My Shopping Cart: Whole Foods Edition

Whole Foods Market

This is the last part in my 3 part series of where and how I grocery shop.  If you haven’t seen them yet, read the Jewel and the Aldi post.  Today it’s all about Whole Foods which I am here to prove doesn’t have to be Whole Paycheck as long as you shop smart.

Full disclosure: I obviously do not do all of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  That isn’t to say it isn’t possible to shop only at Whole Foods, I just find it works best for me and my budget to go to a few different places.  You have to decide what is best for you, your budget, and your family.

Whole Foods Bulk Section

I go to Whole Foods mostly for their bulk section.  They have a huge bulk foods section and buying in bulk is a great way to save money on food that you eat and use often.  It’s also great if you want to try something new but don’t want to buy a whole box or package.  That way you can see if you like the ingredient and won’t waste money or food if you don’t.

Whole Foods Bulk Section

Here is what I usually buy from the bulk section at Whole Foods:

  • whole wheat flour
  • almond flour
  • coconut flour
  • oatmeal (rolled oats, oat bran, steel cut)
  • buckwheat groats
  • cornmeal
  • brown rice
  • hazelnuts
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • pistachios
  • goji berries
  • prunes
  • chia seeds
  • hemp seeds
  • flax seeds
  • popcorn

Now, I don’t buy all of this every single time I go to the store, I just refill as needed.  But you can see that I do purchase a lot of things in bulk.  For me, buying these things in bulk is cheaper.  Do your research though because sometimes (not often) it isn’t cheaper to buy things in bulk.

Whole Foods Bulk Spice Section

Whole Foods also has a bulk spice section that is awesome!  I no longer have to buy a whole bottle of some spice that I am going to only use once and then forget I have.  This saves so much money and your spices and herbs won’t go bad (yes spices can go bad) because you aren’t using them.  I usually get:

  • basil
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • turmeric
  • cumin

Because I’m obsessed with spices, I also get a lot of my spices and spice blends at The Spice House in Old Town.  They have so many amazing blends and I have a hard time choosing!  If you’re in the area you should check them out.  Plus it’s Alton Brown recommended so you can’t go wrong!

Whole Foods Grind Your Own Nut Butter

Other than bulk food, I also get a few other things:

  • organic sweet potatoes (my one organic splurge because to me they taste much better than conventional)
  • 365 brand peanut butter (the 2 lb jar is only $5.99)
  • grind your own almond butter
  • specialty ingredients like coconut cream, Asian/Indian food section things, tahini
  • bulk coffee (I also sometimes get coffee from Trader Joes)

Again, I don’t get these things every single trip just when I need them.

It is totally possible to shop at Whole Foods and not spend a small fortune.  If you do your homework, you can grocery shop here on a budget.  If you look for coupons, buy things that are on sale, shop the bulk food section, and purchase the 365 brand products you can save a lot of money.  And soon you might be able to shop at a less expensive version of Whole Foods.

This is the last post in this series and I hope it helped show you how to grocery shop as well as how it’s easy to eat healthy on a budget and at a variety of different stores.  I would love to write more posts about what I do to stay healthy, so let me know what other roadblocks you face when trying to eat better.  What other things would other glimpses into my life would you like to see?  Let me know in the comment section!

Grocery Shopping Tips

Clearly I believe that one of the components of living a healthier lifestyle is to eat well.  In order to eat well, you have to shop for that better food.  Grocery shopping can be an intimidating task for some people.  There are so many options, so many different choices, so many things that it can be overwhelming.  Where do you start?  What do you choose?  How do you ignore the things that aren’t good for you?  How do you know what is and isn’t good for you?  Whew!  If you are going to live healthier you HAVE to eat healthier and I don’t want you to feel intimidated by that.  I want it to be easy for you to shop and eat well, so I am going to give you some of my grocery shopping tips that help me stick to what I need and bypass everything I don’t.  Some of my tips might not apply to you or your grocery store, but there should be something in my list that will help you out and every little bit helps when it comes to eating better.

grocery-shopping

Make a menu for the week.  Try to plan ahead as much as possible.  I grocery shop Friday morning, so I like to write out a dinner menu through Thursday.  If you can’t handle a whole week just do a few days in advance.  Writing out a menu helps you to think about what ingredients you will need for your meals and what you will need to shop for.

Take inventory of your kitchen and make a list.  Check your fridge, your pantry, and your cabinets.  What things do you have and what things do you need?  I check my supply of dried goods like beans, rice, quinoa, and things like that.  I check  my supply of canned goods like diced tomatoes.  I also check things like potatoes, garlic, and onions as well as spices.  If I am low on any of my staples, I put it onto my grocery list.  Anything that I need for my weekly dinner that I don’t already have also goes on the list.  I also tend to arrange my list in the order that I will shop for it at the store.  For example, I put all my fresh produce on the list first because at my grocery store that is the first thing I get.  This helps to streamline the process as well as helps avoid any aisle that I do not need to be in.  Some people just wander up and down the aisles throwing whatever they think looks good into their cart.  They tend to end up with a lot more food than they need as well as the unhealthier fare that the store offers.  By preparing a list you can avoid all that!

Get to know the store.  Yeah I know this is kind of an obvious tip, but I’m including it anyway.  If you’re relatively new to grocery shopping don’t be frustrated if it takes a little longer to shop.  As you get to know your store and get to know the products offered, your shopping time will go down.

Shop for fresh produce first.  This is a personal preference, but I find that buying all the fresh stuff first is a little easier because there aren’t 5,000 different types of broccoli to choose from.  Broccoli is broccoli and you don’t have to compare ingredient lists or wonder which head of broccoli is better.  Plus I like to try and fill up my cart with good stuff first so it is easier to avoid the “bad” food because there is no room in the cart.

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Don’t let the aisles scare you.  A lot of people tell you to avoid the aisles and only shop the perimeter when you are trying to shop healthier.  While it is true that the aisles host pretty much all of the processed junk that you shouldn’t be eating, they also have some really good and healthy staples.  The aisles are where I get my canned/jarred tomatoes, rice, condiments like mustard, and occasionally salsa if I don’t have any homemade in my pantry.  My grocery store has a bulk section where I get all my spices, dried beans, and flour, but you can also find those things in the aisles at your store.  The key is to not go down every single aisle, this is where knowing how your grocery store is set up and what aisles contain the things you need on your list comes in handy.  Only go down the aisles that you need items from and you won’t have to worry about being tempted by the processed food.

Get your meat/dairy/eggs/frozen foods at the end.  I get my eggs, almond milk, and frozen vegetables last so they aren’t sitting in my cart getting warm the whole time.  The frozen section can be another tempting place as it houses all the ice cream/frozen treats as well as frozen dinners.  This is where having a menu planned out will help.  If you already know what you are going to eat for the week you will be less tempted by the convenience meals in the frozen section.  Let’s be honest, anything you make will be a lot tastier and healthier than anything you can get in a box, even if it does seem easier to just throw your dinner in the microwave and hit start.  Just stick to your frozen vegetables and fruit, which usually are in the same aisle so you don’t have to go down any other aisles.

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Get to know the products you use most.  For the foods that you do purchase in packages make sure you know the ingredients and are ok with them.  The first few times you shop this way you might have to spend some time comparing products and choosing the one you feel best about.  Once you get that down you can just go in and choose your regular product.  I know there are a few apps like In R Food and Zipongo let you scan bar codes and compare products based on ingredients.  You can also look up a lot of products online and look at ingredient lists and nutrition facts before you even go to the store so you don’t have to even look at any other product.

Those are just a few tips that have helped me stick to healthy and easy grocery shopping.  Trust me I know it’s really easy to get lost in all the aisles and products offered at the store.  If you prepare as much as you can beforehand it will make your actual shopping trip that much easier.  That way you can just go in, get exactly what you need, and head on out.  My best piece of advice for new healthy grocery shoppers is to take your time.  Plan to spend a few extra minutes at the store when you are first starting out.  It will take some time for you to get used to your store, the products that work best for you, and a new way of shopping.  As time goes on you will get faster and be a grocery shopping wizard!  Just stay calm and know that you are shopping for better health!