Where to Buy Whole Grains, Beans, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and Flour

I’m mainly listing stores in the San Francisco Bay Area – if you want me to list stores in your town, comment here and if I get a lot of feedback I’ll create a section by state of towns, stores, and what they sell (if you get that detailed).

National chain stores

You can buy whole grain flour even at supermarket chains now. The most common brands are King Arthur (best choice) or Gold Medal.  You can also buy oatmeal, brown rice, and barley (not a whole grain if it’s been pearled).

Whole Foods offers even more choices of flour:  amaranth, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, wheat, etc.  They also have multi-grain oatmeal, and many kinds of whole grains in their bins.

Costco has organic Lundberg Brown rice, quinoa, and oatmeal.

Corn flour (whole grain).  Just like wheat, corn flour has had most of the healthy nutrition stolen, but you can buy whole grain corn flour from local grocery stores (look for brands like Bob’s Red Mill),  online vendors, or you can mill your own corn flour.

My favorite place to buy whole wheat flour (and grain) is at a Great Harvest bakery, where whole grain breads have been baked for over thirty years.  If you’re lucky enough to live near one of their hundreds of bakeries, you can buy their whole wheat flour or grain for far less than any store or online vendor I know of.  Though since every bakery is under different management, I can’t guarantee your local store will sell you flour or grain, or if they do, at a super low price.  But if you can buy it there, it’s hard to find as high quality, high protein wheat elsewhere (often grown on family farms).  If you don’t have a flour mill, this is a great way to get fresh flour, since they mill grain every morning to bake bread with.

Great harvest is responsible for my obsession with whole grains, because that’s where I had my first loaf of whole grain bread 15 years ago.  After that I stopped eating white bread, which all tastes like dry scratchy boring Wonder Bread to me now.  Even expensive fresh bakery bread needs to be slathered with butter or oil to be palatable, and the texture and flavors just don’t come close to whole wheat bread.  But people like what they’re told to like by the arbiters of taste or the social milieu they belong to, and above all, what they’re used to — my Dad is a hard-core Wonder Bread kind of guy and always will be.

Online stores come and go, so search the internet for the kind of grain or flour you want.  Then look for the company with the cheapest shipping charges (often the one closest to you), because shipping charges can cost more than the grain.  Order enough for several months to a year if that’s the only way to make it affordable and you can afford it.  Which has a big plus of preparing you for emergencies too.

Never buy grain at an animal feed store — this grain hasn’t been cleaned enough and will ruin your mill or coffee and spice mill with rock, sand, straw, and other debris.

If you don’t know where to find a local store that sells whole grain flour or grains, ask your friends and neighbors, or do an internet search on “organic grocery” at yellowpages.com, 411.com, and similar sites.

San Francisco Bay Area Local stores

The most variety by far is to be found in Berkeley at one of the two Berkeley Bowl stores, or Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.  Buy enough grain to last 3 to 6 months the next time you’re in Berkeley or San Francisco.  They also let you buy 25 to 50 pound bags at a discount.

Alameda: Alameda Natural Grocer

Berkeley: Berkeley Bowl (2 stores), Monterey Market    The Berkeley Bowl stores have an amazing variety of grains, beans, lentils, flour, spices, vegetables, fruit, dried fruit, rare fruit, seafood, meat, cheese, olives, eggs, deli food, beer, you name it!  I don’t know of a better store in the USA.  The last time I was there they had 22 kinds of apples, in the summer dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  I always take out of town visitors to the Berkeley Bowl.

Oakland: Farmer Joe’s Marketplace (2 stores), Food Mill, Market Hall, Nature’s Best Food, Great Harvest Bakery

San Francisco: Rainbow Grocery 

Ethnic stores

Korean Plaza 2370 Telegraph, Oakland, CA

  • Whole grains: millet (glutinous), Job’s tears
  • Seeds: flax, sesame, roasted lassia, green perilla
  • Rice: wild red rice, wild sweet rice
  • Flour: roasted black bean, roasted soy bean, buckwheat
  • Vegetable powder: mugwort powder

Halal market, 2952 Telegraph, Oakland, CA

  • Dals: urid, toor, moong, kala channa, split fava
  • Seeds: ajowan/ajwain, Kalonji (black nigella), Esparz

About Alice

I've milled and baked with whole grains for many years, because whole grains are delicious, and white flour is missing the nutrition that protects you from cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and many other diseases. Plus it's a good emergency food.
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