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Whole Foods -- falling short of my expectations

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Whole Foods finally opened in my area about two weeks ago. So far I've shopped there three times. My first impression on my first trip there was a giant WOW! Everything was displayed so beautifully, produce looking just-picked, meats looking as good as any I've seen anywhere, fresh fish, whole, on ice totally impressive. But now that I've actually shopped there, my list of what-not-to-buy-again is growing. Yesterday I bought chicken thighs that, once I got them home and out of the package, totally grossed me out. There were pin feathers everywhere that had been cleverly tucked in so I couldn't see them through the packaging, and the chicken smelled, well, chicken-y. Not spoiled, but not as fresh as I would have expected. Note to self: don't buy any more chicken at WF. I've bought three different kinds of bread from the bakery now, and all three times tasted bland. Bread - added to my "don't buy" list. Twice at the deli counter I've looked for pancetta. The tag for pancetta is in the counter window, but twice, no pancetta. Other purchases were fine, but on average, higher priced than the same products in other markets. My conclusion: Wegman's beats Whole Foods hands down.

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  1. The chicken at Whole Foods is typically organic and/or kosher, so finding leftover feathers is actually pretty common. It's not a quality issue -- their meat is very high quality.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      This chicken wasn't Kosher. It was probably organic -- but does that preclude proper cleaning? It matters when the chicken skin is meant to be eaten.

      1. re: CindyJ

        Did you buy it from the meat counter or the pre-packaged stuff?

        I don't have a local WF, but I do make a pilgrimage to the closest (2 hours away) to stock the freezer and pantry every few months. You just have to know what to buy and what not to buy. I think that overall it's a better shopping experience than the typical grocery store. Have you tried their bacon?

        1. re: G8ornurse

          I bought packaged chicken thighs. I don't know that I saw chicken thighs in the meat counter, not packaged; then again, I didn't look too hard. I figured the packaged parts would be fine.

          I'm curious, G8ornurse -- what's on your buy/don't buy lists?

          1. re: CindyJ

            My husband and I are both gluten-intolerant and are also foodies. So we cannot always find a good selection of acceptable gluten-free products in our relatively small town. We either buy from Amazon or WF; WF mostly for the more perishable items like bread. My husband's sweet tooth usually likes to buy a few different types of GF cookies.
            I find the WF giant tin of olive oil is more reasonably priced than any store near me for the same quality.
            I always have several pounds of their market bacon and "southern-raised sausage patties" in the freezer for unexpected brunch guests or dishes that call for bacon. I also like to buy a few of their other sausage varieties to keep in the freezer for quick, weeknight dinners.
            Some of their bulk snacks are pretty tasty and reasonable too. Sometimes I even find organic butter and dairy products (especially their 365 organic yogurt) for far more reasonable prices than the equivalents at my local grocery.
            In Florida they also have a really yummy, "locally made" hummus that is almost as good as my husband's Armenian family recipe.
            And this may sound strange, but WF their own nice, and very reasonably priced, line of bath products (body wash, lotion, etc.).
            The husband's sweet tooth also tends to raid the candy aisle with the excuse, "but it's Organic; how bad can it be?"

            1. re: CindyJ

              After reading your post and replies, should it matter if the chic was pre-packed or not? Depending on what you paid, I'd want to know if the chic was oganic etc. If organic, I'm OK with a few missed pin feathers but, the smell....sorry that's where I'd draw the line. If that's what it takes to get good poultry, I'm go'in to my local butcher.

      2. We find that Whole Foods is not suitable (to us) for a complete shopping trip. Not only would the total bill be outrageously expensive, but some items just aren't that great. Bread is one example. We've also found that the exact same item - same label - is significantly cheaper atTrader Joe's or even Kroger. What we do get from WF regularly is fish, fruit, 'General Tso's Vegan Chicken' from the deli, vegan pies from the bakery (not as sweet as other store bought pies), and certain granolas and snack items.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mojoeater

          I have to say, we've been enjoying several of the granolas from the bulk foods department. Also in that same department, I've been impressed with their selection of dried mushrooms, although I haven't yet purchased any.

        2. I agree with you about Whole Foods bread - it has no character. I buy a lot of their 365 brand items, and I've been generally pleased with the canned tomatoes, pasta, olive oil, everyday cheeses like cheddar and Monterey Jack, and tongol tuna (although I'm still pissed off about the change from 6 oz cans to 5). They have decent tomatoes in the winter, cheaper than the hothouse grower at my green market. I like their Pleasant Morning Buzz coffee. Their prices are competitive for beer. They often have the 1000g Fage yogurt on sale for $5.99 (my local supermarket charges $8.49). Lately the seafood prices have been out of control, but every so often I score some Maine shrimp for about $6/lb, or 2 lbs of mussels for $5. And I like the bulk bins for rice and beans and the like. Whole Foods will never be my only source, but for some things it's very useful.

          1. I hate their bread.

            3 Replies
            1. re: IndyGirl

              I've purchased their bread three times ( I should've stopped after the second time) and each time there was a moldy slice mid loaf.

              1. re: pepperjam

                Once I bought some, and it was quite doughy in the middle. Also, they are often stale. Finally, the flavor just sucks, in my opinion...either they taste "off" (over proofed? not sure) or just totally bland and tasteless.

                I'd rather make my own or stop by the european-style bakery in town, even though it's far out of my way.

                1. re: IndyGirl

                  I agree, IndyGirl- the flavor of the bread is off. I tried the Sourdough and there wasn't that nice tang associated with that style of bread.

            2. the first trick to Whole Foods is buying on sale; where we live in NJ, WF sale prices are often the rock bottom price to be found anywhere. Second, many hard to find items can be ordered from WF--their staff is very very well trained. We return anything that doesn't satisfy without problem. Also, we shop the wonderful bulk section a lot, and finally, find that produce is SIGNIFICANTLY better than the competition, especially organic apples and strawberries.