We Compared Bread Prices at Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods — Here’s What We Learned

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: The Kitchn)

From morning bagels to lunchtime sandwiches to dinnertime burgers, bread is often the cornerstone of our meals. So we wanted to know which stores have the best prices, as well as selection. To satisfy our curiosity (and help you shop smarter) we took a tour through three common stores: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Costco.

The Grocery Store with the Best Bread Selection

We found out that Whole Foods definitely has the best selection of organic options (no surprise), but you’ll pay at least a dollar more for them. The chain also has a great selection of specialty items, including a wider range of artisan breads from local bakeries (think: herby, cheesy, or Italian-style loaves).

Costco did pretty well in the variety department too, thanks to its in-house bakery that makes about four kinds of artisan loaves from scratch. And the bread aisle had a good selection of buns and rolls to go along with the sliced sandwich bread. The biggest caveat about buying bread at Costco? The quantity. Not only are most of the loaves bigger, but they also come in packs of two.

Trader Joe’s lacked the varied selection of rolls, buns, and artisan loaves as Costco and Whole Foods, but the prices were almost as good as Costco, in sizes that were a lot more manageable.

As for what those prices are? Here’s how they stack up.

All prices based on stores in Portland, Oregon.

A Price Comparison of Breads at Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joe’s

1. Bagels

Costco’s bagels are about four ounces each and cost about 50 cents. Trader Joe’s are cheaper — about 40 cents each — but slightly smaller at three ounces (which might be a good thing, depending on you or your toaster). Whole Foods’ bagels split the difference at 3 1/2 ounces each but they cost the most at about 66 cents per bagel.

  • Costco’s Plain Bagels: $5.99 for 12 bagels (around 50 cents each)
  • WINNER! Trader Joe’s Bagels (several flavors): $2.49 for 6 (around 40 cents each)
  • Whole Foods Market Bagel Plain: $3.99 for 6 (around 66 cents each)

2. Bakery French Bread

All three stores offered a crusty loaf of artisan bread under their store label, although only the loaves from Costco and Whole Foods are baked on site. Costco’s are even baked from scratch instead of arriving frozen or par-baked from an outside vendor.

  • WINNER! Costco’s Country French Bread: $5.99 for two 16-ounce loaves
  • Trader Joe’s Sourdough Boule: $2.69 for one 16-ounce loaf
  • Whole Foods Market Rosemary Sourdough Bread: $4.99 for one 24-ounce loaf

3. Whole-Wheat Sliced Sandwich Bread

Although Costco’s big loaves are still the best bargain, it was surprising to find out that Whole Foods’ store brand sandwich bread costs the same as Trader Joe’s. Usually Whole Foods’ prices are far higher than TJ’s.

  • WINNER! Costco’s Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread: $5.79 for two 32-ounce loaves
  • Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread: $2.99 for 24-ounce loaf
  • Whole Foods’ 365 Whole Wheat Bread: $2.99 for 24-ounce loaf

4. Sandwich Rolls

If you’re looking for long sandwich rolls, like you’d get for, say, a steak or sub sandwich, don’t go to Trader Joe’s. The bread selection just isn’t varied enough to stock a specialty item like this. If you’re feeding a crowd or have the freezer space, Costco is definitely the way to go. Compared to Whole Foods, it’s like “buy one get two free.”

  • WINNER! Costco’s Kirkland Signature Sandwich Rolls: $3.49 for 18
  • Trader Joe’s: None
  • Whole Foods’ Wheat Montana Farms & Bakery Steak Rolls: $3.99 for 6

5. Hot Dog Buns

You get a ton of buns at Costco, but you better not have jumbo hot dogs to go with them. At just 1 1/2 ounces each, they’re smaller than what you get at the other stores. For that reason, we give the win to Trader Joe’s and their two-ounce buns.

  • Costco’s Franz Hot Dog Buns: $3.39 for 24 buns (36 ounces)
  • WINNER! Trader Joe’s Hot Dog Buns: $2.99 for 8 buns (16 ounces)
  • Whole Foods’ 365 White Hot Dog Buns: $2.99 for 8 buns (14 ounces)

6. Hamburger Buns

Once again, you can’t beat Costco’s price (although you’ve got to have room to store or people to eat all those buns). We noticed that Whole Foods’ buns were on the small side (less than 2 ounces each). For a bun more equivalent to Costco’s larger pub buns, you’d need to get Whole Foods’ 365 organic buns, which are 2.6 ounces each. They cost the same as Costco’s ($3.99), but you only get six for that price.

  • WINNER! Costco’s Portland French Pub Buns, $3.99 for 12 buns (33 ounces)
  • Trader Joe’s Hamburger Buns: $2.99 for 8 buns (16 ounces)
  • Whole Foods’365 White Hamburger Buns: $2.99 for 8 buns (15 ounces)

More Price Comparisons

Of these three stores, which do you prefer when stocking up on bread? Or do you head somewhere else entirely?