I had no idea the horror that awaited me inside those automatic doors. Of course, I had heard of Whole Foods before. There’s hardly a place in this country its spindly organic tendrils haven’t touched, but I didn’t realize the breadth of its evil. At first, I was lulled into a false sense of bliss; everything sounded so healthy and nutritious, I was blinded by the storm of pesticide-free produce, grass fed meat and huge cheese selection. What I didn’t realize then was that behind the curtain of anti-MSG warmth, Whole foods was an assassin of the highest order, and it had zeroed in on its target: my wallet.
It wasn’t until I was standing in the check out line that it occurred to me to check the prices of the items I had put into my cart. I’m not sure why I hadn’t kept my usual mental count of the total cost of everything I planned on buying. Maybe it was because I was excited to try cage-free eggs for the first time, or maybe Whole Foods released some kind of smell into the air that hindered my faculties in order to reduce me to some kind of Farm-to-Table zombie, but nonetheless, I had absolutely no idea how much I was going to spend.
I convinced myself that I only had a few items and not to worry about it. So, I loaded the contents of my cart onto the conveyor belt and watched as the beanie-clad kid behind the counter scanned them into the system. I shuddered as the balance hit $32.67, cringed as it surpassed $56.34 and had to steady myself on the rustic lamp pole that decorated the side of the cash register as it finally stopped on $74.88. Mr. Beanie gleefully spoke my total as he pried my card from my sweaty outreached hand. I couldn’t accept that I had spent that much money on so little food. I didn’t need the bottle of Sriracha, or the huge container of Salsa Verde, and what in the hell was cashew milk and why in the hell did I buy it? I left the store in a daze, the realization that I had been taken to the cleaners by a grocery store slowly settling over me.
After my first experience, I vowed never to enter Whole Foods without a plan of attack again. Wandering the store aimlessly presented too many opportunities to spend; I needed ways to minimize the damage to my bank account. Finally, following a few additional journeys (and more purchases of specialty cheeses than I’m proud of) I managed to turn myself into a finely tuned shopping machine, and I’m here to share some staples of Whole foods purchasing wisdom.
Avoid the Ready-Made food section at all costs.
Somewhere in your local Whole Foods exists an area entirely devoted to food on the go; hot bars as far the eye can see, customizable pizza stations strategically placed next to cabinets overflowing with pastries and cold cases filled with pasta salads and potato creations. A proverbial lunch break paradise, country coded for your convenience. You must never go there. I guarantee you, the number one culprit in any Whole Foods splurge session is the prepared food section and it is just not worth the cost. Don’t pay $15.00 for a small cardboard box that only contains enough food to last you one sitting. $15.00 is two trips to Chipotle, two and a half if they forget to charge you for Guacamole. You must resist the allure of the instant bars; fight the appeal of the convenience. Your wallet will thank you.
Only buy produce on sale.
I’m sorry, but no grapefruits on this earth are worth $4.99 each. Whole Foods is renowned for its produce, and it should be, but they charge impossibly high prices for things that are not immensely different from what your average grocery store stocks. You would be better served sticking to the sales; organic avocado at 1.99 a pound is a fantastic deal, tomatoes on the vine at 4.99 a pound is not. If you don’t have any other options, try to only buy a small number of the non-sale fruit or veggies at a time, that way your paycheck will stay largely intact and none of the produce will spoil before you have the chance to thoroughly look at it and choose Mac’ N Cheese instead.
Stay clear of the meats.
As with the produce, Whole Foods charges an extremely high amount for meat, as much as 5 dollars a pound for organic chicken and beef. Other supermarkets sell the same quality stuff for about 1.50 less, beating Whole Foods’ prices by a pretty sizeable margin. As if that weren’t reason enough, the meat in the cold cases (Caribbean Jerk chicken, Garlic and Herb chicken etc) come in at 11.99 a pound. That is insane. There are far better options for your meat needs elsewhere, your local butcher or the highway (times are tough, no judgment) come to mind.
Whole Foods is a staple in the new progressive era, its mass appeal based on ensuring a higher quality shopping and eating experience. However, don’t be fooled by the 1994 Eddie Bauer Catalog-esque appearance of its employees, it is a soulless money-making machine. Armed with these tips, you might just be able to curb the cost of a pilgrimage to the organic food Mecca. I wish you luck – you’re going to need it. .
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