A Reflection on Grocery Shopping: Whole Foods....Master?
Our local supermarket can be good for your physical as well as financial health.
I love Whole Foods. No really, I do. When I go in to that store, I'm mesmerized. It starts with the produce section and a feeling like I'm walking into a farm stand in rural Vermont or the north shore of Massachusetts. Everything looks so beautiful and healthy.
It continues as I walk through the aisles, graze in the cheese and bread section, pick up a few things in the bakery, make some cool tea selections and then -- only then -- do I grab a to-go container and make my way through the prepared foods section.
I always go for the broccoli rabe and the squash, two things I love but hate to make. I'll always take a little macaroni and cheese and then a bit of salad or something else. Top it off with a black and white cookie and I'm satiated for the day.
But then, it's back to reality when I go to check out and I'm hitting $50-plus dollars and some of what I purchased is on it's way to being immediately ingested.
So, back at the end of September, I put myself on a Whole Foods ban. Mind you, not a strict one, but one that only permitted stepping through those familiar automatic doors on the most rare of occasions. But, a girl's gotta eat, so I reacquainted myself with my local supermarket, Foodmaster.
First of all, you've probably heard this a dozen times but it hold true for our local store: stay on the outer perimeter of the store for the freshest, most "real" food products.
I usually grab hummus at the front, celery in produce, naan in the fresh bread section, tomatoes, romaine and lemons as well as bananas before I even make it to the end of the first aisle. I'll then swing around to dairy and pick up some soy milk (or you can wait until the second back corner of the store to get real milk) and swing around to the front corner to grab some English muffins.
I'll venture through the aisles and pick up some of what the "middle" of the store holds. I'm sure you realize that our local store carries a lot of the same natural brands that Whole Foods does, as well as other products they don't, such as some cleaning products which may not be as environmentally sound as others, but are not incredibly harmful, as far as I can tell. Their frozen food section is stocked with many of the same gluten-free (if you need or enjoy those) products, great frozen veggies (which work in stir-fry and last longer) and store-branded products for many items that are great and inexpensive.
The other reason I like to shop there is I get a sense of community when I shop. I usually run into someone from yoga, a child from kid yoga, a neighbor or running buddy. I'll see the people working there and I may have run into them when I was walking the dog, and oh, there's always that person that says to me, "Hey, where's your cute dog?" I always love that. It feels good to be able to shop at a local store where you can feel you're supporting your local community and the folks that work there as well.
One more reason I really like shopping there is I can do it on foot. I can walk over, pick up what I need and walk home. I get a little workout (depending on how much I buy) and never have to move the car. Given my recent aversion to driving and penchant for saving gas (see my earlier column on "Creating a New Habit") it fits right in.
One of the best reasons I like shopping local is I save money. There's no better feeling then getting up to the check-out counter and paying with cash. As much as possible, I'm trying to use cash these days. I just heard a statistic that millions of Americans are still paying of credit card debt from last year's holiday as we head into this year's holiday shopping season. As much as I can do to keep my debt and costs down, I'm in full support of that.
Now, whenever I get that wistful feeling of being swept away into a magical land full of artichokes as large as my fist and tea with fancy names like "Yerba Mate," I'll stop at Whole Foods. I'll use restraint but drink in the vibe. I'll treat myself to something fresh, maybe a dinner to go, but that's it.
Then, it's back to my friendly, neighborhood store and living within my means. It feels good.