35 Whole Foods Products That Save Our Tails During the Holidays

A grocery store love letter.

November 15, 2018
Photo by Whole Foods Market®

I remember when the Whole Foods opened up right across from the local grocery store in my hometown. It was a big deal. Alpharetta, Georgia, for the first time, had a dedicated place to buy organic produce. As a blossoming teen cook, I used to not shop there because I thought organic equaled pricey. But then I discovered their house brand, 365, and everything changed.

Slowly but surely, my mother and I would come home to each other with new Whole Foods discoveries: "Did you know that Whole Foods has store-brand butter, eggs, and milk? They're pretty cheap." Or, "They have way better flowers than Publix." And I'll never forget the one year my mother said to me, with a sparkle in her eye, "Eric, have you ever had a Brussels sprout? It's like a tiny cabbage, and it's delicious. It was in this 'free' section where you can just take samples of hot food and eat it while shopping around the store."

"Oh my god, Mom. Are you talking about the hot bar? That's not free!"

Though Whole Foods isn't my primary grocery store these days, whenever I walk into one, I'm reminded of how useful it was back home in suburban Georgia. Living with just a generic grocery store that, as much as I adored it, couldn't supply the kinds of ingredients I needed as an experimental young cook who watched Food Network every day, it was nice to know that lamb chops and trout fillets and, for that one Christmas dinner where I tried to go fancy, fresh lobster tails were right there, fully stocked, at the other grocery store. Especially around the holidays, I'd do the bulk of my shopping at Publix, and then drive across the street to Whole Foods for the more specialty items, like chanterelle mushrooms, heirloom carrots, and Brussels sprouts.

Photo by Whole Foods Market®

Now, my needs are a little different. I never leave a Whole Foods without buying sunflowers (they’re my favorite) and those 365-brand Cheddar Cheese Curls (off-brand Cheetos, basically), which are so much better and cleaner-tasting to me than regular Cheetos (which are already pretty good, let's be real). This is a real problem for me because there happens to be a Whole Foods right by the Food52 offices. Curious to know if anyone else had this issue, I asked my colleagues what they can't resist at Whole Foods—and got a slew of responses, which I've reproduced below.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“However, I want to mention the Whole Foods brand (for some reason it does not say 365 on the package) gluten free pie crusts. They are made with butter and In my seven years of experience using them, no one has ever thought they were gluten free. They are delicious and a quick and perfect way to make any sort of holiday pie quickly. It’s a great way to bring or serve a dessert that usually everyone can eat and for gluten free folks they are so grateful and swoon over how good they taste. Not every WF carries them but look in the frozed section where other pie crusts and frizen fruit are kept. ”
— Jessica

The main through line? If you stick with store-brand (i.e. 365), basic groceries at Whole Foods can be, contrary to popular belief, pretty affordable, which is exactly what we all need around the holidays.

Our Favorite Whole Foods Products

Merrill Stubbs, Co-Founder: Love their brown rice veggie sushi! Also their peanut butter (creamy all the way).

Eddie Barrera, Studio Manager & Prop Stylist: +1 for peanut butter, but I'm more of a crunchy fan. The garlic-roasted naan is good, too.

Photo by Whole Foods Market®

Hana Asbrink, Senior Lifestyle Editor: I stock up on the 365 Everyday Value Organic Almond Milk Unsweetened and Organic Orecchiette Rigate (these are nice and thick, capture sauces well, and don't flop into each other as much!).

Erin Alexander, Assistant Editor: I ALWAYS stock up on their dried pastas. But actually, anything with a 365 label gets thrown in my cart.

Luz Ramirez, Marketing Manager: Their cornbread. It's sweet and basically cake—but ultimate comfort food.

Kaitlin Bray, Social Media Director: All of the 365 canned beans! The organic ones are still so cheap.

Photo by Whole Foods Market®

Ella Quittner, Food Writer & Recipe Developer: 365-brand almond butter, no sugar/salt—half the price of other brands! (Crunchy, and smooth, because I'm totally out of control almond butter–wise.) Speaking of which, all of their 365 baking products are so much better priced than competitors' (e.g. flours, baking powder, etc). They have very cheap baking ingredients. OH, and the olive bar. Is that 365? I've never had time to notice, I'm too busy 'sampling' the Castelvetranos.

Annalee Leggett, Strategy & Finance Manager: I am mildly addicted to the 365-brand White Cheddar Popcorn (file it under "snacks I've turned into dinner"). It's certainly not the healthiest, but it's served me well for years.

Megan Güntaş, Digital Designer: Their seafood, specifically the salmon fillets.

Photo by Whole Foods Market®

Maggie Slover, Copywriter: I recently discovered the little-known basket in the cheese section full of odds and ends. It's brimming with too-small pieces from the counter that are actually PERFECT for making a grilled cheese for one, adding to a baked potato, or just sampling fancy-schmancy Camembert (that you may or may not want 2 lbs of). Most are priced under $3 too.

Trevor Baca Adams, Merchandising Coordinator: Better Than Bouillon.

Laura Wolfgang, Senior Product Manager: Whole rotisserie chicken, when I'm looking for a quick weeknight dinner. Good in salads! Unroasted and unsalted nuts for homemade nut milks and nut butters (365 brand!).

Victoria had these by her desk when I Slacked the team for Whole Foods favorites. Photo by Me

Victoria Maynard, Director of Finance: DILL PICKLE ALMONDS. Also, I learned this from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen: If I'm hosting brunch, I can go to the Whole Foods hot bar in the morning and get a bunch of cooked bacon. Then I warm it on a sheet pan before serving. I have a tiny stove, so this way I can make an egg dish, and my entire apartment doesn't smell like bacon. (It's also cheaper than buying uncooked bacon!)

Suzanne D'Amato, VP of Content: They’re a surprisingly good go-to for last-minute birthday and thank you cards. It's a small selection, but there's a real range of choices, from minimalist to super-sparkly. Also, the store near me opens at 7 a.m....many hours earlier than most stationery stores!

This is an unsponsored love letter to Whole Foods, one of the many grocery stores at which we shop for food. Please let us know in the comments below: What's YOUR favorite thing to get at Whole Foods?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ali
  • Meg
  • anne reiswerg
    anne reiswerg
  • Francoise
  • Jill Fergus
    Jill Fergus
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Ali December 6, 2018
I loved the 365 brand whole wheat tortillas so much, and they discontinued them. Now going there just makes me sad.
Meg December 3, 2018
While I love Whole Foods, nothing beats Wegmans! I refuse to live anywhere not within driving distance to Wegmans:)
Alex S. December 3, 2018
What is Wegman’s? Thanks.
Meg December 3, 2018

The closest thing I can find to a European bakery, butcher, and fromagerie, combined with a regular grocery store.
Alex S. December 3, 2018
Got it: it’s a combo of Bristol Farms, Gelson's, Santa Monica Seafood. Yours are are on the Right Coast, we on the Left Coast. Cheers :) (Haven’t been to WF in a long time, I stick to my long time favs, including TJs.)
Meg December 3, 2018
Yes! Love Gelson’s when I’m in Dana Point. And when I’m in San Diego, Frazier Farms.
Rprp December 3, 2018
Unless you actually have Fairway or Citarella or Zabars and you can walk. All delivered if you prefer. Eighth wonders of the world.
Alex S. December 3, 2018
Still have our house in CDM, have something to look forward to when we head south, thanks. We’re on temp relo in PHX, no good grocery stores, just TJ’s & a very sad WF. There is AJ’s (a tiny clone of Gelson’s.) Someone just opened ‘Arcadia Meat Market’ excellent quality for all out there in Phoenix area. Still, best fresh fish to be found is at AJ’s. (Apologize if I went on too long, I cook at home as much as possible.)
Alex S. December 3, 2018
That’s on East Coast, yes? If I was only so lucky 😘
Alex S. December 4, 2018
You and SmittenKitchen are so lucky to walk. We mere mortals drive to find ingredients. ;-)
Eric K. December 4, 2018
I love this tiny offshoot chain about Wegmans. Guess we have to do that one next? :)
Julie December 5, 2018
OMG! Wegmans is the best! I miss it so much now that I live in Norfolk, but Virginia Beach is getting one next year!😊
Julie December 5, 2018
When I was in Boca, my kids and I ordered one of Whole Foods' pizzas. They were thin crust with a nice tangy sauce and not too much cheese. They were huge and cheap too.
anne R. December 3, 2018
I recently stopped in at the WF on Kirby in Houston. I have not shopped there since the amazon takeover, because people said it sucked.
Well I was pleasantly surprised. The 365 margarita pizza is the bomb.
I think this article is relevant because its about food. I don't see it as a plug for amazon.
Francoise December 3, 2018
I agree Anne. They have so many products, I can't personally try them all. It's helpful to get recommendations of what people like, and why. I had no idea for example that they had gluten-free pie crusts made with real butter. That could have saved me a lot of time at Thanksgiving: now I know.
anne R. December 3, 2018
I have the tiny cocktail quiches on my list for my Hanukkah party.
Francoise December 2, 2018
I recently discovered their frozen tiny cocktail quiches-- they are truly delicious. I served them on Thanksgiving morning along with grapes and tangerines to take the edge off of everyone's appetite while dinner prep got underway. Beautiful, easy and really tasty. Holiday breakfasts have always challenged me because the last thing I want to do is cook breakfast while I'm making a holiday meal (and don't have time to assemble anything the night before when I'm cleaning...) but I don't like sweets in the morning. These really hit the spot; everyone, including children, loved them.
Jill F. December 2, 2018
While I am happy with my list below, I am unhappy with how their store near me (downtown NYC) has detiorated I’ve the last year or so. They’ve narrowed much of the assortment, which is really a shame.
Jill F. December 2, 2018
I regularly buy their fresh grated Parmesan, fresh pizza dough, brown rice and whole grain sushi and the preservative free seaweed salad and the miso dressing also from the sushi bar, raw nuts and seeds from their bulk section, 365 organic creamy peanut butter for baking (otherwise we can’t live without Santa Cruz Dark Roasted peanut butter, creamy and crunchy, 365 frozen organic fruits and some of veggies, 365 frozen black eyed peas, White Mustache freezer pops made from whey, 365 ridged potato chips when dips are involved and the 365 sliced goat cheese (when the location carried it- my local one does not!)
Doug H. December 2, 2018
Are you kidding with this? This is an ad disguised as editorial content. You often seem like you're flogging merchandise more than anything else, but this is a new low.
Ed B. December 2, 2018
Just a heads up Aldi is also starting to sell organic produce and is cheaper than whole foods. Figure I'd throw that out there. I buy my organics at Aldi when I need them. Awesome quality.
KRae December 2, 2018
I can get all of this at my local food coop. The special peanut butters, beans, pastas, special cheese curls, small cheese bits, great meats . . . Gluten free pie crusts. Maybe our coops here are better than some places. But I'd rather go to a coop where the profits are going back to the community, not Amazon. And where I know the workers are being paid a living wage.
Janet K. December 2, 2018
I used to belong to a food coop in Boston probably before most of you were born. I haven't seen one like it since. The so-called co-op around here (DC) is exorbitantly expensive and probably isn't a co-op as we know it anymore.
Rprp December 3, 2018
Good...great..points about Amazon
Joan -. December 2, 2018
My thought when I saw this headline was that they must be celebrating at Amazon.
After browsing through the list of snacks and convenience foods, my thought was I still don't need to shop WF. But the odds and ends basket in the cheese counter - now that's tempting.
J December 2, 2018
This is a great article! I have a few favorites at WF and am always searching for more super stars in the line up. The canned beans, cornbread, and salmon are some of my favorites too. I also like their fresh Severino pasta ( near the cheese case) to make aglio e olio. I also like their cotton cosmetic rounds - a bit pricey but not scratchy like some brands. And in the hot bar, the corn casserole is really good.
Peg December 2, 2018
Despite the mega-corporate size, WF also carries some small specialty producers like Masala Mama, a wonderful Indian cooking line—my friend created!
abbyarnold December 2, 2018
Fresh hummus from the salad bar! So good I can no longer bear the pre-packaged stuff from any brand, and now make my own hummus. Considering the high cost of good quality tahini, the Wednesday $5.99 salad bar price is close to the price of home made.
Rob December 2, 2018
A couple of the WFs near me figure their population is sufficiently dense with Middle Easterners that they have dolmahs, toum, baba ghanoush, AND hummus. Seriously great quick grab options.
Tracy I. December 2, 2018
Not a fan of Whole Foods since the Amazon takeover... they've ruined a wonderful thing!
Janet K. December 2, 2018
I live in the heart of our Nations Capital, Washington, DC and the supermarkets are so-so. Giant, the traditional supermarket, is not what it was, even the larger ones. I have a Whole Foods nearby and for produce, when on sale, it beats Giant's withered poor expensive selection. Costco is a 30 minute drive for me in traffic. I heard they are putting in a Balducci's nearby. Just what I need, an even more expensive grocery store. Rumors of a Wegman's going in nearby are just that but I dream of the day. So Whole Foods it is for a lot of my food. Definitely not meat as it's ridiculous but the frozen blueberries for my oatmeal and the 365 oatmeal. My Dutch husband does not like any of the bread (too sweet) so I have to shlep somewhere else for that. I don't like the cooked chickens as I think they are overpriced and dried out. I like the bulk items and the canned beans, especially the unsalted ones. I sometimes feel I'm back living overseas as I have to go to some many places to get my food items. Yes, and they are the only ones to have the Dutch cumin cheese called Leiden cheese in the US for my DH.
JG December 2, 2018
Based on what I have read online Wegmans isn’t scheduled to open at Fannie Mae till 2021 or even 2022. They broke ground at Fannie Mae yesterday but it’s a whole planned complex of residential and retail which takes forever. Try the Giant on Newark on Thursdays aft/eve when they stock for the weekend. Also Rodman’s is worth checking out now as they are stuffed to the gills for Christmas.
Debra B. December 2, 2018
I love Food52! I don't love Whole Foods however. Confusing store to shop in and overrated products. I shop at a variety of stores mainly Publix, Publix Greenwise and Costco.
Rprp December 2, 2018
Agree 100%. AND why oh why give Amazon (ugh) another avenue to outsize economic power? NOT needed.
miriam S. December 2, 2018
What exactly is "ugh" about Amazon? It's my favorite online site: a wealth of products: books, music, kitchen and bath supplies and all kinds of food products. Easy to use. Convenient. I work. I cook. My time means something and it's American in every sense of building a company that is a huge success.
Whole Foods. Great products and great quality.
Make a contribution and save the "ugh's for off line conversation.
Rosalind P. December 2, 2018
You are absolutely right...this is not the place to point out what is ugh about Amazon and I apologize. None of the factors you list are unknown to me. There are other reasons and ways to choose how and what to consume, but as you point out, another place to address that. Others have pointed out, here, that the piece was a bit uncharacteristic of
Food 52 --a puff piece or a straight-out ad. Not exactly the point I was trying to make, but I think worth considering. But as for the mu remarks, there are more appropriate (and receptive) places. Apologies again.
Rosalind P. December 2, 2018
typo! Should be "as for my remarks....."
Diana M. December 3, 2018
ML December 2, 2018
Eric, I have never been to a Whole Foods but now I.must.go!
Jessica December 2, 2018
Maybe this article got a bit off how WF saves us during the holidays as nut butters, bagged pop corn and small cheese pieces and for grilled cheese for one are not holiday foods to me. However, I want to mention the Whole Foods brand (for some reason it does not say 365 on the package) gluten free pie crusts. They are made with butter and In my seven years of experience using them, no one has ever thought they were gluten free. They are delicious and a quick and perfect way to make any sort of holiday pie quickly. It’s a great way to bring or serve a dessert that usually everyone can eat and for gluten free folks they are so grateful and swoon over how good they taste. Not every WF carries them but look in the frozed section where other pie crusts and frizen fruit are kept.
Melissa B. December 5, 2018
YES! As a Serious Thanksgiving Pie Maker whose kid developed celiac, these are a godsend. They leave all other GF crusts in the dust (what those sad others were possibly made from, and to which they all should return).
Pat T. December 2, 2018
I remember Harry’s in Alpharetta. The beginning. Whole Foods has never equaled what Harry’s was in its hay day! It was a fantastic experience. Unfortunately the owners weren’t good at managing the financial end. The lines at the holidays to pick up the special orders and the plants 🌱- I am glad I knew it as Harry’s and still miss it! Most wonderful Mac and Cheese (so much better than 365)! And the tours when grocery store owners from around the world would come. Not the same.
Kathleen C. December 2, 2018
Yes! Harry’s was wonderful! Especially when the only other options were Publix and Kroger. Pre Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
Julia C. November 19, 2018
Oh, the cheese counter! disappointing that a number of cheeses of the “hard to find variety” have disappeared since Amazon bought WH. The variety of types is still very good! I was spoiled by their international line-up especially when entertaining. I love the Fish Counter, too. Something always comes home with me.
Eric K. November 20, 2018
Oh no, didn't know that about the cheese counter. But yes, agree w/ you on the fish; love everything there.