Whole Foods Tries to Shed Whole Paycheck Image

I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Whole Foods. On one hand, I like having organic products of all kinds available for my kitchen. I love their cheese counter (being a cheesemonger is my fantasy dream job!) and the specialty products I can find there that I can’t find anywhere else. On the other hand, it’s always crowded, and it’s always pricey. I really can’t afford to buy everything I need there, particularly their conventional produce. If I’m buying conventional apples from across the country, I’d rather not pay an arm and a leg for them.

Whole Foods is well aware of it’s overpriced, elitist image, which isn’t exactly good for business during this type of economy. The New York Times ran an article about Whole Foods’ attempt at re-imaging itself to appeal to budget minded consumers. Among Whole Foods’ strategies for shoppers?

  • Watch the specials
  • Choose Whole Foods’ store brand, 365
  • Shop with the seasons
  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy large quantities of on-sale food to freeze for later meals

Whole Foods is also offering free in-store tours to help shoppers navigate sales and coupons, along with advertising sales more prominently in the store. Will this work for the green foods superstore, whose stock has gone down in the past two years since interest in organic foods has plateaued?

One thing that might work in Whole Foods favor is that food costs are rising everywhere. I know I gasp just as much at the prices at my conventional grocery store as I do Whole Foods. As long as I think groceries cost a lot of money, I might as well go for quality at Whole Foods.

On the other hand, for food shoppers looking to eat better while on a budget, Whole Foods might not be the place, particularly during these bountiful months when farmers markets are in full swing. The bargains to be had at Whole Foods, with the exception of specials, are not on the perimeter of the store, where the actual “whole foods” are. Meat, produce, and dairy are often the most expensive items at Whole Foods, but make up the building blocks for eating lower on the food chain. These are also the products I can buy from local producers, which are undoubtedly traveling less food miles and strengthen my local economy. Any community large enough for a Whole Foods undoubtedly has a supply of local farmers providing produce. For me, the right mix for not breaking the bank while eating with my health and the planet in mind is a conscious mix of buying as much from local producers as possible, with Whole Foods thrown in for affordable staples.

Readers–What’s your strategy for eating better on a budget? Do you shop at Whole Foods? Where do you get food you can’t get from your farmers markets?

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