Saving money on Green Groceries! Or trying to…

Saving money on Green Groceries!  Or trying to…
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The words inexpensive and organic are practically oxymoron’s in today’s society.  Personally, I find this infuriating.  I remember people telling me I could save money making my own baby food; but when I did, it cost a small fortune to buy fresh, local and organic produce.  Nonetheless, I slaved away week after week and grimaced every time I saw the total at the Mrs. Greens checkout line. Surely I was doing some good for my child.  After nursing her for 13 months my choice was to give her as little conventional produce as possible and as much whole “real” food as possible.  (Don’t even get me started on that Monsanto business…) Yes, I was one of those Avocado as the first food moms.  For about a year and a half, like most children, my daughter “ate the rainbow” and was a fantastic eater.  Fast forward five years and the truth is, said child would now eat McDonald’s over a home cooked meal most days, if given the choice.  And guess what?  Sometimes she does!  Somewhere in that first five years, I realized it was all about balance.  And while yes, I was willing to buy and cook organic whole foods at home- she wouldn’t die from conventional milk at the diner or even the occasional McDonald’s.  Which led me to another realization, sure my kid LOVES raspberries, but paying $8 for 1/2 a pint of organic raspberries just wasn’t happening.  These days I try to buy mostly organic produce, organic eggs, dairy and some meats- although meats is the hardest part for me.  The choice on buying organic or conventional depends on the specific item’s diet or pesticide level (more info on pesticide levels here), seasonality and of course, price.  Top that with the fact that I have been gluten free, clean eating (for the most part) since April and our grocery bills can be pretty hard to fathom.  So when given the chance to learn about buying affordable organic foods, I jumped at the chance!

This past Monday, I was given the chance to tour the Whole Food’s store in White Plains and learn about saving money while shopping at Whole Foods.  While I don’t regularly shop at Whole Foods, because in my neck of the woods, Mrs Green’s is the closest green grocer, it always feels like a treat when I do.  In my experience, compared to Mrs Green’s their prices are usually less and the selection is usually more.  And of course, the ready made food selection is always a go to for a quick lunch.  And let us not forget the awesome coffee bar.  I love a store with a coffee bar!  I’m a mom- duh! So my 2 year old and I went on a 45 minute tour of the store to learn the tips and tricks of shopping at Whole Foods.  Here’s what we learned.

If you’re like me, when you arrive at Whole Foods you grab the “Whole Deal” circular (coupons also available online) and you probably walk right past the entry foyer dodging the traffic of carts and other customers.  Hey, I’m a New Yorker, I go right in for what I came for.  No meandering in the traffic in the foyer to check out the flowers.  Well, Lesson # 1- don’t skip the foyer. In addition to the hyper seasonal items (currently- mums, pumpkins and the like) they also store non refrigerated sale and bulk items here.   We found bags of oranges, apples, grapefruits, even kiwis here.  Which leads me right into Lesson 2- and the way to win at Whole Foods, bulk items.  These kiwis were $4.99 for 6 and the kiwi’s inside were over $1 a piece.  Lesson #2- buy in bulk.  Buying in bulk was the recurring theme as we went through the store. In addition to lesser expensive produce, this was the way to save money buying meats, chickens and even fish.  Whole Foods uses the “Buy BIG Save BIG labels” throughout the store to indicate these deals.

Another great place to buy in bulk, is the section they refer to as “the Bulk.” It’s the section full of “fill it yourself dispensers” filled with nuts, seeds, grains, superfoods, granolas and more.  I personally head to this section of the store when I’m experimenting with a recipe that might call for some unique ingredient I don’t have on hand and haven’t tried before.  So I’ll buy just the amount I need of something before I commit to buying a larger quantity.  What I didn’t realize before the tour, is that common household items (like brown rice, quinoa, granola) and less common items (like goji berries, sesame seeds, chia seeds) are often less expensive in the bulk section than they are in prepackaged containers.  And if you needed any more assurance to shop this section of the store, they have a take home guide called “Bulk Basics” that give you cooking and preparing tips for many of the items in the bulk section.  Additionally, the manager assures me that each bulk bin is cleaned out daily.
In sum, the best tips I learned for buying and saving at Whole Foods were buying in bulk (not all that unlike most grocery stores) and not neglecting the sale items in the foyer. I did however also learn a few cool things about the Whole Foods store itself.  Did you know that Whole Foods bakery also offers par-baked breads? These are partially baked breads that you can freeze and finish at home for “fresh baked” bread anytime.  Also, did you know that Whole Foods has a Kids Club which includes Children’s cooking and healthy eating lessons and activities?  More information about this is available in Whole Foods online events page (specific to your local store) and also in store at the Customer Service desk.  Happy Shopping!