For years Whole Foods has been criticized, and even mocked as "Whole Paycheck," for its pricey organic offerings, briefly spotlighted by the ridiculous asparagus water incident. Just last year, "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" was still found to be 21 percent more expensive than Trader Joe's after settling lawsuits related to overcharging customers in New York in 2015 and California in 2014.
But now, after a recent acquisition by Amazon, the supermarket chain announced its plan to slash prices on popular items like avocados and almond butter. But has this so-called "Amazon effect" really made a dent in our grocery bills? We decided to find out by comparing some of the most common items at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's stores in New York City.
A gallon of 1% milk was nearly the same at both stores, but TJ's was able to edge out WF with a 30-cent discount.
Trader Joe's: $3.69
Whole Foods: $3.99
A loaf of generic brand whole-wheat bread demonstrated the common disparity between the two supermarkets, with Whole Foods charging a whopping $1.50 more. However, the loaf at Trader Joe's is not organic.
Trader Joe's: $1.99
Whole Foods: $3.49
Whole Foods proudly touted its new prices with bright orange tags emblazoned with the Amazon logo, flaunting a price drop of 50 cents and charging a whole $1 less for its "cage-free plus" large brown eggs than what Trader Joe's charged for its extra-large organic brown eggs. (Conventional large eggs at Trader Joe's will only set you back $1 total.)
Trader Joe's: $3.99
Whole Foods: $2.99
Thanks to packing larger portions, Whole Foods beat Trader Joe's in the produce aisle. At TJ's, 16 ounces of chopped kale would cost $3.66.
Trader Joe's: $2.29 for 10 ounces
Whole Foods: $2.99 for 16 ounces
Again, Whole Foods just barely slid by its notoriously affordable competition with a 13-cent difference on everyone's favorite toast topping: organic avocados. (However, if you'd rather buy conventional, those are just $1.12 each at TJ's.)
Trader Joe's: $6.49 for four ($1.62 each)
Whole Foods: $1.49 each
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
Anytime you're grocery shopping, you can expect to spend a good chunk of change in the meat aisle. But saving anything over a dollar per pound can add up quickly, which is why this $1.50/pound difference between Trader Joe's and Whole Foods on organic boneless, skinless chicken breast gave us pause.
Trader Joe's $6.49 per pound
Whole Foods: $7.99 per pound
When you want to splurge on fancy cheeses for Wine Wednesday, hit up the Whole Foods cheese counter. But for everyday sharp Cheddar, it's still best to buy at Trader Joe's, where most of the offerings are nearly half the price.
Trader Joe's: $4.99 per pound
Whole Foods: $3.99 for 8 ounces ($7.98 per pound)
Natural Peanut Butter
In another close call—that could fluctuate in the future—natural peanut butter is just barely cheaper at Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's: $3.49
Whole Foods: $3.99
We were nearly dumbfounded to see the prices of whole-wheat pasta—from fusilli to penne to spaghetti—were exactly the same at both stores. Has this ever happened before?!
Trader Joe's: $1.49
Whole Foods: $1.49
The Bottom Line
With so much flip-flopping between which store had the lower price, it was hard to guess which would come out on top in our battle of the bills. With big price tag wins on chicken and bread, we were leaning toward a Trader Joe's victory. And we were right—just not by as much as we were thinking. Our groceries rang up to $36.28 at TJ's and $40.87 at Whole Foods, which is about a 10 percent markup.