Whole Foods Tips for the Frugal Shopper
August 10, 2011 marked the much-anticipated grand opening of Whole Foods Market (WFM) in the Square One complex. Walking into WFM is unlike walking into any other grocery store. Upon entering, you are greeted by the aroma of fresh baked goods and coffee. This experience is often overlooked in many other grocery stores, since their baked good selection is often found in pre-packaged boxes or plastic bags. It's equally enticing when you walk into the other entrance as you are greeted by fresh fruit and vegetables, with signs promoting "buy local" posted along the wall.
It's sensory overload at its finest. As a consumer you understand that there is a purpose for each carefully placed item. In my opinion, WFM teases one's senses better than any other grocery store I've visited - you know you're going to buy something the minute you enter the store, even if it's just a muffin!
The major advantage to shopping at WFM is that it provides its customers with a wide selection of organic and/or local foods, all under one roof. This is an endeavour not many grocers can successfully achieve. Shopping at WFM allows the customer to customize that fine balance between their wallet and their social conscience, thus giving them an opportunity to put more thought into what they are eating.
Another major advantage is that WFM takes the same amount of pride in their prepared food items as they do in choosing and displaying their produce and raw foods (i.e. chicken, pork, beef, fish etc.). Beware should you choose to grab a quick meal from the prepared foods section, be prepared to pay more than Square One's food court. Perhaps this practice will allow the customer to pay more attention to serving size and hopefully avoid overeating.
Truth be told, I could spend a couple of hours walking up and down each aisle searching for food inspiration at WFM, and trust me, I'm always inspired after leaving. But for others, shopping at WFM may be a daunting task due to the widely held belief that it's more expensive to shop here when compared to other grocery stores. I'm not even going to lie; there is definitely some truth to this. Realistically, I don't have an infinite amount of money to spend on groceries, so I try to mix it up a little bit. If I could afford it, I would eat all organic and/or local foods. But my wallet insists that my diet is a mix of organic and non-organic foods with a side of meal planning.
So, instead of shaking your head in disbelief after reading your first (or tenth) WFM grocery bill, here are some shopping tips to help ease the pain:
1) Buy bulk: I purchase the bulk pre-packaged chicken and divide them into portion sizes suitable for one meal in my household. For example, I'll buy one bulk package of chicken breasts and two of the chicken legs and split them into 3-4 smaller packages. And, YES, this chicken actually tastes like chicken.
2) Ask for a sample: I often sample cheeses on sale and then purchase a sliver (or more). This allows me to save money on one of my favourite staples, but also purchase cheese I wouldn't normally try.
3) Eat before you enter: This is true for any ordinary shopping excursion (yes, I used the word "excursion," I really LOVE grocery shopping). One of the marketing strategies of WFM is that they provide food choices (and sensory stimulation, as mentioned above) that your usual grocery store doesn't, in an attempt to entice you to try new products in your quest for healthful eating.
4) Look out for in-store specials: I usually compare prices between similar food products and frequent 4 major grocery stores. You'd be surprised at how much money you'd save preparing for your grocery trip in advance and incorporating WFM in your schedule. Believe me. Just give it a try. What increases your grocery bill is that extra box of cereal or bag of organic chips you didn't intend on buying in your grocery cart (see #3 above).
Find the weekly flyer here.
5) Know what's in season: If eggplant is in season, you can buy that cheaper in Fresh Co. or No Frills, so don't buy eggplant in WFM. Don't be forced to do all of your grocery shopping in one store out of convenience - take control of what you put in your mouth (and what comes out of your wallet)!
Find out what's in season here.
As a fellow frugal shopper, the best tip I can give you is to be open minded when entering Whole Foods Market...because you never know, tonight's dinner may be inspired by the innocently displayed row of fresh farm-raised tilapia fillets, thoughtfully displayed behind one of their elegantly designed fish counters.