When it comes to grocery shopping, there’s an experiment I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I wanted to take the time to price match an entire week’s worth of groceries to determine if Whole Foods is really so outrageously priced as people like to say that it is. So this week, I wrote down the exact items I purchased at Whole Foods and took my list to Giant Eagle Market District, which is the most comparable store that is “conventional.” We have other health food stores in the area, but they are smaller and wouldn’t likely be able to get the price comparisons that Giant Eagle and Whole Foods would. (For those of you not from western PA, Giant Eagle is our region’s version of Kroger or Publix. Market District stores are special stores with expanded selections of food, and in my opinion are designed to be competition for the dollars of consumers that are looking for more than just the basics.)
I did this with a completely open mind, as a data gathering experiment. So I wasn’t out looking for ways to make my own preference of stores “win.” And ultimately there are many factors to consider when it comes to where you shop – price isn’t the only factor. I also didn’t evaluate the quality of the items on taste or on the freshness of the produce, etc.
In some instances, one store did not carry some items that I found at another store, so I did the closest comparison. (For example, Whole Foods had some organic products I purchased and Giant Eagle only had conventional and vice versa.) I noted these differences as best I could.
Also, I should note that I realize that a two-adult, two-income home with no kids to feed has a different grocery budget than many other family configurations. This isn’t meant to be a judgment on what you buy or to present what I buy as the “best” groceries. It’s merely a price check experiment for one household – not a moral judgment. On to the data.
|Item||Whole Foods||Giant Eagle|
|Organic heavy cream – 8 oz||1.99||N/A*||* Conventional heavy cream, $6.29 for 32 ounces|
|Pepper jack slices (deli)||7.99/lb*||8.99/lb||*rBGH free cheese|
|Black forest ham (deli)||11.99/lb*||8.99/lb||*hormone and antibiotic free|
|In-house roasted turkey (deli)||12.99/lb*||10.49/lb||*hormone and antibiotic free|
|Organic fresh sauerkraut||2.99||2/$4*||*conventional and canned, not fresh|
|Organic green onions||0.99||1.79|
|Organic green bell pepper||2.99/lb||3.99/lb|
|Organic red leaf lettuce||2.69||3.49|
|Organic Granny Smith apple||2.69/lb||1.83/lb*||*3 lb bags, not loose|
|Conventional Macintosh apple||1.69/lb||1.99/lb|
|Cherry tomatoes (US greenhouse)||4.49||3.99*||*Mexican, artificially ripened|
|Conventional blood oranges||5/$4||5/$4|
|Conventional bananas||.69/lb*||.54/lb||*Whole Trade|
|Organic peanut butter||4.99||5.99|
|Organic brown sugar||3.49*||3.99||*24 oz pkg v. 16 oz pkg at GE|
|Organic NuGo protein bar||1.59||4/$5|
|Organic almonds||6.49||N/A*||*Conventional only – 6.99|
|Sourdough boule (bakery)||3.99||4.99*||*small loaves 3.99, large loaf 5.99 – avg|
|Organic English muffins||2.69||N/A*||*Convention only 3.99|
|Organic raisins (bulk)||3.99||3.99|
|Conventional cranberries (bulk)||7.99||3.99|
For this week, Whole Foods was the better choice overall. You’ll note that for dairy products and deli meat, even though the prices were more expensive at Whole Foods, I chose them as the better option for me, since I don’t eat meat with antibiotics or growth hormones, and the same goes for dairy. So if you eat conventional deli meat, you’d want to go with Giant Eagle. Ironically, the better quality cheese was even cheaper at Whole Foods.
I also made some choices on produce at Whole Foods because of other factors (whole trade, location and method of growth), but some of the exact comparisons were cheaper at Whole Foods and others at Giant Eagle. From week to week, it will likely vary, as different shipments come in and growing seasons across the world change.
I was pleasantly surprised to see some of the prices the same at both places, or very comparable. Also pleased to see that Giant Eagle’s bulk section is so large and also gives Whole Foods a run for their money ($4 cheaper per pound for cranberries? whoa!).
This also makes me note – if I had more time, many of the things on my list I could make at home (fresh raw sauerkraut, sourdough boule, English muffins, yogurt). It would be interesting to do a price breakdown of what it costs to buy a loaf of sourdough boule at the bakery v. making one at home, also including the time/labor factor.
I am intrigued enough by the results of my findings that I am hoping to continue this series regularly (as long as I am able to get to the two stores to do it!), since we buy different grocery items most weeks. Plus, this also gives me an idea if it would be better for me to shop around. Typically, I only shop once and at one store, because frankly running errands in crowds drives me insane. But to save significant money, I would probably make the effort.