Whole Foods' reputation for being pricey earned it the nickname "Whole Paycheck," but the grocery chain, which specializes in organic fare, does offer some deals. If you need to run in to pick up a specialty item, it's worth checking out several products that are competitively priced, said Gina Briles, a writer for Cheapism.com who has researched Whole Foods price comparisons.
That said, if you're looking for the biggest bang for your buck, you "can't do all of your shopping at Whole Foods," said Briles.
Not everything Whole Foods sells is priced at a premium. Several items -- even when not on sale -- cost the same or less as similar items at other grocery and supermarket chains.
Increasing competition from other grocers offering premium products has led Whole Foods to lower its prices and offer more promotions such as one-day sales on select items. Several of Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value brand products are priced low, and although there are no Whole Foods discount codes currently available, the chain does publish its Whole Foods sales flier online, which can be searched by store location and downloaded as a PDF.
Read on to find out which Whole Foods deals are the best -- and which are the worst.
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Best: Organic milk
A gallon of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value organic milk costs 20 cents to $1 less than the store brands of other supermarkets we checked. Only low-cost grocery chain Trader Joe's has a price as low as Whole Foods' $5.99.
Best: Non-dairy milk
For people who can't consume dairy or choose not to, Whole Foods has competitive pricing on its store-brand milk alternatives. According to research by Cheapism.com, a 32-ounce carton of 365 Everyday Value rice milk is about $1 less than the Rice Dream brand at Safeway. And we found that a 64-ounce carton of 365 organic soy milk at Whole Foods is the same price as Trader Joe's organic soy milk -- $2.99.
Best: Organic olive oil
Briles said that one of the best deals at Whole Foods is its 365 brand organic olive oil, which is priced lower than name brands and other supermarkets' organic store brands. For example, we found that a 33.8-ounce bottle of 365 organic olive oil costs $3 less than a 24.3-ounce bottle of Newman's Own organic olive oil at Kroger and about 5 cents less per ounce than the Wild Oats brand at Walmart.
Best: Organic chicken broth
At $1.99, a 32-ounce carton of 365 brand organic chicken broth at Whole Foods is priced 30 to 40 cents less than Trader Joe's and the supermarkets we checked. It's even a penny less than the Wild Oats 32-ounce carton of organic chicken broth at Walmart.
Best: Organic pasta
Most pastas aren't expensive, but you'll find especially good prices on the Whole Foods 365 brand organic pastas. For example, at $1.29, a 16-ounce box of 365 brand spaghetti is 10 cents less than the same size box of Wild Oats organic spaghetti at Walmart and 60 cents less than Kroger's Simple Truth brand. Also, the price of 365 brand conventional pasta is the same as or lower than the prices of name-brand and store-brand pastas at the supermarkets we checked.
Best: Almond butter
This alternative to peanut butter isn't cheap, so you'll save money by stocking up on jars of it at Whole Foods. You can get a 16-ounce jar at Whole Foods for $1 less than at Trader Joe's, according to Cheapism.com. We also found that the Whole Foods price is lower than the cost of Kroger's Simple Truth almond butter and the Maranatha brand at Walmart.
Best: Organic maple syrup
You can drizzle your pancakes with organic maple syrup for less money with the Whole Foods 365 brand, which we found sells for $7.99 for 12 ounces. This price per ounce beats smaller bottles at Kroger and Walmart by several cents.
Best: Organic coconut oil
If you like to use coconut oil for cooking or skin or hair care, Briles said you'll get a good deal with the Whole Foods 365 brand. According to Cheapism.com, a 14-ounce jar is a few dollars less than the Spectrum-brand organic coconut oil at Safeway. And we found that the 365 brand jar is $1 less than Kroger's Simple Truth brand.
Best: Long-grain brown rice
Trader Joe's specialty food offerings often are a low-cost alternative to many Whole Foods products. But Cheapism.com found that Whole Foods has the lower price on long-grain brown rice, at $5.79 for a 5-pound bag ($1.16 per pound) versus $3.29 for a 2-pound bag ($1.65 per pound) at Trader Joe's -- a savings of about 50 cents per pound. Stephanie Nelson, The Coupon Mom, said that Whole Foods' rice and grains sold in bulk -- where you scoop the amount you want out of a bin and into a bag -- offer savings over packaged versions of those items.
Many of Whole Foods' bakery items are not bargains, said Nelson. But we found that the organic French baguettes were a good deal at $1.29. Non-organic baguettes at Kroger and Trader Joe's were 20 cents to 70 cents more, respectively.
Although Whole Foods does have sales on meat, its prices rarely go as low as supermarket sale prices, said Teri Gault, CEO of grocery savings website TheGroceryGame.com. And Whole Foods' "regular prices are most always higher than supermarkets' regular prices on any meat, whether organic or not," she said. For example, you'll pay twice as much for a non-organic steak at Whole Foods as you would for the same USDA-grade steak at supermarkets, Gault said.
Worst: Organic chicken
Whole organic chickens usually cost $4 to $5 per pound at Whole Foods, while the average price at supermarkets is $3.50 per pound, Gault said. Trader Joe's charges just $2.69 per pound. We also found that Trader Joe's undercuts Whole Foods' price on organic chicken breasts by $3 per pound.
Name-brand cereals tend to be less expensive at supermarkets or discount stores that carry the same brands as Whole Foods, said Nelson. Even Whole Foods' 365 brand cereal costs more than other stores' own brands. For example, we found a 12.8-ounce box of Whole Foods 365 brand Multi-Grain Morning O's cereal (think generic Cheerios) for $3.39 versus just $2.99 for Trader Joe's version.
You can get your caffeine fix for a lot less at Trader Joe's. The discount grocer's 13-ounce container of organic, whole bean, French roast coffee is just $7.49 versus $11.99 for a 12-ounce bag of Allegro whole bean, French roast coffee at Whole Foods. We found that a 26-ounce container of Trader Joe's non-organic, French roast coffee is 12 cents less per ounce than the Allegro 16-ounce bag at Whole Foods.
Worst: Deli items
Whole Foods' deli offerings are beautiful but incredibly marked up, Gault said. For example, whole, non-organic roasted chickens are regularly priced at $9 at Whole Foods, which recently had a highly promoted sale on them for $5. The regular price for roasted chickens at supermarkets averages $5 to $7, she said.
Whole Foods claims that it is the only national retailer with full traceability from fishery or farm to store. Perhaps that explains, in part, the higher price of its fish. For example, the regular price of wild swordfish steak at Whole Foods is $13.99 per pound -- $11.99 on sale -- Gault said. At supermarkets, however, the average regular price is $11.99 per pound, with sale prices averaging $6.97 per pound, she said.
Worst: Frozen foods
Many convenience frozen foods cost more at Whole Foods, Gault said. For example, Van's frozen waffles are regularly priced at $3.79 at Whole Foods, while the regular price at supermarkets is $2.99, she said. We found that a 10-ounce package of Amy's Palak Paneer -- a vegetarian Indian dish -- is $5.59 at Whole Foods but just $3.99 at Kroger.
The regular price of organic and conventional produce is generally higher at Whole Foods than at supermarkets, Gault said. In fact, in-season organic produce is usually a featured sale item in supermarkets. For example, organic peaches recently were on sale at Kroger for $1 less than the sale price at Whole Foods, Gault said. We also found that the regular prices on other organic items, such as 5-ounce packages of spring mix lettuce, are less at supermarkets and significantly cheaper -- by $1.50 -- at Trader Joe's.
Worst: Specialty cheeses
Don't expect to find deals on artisan and imported cheeses at Whole Foods. You'll find much better deals at Trader Joe's. For example, we found that the prices of the various types of brie at Trader Joe's range from $5.99 per pound to $8.99 per pound, whereas the prices at Whole Foods range from $9.99 per pound to $13.99 per pound. A 4-ounce package of goat cheese is $2 less at Trader Joe's than the least-expensive offering at Whole Foods.
Worst: Natural cat litter
If you want to fill your cat's litter box with natural, chemical-free litter, you'll find better deals on Amazon or even pet supply stores such as Petco than you will at Whole Foods. We found that an 11-pound bag of Whole Foods 365 brand natural pine cat litter is $15.99. However, 20-pound bags of Feline Pine Original cat litter sell for several dollars less on Amazon and Petco.com than the smaller Whole Foods bag.
Prices included in this article are examples found at different store locations; prices can vary by location and are subject to change.