The Detroit Whole Foods, which opened today, has inspired a barrage of earnest conversation about the city's food deserts and affordability. To accommodate concerns that Whole Foods will be too expensive for regular Detroiters, the Midtown store is expected to offer lower prices than nearby branches of the national chain.
To test both their lower-prices-in-Detroit claim, and the idea that Whole Foods will be a significant oasis in the city's food desert, we've put together a small shopping list to compare costs and options at Detroit Whole Foods with their suburban stores and other grocers that Detroiters -- particularly in the (sigh) greater downtown area--would be likely to patronize.
Our list includes some basic staples (bread, milk, Cheerios, and peanut butter), prepared food items (sushi and rotisserie chicken), beverages (beer, wine, soda), packaged salad, and the ingredients for two dinners (spaghetti with tomato sauce and slow-cooker jambalaya).
Aldi is the cheapest option on our list -- we knew that going in. Marketed as a discount store, it doesn't stock recognizable brand products, charges for grocery bags, and most of the food is stacked in boxes throughout the store. If you like trying new things, skip this store -- Aldi has only one kind of peanut butter, one kind of pasta sauce, and one brand of milk.
It's safe to say it doesn't advertise to the same market as Whole Foods.
What's more interesting here is how the options compare:
- Peanut Butter: $1.89/18 oz. jar
- Crispy Oats (Cheerio look-a-like): $1.69/9 oz. box
- Milk: $2.89/gallon
- Packaged whole wheat bread: $0.99/loaf
- Micro-brew: not an option
- Monterrey Cerveza 6-pack (unrefridgerated): $10.99/12-pack
- Red wine, 2011 Cotes Du Rhone: $4.99/bottle (this was the most expensive option)
- Orange soda: $1.69/12-pack of cans
Basic Dinner Salad
- Lettuce mix: $0.99
- Grape tomatos: $1.99/pint
- Cucumber: $.045
Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce
- Spaghetti: $0.99/pound
- Tomato sauce: $1.19/jar
Slow-cooker Jambalaya (we picked this recipe because it's not only easy to make and delicious but requires a wide range of ingredients from fresh meat to vegetables to packaged items like chicken broth and rice)
- Frozen, cooked and peeled shrimp: $4.99/pound
- Turkey sausage: $3.69/pound
- Chicken breast: $3.24 for about a pound and a quarter(the smallest package available)
- Pepper: $1.49/package of 2
- Onion: $1.69/big bag
- Celery: $1.49/package
- Diced tomatoes: $0.99/28 oz. jar
- Chicken broth: $2.19/can
- Rotisserie chicken: Not an option.
- California roll: Definitely not an option.
- If you want a lunch item, a frozen burrito is 35 cents, a single serving of frozen lasagna is $1.19, and frozen French bread pizza is $1.99. A family sized bag of frozen mandarin chicken, breaded chicken, or popcorn chicken is $4.99.