When John and I got home from New Jersey after Christmas we were out of groceries and didn’t feel like cooking, but wanted something healthy and green for dinner after a week of eating heavy holiday meals. We did what we always do in this situation – paid a visit to the Whole Foods prepared foods bar.
As we sat and ate I looked around and pondered Whole Foods. We go to Whole Foods on occasion for yummy cheeses, good chocolate, or high quality meats but have never done a full grocery shop for the week there. John and I prefer a combination of Stop & Shop, Trader Joe’s, and our local Italian grocer, Bob’s. As I pondered, I said to John: “Some week when we have a little extra cash, we should do a full food shop here and see if it really is that much more expensive.” He agreed and, since the next day was payday, we decided to increase the grocery budget for the next week to try it that weekend.
Our grocery budget for one week is $120 with each of us contributing $60. I don’t know if that seems high or low – $60/week is what I’ve been budgeting for at least 10 years. Sometimes we make a special trip or expense when we need to stock up on staple items but on average we spent $120/week on the nose. The other thing to note about our budget is that we make all of our own meals during the week – 10 work week breakfasts, 10 work week lunches, and 10 work week dinners. We don’t eat out at all during the week, it’s just kind of become a rule in our house (unless it’s a special occasion, of course).
So The Whole Foods Experiment was underway! We made a regular meal plan for the week, not skimping or picking a less expensive menu, wrote the grocery list, and budgeted $160 for the trip ($40 more than usual).
As most folks do, I assumed the following about Whole Foods: it’s prohibitively expensive, it’s full of ponytailed hippies and yuppies in yoga pants, it’s just as good as the regular grocery store, it’s elitist, and it’s all gloss for not enough quality. Our experiment helped me challenge these beliefs; as I shopped I purposefully put those thoughts out of my head. What I actually experienced, bias free, was pretty great.
The instant I walked into the produce section the smell of sweet apples and fresh herbs hit my nose. Wow, they actually have a real smell! And it’s lovely! The meat counter was very clean and the prices were (surprisingly) exactly what we pay at Stop & Shop and our local butcher. I was decidedly more scrutinizing in the freezer section (a section I stay away from in any grocery store), looking for flashy labels and preservative loaded items. I was pleasantly surprised though that there were no freezer burned blocks of tater tots and items seemed to have explicit use-by dates.
By the time we had finished shopping I was really excited to see what our total was.
All told, we spent $130.35! Only $10 over our normal allotted weekly grocery budget. Again, this was a normal shopping trip for all of our meals for the week. We even picked up some extra things that we couldn’t resist. I couldn’t believe it!
Because I am a numbers person, here is the breakdown of our trip.
On this trip we bought 34 items: 19 were fruits/vegetables (56%), 5 were bread/grains (15%), 5 were beverages (bubbly water) (15%), 3 were meat/protein (9%), and 2 were dairy (5%). On this trip we spent $130.35, the breakdown per category (without tax) is as follows: $61 was on fruits/vegetables, $42 was on meat/protein, $12 was on bread/grains, $10 was on dairy, and $5 was on beverages.
Also, I definitely wanted to mention the two items I think we got the best deals on. The first was the boneless, skinless chicken breast. We bought just over 5 lbs. at $6.99/lb. but when you buy over 3 lbs. you save $0.50/lb. So we ended up spending $37.47 which I thought was a fantastic price. The other great deal I think we got was the flat leaf parsley pictured below. It was $1.69 for an enormous bunch and yielded 3 cups after I trimmed it and chopped it up. Usually I only get a handful of fresh herbs from the $3 stalks at Stop & Shop. This was a great purchase.
John and I decided that we are definitely going to start working in full grocery trips to Whole Foods. For starters, the quality really is a great value for the price. The selection of organic items, specifically produce, is important to us and Whole Foods has a stellar selection. Also, it felt good to challenge what I thought I knew and prove to myself that those beliefs weren’t evidence-based.
It should go without saying but I will be explicit – this is not a sponsored post; this was a good-natured experiment that I was hoping would go well enough to share with you (and I think it did). I hope you enjoyed it!