Whole Foods opened their Amherst store last month, and people were waiting in line outside the store with excitement. Whole Foods claims to be “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” and has a real focus on organic products. Very soon before opening in Amherst, Whole Foods was purchased by everyone’s favorite company Amazon.
As exciting as all this sounds, I must admit that I wasn’t super jazzed to shop at Whole Foods. The store is nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” as it’s known for being expensive. That was a huge turn off for me, as I always aim to keep my grocery shopping within a reasonable budget. With all that being said, I was willing to give it a shot.
Like most grocery stores, you first enter the produce section. I did find their selection quite impressive. I saw things like cactus, large aloe leaves and exotic fruits like jackfruit that I haven’t seen in other stores. Generally, prices were significantly higher than other grocery stores in the area. I was personally turned off by the “conventional” and “organic” signage on everything. Most grocery stores don’t add specific information on all their produce, and just label organic foods with a sign that says organic. However, Whole Foods seems to label everything in the produce section as either conventional or organic. I could see how this could be helpful, but I just felt that the intention is to steer customers towards the higher priced organic products.
Before opening, Whole Foods was boasting that they were going to sell a ton of local products. Yes, they are carrying Bootleg Bucha, Big Ditch Brewery, Anchor Bar Wing Sauce and some other local companies. However, I feel like Tops and Wegmans carry a much larger selection of Western New York grown or produced items.
I was looking at apples that claimed to be local local, and the sign simply stated that they were grown in New York State. I guess I really don’t need to know exactly where they were grown, but other grocery stores will often tell you the town or the farm that they came from if they say local. Oh well, moving on. Then…I got really annoyed. I was looking at the very cute, but also very expensive, bulk section of pasta. They also had signs stating that they were locally produced. Pasta doesn't pop into my mind when I think of local food products, but it’s always nice to support local businesses. I know Niagara Produce, for example, regularly carries pasta made by local companies. When inspecting these “local” pastas at Whole Foods however, I discovered one offering produced in Brooklyn, NY and another from Westmont, New Jersey. New Jersey? That is anything but local! I have to acknowledge, the term local does not have any sort of legal definition, so I guess they can say whatever they want. I just don’t feel that a place over 6 hours away can reasonably be considered local. Again, I felt that this signage was deceptive.
Prices and Savings
Overall, I thought most items were very overpriced. Right after Amazon purchased Whole Foods many products went down in price. Even with this, however, you’ll find better prices at most other grocery stores. I planned on buying a gallon of milk at the store, but when I saw that the least expensive one was $3.99, I stopped at Wegmans afterwards to get one for $1.59.
Whole Foods does take manufacturer coupons. However, there is a limited selection of brand names where you can actually use these coupons. A good percentage of the products were made by their own brands, such as 365 Everyday Value. You can however download an app to your mobile device, where you can find digital coupons specific to Whole Foods.
Eating In Options
The Amherst location has a large selection of prepared foods if you're looking for a quick snack or meal before you shop, and I must admit some of it looked delicious. They also have a restaurant/bar called Bar 1818 and even a bocce ball area. I personally don’t want to hang out at the grocery store all day, but it’s fun that they have some things to do there.
I did find a couple unique novelty items at my shopping trip to Whole Foods. I feel with Wegmans and Trader Joe’s in such close proximity, that area just doesn’t need Whole Foods. I do plan on going back there; not to buy any food, but because I was actually impressed with some of the interesting and beautiful flowers in their floral department. Save your grocery shopping money and shop elsewhere!