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Whole Foods/Trader Joe's

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Moderator1, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I know we've had threads on each in the past. A Whole Foods opened in my burg last week, a Trader Joe's opens about 1/4 mile away from WF next week.
    I've been in both in other areas, never long enough to really get a strong feel. I did my shopping last night at the Whole Foods. The produce is incredible. But it appears on first glance to be very similar to Trader Joe's - except for a more upscale feel and higher prices.
    Am I crazy? Did I get the wrong idea? Anyone familiar with both, please enlighten me. Are there major differences?
  2. In our area we have six of these stores total. I've been to all four WF and one Trader Joe's. I was a regular for a little while at Trader Joe's. I'm still going to Whole Foods. I stopped going to Trader Joe's about a year ago when I realized most all their canned food was from China (around the time of all the problems started coming to light). Apparently, I wasn't the only one because I remember reading in the last six to eight months that they decided to stop buying food from China. We've gone to buying foods with as few ingredients as possible--no PHOs, no high fructose corn syrup--which makes shopping at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter unbelievably hard.

    Here's what I've found...
    At Trader Joe's, you can find good prices on things like organic canned goods, specialty cereals and really interesting frozen foods. The produce is awful, which is one reason why I stopped going there. We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. The bread isn't good either. It always seems stale and never passes my "squeeze" test. They don't have a true meat counter. The wine is cheap, and the selection is good. The closest store is far out of my way (we have two ... soon three ... in the area), and I just didn't think it was worth my time.

    I know that some people have problems with Whole Foods. If I could shop there exclusively, I would. But cost is an issue. We used to go there and to a regular grocer for our weekly shopping trips. Now, we stop in occasionally. I only bought things that were reasonably priced, and I bought from the bulk aisle, which is incredible. The meat and fish counters are great. And if you really want to do some serious cooking, it's the place to get hard-to-find ingredients. Their prepared foods section and bakery are excellent. They have great wine, too. Personally, I prefer it to Trader Joe's.

    You can shop at WF on a budget. You just have to be very careful. I've identified items that are cheaper there than at the regular grocery store (believe me, there are a lot of items like that ... boxed cereals, packaged ethnic food). And if you want to do organic, keep in mind there are only a handful of fruits and vegetables that people recommend you buy (you can find lists of these online and they include things like strawberries and celery, which are known to get drenched in pesticides). Others like organic bananas are a waste. Again, the bulk aisle is incredible. You can stock up on high-quality beans, nuts and granolas for pretty cheap. Just make sure you have containers at home for them. And if yours has a pizza oven, the pizza there is really good (and no more expensive than Papa John's). I'd suggest just exploring the store, finding products you use regularly and comparing prices. Overall, the quality is better. Once you've figured out what you can incorporate into your shopping and stay within your budget, make a list for each visit and stick to it. Otherwise, it's very easy to spend a ton of money there.
  3. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Love both WF and TJ's -- the selection of overall healthy food is outstanding at both places (although I'll agree that the produce at TJ's isn't as good as you'd think it would be.) That said, Whole Foods prices are too high for me to shop there regularly. I'd go for the hot bar or custom sandwiches more than I would for weekly groceries.

    The prices at TJ's are much better -- of course, their rates are rising just like everybody else's, but you can still find some great deals. I tend to do some specialty shopping at TJ's, for whatever's on sale that week -- and the oh-so-wonderful Tortilla Chips With An Identity Crisis :D -- and do the rest of my grocery shopping at Albertsons. It usually works out better for my wallet that way.
  4. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    There are some things I absolutely only buy at TJ's, both because of the price and because it's mighty good to eat. I love hitting up TJ's. I've been inside a Whole Foods maybe once, and it wasn't because I was doing any shopping.
  5. Echoing some of the same sentiments... the produce at TJ's isn't as good as it is at WF. But overall, we save at least $40 per trip going to TJ's instead of WF, buying the same things.
  6. funky_mountain

    funky_mountain Active Member

    i don't know about trader joe's everywhere but mine does not carry fresh seafood or meat. at trader joe's, it's frozen, and i don't care for the produce (not a big selection) at trader joe's. i prefer the fresh seafood and meat at whole foods.

    whole foods just has a larger selection in general plus a hot bar/salad bar. i know people gripe about the price of whole foods, but deals can be had with their 365 products -- olive oil, pasta, rice, frozen burritos, broths, etc -- and in the bulk goods department. however, my wife likes those amy's burritos and kashi pizzas, and they are cheaper at my giant. whole foods will have decent deals on fruits and veggies if you're paying attention.

    i've got a good gig running with my guy in the seafood dept. at whole foods. i get halibut, salmon, grouper, snapper, you name it, and he weighs it as cod or trout and i get a sweet deal, sometimes more than 50% off. in return, i give him a gift card from time to time.

    the wine selection, for the most part, at trader joe's matches whole foods with better prices. but the beer selection is better at whole foods.

    i'm pretty much on the same gameplan as tarheelgamecock when it comes to whole foods. i know what i want there, and i'm not just putting things in the cart willy-nilly.

    however, whole foods will piss me off sometimes -- it's not unusual for its veggies to go bad quickly, and there's one tool in the seafood dept. who is always trying to give my wife a shitty piece of fish when she goes there by herself. not long ago, he sold her a piece of halibut that was complete mush. she rarely does the grocery shopping so she's not as keen as i am when it comes to selecting the fish. whole foods was cool about my complaint -- they refunded my money and gave me a piece of halibut for free.
  7. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I suspect when both are open I will make stops in both - buy most things at TJs, buy a few things at WF. Peaches and raspberries were on great sales last night, nectarines and blueberries were too high. They had some great meat specials. I love TJs coffee and cereals. Never looked at their produce much because we always hit them while traveling and never bought anything perishable.

    Looking forward to having them both available. Not particularly close to the house - we live in the sticks - but not far from work so I can hit both up on the way home one night a week.

    I'm trying like hell to eat better.
  8. Dyno

    Dyno Well-Known Member

    I go to both, but for different things. As noted, TJ's does not have good produce, bread or non-frozen meat or fish.

    I like Whole Foods, but its nickname "Whole Paycheck" can be totally true. One thing I hate about WF (in my area at least) are my darling fellow shoppers. They like to block the aisle with their carts, cut in front of you on line ("oh, I didn't see you there. I just have a couple of things, so I'll be really quick.") let the kids run wild. Of course, not all of them act this way, but sometimes there are enough that it makes me not want to shop there.

    TJ's is not as convenient for me and the better WF locations are further away, but I will occasionally make the drive to the brand new, giant one to see what new stuff they have.

    The best supermarket, IMHO, is Wegman's. It's like a regular grocery store and WF all under one roof.
  9. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    No Wegman's within 100 miles for me. My daughter moved close to one and her report was simple - OH MY GOD! She loves it.
  10. Dyno

    Dyno Well-Known Member

    Shopping there is a pleasure (except on Sunday afternoons, when it's every man/woman for him/herself. The stores are clean, the prices are good (for the things I buy; I've heard people complain about the prices but I think they're reasonable), checkout is fast and the people behind the deli/meat/fish/bakery, etc. counters are all friendly and efficient. The closest one to me is 20 miles away so I don't go as often as I would if it were closer.
  11. You'll find, too, that some things at WF are just going to miles and away better than anything you'll find in your traditional grocery store. I'm a big fan of pizza. So, when I make one, I'll go there to get fresh mozzarella and pepperoni from the deli counter. There is a huge difference between the fresh mozzarella and pepperoni there and the best stuff we've bought at Lowes Foods or Harris Teeter. If you're going to make something special and you really want it to be top-notch, it's worth a trip to WF.

    Oh, and I agree with Dyno. Your fellow WF shoppers can be jerks. They have the little basket carts there, with two baskets. Last Christmas, I had a full top basket, walked away for a minute and someone stole my bottom basket. And the smugness can be a little grating. WF carries a lot of good, locally produced stuff, but most of their food is trucked in. You can do better for the environment signing up with a CSA farm or making a weekly trip to your local farmer's market.
  12. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Upscale and arrogant often go together, so that's just part of the deal. The WF here is like a week old so everything sparkled and everyone, including customers, was very friendly.
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