How to Shop at Whole Foods

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Whole Foods is crazy

If you’ve ever been to a Whole Foods store, you know that it can be crowded full of people mesmerized by the displays of expensive organic foods in front of them.  At least, that’s the way the Whole Foods is near me: There are masses of humanity, all paused in their shopping routines, mulling over conventionally grown broccoli and organic Belgian endive, and deciding between the least smelly cheeses available.

Our food budget is small, so we don’t shop at Whole Foods for staples, but I like to pop in once a week to pick up organic meat and certain other items, like gluten free pasta or vegetarian taco mix, depending on who I plan on feeding in the coming week.  I find that shopping at Whole Foods takes a certain strategy.  Here’s how I go about it:

1.  Grab a basket and head inside.

2.  Use evasive maneuvers to weave through the produce section.  Avoid shoppers entranced by the exotic foods, like white asparagus and baby bok choy.

3.  Drool a moment over the chocolate and cheese sections (strategically placed next to each other, you’ll notice).

4.  Stop by meat counter to buy sale meat, and only sale meat.

5.  Try to find specialty item not available in your local supermarket.

6.  Try to find staff member who can help you find specialty item not available in your local supermarket.

7.  Crash into someone’s cart parked in your way as you sight staff member.

8.  Apologize profusely to other customer.  Lose sight of staff member.

9.  Head back to aisle where specialty food item would be, if it was available in your local supermarket.

10.  Stare at shelves one last time without sighting specialty item.

11.  Attempt to make your way to cash registers.

12. Every aisle is blocked by carts.  Keep walking until you hit bakery at opposite end of store.

13.  Circle around to front of store.

14.  Narrowly miss toppling a sampling station of salsa and crackers.

15.  Reach cash registers.

16.  Decline to donate a dollar to Whole Foods charity.

17.  Thrust reusable bags at bagger, who has already bagged half of your items.

18.  Exit store.  Breathe.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where there are no local butchers near us that I know of.  Maybe when we don’t live in suburbia.  Image courtesy of Midtown Lunch.

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15 responses

  1. we were just at whole food this weekend, to buy one item. We very rarely shop there, no way we could afford it. Instead we organize a buying club for our natural, bulk and organic purchases but anyway here was our strategy for the trip:

    -eat as many free samples as possible without looking like pigs

    -search all over the store for a gf packaged treat (so my husband could eat something at a birthday party later in the weekend).

    When you’re not buying much it’s kind of fun.

  2. So cute! The grocery store closest to my apartment is actually a Whole Foods so I always have heart attacks whenever I actually do a grocery trip there. I also try to only go very early in the mornings when the store is just opening. At that time everything is shiny and gorgeous and it makes me want to jump into their wast baskets of organic spinach and swim around. Somehow I manage to hold myself back.

  3. You seem to have forgot two very important important steps:
    -While shopping walk around with an undeserved sense of self-righteousness
    -Remember, you are better than every other person and act accordingly.

    This has been my experience with Whole Foods, however I have only ever gone to the one in Ann Arbor, MI, so I don’t know if it was Whole Foods or just the standard smugness of University of Michigan People.

  4. Hee! Sad but true. Whole Foods is the only place I know of that can make me simultaneously feel like a spendthrift and a cheapskate…

  5. Renee: You’re right! It’s not so bad if you can dart in and out of the aisles with speed. I went with a cart this weekend, and it was a nightmare.

    Erin: I’ve never been in the morning, but spinach swimming sounds appetizing.

    G: Nope, it’s not just UMI people — it’s here in Massachusetts too.

  6. Our Annapolis WF is morphing into the largest WF in the country. I had a hard time believing this but apparently tis true. I just can’t wait for the gelato bar having seen one in Portland ME. http://www.visitatc.com/whole_foods

    Getting some cheese and chocolate completes the whole food pyramid imho.

  7. We all need a bit of lightness once in a while. I agree with you on the price issue but don’t usually have the same craziness here since many “regular” people where I live shop there. We have a number of them and other natural food stores plus Trader Joe’s.
    I think that the key to shopping anywhere is knowing what you want and how much you are willing to spend on it.
    I shop for most of my produce at the farmer’s market. It’s not inexpensive but better quality. Still there are items that I deem just too expensive. But if it’s something that I really like such as shiitake mushrooms, I may spend $4 on 1/4 pound, especially because they are organic and I can see the logs that they are grown on. The guy hauls them there.
    It’s all about expectations. Go to Whole Foods, expect to spend a lot or just find what you want.
    Thanks for the post.

    • I’d love to shop at a farmer’s market. Unfortunately, none are up and running right now in my area. But I agree — farmer’s markets are a much better place to spend your money in terms of supporting a local economy and finding better quality items.

  8. I never understood the hating on Whole Foods thing. The closest grocery store to me is a Whole Foods and I shop there every week. Yes, some things are more expensive there, but some things aren’t, just as with any grocery store. And a lot of things I use regularly are much cheaper at Whole Foods. Most local, organic fresh fruit and veggies are less expensive at Whole Foods. Olive oil is significantly cheaper at Whole Foods (even cheaper than buying in bulk at Costco or Sam’s). Yogurt, cage free eggs, and butter are all less expensive at Whole Foods – unless I can find unsalted butter at Costco, but that’s rare.

    I never have bought my groceries ALL at one single store because various stores have different specials and pricing benefits. I don’t see any reason to expect that Whole Foods would be any different.

    I just don’t get the resentment or the snob factor either. I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else for shopping at WF, or TJ or Kroger, or even my local farmer’s market. It’s just another resource to find the food I want and to help keep my costs down.

    • Kara, it’s funny that you say that, because organic produce, yogurt, cage-free eggs, and local butter are all significantly more expensive at Whole Foods than at the regular supermarket. It doesn’t help that the Whole Foods is right on the border of the wealthiest town in the area. They do some serious mark-ups on prices.

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