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Whole Foods came to my town, what is worth the $$$

I have never lived near a Whole Foods, but one just opened in our town. When visiting WF when I am out of town, so much of what I buy seems like an experimental splurge, what are your regular buys and what do you find really worth making a trip to WF for? (since we couldn't afford to make this our only grocery store.) We have a Trader Joes, Kroger and other local grocery stores.

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  1. WF is a splurge for me...sausages in the meat dept., fruit tart from bakery, specialty cheeses, but as for regular items, the 365 brand of honey mustard dressing and canned whole tomatoes.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ceekskat

      I'll second the 365 brand items in many products. They are usually well priced for the quality.

      The sausage in the butcher's case it very good. In Seattle most are usually around $5.99 a pound which is not bad for a good sausage and the variety is good.

      In Seattle they have Whole Foods Happy Hours that sometimes have some good prices on food that you can buy and eat in store. They usually have the HH menus posted on the website.

    2. Watch the flyer--often items actually 'go' cheaper than regular stores. AND make sure you check-out their weeknight specials.

      --Fresh bread--usually there is one loaf on sale for $2.99 which is great for 'baked-that-morning-at-3am' FRESH bread
      --Pitas, especially the small ones are good and cheap
      --Nutbutter--especially if they have a machine where you can grind it on the spot
      --Fig spread
      --Gelato bar.. if your store has one
      --Local small-company goods.. ie. granolas, salsas, specialty items, etc.
      --Prepared foods--such as the tofu dishes, cold salads with edamame, etc.
      --WHOLE WHEAT PASTRY FLOUR. This is the first thing I ever purchased at WHF, and it is the only place I can find it.. so indeed!
      --Cake for mini-Birthday celebration.. $9.99 for a small circle cake is pretty good--without artifical colorings and such
      --Hot bar--sometimes I just treat myself, even though it is expensive

      ALSO, if you want to sample anything, they crack it open for you--on the spot; do not hesitate to ask them.

      1. My short-list:

        Graber olives (canned) - rich, buttery, nutty, expensive ~$7/can

        Field Roast grain sausage links (in the refrigerated alterna-food section)

        Cheese selection - they will let you taste; also many smaller packaged cuts to try a few at home

        Crusty delicious breads

        Beer selection -- some occasional rarities

        Bulk-bin sproutables: adzukis, mungs, lentils, raw peanuts

        1. WF rules for organic. I buy most of my organic produce and organic staples like beans, grains, sugar, etc. at WF because they are often cheaper and offer more organic selection than TJs, local, or Kroger stores. They also often have great deals on the "natural" shampoo and conditioner that I buy. Stay on top of their weekly ads, there are some genuinely good buys in there most of the time.

          1. All spice cafe sauces, they have several, heat but also flavor as well. Also love their spicy Carmel corn

            1 Reply
            1. re: LisaN

              Is this a house-brand (in the chip-pretzel aisle)? Or does your store make it themselves--would it then be in the bakery?

            2. I used to be skeptical about the value of Whole Foods but I've come around to it being my primary grocery store. So I'll turn your question on its head and answer the opposite: what things do I still rarely buy at WF?:

              Cleaning Supplies
              Paper Goods

              It's more expensive but the quality of the food products is just better than your typical grocery store. What you pay for the quality of the goods and the convenience of one stop. If I could, I'd buy all of my produce, dairy and as much of my meat as I can directly from farms at the farmer's market, supplement those purchases with meat and fish from my butcher and fishmonger, and buy cheese from a cheese shop, beer, wine and liquor from my high end wine shop, and coffee from my local roaster. It's just not possible to do all that most weeks, so having somewhat close to the same quality from whole foods in one stop is a great convenience.

              Some of the things I especially like:

              prepared soups
              craft beer selection
              cheese selection
              cold cut selection (better quality and options like sliced pork loin and roasted lamb)

              2 Replies
              1. re: bg90027

                I love Whole Foods for teeny tiny portions of spices I need for a recipe, for interesting cheeses and crackers and for fresh, cut-up fruit and vegetables when I am feeling lazy. I also like to buy fish to grill. In the prepared foods department, I am crazy about the blackened chicken salad, turkey meatloaf and tuna salad.

                1. re: bg90027

                  I also buy a lot of organic produce, I find the prices at Kroger to be pretty great in summer with the sales but as the season cools the selection wanes and prices go way up, very hit or miss, probably a good time to go to WF? I don't know if they would have a 365 organic milk in a gallon size (to save on bulk), I haven't been able to find that.

                2. Cheese counter - wide selection of many cheeses and let you taste before you buy

                  Meat and seafood counter - high quality, wild caught at similar prices to my regular grocery store (e.g. Harris Teeter, Safeway)

                  Fruit and vegetables - usually better quality and same price a usual store, sometimes even cheaper

                  Bulk bins - nuts, popcorn, etc.

                  1. I asked the same question last spring. So far I've shopped there about 3 times and bought:

                    hatch peppers
                    farro and other grains (their bulk sale price is on the par with other places)
                    frozen kale and broccoli rab (though TJ how also has frozen kale).
                    Tuscan herbed salt.

                    Their produce is pretty, but much more expensive than the produce stands and 'ethnic' markets that I usually shop at. I'm not sold on 'organic' claims. While I browse elsewhere, I spend most of my time at the bulk foods section.

                    1. Raw milk Parmesan. They usually have smallish blocks of it so it's an affordable splurge

                      They have the best variety of Muir Glen tomatoes there plus reliable yogurt selection.

                      I tend to cherry-pick WF for their sales or for the 365 house brand stuff

                      I avoid with extreme prejudice their prepared deli foods. Have not been impressed.

                      1. The meat and cheese. I eat meat but I want to know that its been humanely raised, not factory farmed, and WF is terrific for this. It's well worth the cost, for me. My store at least has butchers in house, unlike so many other groceries these days, with a much wider variety of cuts than I see at my regular grocery (ie nice thick bone in pork chops).

                        Their cheese department is very good for a grocery (though this varies from store to store; I was in CO recently and was surprised how small the cheese section at that store was) though not as good as a top notch cheesemonger where everything is cut to order.

                        Their house brand products are not $$$ at all. I find them quite comparable to Trader Joes. I get a lot of their house brand pantry staples--oils, canned beans, canned tomatoes, etc.

                        The sales are generally good--if you are a sale shopper (I am) WF can be a perfectly reasonable place to shop, budget wise. Though it is very easy to get tempted by the higher end stuff too...

                        1. I love the 365 sourdough crackers. I could eat the whole box in one sitting

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: Crockett67

                              It's about all I ate when I was pregnant, so I guess you could say they expanded my waistline!

                          1. our whole foods has better bananas this time of year than any of our other local stores, and at a similar price point. As a whole their produce was nicer all summer and at a better price than our local farm - and they were selling produce from that farm!

                            other things I purchase at WF - daiya dairy free "cheese", fish, bulk steel cut oats and frozen fruit. My DH likes the cheese counter, and the basket of little leftover bits that they sell in the nearby dairy case.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jujuthomas

                              ooh I like the idea of little leftover bits of cheese to try many kinds. Hmm what about produce during the winter months?

                              1. re: VBeatso

                                I tend to go to our Asian market for produce in the winter, Whole Foods produce is still nicer than our grocery store in winter. it's just that the asian market is cheaper. :)

                              2. re: jujuthomas

                                I love the "$4 and under" basket of leftover bits at the cheese counter! It's great if, like me, you like nice cheeses but are hesitant to buy them in big chunks because you get tired of eating the same thing and they end up going bad. Today I got $3 slivers of a $33/pound Italian truffled cheese that I've never tried before and a Central Coast creamery Seascape.

                                1. re: cookie monster

                                  At the St. Paul, MN Whole Foods, they often package up the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rinds and sell them for cheap. The rinds are my favorite part and I love to just chew on them as a treat. Not for everyone, but I thought I'd mention it because it's a good deal for me.

                              3. I love the yellow mustard at Whole Foods (365 brand) made with apple cider vinegar.

                                1. another vote for the 365 brand, and for the freshly ground nut butters. depending on where you live it may also be a good place for you to get locally sourced, humanely-raised meat.

                                  i also love the bulk items because they typically have a great selection and you can buy exactly as much as you want (but only if they have the vertically mounted gravity-assisted bins because the regular ones with the scoops squick me out - i've seen too many people shove their grubby hands in there).

                                  i'm not a fan of their prepared foods. every so often they'll have something decent, but most of it is either too oily or salty, or too bland. (disclaimer: i can't eat many of their most popular items because most contain gluten and/or soy, so those may be worth eating, but i'll never know.)

                                  16 Replies
                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    Not all stores have the bulk bins. Last time I was in one of the manhattan stores, everything was already pre packaged and weighed.

                                    1. re: cheesecake17

                                      it depends somewhat on the size of the store, but most new locations offer at least some bulk items. (i know the NYC locations don't, but you guys have other stores that do.)

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        For the nutritional yeast lovers, they sell that in my local store in the bulk bin and my vegan friends love the convenience to buy only as much as you might need.

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          Very true. There's a local store in Brooklyn that has a fantastic bulk section, including olive oil, honey, and maple syrup. And they don't look at you like you're nuts if you're getting a spoonful of something.

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            The UWS Whole Foods has bulk bins; but I find them to be much more expensive than the bulk bins at the UWS Fairway.

                                            Other "regular" purchases at WF for us: 1/2n1/2 (the cheapest of the non-RBGh we've found); beers (bottles, along with hard ciders); and beer from the tap selections (they always have a good local rotation). Sometimes we'll get their soups too but those we tend to stick to ones we know we like because not all of them are very good.

                                            1. re: LNG212

                                              Trader Joe's has great organic half & half & it's cheaper than anything you'll find at WF...i just hate that it comes with the old-school milk carton spout - i prefer the screw-cap.

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                Do you know offhand how much the TJ 1/2n1/2 is? The WF price even beats Fairway on that -- $2.39 for a Quart.

                                                I really wish the "yogurt wars" from about a month ago would come back!! TJ, Fairway and WF were all competing in their prices on Fage. <sigh>

                                                1. re: LNG212

                                                  i misunderstood - you must be buying conventional if the price is that low for a quart. the TJ's is organic, and the last time i bought it here in So Cal i believe it was $1.99 for a pint.

                                                  re: Fage, find someone who has a Costco membership and ask them to stock up for you ;)

                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                    No, we don't buy organic. We buy non-RBGh (unfortunately can't afford organic 1/2n1/2 in the amount we use). (I'd love to buy it from the farmer we buy our milk from but can't afford that either.) Costco's not really a thing around here. But I do keep my eyes open for those yogurt-wars! Thanks for the info.

                                                    1. re: LNG212

                                                      totally understand about the budget. which dairy farmer do you buy your milk from? it's amazing how expensive the independent products are. i couldn't believe my eyes when i saw what Kings Supermarket near my mom's house was charging for Ronnybrook milk.

                                                      re: the yogurt, you do know there's a Costco on 117th Street, right? obviously not convenient for many Manhattanites who have precious little storage and no way to schlep everything home, but if you know someone with a car & a membership, it's worth asking to tag along. it's too bad you don't know my sis or i'd tell her to take you - she goes all the time! maybe a bunch of NYC Hounds should go in on a membership together & just divvy up the monster packages of everything :)

                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                        I had no idea you could buy Ronnybrook in the supermarket! We buy from them at the farmers market in our neighborhood. And I love the glass bottles.

                                                        Yes, I knew they were up on 117th. But for westsiders (and their lack of delivery) it's just not convenient. But I love the idea of people going in on a membership together. I bet it'd have to be on the down-low though. I'll still check out TJ for the 1/2n1/2 the next time I'm over there and see how the pricing compares. Thanks for that tip.

                                                      2. re: LNG212

                                                        i checked for you today at TJ's. a quart of RBGh-free conventional half & half is $1.99, and a pint of organic is $1.79.

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                          Wow thanks! $1.99 is a great price. I'll have to see if I can do TJ as a regular part of my shopping "rotation". Thanks again.

                                        2. I am not a fan of the prepared foods in general, but post-Thanksgiving I can't resist the weekly Monday Thanksgiving dinners at my local Whole Foods. They make a great stuffing and I cry a little inside when they stop serving it every week sometime mid-winter.

                                          1. as an aside, I really like the WF newsletter emails - they usually contain interesting recipes, and they don't come too often.

                                            1. I was surprised to find the various meat substitutes at WF were as much as a dollar less than the same products at Ralphs, the SoCal Kroger affiliate. I've been getting our T-Day turkey from them as well, especially since they stock the extra turkey parts our dark-meat preferring family wants. For our shrunken feast this year, in fact, I'm just buying a few thighs.

                                              Of course the bulk grains and beans are a big draw, with steel-cut oats still around $2/lb. The fruits and veges are not cheap, but always very good. Our big one here also has a good ciabatta in twin packs - don't remember the off the bat, but it's a bargain.

                                              1. Five after Five fridays!!
                                                Five sipers of some featured wines paired with little bites with each different wines.
                                                Don't have it yet, ask for it. They are the bomb to teach you new recipes and trying new wines.

                                                1. A lot of their 365 products are quite good quality. My wife loves their olive oil hand soap.
                                                  They have very good prepared soups and stews. The Mediterranean chicken as an example is very good. The cheese counter is always a treat.
                                                  In the deli section, they make very good spinach lasagna. I’m also a sucker for their bacon\blue cheese potato salad. Also check out the carver station to see what the day’s special is.
                                                  Last, turkey day is at the end of the month. Ordering one of their fresh birds is worth doing, unless you have a source you already like.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: mike0989

                                                    Yum that potato salad does sound good! I don't have a place to get fresh turkeys will have to try it. Thanks!

                                                    1. re: mike0989

                                                      Does the bacon blue cheese potato salad also have hatch chiles?


                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        You know I don't remember. I'd check but we recently moved and they are no longer close by. It was a tasty enough combination though that I ended up coming up with my own version.

                                                    2. We were at a friend's home the other night and they had some Organicville Salsa that was pretty amazing. I haven't checked our local WF for the store price yet, but I see it on line for $5.98. Pretty steep for a small-ish jar of salsa, but it was SOOOOO good.

                                                      1. The two closest Whole Foods stores are both 1 hour away in different directions, so I only visit them if I happen to be in their areas for other purposes. That said, while I used to ADORE the place, it's lost some of its lustre for me. Seems to have dumbed down too much to the regular shopper who's not all that interested in trying something new. Guess making a buck is making a buck.

                                                        Its produce department used to be a playground of items one would rarely see in mainstream supermarkets - samphire (aka "sea beans"), kohlrabi, broccoli raab, multicolored beets, mizuna & other Asian greens, various varieties of fresh wild mushrooms (Bluefoot, Chanterelle, Lobster, etc.). These days, WF's produce department frankly doesn't look any different than any of my local supermarkets. In fact, my local Martins has frequently had items that WF doesn't. And Wegmans clearly outshines it 100% in the produce department now.

                                                        They also used to have a really mind-bending cheese selection, but these days it really isn't any different from many other regular supermarkets. Only difference is higher prices. In addition, they also used to offer some really really good house-made Foccacia that we always bought, but that's disappeared along with the interesting produce. Now the bread department is more made up of sweet offerings than any really interesting breads.

                                                        So when we visit WF these days, we concentrate on their seafood department (always good; always uber-fresh) & their fresh poultry department. Their house-made chicken sausages are inspired & delicious. (Took their "Santa Fe" flavored chicken sausages out of their casings & stuffed some Poblano peppers with them recently. Wonderful!) Sometimes - although not recently - they carry some nice flavored tofus & tempehs. But those seem to be going the way of the dinosaur as well.

                                                        Bottom line - seafood & butcher (at least the poultry) departments are good bets. The rest is up to you.

                                                        1. I shop sales for the most part. If I indulge, I buy prepared foods. Their Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Cranberry salad is one of my favorites along with Cracklin Cauliflower.

                                                          They added a cookie mini cookie bar to my store and I love the idea of choosing my snack from a large assortment of various cookies. Today I chose a Pumpkin shortbread cookie and a Lavender shortbread cookie. Yes, it would be cheaper to buy a box of cookies, but I really cannot be trusted with a whole bag/box of cookies:-). I also love their Allegro coffee.

                                                          As others have said, I find their 365 products comparable to Kroger and HEB. I also find their produce comparable as well.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. Their gourmet crab cakes at the seafood counter are to DIE for...like 96% crabmeat...nicely seasoned ... but I only buy them when they are on sale, kind of pricey otherwise but barely any fillers used...4 ounce portions, perfectly sized for single serving.
                                                            Also like their 365 brand items and I like their organic apples. Their website USED to feature their weekly specials but they've changed it and I can't find them on-line anymore; manager at our local store said "well, you'll just have to come by and see what we have." Sheesh!

                                                            10 Replies
                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                Hey, ghg...thanks but I don't mean that one...the one you posted is their monthly flyer...they also have a WEEKLY hot deal flyer that's usually yellow & red...it used to be that I could see the weekly specials on their website but the store told me that corporate changed the website and now they don't post it on line which is very annoying, thus she told me I'd have to come see what the weekly specials are. ALSO: for those of you near a WF, do they have a bar? Ours just added a wine/beer bar IN the store...terrible idea to me anyway...who drinks when they are food shopping? ugh. just wondering if they are doing this in all of their stores.

                                                                1. re: Val

                                                                  They have the wine/beer bar in their Charlottesville, VA, location. I too don't understand it. You can either dring in-store, or have them fill 1/2-gallon jugs with beer to take home. Am wondering how - once you get home - you are able to keep the beer from going flat. Guess you're supposed to drink the 1/2 gallon in one sitting?

                                                                  1. re: Val

                                                                    wait for the page to finish loading & scroll down...

                                                                    1. re: Val

                                                                      My Whole Foods posts the weekly specials on their Facebook page. I also check their twitter feed for other promotions - like two days before Thanksgiving you could get two knives sharpened on site for free with a $10 Whole Foods purchase.

                                                                      We have two Whole Foods markets in Santa Rosa, one has a bar and the other doesn't.

                                                                      1. re: jackiecat

                                                                        thanks Jackie...if I may ask, what do YOU think of the bar? Not an *official* survey but REALLY...do we need to drink while we grocery shop??? Just curious about this...!!!!

                                                                        1. re: Val

                                                                          I've actually only been to the one with a bar once. Since the store is located in a shopping mall I can see why it might serve a need. ;-)

                                                                          1. re: Val

                                                                            No matter what time of day I go into the store, people are at the bar drinking. At my store, there are people pushing a shopping cart with one hand while holding a glass of wine in the other. I am totally amazed at the sight.

                                                                            1. re: GCBananaBread

                                                                              And this particular WF store is nestled in a plaza that has like 20 bars, no lie...you can walk right around the corner without crossing any streets to a bunch of bars. When the store first opened, the did not have the bar and then they added it last summer and at same time did away with their "hot foods happy hour" where the hot foods were marked down to $5.99 a pound from 6 to 8 pm. My guess is because they had to spend tons of $$ to obtain that liquor license...ludicrous.

                                                                        2. re: Val

                                                                          Its there. Select sales flyer, then wait for the page loads. Once the page has finished loading, select download featured sales items. This note should be on the right hand side of the page highlighted in orange-red with white writing.

                                                                    2. How could I forget my favorite WF product? I love their in-store made guacamole!!! It is usually in the produce section on a bed of ice. I know guacamole is easy to make but they make a wonderful chunky version which I adore and will often go out of my way to pick it up.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        their guac is sooo good! Have you been in store when they have someone making it in the produce section - you can customize it! mmmm. :)

                                                                        1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                          No unfortunately it's always pre-made. I did spot a spicy version once but have yet to see it since then.

                                                                      2. I used to shop at Whole Foods regularly but have given it up recently for reasons of economy, and now I shop almost entirely at Trader Joe's and Ralph's. This has made it really clear to me what I truly loved at Whole Foods: the great selection of beans, rice, and grains (particularly black beluga lentils, which at $2.99 a bag are still very affordable), San Marzano and Muir Glen canned tomatoes, the cheese section, the meat counter, and some of the produce. I also still buy probiotics there.

                                                                        1. Sprouted brown rice, liquid vitamins and probiotics.
                                                                          That's it....not interested in anything else.

                                                                          1. Dairy products of all types - I am really particularly about what farms I buy from and they usually have the best selection, and when those are out of stock, their private label is usually from a good dairy too, not the crap like Horizon

                                                                            Meat of all types, supplements what we buy from farmer's markets and local natural butchers, we don't buy conventional meat at all any more

                                                                            occasional cleaning supplies or natural beauty products but we are just as likely to set up a subscribe and save for the same over time


                                                                            Veg we buy primarily at the farmer's market, which is more likely to be high quality and organic and the same price

                                                                            Some nuts and grains, but TJs is often better pricing on these with the exception of Mr. JudiAU's beloved organic almonds

                                                                            365 brand is usually good quality

                                                                            Rarely if ever fancy anything like monkey-harvested nut brittle or prepared foods.

                                                                            Their cheese and fish are okay, better than most, but I can get better elsewhere and for cheap staples I like the TJs options better.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: JudiAU

                                                                              "Monkey-harvested nut brittle!" =)

                                                                            2. Holiday dinners - last year I ordered a few desserts from Whole Foods which were quite delicious, however this year I went for the full Thanksgiving dinner and have to admit that I was quite surprised. Of course it can't compare to good ol family cooking but it was fantastic and the leftovers were happily and quickly consumed. In fact, I'm thinking of ordering from them for Christmas dinner as well.

                                                                              1. This past weekend I spotted turkey chili in the prepared foods aisle and had a hankering for chili and picked up some as well as some cornbread. It was fantastic. In fact, I returned to the store twice to buy more and had chili and cornbread for lunch the next 3 days. It was the turkey chili with white beans. They also have a "blazin beef chili" which I have yet to try but my chili cravings occur fairly frequently so will probably get to it soon enough.

                                                                                1. One thing I neglected to mention that IS terrific about Whole Foods - their fresh, free-range turkeys. We've been buying one for Thanksgiving for the last 15 years & it's seriously the BEST. TURKEY. EVER. Even the leftovers are moist & flavorful to die for.

                                                                                  We pre-order one every year for Thanksgiving, & have no desire to try anything else. That's how good it is. Pricey at $2.49/lb., but worth every penny. And when we figure in how many meals we end up getting out of that one bird thanks to the quality of the leftovers, the price is more than reasonable.

                                                                                  1. Go there for their produce, meat and poultry and fish. Oh nuts too. They've got a great selection of all the above.

                                                                                    Absolutely don't spend the money there on bread, eggs, any kind of home or personal care products, frozen anything, etc. Also, avoid their prepared hot foods in the steam trays. They do a good job, but they're just not worth the money.

                                                                                    1. I really enjoy their cold cuts (sliced extra thin) and the bulk bins. They have some great seasonal stuff during the holidays too, like spiced nuts. I have never been impressed by the quality of the meat section but the selection and sales are not too bad. Their produce section works in a pinch but I'm usually swimming in produce from the Sundays farmers market by the time I go to Whole Foods on Mondays/Tuesdays.