Bringing home the bacon, price-checked and taste-tested


Amazon and Walmart are battling to dominate the grocery market, fueling a price war that could rearrange where America shops for food.

To get a firsthand glimpse of this competition, The New York Times has periodically been testing Amazon’s effect on grocery prices since the online retailer bought Whole Foods last summer. Heading into Super Bowl weekend, we thought we would compare the price of ingredients for Steak ‘n’ Bacon Cheddar meatballs.

So we shopped for the same items (or as close as we could find) at a Whole Foods and a Walmart. Our experiment was inspired by the opening of the Whole Foods 365 brand store in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday — the first 365 store on the East Coast. Whole Foods promotes the stores as a less costly option for shoppers.

Our plan was to bake one batch of the cheesy, three-meat delicacy using only ingredients from a Walmart and a second batch with only items from the Whole Foods 365. Then we would ask our newsroom colleagues which version of the meatball — described by the chef who created it as “the heart stopper” — tasted better.

While the 365 line of stores was launched before Amazon’s acquisition, the vibe of the new Brooklyn store seems in keeping with Amazon’s consumer-first approach. The store is easy to navigate and pushes its private-label, and less expensive, 365 brand products.

Wherever possible, we bought 365 brand items, including steak, hamburger, salt, pepper and olive oil. Many of the items were organic, and the eggs came from cage-free chickens. That helped drive up the prices. The grand total: $45.17.

Next, we went to the Walmart Supercenter in Secaucus, New Jersey, and bought almost entirely from Walmart’s Great Value brand, which offers few organic options. That bill came to $27.18.

One ingredient that drove that difference: Whole Foods’ organic shredded cheddar cost nearly three times as much as the Walmart brand, which was not organic. The price of a dozen eggs at the two stores was comparable.

For the highly unscientific taste test, we served the meatballs in the New York Times newsroom on Friday afternoon. The taste testers were not told whether they had chosen a Whole Foods or a Walmart meatball until after they voted.

Some said the Whole Foods batch had too much bacon flavor. Others found the steak bits in the Walmart meatballs too chewy. When the votes were tallied, the Whole Foods meatball prevailed.

But by the end of the day, the distinctions seemed to fade. Every meatball had been eaten.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food & Dining

6 of the BEST places for Chinese food in Dayton
6 of the BEST places for Chinese food in Dayton

Craving Chinese food? Try one of these top spots in Dayton.  1.) Ozu852  Voted #1 in the 2017 Best of Dayton poll, this spot is known for high-quality customer service and fresh, delicious dishes. Specializes in sushi. Where: 852 Union Blvd., Clayton Hours: Mon-Thurs 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Offering both Japanese...
This 20-minute lemony shrimp dish is a weeknight hero
This 20-minute lemony shrimp dish is a weeknight hero

Shrimp wins as America's favorite seafood in polls year after year; you know those scenes in the film "Forrest Gump" where Pvt. Bubba Blue rambles through all the ways it can be prepared? I think I've had them all. This 20-minute dish ranks high on my list. I could eat it once a week, warm or as cold leftovers. It starts with a bag of frozen...
Family, meet my old love
Family, meet my old love

Almost as soon as we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I set out to make my family miserable. This was not difficult. It was late August, nearing 90 degrees and humid. All I had to do was propose we walk through the streets of the former Saigon to a restaurant for lunch. At first, my wife, Jean, and our daughters Sasha, 7 1/2, and Sandy, almost...
A bean stew that is far from ordinary
A bean stew that is far from ordinary

Many Americans fall in love with the food of Georgia (the country, not the state) after sampling khachapuri, a savory cheese-stuffed bread often served with a runny egg on top. For others, it’s a plateful of handmade khinkali, the country’s meaty version of soup dumplings. For me, the obsession started with a humble bean stew called lobio...
How to spike your cooking game with hard liquor
How to spike your cooking game with hard liquor

It’s no secret that the proper libation can elevate an elegant meal. But have you ever considered incorporating liquor into something other than a cocktail glass? Properly used, alcohol works wonders in food as well. Maybe you’ve added wine to a sauce or braise, or added beer to a batch of chili or barbecue sauce, but incorporating distilled...
More Stories