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Is Whole Foods really more expensive?, part two

Posted by Rob Anderson  February 18, 2011 01:23 PM

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wholefoods1.JPGThe prices at Whole Foods on dry goods and staples may be comparable to its rivals, but on meat and produce the store is pricier than its competition. That, at least, was the argument made by many readers in response to my post this week arguing Whole Foods isn't really expensive as people think it is.

So I went back to all of the stores (except Hi Lo, which isn't selling produce or meat anymore) and discovered my critics have a point — sort of.

Fruits and vegitables at Whole Foods can get pricey if you buy the wrong items. But if you're a smart shopper, buying produce there turns out to be the same as buying produce at the other stores. For example, regular tomatoes at Whole Foods were $3.99 per pound, which is a dollar more than at Stop & Shop, Shaw's and Foodie's. But plum tomatoes were generally cheaper at Whole Foods than they were at other stores (Whole Foods, $1.99; Stop & Shop, $2.99; Shaw's, $2.49; Foodie's, $1.99). Likewise, while oranges were 50 cents more expensive per pound at Whole Foods, green peppers there were a dollar cheaper than at the other stores. If a shopper happened to be buying tomatoes, oranges and green peppers this week, the price fluctuation at the store would have evened themselves out.

When it comes to proteins, however, Whole Foods is hands down the most expensive store. Of course, all of Whole Foods’ meats are organic or responsibly raised — but for this experiment, that’s besides the point. (The original question I was trying to answer through my survey was, "Will Jamaica Plain residents spend much more on groceries once a new Whole Foods replaces their neighborhood's Hi Lo market.") A basket filled with tilapia fillets, ground beef, a whole chicken, and pork chops would cost $24.16 per pound at Whole Foods, $17.06 at Stop & Shop, $19.96 at Shaw’s, and $16.66 at Foodie’s. That's a considerable spike.

So my revised advice to the residents of Jamaica Plain: When Whole Foods moves into the neighborhood, go to Stop & Shop for proteins — or seriously consider becoming a vegetarian.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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