We all have our favorite grocery stores. They might be the ones closest to our house, or with the lowest prices, the best selections, or the highest-quality groceries. Every store has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Whole Foods is perhaps best known for its huge selection and high-quality produce, but it also has a reputation for being very expensive, compared with other grocery stores.
So I wanted to know: Would it be possible to shop for an entire Thanksgiving dinner at Whole Foods without spending a million dollars? To find out, I went to a Whole Foods in Chicago on a Saturday afternoon and priced out all the ingredients necessary to make a complete Thanksgiving dinner.
Here's What Thanksgiving Costs at Whole Foods
I went shopping for the ingredients to prepare a classic Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce, using these five recipes. The menu does not include drinks, desserts, or rolls. This menu serves eight people, and you'll need an eight- to 10-pound turkey.
The Shopping List
- 1 (10-pound) turkey, $26.90
- Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix, $3.69
- Pecans, $2.33 for 1/2 cup
- 1 large onion, $0.75
- 1 pack of celery, $2.29
- 4 heads of garlic, $3
- Rosemary, $1.99
- Thyme, $2.99
- 1 pound of mixed mushrooms, $3.99
- Harthill Farms chardonnay, $4.99
- Marz Chug Life lager, $6.99
- 365 Everyday Value cage-free large white Grade A eggs, $2.99 for 12
- 365 Everyday Value organic low-sodium chicken broth, $2.29 for 32 ounces
- Red potatoes, $4.98 for 2.5 pounds
- 365 Everyday Value whole milk, $2.99 for a half-gallon
- 365 Everyday Value unsalted butter, $3.49 for 16 ounces
- Canola oil, $3.79 for 33.8-ounce bottle
- 365 Everyday Value all-purpose flour, $3.29 for five pounds
- 2 small, sweet onions, $1.12
- 2 pounds green beans, $3.58
- 1 pound baby portobello mushrooms, $3.99
- Organic Valley heavy cream, $3.99 for one pint
- Colman's mustard, $4.99 for two ounces
- Cabot sharp white cheddar, $6.99 for 8 ounces
- 2 large Navel oranges, $1.25
- 365 Everyday Value granulated sugar, $6.99 for a four-pound bag
- 12 ounces fresh cranberries, $2.99
Total cost = $119.62 + tax
- Whole Foods only carries fresh, antibiotic free turkeys — not frozen ones. They cost $2.49 to $2.69, with the price varying by region.
- You'll need eight cups of day-old, gluten-free cornbread cubes. Bob's Red Mill gluten-free cornbread mix requires milk, eggs, and butter, but you'll be buying those things for the rest of the menu and there will be enough for everything you'll need to make. Prepare the mix in advance so it will be ready in day-old cornbread cube form on Thanksgiving.
- Buy pecan halves in the bulk food aisle. A pound costs $16.99, so half a cup cost around $2.33.
- You only need three medium-sized celery ribs, but you'll have to buy a whole pack. Use the leftovers for ants on a log.
- Whole Foods has a gorgeous selection of mushrooms, so you could get quite fancy if you wanted to. For the sake of comparison, I stuck with whole white and crimini mushrooms, because that's what was available at the other stores.
- The beer is only used to make the batter on the crispy, fried onions that top the green bean casserole, so you could just use whatever beer you have in the house, or substitute seltzer if you aren't planning on serving beer. My Whole Foods only sold single bottles of artisanal craft beers and six-packs of more ordinary varieties. The clerk in the beer department recommended Marz Chug Life lager, a new beer from a local craft brewery that cost $6.99 for a 16-ounce bottle. As another option, a six-pack of Stella Artois Belgian lager is $9.99.
Ingredients I Could Not Find at Whole Foods
- It was surprisingly difficult (read: impossible) to find Worcestershire sauce, so don't count on finding this in your store, either. Give yourself time to make a trip to another store, order it online, or make it yourself.
Final Thoughts on My Whole Foods Thanksgiving Price Check
Considering that Whole Foods is frequently called "Whole Paycheck," I was shocked by how reasonable Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods turned out to be. I did not anticipate spending less than $125 on dinner for eight people at Whole Foods. It's certainly possible to spend a lot more money at Whole Foods, of course. The store was well-stocked with fancy cheese, fine wines, and artisanal breads and chocolates that would have been wonderful and very tempting additions to Thanksgiving dinner. But if you stick to just what's on the menu, Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods is surprisingly reasonable.