As some may know, Amazon recently acquired Whole Foods. There have been a few different articles discussing what changes and potential price cuts one can expect to see with the new collaboration. I saw a recent article that talked about how the cuts didn’t “compare” to what one can find at say an Aldi, Giant, or even Trader Joe’s. And while this is true on the surface, it irked me because it doesn’t take all the different factors into account.
Just like health is more than your weight, the “cost” of your groceries is more than simply the bill at the end of your store visit. When comparing the cost of shopping at a place like Whole Foods vs a place like Giant, it’s important to talk about the quality of the food, as well. For example, strawberries at Giant might be $2.50 and $4 at Whole Foods, but are they both organic? The chicken at Giant might be a good $3 less per pound, but what were the animal welfare standards? Whole Foods definitely tends to be a bit pricey on the meat/poultry/fish side of things, but they also only carry brands and types of these items that have met a minimum standard of animal welfare. Giant has no such standards. I’m not debating in this article whether such distinctions are something that should be a huge priority, but simply pointing out that this is not a mere “apples to apples” (or chicken to chicken) comparison.
This is particularly evident in the pre-packaged and frozen meal/product selection. Sure, Giant might offer a hearty freezer dinner for a just $3, while a Whole Foods freezer meal is double that. BUT! What’s the difference nutritionally? I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “you get what you pay for”. This is certainly often true in the grocery store. Sure, that Giant dinner might cost a lot less monetarily, but what about nutritionally? I’m not saying that every packaged or frozen item at Whole Foods is incredibly healthy, but the $3 macaroni and cheese, pudding, corn, and meatloaf from Giant certainly doesn’t come anywhere close, nutritionally speaking, to the $6 quinoa, pepper, peas, and chicken dinner from Whole Foods. One of the primary ways food manufacturers cut costs is by using cheaper, and often less healthy, ingredients. For example, it’s far cheaper to produce a “granola bar” made of corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, oats, soy protein isolate, and mini chocolate chips (more sugar, corn syrup, some cocoa, food dye), than one with oats, brown rice syrup, dark chocolate chips, chia seeds, and perhaps even a veggie/fruit powder (my son’s current favorite brand!). Of course the cost of the latter will be higher, but the nutrition is also significantly higher, too. The number of calories matters, but not nearly as much as the quality of those calories.
So, yes, day to day, week to week, the amount you spend on your groceries might be lower at Giant than it would be at Whole Foods, but what is the cost to your health? Again, I’m not advocating you shop at Whole Foods and that’s the only way to be healthy, simply that buying comparable/more nutritious options at Giant might raise your bill just as much. Do yourself and your health a favor, being willing to invest in good quality food now instead of expensive health treatments and interventions later.
Aubrey Phelps MS RDN LDN