This is less of a review, and more of an ode. An ode to the cheese scraps bin at Whole Foods. If you like cheese, and you are not aware of the cheese scraps bin at Whole Foods, you need to be. Now, spare me the “Whole Paycheck” snark.
Actually, you know what? You had to go there with the “Whole Paycheck,” didn’t you? Let’s go. U-turn. Change of plans. This is now a review of Whole Foods.
Whole Foods is awesome. For reference, my wife and I are former grad students and sometimes-couponers who operate on a strict weekly grocery budget. We also love food and lots of it so that weekly budget is possibly larger than your average weekly grocery budget, but whatevs. We have a tendency to get into food ruts, so we try to cycle through Trader Joes, Wegmans, Whole Foods, Costco, and sprinkle in the occasional Peapod delivery or Shaw’s run for pantry staples. Stick to one till we get sick of it, move on to the next. Works well for us.
Everyone knows why people love Trader Joe’s. Wegmans has achieved cult-like status in the Northeast (still not 100% sold on that one). Costco is Costco. They all have their pluses and minuses. But why is everyone always hating on Whole Foods?
Here are the areas in which Whole Foods kicks ass:
- Vegetables. In order to achieve the simultaneous goals of (1) eating a lot of food and (2) making at least a half-assed attempt at either maintaining or losing weight, we eat massive amounts of vegetables, and there is NO PLACE ON EARTH WITH BETTER VEGETABLES THAN WHOLE FOODS. With the exception of Trader Joes, they are within ~30 cents a pound of everywhere else that we shop, and they are hands-down, across-the-board more flavorful and delicious. When Whole Foods vegetables are on sale, they are way cheaper than most of the other places we shop and I almost feel like I am stealing something because of the quality.
- Meat. We bought meat exclusively at Whole Foods for about a year after watching Food, Inc. I still check the flyer weekly to see if our favorite meat & seafood items are on sale (grass-fed Au Poivre burgers and Bell & Evans coconut-crusted free range chicken, be still my heart). They give you a little number to indicate how much your animal was tortured before slaughter, and I like that. And the less-tortured meat just tastes better. Way, way better. It’s not psychological, it’s reality. Deal with it.
- The Cheese Scraps Bin. In case this hasn’t yet been made abundantly clear, I freaking love cheese. I love smelling cheese, I love tasting cheese, I love looking at cheese. I love heating up cheese and seeing what happens. I love sharing a small cheese course with my cat after dinner. Going to Whole Foods and seeing a fully stocked cheese scraps bin gives me a giddiness on par with Christmas freaking morning. Within the confines of this magical bin, you can try whatever the hell cheese you want for under $5/piece, usually under $3/piece, sometimes under $2/piece, are you kidding me?!?! And you never have to throw any moldy cheese away because the Whole Foods Cheese Scrap is the One True Appropriate Weekly Cheese Quantity for a 33-year-old woman and her 10-lb cat.
- Hamentaschen. Unfortunately I am not Jewish, but thanks to Whole Foods, Purim can still be my second Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
Here are the areas in which Whole Foods doesn’t necessarily stand out amongst the pack:
- Prices. Yes, fine, Whole Foods is slightly more expensive than other stores. But I have been paying a lot of attention to this for a couple of years now, and the old chestnut “you get what you pay for” most definitely applies. So what if we spend a couple dollars per pound less on lettuce at Wegmans or Costco? We have to throw it out by Wednesday because by then it is a minefield of random disintegrated rotten mush-leaves. And then what happens? One of us has to stop at Whole Foods after work to buy replacement lettuce. Mmm hmm. Same goes for carrots. Wegmans baby carrots are slime-balls midweek. Avocados? Ok Costco wins here, their avocados are wonderful… but so are Whole Foods avocados! Wegmans and Trader Joe’s avocados are cheaper, sure, but they look like deflated footballs (in both physical form and interior color) by the time they finally ripen. In fact, the only place that can compete with Whole Foods on vegetables (or, more accurately, vegetablestheymightcarrybutonlyifyouaresolucky) is Trader Joe’s. And the Trader Joe’s Tradeoff is that for better or worse, you are also buying all of the rest of your groceries at Trader Joe’s. Your lettuce is wilting in a sealed plastic bag, their suppliers are hush-hush-secret so you have no idea where the fuck that chicken came from, they are still out of limes and no, they don’t carry that kind of vinegar* so don’t bother asking.
- Hot bar and prepared foods. Don’t buy that shit. It’s patently mediocre.**
Lastly, here are the areas in which Whole Foods sucks:
- Low-carb-bread-slash-wrap-style-thing options. Don’t really exist at Whole Foods. At least not ones that taste good. Makes my lunches difficult. Kind of a bummer.
- Kettle Corn. They have awful, nightmarish store-brand kettle corn. Seriously, it’s just the worst.
- That’s about it.
So there you have it. If my family can stay within the exact same grocery budget*** shopping at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Wegmans (not at Costco. Never at Costco.), so can you. Whole Foods haters need to step off.
Now that you know how I feel, either refrain from insulting Whole Foods in my presence or prepare to suffer the consequences.****
* PLAIN REGULAR WHITE VINEGAR
** Exceptions: potato salad, sesame tofu, roasted butternut squash with cranberries. Ok so maybe it’s not “patently” mediocre, but most of it does not taste as good as it looks.
*** Sales flyer, coupons and cheese scraps. The only reason this is possible is sales flyer, coupons and cheese scraps.
**** There are no consequences. I never say a single goddamn word when people insult Whole Foods in my presence. I just glower in silence and craft passive-aggressive blog posts in my brain.