If the Name “Whole Paycheck” fits…

Anyone who has visted this blog for a while now, will know that I’m a fan of Whole Foods. While they have their problems, I think that their new take on Supermarkets, especially in how they deal with slotting fees, is innovative and good for the consumer.

Meanwhile, others have argued that they’re too expensive and that their pricing strategy doesn’t do the poor any favors. My previous stance was that if one stuck to the non-impulse items at Whole Foods (The wines, the cheese, the upscale meats), then the prices would be comparible to any other supermarket, specifically Safeway and Krogers. I made this judgement with no hard evidence, and decided to see for myself how accurate of a statement this was.

I created a list of 18 items, which I believed to have been a good list of common items found in several different stores. The list contained the following:

  • 1 lb. Granny Smith Apples
  • 1 lb. Bananas
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 lb. Yellow Onions
  • 1 loaf of sliced bread
  • 1 18 oz jar of peanut butter
  • 1 18 oz jar of Strawberry Preserves
  • Oreo’s
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 2 lb long grain white rice
  • 1 lb Spaghetti
  • 28 oz of diced canned tomatoes
  • 24 oz catsup
  • 15 oz box of Cheerios
  • 1/2 gallon Whole Milk
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 gallon Vanilla Ice Cream

There were some ground rules. I looked for the cheapest product available, but I didn’t scour the store to find them. I didn’t count the consumer card prices, as they fluctuate from week to week. Finally, if a product didn’t have a price listed on the shelf, I didn’t use that as test case. This comparison should be considered anecdotal and not scientific, as there are many market variables not taken into account.

After doing the math, the totals for the above list are as follows:

Safeway: $34.07

QFC (Krogers): $39.21

Whole Foods: $39.82

Conclusion? It seems as if Whole Foods was the Most expensive, but not excessively so. In fact, they were only 61 cents more than Krogers for the same bag of groceries. Of course Both QFC and Whole Foods are both roughly 15-17% higher in cost than Safeway, so keep that in mind.

Does this validate my initial point? I’m not sure. If anything it would muddy my point. Krogers and QFC were both helped by less-than-a-dollar loaves of bread, while the cheapest sliced bread avaiable at Whole Foods was $2.69. But Whole Foods had 79 cents per lb spaghetti, something that QFC would have had at a larger location.

In my own opinion, I think that Whole Foods gets the name Whole Paycheck due in large part to the customers lack of financial discipline when walking through the aisle. Clearly Whole Foods is, at the very least, competitive with pricing at Krogers for day to day items. Where they get you is in the upscale items that pepper each aisle. From gourmet cheeses to hard to find spices, each of these items are up there in cost.


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