Ms Apple's Orchard

I love exploring food gems, but also love the stories behind good food and believe in telling visual stories through photos.

fashion analogy @WholeFoods is like @Saks & @TraderJoesUSA’s is like… uh @uniqloUSA,cheap but great quality.”

Do you prefer Trader Joe (TJ)’s or Whole Foods(WF) ? and Why?


As a big fan of healthy food with good prices, I get joy and excitement when shopping at Trader Joe’s in NYC.  I love the natural color, the TJ brands, healthy ingredients and decent price. I must admit that I don’t mind shopping-while-getting-in-the-line style at TJ’s, thus have not paid regular visits to Whole Foods. While my roommate prefers Whole Foods as she can shop at her own pace, and not worry about getting in the line while shopping.  Realizing that different people have distinct preferences, I started to collect feedback between TJ and WF.

I can’t agree more with my fashion friend Julie’s analogy of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – “Whole Foods is like Saks and Trader Joe’s is like… uh UNIQLO, cheap but great quality.”

Below is a summary of some comments I received from friends
through a Facebook discussion. Thanks to Julie L. , Roger W., Joe B. , Starre V. , Julie Z., Olivia G. for their wisdom. 

Trader Joe’s (TJ):

·       Lines are usually long (in NYC) 

o   Apple’s comment: True! The down time for TJ, according to their cashiers, is normally Saturday night and Sunday morning when people are going out. Every time going to TJ, I feel like going on a “battleground” , must get in the line and shop on the way to the check-out counters. I would say if you prefer more “laid back” shopping experience, I would not shop at TJ during their “Rush Hours”.  At the same time, I admire the design of TJ that they make it possible to get in line while shop at the same time – in the Union Square store where I shop most since Sept, I will pass by vegetables & fruits, bakery, meat & cheese, prepared food, dairy, water etc on the outer side of the line, when not getting dairy (eggs, soy milk or yogurt), I try to go on the shorter line.

·       The long line is partially due to the colossal price Δ between TJs and every other chain in the city. To avoid the line, try TJs after dinner ( 9pm) on weekdays (avoid Monday), and Saturday night, or Sunday morning.

o   Also, TJ  has around 20 cashiers that the seemingly impossible line moves very fast.  (fast cashiers with long time > slow cashiers with shorter lines)

·       Despite the line which goes quite fast, price is really, really, really cheap.

o   Almost everything is TJs-branded, TJ owns the value chain.

·       New products rotate in periodically.

·       Particularly well-known for frozen foods, although most of those are pretty salty.

·       Packaged foods: good quality at much lower prices(tortillas/bread/cereal/trail mix/the best hummus around). Core cheeses (i.e. mozz logs/feta blocks) are really cheap here. Some cautions against frozen seafood and fish, meat doesn’t seem to last too long.

·       Decent place for certain staples (particularly cheeses, nuts, nut butters, basic fruits, and so on).

·       Produce not always the best, but for most things it is definitely worth it!!

·       Fairly broad selection of alcohol, although not in NY.

·       California vs. TJ’s is unchanged except that the lines are far shorter and they sell booze.

·       No loyalty program, no couple or deals.

Whole Foods (WF):

·       Unlike TJs, WF is a full-service grocery (includes a deli, meat counter, etc.) Line less of a problem.

·       Price: Compared to TJ, WF has much wider selection and way more expensive, but on par with other NYC grocery stores.

·       Product: Lots organic options if you’re into that

o   i.e.: raw cacao powder and all-natural zinc-oxide sunscreen

·       Fresh Produce: Lots of depth in produce; experienced organic shoppers go for WF over TJ for fresh produce, meat/fish.

o   Lots of shelf space devoted to new-age junk [homeopathic remedies, etc.]; given how carefully stores manage space, their customers must actually buy these products.

o   Best produce quality and reasonably priced if you get things that are farm fresh/local & in-season, great hummus & guacamole, best soymilk/rice milk prices around, but $25+/lb for dry-aged steaks is high.

o   Beautiful $2/lb Roma Tomatoes & massive boxes of fresh basil made for some delicious Caprese salads. Occasional seafood specials.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

·       Rule of Thumb: go to WF for fresh produce, but for party and pkg foods, Trader Joe’s is great - I go once a month and stock up at TJ’s, but buy less more often at WF.

·       California vs. NYC: WF is unchanged

·       Loyalty program, coupons, deals etc.

·       The Bowery location features food stands from #Smorgasburg



Fresh Direct: (

According to Roger, 6:30-8am/8-10pm times slots work really well. Great specials, farm-fresh produce, cheap meat, even 4-minute pre-packaged meals, and free delivery with subscription (Tip: splitting monthly subscription with 1 roommate means thatyou only need to make 1 delivery per month to break even).
Con: easy to load up on too much, but works with a massive fridge.


Chinatown markets/Hong Kong Supermarket: great for produce/fresh fruit, meat/seafood. i.e. : really good dragon fruit for only $3/lb. 20-pack case of Neoguri for $15.

Amazon: good for stocking up—Amazon Prime/Subscribe & Save takes care of the office munchies/bath products. Can split Amazon Prime with Family/roommates.

To summarize:

FD: Meat. Specials. Deli. Delivery.
WF: Ice Cream Specials. Late-night (i.e. 11PM). Local. Oysters. Growlers. Fancy Cheese.
TJ: Hummus. Frozen Entrees. Basic Cheese. Habanero-Lime Torillas. Almonds/Nuts
AZ: Beef Jerky. K-Cups.
HK Mart: Asian Snacks. Red bean products. Things You Can’t Read. Fruit. Chili Peppers.
Fruit Kart: $1/5 Bananas. $1 Avocados. $3/lb Cherries.

Let me know your thoughts on Tj vs. Whole Foods etc.