If we were to give Whole Foods a title of its own, we’d call it “The Not So Big Store.”
Perhaps you’ve heard of The Not So Big House. The basic concept is a quality house scaled to comfortably accommodate your everyday living needs—not too big, just right.
Whole Foods is like that for gluten-free grocery shopping: quality products, comfortable scale, just right for you.
A few weeks ago, we decided to make a trek to the nearest Whole Foods, since we’ve heard so many gluten-free eaters rave about its selection.
First, we decided to check out Whole Foods online, staring with locating our closest store. We’ve discovered that many stores are starting to offer information online about their gluten-free selection, and a little bit of research can go a long way towards making a shopping trip quick and successful. To our delight, we discovered that Whole Foods offers a gluten-free list by location, and the list for our store was 23 pages long. Blown away. Most of the list was food items (probably the most comprehensive collection we’ve ever seen), but it also included nutritional supplement and personal care items, such as lotion and cosmetics. Check it out!
(Before you gear up to run over and check out your closest Whole Foods, stop and look up their weekly sales and printable coupons.)
When we first walked into Whole Foods, we ditched the list to just drink it all in. Some stores have a gluten-free aisle. Some stores have a cluster of gluten-free products on many aisles. In Whole Foods, neither strategy would work because so much of every aisle is gluten free. We’ve never found better selection—variety in the products, brands, flavors, you name it. If only we could show you everything…
Whole Foods Grocery Selection
Bread, bread, bread. Every kind of gluten-free bread product you can imagine.
We found this bread (below on the left) on clearance: $3.67 for 28 oz (proof that shopping at Whole Foods doesn’t always have to be spendy). White bread isn’t our favorite, but this stuff was just perfect for French toast. Oh, how we had missed French toast!
The freezers (and fridge units) were simply loaded with gluten-free baked products: tortillas, chicken nuggets, little PB&J sandwiches, fresh pasta, plantain patties, dumplings, Indian cuisine, Thai curry bowls, waffles, dairy-free cheesecake, cookies, and pizza (including dairy-free options). Generally, we aren’t freezer-meal eaters, but if this is your shopping style, just know that Whole Foods has the best selection we’ve seen yet. Here’s just a tiny peek—of half the pizza selection.
We actually tried a daiya dairy-free pizza and were surprisingly pleased with it. It cost a pretty penny—you might call it research. We called it date night. 😉
On the subject of dairy free, again we’ve never seen a better selection: we founds multiple refrigerator cases dedicated to non-dairy milk (with extras including coffee creamer) in addition to dozens of shelf-stabilized non-dairy milk products, a robust selection for non-dairy butters and spreads, and several freezer units dedicated to non-dairy ice cream (including novelty items such as ice cream sandwiches). Where can you find a better selection of brands and flavors? We honestly don’t know. Whole Foods takes the cake. (Gluten-free, of course.)
Stepping away from the cold food now (is it just me, or are you freezing too?!), let’s take a quick look at the main aisles.
Like we said before, gluten-free food is everywhere. Whole Foods has tons of dry pasta, macaroni and cheese mixes (including dairy free options), baking mixes, cereal, oatmeal, granola, snack bars—basically, everything.
Did you know that you can buy gluten-free ice cream cones? For real. Blue box in the bottom right corner. Not to mention those beautiful boxes of graham crackers on the top left—or so much other good stuff through the middle. (Not any dietary staples here, friends.)
You’ve probably noticed that specialty gluten-free items aren’t cheap. One of the neat things about Whole Foods is that the store carries so many gluten-free items that you actually see sale discounts. (Our experience with grocery stores with a smaller selection is that items are less likely to go on sale.) If you’re a frequent Whole Foods shopper, this might offer you an opportunity to get better deals on products you love. Still not cheap, but hey, it makes a difference.
In addition to all the gluten-free goodies, you’ll find a good selection of your everyday regulars at Whole Foods—produce, meat, etc. Just keep in mind that Whole Foods specializes in organic options. (The seafood smelled really fresh!)
Whole Foods also has some pretty awesome bulk bins. Sadly, we can’t shop in bulk bins anymore, since cross-contamination in always a potential problem. But if bulk bins work for you, we hope you enjoy the adventure!
Our Whole Foods Shopping Strategy
So, will we be visiting Whole Foods frequently for our gluten-free grocery shopping?
Answer: Not right now.
Why not? If Whole Foods is such an incredible store?
Simply put, it doesn’t fit our lifestyle. Right now, we’re in the rent-an-apartment, work-our-tails-off-getting-through-grad-school, scrimp-and-save stage of life. In other words, we’re clearance grocery shoppers
as much as possible. We’re managing a not-so-big grocery budget so that hopefully someday we’ll have a not-so-big house of our own. 😉
Personally, we think of Whole Foods as a fairly expensive place to shop. However, that doesn’t mean that its products are, individually, more expensive than similar products at other grocery chains. For example, Whole Foods and Wegmans both sell Jovial pasta for a very similar price. Whole Foods simply offers a wider selection of gluten-free pasta products. Wegmans
, on the other hand, sells a wider selection of naturally gluten-free products. Since naturally gluten-free products tend to be more filling and less expensive (think scrambled eggs versus Lucky Charms for breakfast), we generally favor shopping at stores that focus on those products. We visit stores like Whole Foods only occasionally, to pick up hard-to-find items or date-night treats.
But do we ever enjoy those date-night treats!
Whole Foods Summary
For everyone who loves lists… 🙂
- Good store layout and comfortable scale
- Pricier but high quality products (most GF products are priced similarly at other stores, but Whole Foods has the best selection overall)
- Great customer service
- Clean bathrooms (always a plus!)
Who should shop here?
- Shoppers looking for organic products
- Shoppers looking for good dairy-free selection (such as milk, butter, and ice cream equivalents)
- Shoppers looking for a wide variety of gluten-free products
- People who are willing to spend a little more to get exactly what they want 🙂
How to shop here?
- For organic: weekly for produce, meat, and other perishables; occasionally if only for shelf staples or frozen products
- For dairy-free: as needed for milk, butter, ice cream, etc. equivalents (probably once a month would suffice for most shoppers)
- For gluten-free: as needed for specialty gluten-free products (in our case, just occasionally for special treats)
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Whole Foods Adventure! What’s your favorite Whole Foods find?