Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Olivers, Other? Which Store Tops Sono-Ma's List?
Do you often wonder where to grocery shop? I have a long list of needs in a grocery store including a store that is close to home, has organic products, supports our local economy, offers good pricing, entertains my child long enough that I can escape without a meltdown or other embarrassingscene, and – ideally – a store that makes me feel like a valued customer. However, I often seem to find myself cringing at prices or complaining to my husband about customer service. Yet, due to a lack of time to research a better option, I end up returning to the same stores that fail me! For my own sake and yours I decided to put an end to this apathetic resignation of accepting sub-par shopping experiences by shopping around for a local grocery store that could best meet my needs.
I confessed that while these stereotypes are fun to laugh about, I still can’t decide where to shop each week. Jenny revealed that she and her family were doing a receipt watching project to answer this question for themselves by comparing prices between Oliver’s, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods . We vowed to save receipts for a few months and to work together to create a cost comparison.
While you can review our chart to compare prices for yourself, much of what we discovered doesn’t add up in number form. (Please note that we plan to continue updating this chart as we gather more receipts to improve the three way cost comparison. Help us out by sending your receipts to Sono-Ma.) Trader Joe’s may seem cheaper as it offers many products under its own label, but what about the environmental cost of all the excess packaging? Trader Joe’s does not offer bulk items. I enjoy doing my part to spare the landfill of more plastic by shopping for my rice, whole wheat, nuts, spices and other bulk items available through Oliver’s and Whole Foods.
There are other expense factors to consider when purchasing pre-packaged foods through TJ’s. While you can buy red bell peppers at all three stores, Trader Joe’s only sells this item in a multi-pack – eliminating your option of buying a single if that is all you need. Add to this the fact that in our experience the Trader Joe’s peppers often quickly mold, and suddenly they don’t sound cheap anymore.
Well if there isn’t a price difference, what is the determining factor of the store that we’d like to patronize?? Interestingl, the 19 votes gathered through Sono-Ma shows Trader Joe’s as the store that tops your list. So…. does this mean moms voting this way share my passion for TJ’s cheap wine, inexpensive cheeses, and 73% dark chocolate? Or is there another reason for choosing Trader Joe’s? Still, the second highest vote getter is a mysterious “Other.” Who could this be? Are Sono-Ma’s shopping at big chain stores like Safeway or are people frequenting other local stores like Andy’s, Ray’s, or Big John’s? Please do leave a comment in case there is a store that Watson – Jenny – and I need to investigate!
Whole Food’s Market: The Whole Food’s jingle is “selling the highest quality natural and organic products,” and this store can boast that it offers the biggest organic and natural selection of any store in the county. However, as my Sono-Ma friend Annalyce LaSource pointed out to me, much of Whole Food’s organic produce is shipped in Mexico. I started inspecting my Whole Food’s organic fruit and did find that many have a “Grown in Mexico” label. Still, I find myself very happy with this store’s bulk selection and high quality meats (they even sell salami without nitrates or other chemical additives!) I am also continually surprised to find that prices are much better than you’d think with a nick-name like “Whole Paycheck.” In fact, on another mom’s tip I shopped at the Grocery Outlet for some organic shampoo and hand soap, but then found comparable items under the Whole Foods 365 brand for cheaper!
Jenny and I both find ourselves returning most often to Whole Foods as it is close to both of our homes. I am also drawn to the shopping experience that includes super customer service, free tastings, and a small boutique-like feel. Find your Whole Food’s store in Sebastopol, Sonoma, Santa Rosa, and Petaluma. See more Whole Foods Santa Rosa reviews on yelp.
Trader Joe’s - “Your Neighborhood Grocery Store” seems to be a Sono-Ma favorite! While I am not sure why other moms voted for this store, I know I appreciate its selection of convenience foods and indulgences. When we started to shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods, my husband and I both went through major Trader Joe’s withdrawals. We made a pinky swear that if either of us ever found ourselves near a Trader Joe’s, we were to buy a store of dark chocolate, orange sticks, and wine! While having their own label allows Trader Joe’s to sell products at a slightly lower price than Oliver’s or Whole Foods, the trade off of having to buy items that we believe perish quickly and can’t be purchased in customer dictated amounts (it’s three bell peppers or none!). Still, one of my favorite dinners is a Trader Joe’s exclusive: a bag of frozen Gorgonzola gnocchi cooked up with prochuitto kisses and peas, paired with a loaf of focaccia, bag of spinach salad with Omega Trex Mix for topping, and a bottle of two buck Merlot. I am sure I’ll find my way to Trader Joe’s at least once in a while.
My son also likes hunting for Joe the Monkey and getting stickers at the check out. Like Oliver’s and Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s also offers mini-shopping carts for kids and parents who can brave that craziness! (Think toddlers running through crowded store pushing carts at knee level!!!) Trader Joe’s usually offers one sample to keep my son’s mouth and hands busy. However, I wish lollipops and balloons were not so heavily pushed at the store. My son does not need the sugar for finding a monkey, and we’d rather not take home balloons that within hours go into a landfill. I asked once if stickers might be in the treasure chest so my son wouldn’t have to get a lollipop, and was met with a confused stare. I’ve also tried to stop checkers, to their bewilderment, from offering balloons. Haven’t they ever heard about the birds who die eating balloons believing they are worms? You can find Trader Joe’s in Petaluma, Santa Rosa – CleavelandAve, and Santa Rosa – Santa Rosa Ave.
Let us know if you think differently in our comments section!