What should I not miss at Whole Foods?
March 13, 2012 9:42 AM   Subscribe

What non-frozen stuff should I buy while I'm near a Whole Foods today? I live in a city that doesn't have a whole foods, trader joes, or even a good health food store. Today I'm in a city that has a whole foods, and I'm planning on stopping there before I head back home. What are the gems from whole foods that I should take back with me? I've seen this question for trader joes, but not whole foods. I'm interested in dry goods; I can't get frozen stuff back home since I Don't have a cooler. Thanks!
posted by Mimzy to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
We were buying steel-cut oats there in bulk, filling big ol' bags awhile back. They do bean mixes, cereal and lots of similar things the same way. Their selection of high-cacao-content chocolate bars is also pretty good. I also stop there to fill up on Guayaki yerba mate.
posted by jquinby at 9:46 AM on March 13, 2012

If you can take non-frozen but refrigerated items with you, I would look at their cheese section -- some good stuff in there that isn't commonly available. Otherwise, I would hit the bakery section and check out their (non-refrigerated) offerings. The two-bite macaroons are super, super tasty.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I personally like their basic jarred 365 brand pasta sauce...it's very cheap and I like it better than any other kind of jarred sauce. Definitely very portable for your car ride home and will store in bulk for a long while.
posted by handful of rain at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here are my favorites - none of these are specific to WholeFoods, but may not be stocked at your local grocery:
- "high end" ginger ales (Blenheim's, Fever Tree, and Reed's are all fantastic)
- Good local honey
- Depending on your cooking / eating you may want to get ingredients that are hard to find other places (such as Arowroot for making vegan ice cream, Textured Vegetable Protein, Nutrititional Yeast Flakes, etc)
- Good bread
- Brown rice chips or other healthier chip alternatives (Lundenberg makes a great one)
- Dried seaweed snacks if you are into that sort of thing
- Curry powders, spice mixes, and brown rice asian noodles (for asian and indian dishes), and better soy sauce brands should all be available
- Good quality brown rice variants (ie, Jasmine, Basmati, etc)
Have fun!
posted by machinecraig at 9:59 AM on March 13, 2012

Zevia (0 calorie soda), their 365 Raisin Bran that's decently healthy, and those double chocolate chip cookies they have by the checkout lane.
posted by cashman at 10:04 AM on March 13, 2012

Spend some time in the bulk food bins. We get things like quinoa and polenta for really reasonable prices relative to buying them pre-packaged in the ordinary grocery store.
posted by gauche at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2012

A Back to the Roots Mushroom Kit!
posted by peagood at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Their 365 ginger snaps are awesome!
posted by sadtomato at 10:11 AM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can't find the exact name, but they have these hot and sweet candied pecans at a lot of Whole Foods that are amazing. And very addicting. If they have a counter (and not just pre-packaged) you can sample them to see if you like them. They also have a bunch of other similar things like bourbon walnuts and pralines. They are all pretty good and cheaper than you will find at most grocery stores.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2012

See if they have any blood oranges in the produce section. Bloods aren't very pretty on the outside, but they're mighty tasty on the inside. My Sanguinello trees are producing now but you might also find Taroc or Moros. Remember to not judge the fruit by its rind. Bloods typically look small and dried out compared to other oranges but are real treats.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:19 AM on March 13, 2012

Whole Foods is my home away from home. But I have some pretty big dietary restrictions (no gluten, no dairy) and all of my recommendations are of that ilk. Seriously, Whole Foods is a godsend when it comes to finding substitutions. I wanted to marry them as soon as I found out they sold a frozen burrito that was gluten free, dairy free, AND delicious (Amy's Kitchen brand).

Dairy Free Must-Haves
"Parma!" brand vegan Parmesan cheese
365 brand Vegan chocolate chips
Yogurt made from almond milk or coconut milk
Ice cream / ice cream bars made from coconut milk
A variety of vegan salad dressings
Vegan sour cream (Follow Your Heart brand)

Gluten Free Must-Haves
Real soy sauce (Tamari) that has no gluten. They sell big bottles and even little individual size packs
Gluten free bread of all shapes and sizes! (Regular sliced, hot dog buns, hamburger buns, pizza crusts, bagels. Recommended brand is Udi's)
Gluten free granola (note: there is some valid concern that oats may not be gluten free, themselves. Others say that oats get a bad rep because of cross contamination. There are several brands of granola that Whole Foods sells that are processed/packaged no where near any gluten)
More gluten free flours than you could shake a stick at! Tapioca flour is my fav.

"Regular" Must-Haves
Loose leaf tea
Granola/trail mixes of the gluten variety. They have a variety of flavors they mix themselves
Good quality nuts/seeds in their bins. This can get expensive, but if you're looking for raw sprouted cashews, they've got 'em!
Dark chocolate - great selection of fancier stuff
Majestic Garlic brand garlic spreads - SO delicious if you love garlic. Comes in multiple flavors - just garlic, curry garlic, jalapeno garlic and more I have yet to try. An excellent alternative spread for sandwiches, or even just good alone on toast
They often have some interesting, tasty, hard-to-find Asian mushrooms in the produce section
Their store-made potato chips are pretty fantastic (you will probably only find these if it's a bigger store with a large prepared food section)
If it's a bigger store, they should have an impressive self-serve olive bar

In general, it seems like I always find something new and fun to try when I go there. Have fun!
posted by Squee at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2012

  • Cereal: the possibilities are endless!
  • Organic turkey jerky
  • A loaf of dark pumpernickel bread (it is deliciously sweet), or stoneground whole wheat
  • Almond or cashew butter
  • Sweet potato chips or some kind of chip with flaxseed
  • Apples, because they are one of the most commonly pesticide-treated fruits. Your local grocery may have *one* organic variety, Whole Foods will probably have some or all of : Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Gala, etc. I would get one of each:) Also look for pears (Bartlett, Bosc, Asian, etc).

  • posted by invisible ink at 10:25 AM on March 13, 2012

    Second the dark chocolate in bulk chunks. Excellent varieties like Valrhona and Scharffenberger.
    posted by cross_impact at 10:28 AM on March 13, 2012

    I would say stock up on bulk bin items, and as someone else mentioned the cheese counter is great if you like trying new cheeses. A lot of stores seem to have a section of $3 and under blocks of cheese. Smaller blocks of a variety of cheeses so you can try things without committing to a $10 block. They also often carry local cheeses.

    There is usually a good selection of chocolate, and I think WF's produce is better quality than most. There is a 365 brand of extra virgin olive oil that I really like. Overall I think WF sells a lot of organic/natural products for cheaper than you will find at your standard grocery store. So make a list of things you like and see if they are a good deal at WF.

    I buy soap and lotion there. They sell my favorite kind of lotion and lip balm so I tend to stock up.
    posted by fromageball at 10:47 AM on March 13, 2012

    My Whole Foods favorites are:

    - cheese (they really do have a huge variety -- keep an eye out for local cheeses!)
    - beer and wine (same deal; if you don't have a good local liquor store and the WF happens to sell alcohol, check it out)
    - organic milk/cream that comes in a glass bottle
    - shampoo/conditioner/body wash (their store brand is awesome and oddly cheap!)
    - fresh house-made sausages
    - fresh-ground peanut/almond/etc butter
    - bulk loose-leaf tea (and the bulk section in general)
    - local/fresh-roasted coffee beans
    - Nippon Kodo brand incense
    - the curry chicken salad in the take-out section

    Also, note that Whole Foods sells foil-lined bags which might help keep your stuff cold until you get home.
    posted by vorfeed at 10:49 AM on March 13, 2012

    Our Whole Foods has a honey roasted peanut butter that is freshly ground. You can grind your own too, but I swear I could live on the stuff.

    Spend some time in the bath/body products aisle. I swear by the JASON body washes/lotions, and some of their herbal supplements are reasonably priced (depending on your need).
    posted by librarianamy at 11:37 AM on March 13, 2012

    Palm or coconut sugar, for sure.
    posted by devymetal at 11:39 AM on March 13, 2012

    Check out their grain bins. You'll cross something that strikes your fancy. All kinds of good rice, beans, grains.

    Also, if the Whole Foods actually has a coffee-roaster on site, it may be worth it to pick up their freshly roasted coffee beans (freshly ground if needed). They put the date of roasting on the bin, so you can tell how fresh it is.

    I also go there for craft beers that you may not find as easily in regular supermarkets. I think Stone stuff is available everywhere, but you might find some specialty seasonal Stone ales there. The Dogfish Head and Avery beers are usually found at Whole Foods too. Lots of good beer stuff to explore there.
    posted by jabberjaw at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2012

    Check out the bath and body section too. I love their bulk bath salts, weleda products and the brands of incense they carry are the best!
    posted by Katine at 11:46 AM on March 13, 2012

    You can get frozen food! Whole Foods sells some nice insulated bags for $1. They do a really good job if keeping the food cold considering that it's just $1.
    posted by lovelygirl at 12:00 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

    They have chocolate faves labeled for fondu - I use them everywhere choco chips are called for. Smashing.
    posted by zenon at 12:45 PM on March 13, 2012

    If you want to eat some stuff there or soon in the car on the way back (which I know was not your question), and if you are in a store (like in SF) with lavender ice cream, OMG get some. But proceed with caution if it is honey-lavender ice cream (like in DC). Creme fraiche ice cream is good also.

    I agree with the Jason recommendation, the bulk stuff, unusual jarred sauces and condiments, and maybe the one you're at will have the maple walnut cookies in the bakery.
    posted by jgirl at 12:58 PM on March 13, 2012

    I love their pretzel rolls and the Just Fruit freeze-dried fruit. (Just Apricots and Just Peaches are my favorites)
    posted by SisterHavana at 1:28 PM on March 13, 2012

    If you're into over-hyped health drink fads like I am, you should stock up on kombucha! I like the G.T. Dave brand, and the new ones with chia seeds in them are well, interesting, if you don't mind chewing your beverage.
    posted by peripathetic at 1:39 PM on March 13, 2012

    If you're looking for value for money, the bulk bins and 365 branded stuff, as I'm sure have been mentioned upthread already.

    If you're looking for things you can't easily find at non-Whole Foods supermarkets (or non-health food stores, or non-luxury markets, or whatever), I'd say cheeses, chocolate, specialty items (maracona almonds!), unusual produce, obscure craft beers, and the like. I've seen quail eggs and ostrich eggs for sale there and practically nowhere else in the US, if you can do delicate but just not frozen.

    Or anything else crunchy-granola or fancypants that isn't typically available in your town. Pre-prepared snacks for Raw Food enthusiasts, Gluten-free folks, and vegans. A pair of TOMS shoes. A recycled toothbrush. Ethnic ingredients that aren't available where you live. The latest thing Ina Garten or Martha Stewart is talking about (meyer lemons? moroccan vanilla? Carnaroli rice?)
    posted by Sara C. at 3:51 PM on March 13, 2012

    My usual reason for going to the larger Whole Foods in my area is that they keep a good selection of flours in stock. If you bake and want to experiment with spelt, barley, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.--take a look at the baking aisle.
    posted by gimonca at 4:01 PM on March 13, 2012

    I always go to Whole Foods for fresh vegetables and fruit, and Allegro coffee. Nuts and dried fruit (from the bins). Dark chocolate (try Sirius Noir). Coconut oil.
    posted by Ender's Friend at 5:17 PM on March 13, 2012

    The bulk foods are great from whole foods. I would make sure to get quinoa if your local store does not carry it. I usually get soba noodles (buckwheat) as well. The selection of cured meats is good and they would last without a cooler for a long time. If you like kombucha they have a couple of decent brands.
    posted by Black_Umbrella at 11:18 PM on March 13, 2012

    whenever i happen to be at one, the things i stock up on include:
    -365 extra virgin olive oil (cheapest decent olive oil in my neighborhood, significantly cheaper than what i can get at the mass supermarket or ethnic grocers, and works fine for everyday pan cooking)
    -365 tomato paste in tubes (a convenience product; recipes rarely call for an entire 6oz can of tomato paste, and it's hard to keep once you open a can...this solves that problem)
    -anchovy paste in tubes, for similar reasons when recipes call for a wee bit of anchovy to give umami depth of flavor to things (melissa clark is obsessed with doing this), not en entire small tin
    -small green le puy lentils in the bulk section (my favorite type, excellent in room-temp salads, and hard to find elsewhere...be careful to store in the freezer though as the bulk section often has pantry moths and they can ruin your kitchen if not careful)
    -fancypants sodas for making cocktails with (limonata/british-style lemonade soda, dry brand soda, good ginger beer, etc.)
    -chocolate/candy! blocks of callebaut to bake with, tins of powdered dagoba for baking and making hot chocolate drinks, taza tablets, askinosie, dagoba chocolate bars (yummy xocolatl), justin's brand peanut butter cups, etc.
    -if you have a hard time finding it elsewhere at an affordable price, other more estoeric cooking/flavored oils (walnut and other nut oils, safflower, sunflower, coconut, etc.)
    -szeged hungarian hot paprika is the best paprika i know of (i personally like it a lot more than penzey's spanish-style, the more acrid stuff; if you prefer spiciness over depth/nuance of flavor, you might agree), and WF is the only place i can reliably find it
    -probably not what you want given the no-cooler restriction, but: certain cheese/dairy products that are hard to find where i am: quark, good parmesan, etc. (creme fraiche too if you like, but that's easy to make on one's own)
    -pricey, but WF often has good to-go (salad bar, pizza, etc.) and snack food (dried green beans, etc. in the bulk section) options. i rarely indulge since that's a whole markup minefield thing, but as that stuff goes it's better tasting than most places' are
    posted by ifjuly at 9:43 AM on March 14, 2012

    the 365 shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are surprisingly good, and ridiculously cheap.
    posted by dizziest at 10:41 AM on March 14, 2012

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