Thursday, July 26, 2012

The adventure of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods

This post is inspired by my fellow blogger and totally awesome freelancer Allie! Yesterday evening she tweeted: Will someone write a blog post about what they love most at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? When I go into those stores I get overwhelmed. 

So-- to answer the question, I am going to break it into two parts-- What I love most about Whole Foods and What I love most about Trader's Joes. Seeing as I love Whole Foods more, I will tackle that one first.

What I love most about Whole Foods: A List of Sorts

1. Corporate Values. I know when I buy something like fish or meat, that the butcher or fish monger can tell me where it is comes from, how it was raised, how it was killed and where it has been at all points in between. Same with the eggs. Same with the produce. When I walk into Kroger or Giant Eagle, they don't know or won't tell me. I could be getting pink slime. There is no pink slime at Whole Foods. Pink Slime has no place in my food.

The same applies through out the aisles. When I buy crackers at Whole Foods, they are food and not chemicals. The rule at our house is if we cannot pronounce it and it is found in a chemistry set, we do not eat it.

This dedication to full disclosure is very, very important to me. I will only buy grocery store prepared foods at Whole Foods. They have no problem telling what is in something and they will 9 times out 10 be able to yell back into the kitchen and talk to the person who actually made it. They routinely make sushi that is labeled wheat free. No questions there. For me this is very, very important.

2. 365 Everyday Value Products If I had a dollar for every time someone gets up in my shit and tells me I am wasting money or spending too much money at "Whole Paycheck" I would be rich. Honestly, all of these people are wrong. When they compare what they spend at Whole Foods with what they spend at another grocery store they are rarely comparing apples to apples. Yes some things are more expensive. A BMW will always be more expensive than a Pinto or a Yugo.

I still believe in investing in quality. I think one of the best indicators of this is their 365 line of products. This is the Whole Foods house brand. I haven't been disappointed yet. Nor have I bought a 365 products and thought to myself, well this is what you get for buying the house brand or the discount knock off. Our favorites include the 365 Ketchup, the all natural ginger ale, the all fruit spreads (fruits of the forest is a family favorite), the garbanzo and black beans, Everyday Value sparkling water and flavored sparkling water, butter and sour cream. Oh bless I forgot to mention the fruit bars, which are like NutriGran bars-- but minus all the weirdo chemicals and hello-- they cost less! No mystery ingredients and no fillers. I think they compare to the brand names that you would buy and again I know I am getting good stuff, made in a good plant by trusted partners.

3. I love that the cheese department sells real cheese. I think the Giant Eagle Marketplaces share this concept, but I can ask the person behind the cheese counter and get real help! They have a nifty little basket of cheeses-- little bites, for the single person, for DIY cheese trays and to try. All under $4. I live for this basket. It is nice to try something and be delighted.

Now what do I think is helpful for the new Whole Foods shopper-- make a list. Do not try to go into the store and take it all in. I didn't and I don't. I shop with a list. I also use their online deals and their in print Whole Deal magazine and coupons.

4. Commitment to change. This makes me crazy, but they are on trend and always trying to bring new products to the shelf. Sometimes this makes me twitchy, but honestly we get into ruts and this commitment to change and new products has helped me be in less of a rut. I like that they do in store tastes and features and they change the end caps regularly. I have discovered non-corn starch powdered sugar and lots of great for me items this way. It challenges my desire for routine, but it has been helpful.

I cook. Pure and simple. We do not eat frozen meals and we do not eat alot of packaged foods. Those items are expensive everywhere you shop and Whole Foods is no different. Quality produce is expensive no matter where you shop. Organic produce is expensive no matter where you shop. I have chosen to focus my shopping at Whole Foods for the reasons above. I still go other places. In fact, Whole Foods decided to stop stocking the type of Silk the kids prefer. I discovered that Target carries it and at a very reasonable price. So when I am there, I get it there. L is now drinking calcium forfeited OJ, because she cannot seem to tolerate the quantity of soy or dairy she needs to get enough calcium. The OJ is cheaper at Target, for the same product, so I get it at Target.

So here is my short list of tips to shop Whole Foods and not get overwhelmed:

1. Make a list
2. Resolve to try out one new section that visit (say visit Whole Body-- give yourself 7 minutes to explore. Next time visit the deli.  The next visit the nut roaster...)
3. Ask for help. They are happy to help.
4. Do not go on Saturday or Sunday. Or Friday night (wine tasting night) or Monday morning (stupid, stupid loud zumba until 11 am) Go at an off time for your first few visits. I still do that. Saturday morning at Whole Foods makes me want to jump into oncoming traffic.
5. Limit yourself to 1 or 2 non-list purchases. This will curb the desire to try everything all at once.

Also it is important to note-- while you can do all your shopping at Whole Foods, most people don't. I do the majority of my shopping there, but not all. In the summer, I am hardly there. We eat from the farmer's market and our CSA and my pantry stock. I also have had to branch out as I have described above.

Later this week, I will talk about Trader Joe's.

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