisonous:

              2 Replies
              1. re: SteveG

                Any follow up on WF pulling mushrooms? All that report says is: "Contra Costa County Health officials are testing mushrooms sold at the San Ramon Whole Foods store in response to a customer complaint that they are poisonous."

                It's pretty hard to confuse a morel with a poisonous mushroom if you are at all familiar with mushrooms.

                In any event, $18 a lb for morels is a great price, thanks for the tip! A pound is a LOT of morels, even fresh.

                1. re: Pistou

                  If you do go, try to go early in the day as I've noticed things like the clark summit eggs sell out quickly, so I'm guessing morels at a good price would too.

                  To expand on the relationship with local foragers, Rainbow's cooperative ownership/staffing structure dictates that the person stocking the foraged produce also is involved with the purchasing process. They're much more likely to be able to identify mushrooms as they put them out than the average produce person at Whole Foods, who wouldn't be the buyer or necessarily know who the buyer is.

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