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Old 04-14-2010, 10:45 AM   #1
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Whole Foods Market (Cafe and Grocery store, Toronto - Yorkville area)

This is a bit long, but I'd really like some opinions at the end of this on all of your thoughts about organic produce.

So I finally went into the Whole Foods Market in Yorkville…
Hmm… My first impression of this place, is that it is really cute. It reminds me of the grocery store that Joe and I shopped at while staying in an apartment in Paris, France. Aside from the appearance of the grocery store (being lower than ground level, and with an abundance of cheeses and deli products), I couldn’t quite put my finger on why this store invoked the Paris grocery shopping memories… Until I looked at the prices of everything!
Ohmygosh…
Here is what I purchased:
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 bosc pears
  • 1 small bottle of “Happy Planet” smoothie
  • 1 carton of pomegranate cherry juice
  • about 1/2 cup of blueberry yogurt covered raisins
And… Well, that’s all. And my total bill came to a few cents over $19. No, I’m not kidding…
Normally, my instincts would have been to look at the cashier, laugh, and say “are you kidding me?”, and walk out of the store. But after hearing so many people talking about this place, and seeing at least 20 people walking around with their groceries in a “Whole Foods” bag every day, I wanted to give this whole “trying something new” thing the full 100% (all $19 of it).

I do have to admit, that the produce looked pristine in comparison to our regular grocery store. (Sobeys. It’s even a little pricey there, but it’s right across the street from out building, so we shop there and use the savings on gas money to go towards the extra costs of their food. Ah, convenience. I will miss that once we move to Milton!) The produce was in smaller quantities, but I could not find a single bruise or finger nail marking on ANYTHING. (And yes, I search obsessively for that sort of thing!) I haven’t eaten the oranges or the pears yet, but after adding 1/2 of a lemon thinly sliced to my bottle of water, I must say that it tastes great. Very fresh, and sweet. The lemons were also all a deep and bright yellow, and very large, so would be perfect for baking… However, I could have searched a little harder at Sobey’s and found lemons that were just as good, for 1/2 of the price…

Maybe this is because it’s a seasonal thing, but the whole “supporting local farmers” thing that they vow to do isn’t apparent when walking through the isles. The majority of the produce was from the United States. Organic? Sure. But definitely not local. Unfortunately, we can’t grow all produce all year-long or anything, so it’s hard to “keep it local”.
To be honest, I know organic is supposed to be better for you, and for the environment… But when you take into account all of the fuels burnt into the atmosphere when these companies are transporting the “organic goods” from other countries, isn’t this just as bad for us? Whether you’re getting it from the food short-term, or in the air long-term, you can’t really win with this either way you look at it.

One item that I normally buy at Sobeys is Almond Breeze almond milk. (I love that stuff!) It was on sale at Whole Foods, priced at 2 for $4. Not bad. But that was the only item I found that was lower in price than any other store. EVERY item I looked at was at least $0.25 – $0.50 more expensive than what I’m used to paying.

The café located just outside of the entrance is really cute. The prices aren’t that bad either. They have a bakery, coffee-house and a gelato stand. I tried the double pistachio gelato, and I was impressed. I love that stuff, so I’ll definitely be visiting that café again if I’m ever in the area… It was a couple of dollars for one scoop, but I don’t mind items like that being somewhat overpriced as it helps with portion control.
Will I shop at Whole Foods Market again? Not likely. As cute as it is inside of the store, the prices are just too high. I would end up spending all of my budgeted “food money” for the month on one week’s worth of groceries.

My final impression of the Whole Foods Market is not as positive as I would like it to be. Walking out of there with my large brown bag filled with over priced produce, I couldn’t help thinking how silly it was to have spent that much money on just a few things. I told myself all the way home, that no matter what I will make sure not one of those items gets wasted.

Maybe it’s just because I’m a little bit cheap, but the feeling that I get from that grocery store is that the crowd encouraged to shop there are “elite” organic food eaters, who feel that in order to get better quality food you have to pay more money. Not to judge them at all or anything, but I think I’ll just stick to my moderately priced food, and wait patiently for the local farmer’s markets to open this spring.

What do any of YOU think about Whole Foods? What about organic produce? Do you think it's worth it, or is there not the right balance when purchasing organic produce from places far away from home that require pollution-causing transportation? What about buying local in the spring/summer/fall?


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Old 04-14-2010, 11:09 AM   #2
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Whole Foods has a great selection of good quality products. They carry hard to find items most main stream stores don't. I simply can't afford to use them as my primary market.

I shop at a regional chain supermarket. They have the best prices for most everything. They are even lower for some items than Costco, where I buy most of my meats.

I don't shop for organic foods. They are more expensive and no better in taste in my mind. If I did, my market carries them too.

If i'm looking for unusual items like French lentils, morel mushrooms or good cheeses, I go to WF.
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Old 04-14-2010, 11:33 AM   #3
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I second what Andy said, Whole Foods is not the place I would do my entire grocery shopping at.

Butcher Shop - Expensive but this is the only place I buy my meat
Indian Stores - I need my authentic spices and pulses and I buy it here
Farmer Markets - I buy most of my vegetables here
Costco, SAMS - I buy my bulk items here and I also like the fruit and bakery goods they sell along with Basmati rice
Whole Foods - Specialty items mostly. I love their organic spreads, cheeses, breads (they have a cinnamon bread that is just super and I can't find it anyplace else) and vegan products. I also find things here that I don't see in a lot of other stores, example this pure coconut water that has nothing more added to it. I have never seen it anywhere else. Also their cakes are better than some gourmet bakery ones.
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Old 04-14-2010, 12:37 PM   #4
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...i can't believe you mentioned Almond Breeze Almond Milk! I never heard of it before until only 2 hours ago when my daughter came over with some to put in her coffee and raved about it...and tried to get me to try it. How random! I guess I'll have to try it afterall. Coincidences are so weird aren't they?

I love Whole Foods but muster all my self-control possible when I'm there. I just buy things that I can't live without...like a big beautiful juicy red Heirloom tomato and fresh flowers.

I'm a huge believer in supporting the local farmers but seasonal-items-only limit my creativity. No matter, I usually buy what looks good and then decide what to do with it. Fresh produce handed to me by it's "creator" adds an extra dimension...it's just endearing and sometimes comes with a story to tell during dinner conversation.

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Old 04-14-2010, 01:48 PM   #5
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Love their cheeses and wine. Also like that they have a good salad bar, somewhat of a rarity these days. But that's about it.

I have a fresh produce and meat market blocks from my home, and an Asian market about two miles away that has a fresh seafood department that puts Whole Foods to shame.

I go to Whole Foods on occasion to try and source some more eclectic items, almost always with no joy. Last time I went there I asked the meat department about speck and guanciale and they had no clue what I was talking about.
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Old 04-14-2010, 01:52 PM   #6
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We don't have a whole foods in my area but we do have a Yokes Fresh Market which is a regional chain that specializes in great produce and meats.

I go out of my way to shop here for produce and when I'm near a whole foods also stop there. I find that my local chain grocers have awful produce - and no scruples about selling old stuff. I'm willing to pay more for higher quality produce.
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Old 04-14-2010, 03:06 PM   #7
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I have been shopping regularly at Whole Foods for quite some time, and this is what I recommend for new shoppers at that store.

Walk the store and just look and get a feel for the store. Check out the prices, especially on the 365 House brand. There are some amazing values for quality in their house line. We've been especially pleased with their 365 Extra-virgin olive oil that sells for $22.95 in a 3-liter tin. It's comparable to olive oil selling for easily twice the price.

The value in much of what WF sells is not in the price per item, but in the quality/price ratio.
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Old 04-14-2010, 03:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefJune View Post
The value in much of what WF sells is not in the price per item, but in the quality/price ratio.
There is no doubt that much of what WF sells falls into the category of "Special occasion Shopping" for most consumers, but the quality of much of what WF sells is far above that of mainstream supermarkets, especially when it comes to meat and fish.
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:19 AM   #9
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I regularly shop at Whole Foods, but only for a specific set of goods not available at my local grocer (or not available in a form I like).

A quick list that comes to mind...

Dried Porcini mushrooms.
Loose grains (various rice/flours/etc).
El-Rey Chocolate.
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes.
Frozen (partially baked) mini-baguettes

I'm actually fortunate enough to have a local grocery store that sends trucks to the docks and markets in Boston to purchase seafood and produce. They take custom orders for any meat, seafood, or produce with a two day notice. Prices are even on par with local chain supermarkets. Their dry-goods selection is lacking, but I round it out at my local Whole Foods.

In the late spring/summer/early fall I hit the farmers market for produce.

EDIT: I would like to note that the prepared foods section at Whole Foods always looks wonderful, but tastes Awful!
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas Mosher View Post
I regularly shop at Whole Foods, but only for a specific set of goods not available at my local grocer (or not available in a form I like).

A quick list that comes to mind...

Dried Porcini mushrooms.
Loose grains (various rice/flours/etc).
El-Rey Chocolate.
Canned whole San Marzano tomatoes.
Frozen (partially baked) mini-baguettes

I'm actually fortunate enough to have a local grocery store that sends trucks to the docks and markets in Boston to purchase seafood and produce. They take custom orders for any meat, seafood, or produce with a two day notice. Prices are even on par with local chain supermarkets. Their dry-goods selection is lacking, but I round it out at my local Whole Foods.

In the late spring/summer/early fall I hit the farmers market for produce.

EDIT: I would like to note that the prepared foods section at Whole Foods always looks wonderful, but tastes Awful!

I know what you mean about the WF prepared foods.

Do you have DeMoulas/Market Basket in your part of the state? They carry Pastene San Marzanos. However, they are not cheap anywhere.
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Old 04-19-2010, 07:45 AM   #11
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Nope, we have Big-Y and Stop & Shop (and Fosters Supermarket, the local business I shop at). Whole Foods is the next closest place - a 20 minute ride from home.
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Old 04-19-2010, 06:33 PM   #12
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There is no doubt that much of what WF sells falls into the category of "Special occasion Shopping" for most consumers, but the quality of much of what WF sells is far above that of mainstream supermarkets, especially when it comes to meat and fish.
Whole Foods finally opened a grocery in my state a few years ago. It is gigantic, magnificent, probably one of their flagship stores, and just my luck that it's close to my home. But I don't shop there often, just for stuff I can't get elsewhere.

I will mention that WF is a good place for "Special need Shopping." Organics is a whole 'nother discussion thread, but if you need gluten-free food for example, WF has an entire aisle of choices. Other dietary needs are stocked, and for that I applaud Whole Foods.
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Old 04-19-2010, 08:53 PM   #13
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Good food isn't cheap. My experience with Whole foods has been appreciation for really fine quality and the fact that the food I bought there lasted longer in my fridge so I actually saved money because I tossed less,or trimmed less, or only had to go to one store to do all my shopping. etc.
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Old 04-20-2010, 07:39 AM   #14
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Good food is often cheap when it's in season and purchased in it's native area.
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Old 04-20-2010, 09:36 AM   #15
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Our local "Whole Foods" type store is a tad on the expensive side, but tops in bulk food prices. If I'm looking to try a new spice or grain item I can buy the amount I need for my recipe and not have it sitting around forever waiting to be used up. I love the produce department and the cheese counter. However, even at this market I tend to shop the outer edges of the store and rarely make it into the middle of the store.

Another regional store is where I do most of my shopping for canned and frozen goods.
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Old 04-20-2010, 10:51 AM   #16
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Thank you all for the amazing responses on this!!!! I love hearing about opinions on these specialty grocery stores from different areas that also have a Whole Foods, or something similar...
Nicholas: that's awesome how you can get those custom orders literally as fresh as possible within a couple of days notice!
When I have a little more time today, I want to try to respond to each of these individually.... Some good points were made on the whole "quantity vs quality" issue, and I agree with a lot of the points..
A week after my purchase there, my last pear and lemon were in PERFECT condition. Not a single bruise, or rotted area at all... And tasted amazing still! I was so happy with the small amount of items that I purchased there, and so true about actually saving money because you don't have to throw anything away...
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Old 04-25-2010, 03:19 PM   #17
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I go just about every week & get stuff I can't get elsewhere, or stuff that's cheapest there. (But mainly the first option !)

Larabars and other energy bars are cheapest there. I also like their White Whole Wheat Flour. The Almond Dream (did I get that name right) has a new non dairy ice cream that we like, Praline Crunch.

I've gotten their non dairy protein powder, herbs, and sometimes their vegetarian sausages and cheeses. I also like their English muffins, the kind that's got a few grains - not just whole wheat.

They have an amazing nut free granola that goes on sale every so often.
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