My first trip to Whole Foods

A few months ago, we had our first Whole Foods experience. I steeled myself for the prices. After all, it’s nick name is “Whole paycheck,” isn’t it?

Reusing candle jars. The seal keeps the goods longer than the marinara and sauerkraut jars I’ve tried.

We walked up and down the aisles. Everything was organic from chocolate and fresh fish to dried fruit and grains in the bulk bins. I weighed and compared my bulk bin priced goods to the ones I buy at the commissary or on the outside.

–Organic prunes from the bulk bin at Whole Foods: .51 lb @ $5.99/lb = $3.05
–Prunes in a package at the commissary: 18 oz. = $3.07

2. Bran flakes cereal:
–Whole bran flakes cereal from the bulk bins at Whole Foods:
.61 lb @ $4.49/lb = $2.74
–Whole bran flakes cereal in a box at the commissary:
15.6 oz = $3.88
–(Generic brand) 17.3 oz. = $2.10

So, I still save more when I shop at the commissary, which irks me that bulk is more expensive than packaged products. Therefore, I’m only buying grains, beans, nuts, and dried fruit out of Whole Foods bulk bins. I buy large amounts of them for cooking, so they’ll last a while. And the only horrendously expensive products in the bulk bins? Dried cranberries and hazelnuts. Those are expensive, anyway.

We also bought
1. 67 lb hulled organic barley @ $1.99/lb = $3.32
1.23 lb of organic bulgur @ $2.69/lb = $3.31.
We walked out with a good amount of barley, cereal, bulgur and prunes for $12.42 to cook with. I felt it wasn’t a horrible deal.

The organic meat and fish weren’t packaged and could be placed in containers you bring in, but the meat and fish cost an arm and a leg. The hubby stood highly disappointed, gawking at the cheese–all of it packaged to the high heavens. Unless you shop in the bulk bins, Whole Foods doesn’t have a leg up on anyone when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging.

The only way this works with reducing waste is to follow Bea Johnson’s example and take my own mesh bags/containers to fill. Using their offered plastic bags defeats the purpose, which I learned with the sticky dried fruit. Bea takes her own glass jars in to fill with meat, fish and no doubt–dried fruit.  Either way, the people behind the counter and at the customer service desk are always more than happy to help and weigh your brought-in container before you fill it.

Bea was right. It works!  I win.

Zero waste.

Surprisingly, the prices came out even to what I spend on the outside, and slightly higher than the commissary. And I’m willing to pay some  extra change to remain plastic free. It helps me sleep at night. If you catch their sales, you could truly come out on top. Still, I’m torn. I’m one person. Do I want to spend extra money to save the environment when the masses aren’t? How much difference am I making besides less money in my wallet? There must be a better way. spoke of forming bulk buying groups with friends and family to purchase from the actual food companies, which sounded fantastic. But we’ve been here six months. I have maybe two friends. Who would I join with? And what about co-ops? Would that be a better option? Any ideas that trump Whole Foods bulk bins to cut down on plastic that don’t spend your “whole paycheck”?

Empty the mesh bags.


29 responses to “My first trip to Whole Foods

  1. great post! I hadn’t heard that ‘whole paycheck’ joke but it’s true! I understand your dilemma… not sure what you can do – but make more friends? 🙂 not sure how doable that is – we have a coop store here that’s pretty cool – let me know how it works out!

    • Hi Boy Mom Blogger! How are you, woman?
      Yes…need to make more friends! 🙂
      I’d like to check out one of these coop stores. I only hear good things about them…

  2. Whole Foods is expensive but I love their selections. The way I handle the guilt of spending more there is by dropping by every once in a while (it helps that we do not have a sote nearby) and then only buying stuff I don’t usually find near home. Great post!

    BTW Jennifer, I am happy to pass on to you the Versatile Blogger Award, and the ABC Award too, you deserve it! I am new at this so here is the link to my posts: (Hope that is how it works, lol)

    • Marcia! That’s how I do it too. I just go once every month, every two months….and get the things I can’t find anywhere else. Smart move.
      And thank you so much for the thoughtful awards. So kind of you! Those awards are always so interesting because you have to write things about yourself that on one knows! I’ll have to get on there and take a look! Cheers!

  3. I have a love/hate relationship with Whole Foods. They have awesome stuff you can’t always find everywhere else and a focus on natural and organic, which is right up my alley. But I cannot get out of there without spending at least like 60 dollars…sigh. I couldn’t even tell you what I buy?! Then I get home and go…”man, I have nothing to eat!” (Probably bc I get nifty things like chia seeds, but it’s like 20 for a jar or something??!) lol I haven’t been there in a while. I always loved their samples too. Yum!

  4. Quality-quality-quality…is the sound of peace of mind which you listen to. eat better and buy on sale to store in your beautiful jars (decor for the eco-culinary queen)..
    you can buy lentils-beans-chick-peas-limas-couscous- whole grains-legumes etc in any store, rinse well, add water and love.
    canned fish, any store, i have been in your commissary as a visitor, it sure is nicer than most stores i know.
    for dried fruits without sulfur and additives whole food it..for olive or canola oil, fine spices or condiments also.

    you can make the outer aisles of your store the entree and consider whole foods the dessert,. and remain in the healthful zone for you and enviroman.

  5. I recently watched a documentary called Waste Land (it’s available on Netflix streaming if you have that). It’s about the people who work as recyclers in one of the largest landfills in the world, in Rio de Janiero, and an artist who followed them and then created art w/the garbage. Anyway, Valtor, one of the older men who worked in the landfill for many years had this to say about recycling: “People sometimes say “But one single can?” One single can is of great importance. Because 99 is not 100, and that single one will make the difference.” I think about that all the time – 99 is not 100. What you are doing is important, Jennifer. You have certainly inspired me, and countless others, I am sure. When I am spending more than I wish on something important, I remind myself that I am voting w/my dollars. These days, I think that vote may be more important that the one I make in the voting booth.

    Here is the trailer for Waste Land: Just watching it brings tears to my eyes remembering these precious people.

    • Learningandyearning, How ironic! I just put it in my Netflix queue the other day!
      I really like the 99 is not 100. So good. I appreciate the encouragement, and it was the voting with your dollars comment that really got me. I will keep going. And I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for that statement right there. My husband says it all the time. And it does make more difference it seems than the voting booth.
      You know I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Brazil. 2 years total within three visits. In 2006, I won a year long scholarship to go over and we all had to give a social justice presentation after a 3-week research project. The one that sticks out in my head was this girl who followed a group of workers in a type of recycling cooperative and the trash was thrown onto 5 conveyer belts (from a dump truck maybe?) while they sorted it out by hand looking for recycling materials. They didn’t use gloves. And she kept asking them what their dreams in life were and they kept saying “That all the conveyer belts would work because one of them is down.” She’d say, “I realize that, but outside of this, outside of here, what are your dreams for the future?” They kept saying the conveyer belts and she started to cry while she gave the presentation.
      So, the following year, I won two scholarships and went back to make an amateur documentary about another recycing cooperative in a small town in the state of Sao Paulo. I followed a woman named Maria for one full day. It was amazing. She was amazing. I never did anything with the film, because I didn’t know how to edit or to get it from the tape to the computer, and then there was the issues of subtitles. So, it got put on the back burner. It’s at my mother’s house…..there must be something I could do with it. Don’t you think? If I could give a presentation half as heart felt as the one that girl gave… inspired me to go back!

      • alright jennifer, make copies of your video…then use your techie skills to contact the Sundance foundation…hang onto your precious recordings, you want to retain rights at all times. this would be wonderful…
        find the proper channels. your local college Valdosta? should have a broadcasting school with video capacities and help from students/staff..if not UGA does.
        Annie Leonard who made the “history of stuff” video could be contacted for info, she is very cooperative and helpful.
        but–perhaps you could train yourself to use the many editing programs available online for free. grandmothermoon aka mrs green is quite knowledgeable too.

  6. Interesting shopping list. Wondering if you will share any recipes? I would love to re-post on my blog your “top 10 military spouse go to meals.”

    • Well, hi Bobbie O’Brien! I can most certainly put that together for you! As of now I have a separate blog with only crock pot meals for busy military wives/familes. Feel free to pull anything you’d like off of there! It’s up just to help busy moms. And in the ‘end results’ section I tell you if it worked out or not….because sometimes it just doesn’t! LOL!
      In the meantime, I’ll be pulling together some recipes that work for us.

  7. with other grocery stores like Safeway that has raised their price to a ridiculous amount now, I think I might give Whole Foods another try. Right now I shop a lot at Trader Joe’s because they have really good price and good food.

    • @ Foottrackerluvya, I LOVE Trader Joe’s. I think they may be a bit cheaper than Whole Foods, but don’t quote me on that one. It was my #1 shopping store when I lived in D.C. before I married military. Their coffee….the little samples, the flowers welcoming you when you first walk in the door. How I miss it. There isn’t one here! Have a coffee sample on me the next time you’re in!

  8. We can’t afford Whole Foods. I like Trader Joe’s as sometimes they have cheaper stuff than Safeway (like canned corn, peas, olive oil). We buy in Sprouts Market – and I love it. They’ve got fresh veggies and organic produce that are much cheaper than Whole Foods. I call it Whole Foods for poor
    The quality is any worse than WF and they’ve got almost averything in bulk. The only think is that I’ve always suffered having to use those plastic bags they offere. Thanks to you now I know about the mesh bags. I was thinking about making my own small bags from a very light and silky fabric (maybe satin), but I am sooooooo lazy to start using my sewing maschine. Gosh.. I hate it in myself. So many ideas and so little doing in real life.
    Anyway, I was watching a documentary about WF and they were saying that you pay there about 1/3 more than if you were buying from a regular grocery shop. 1/3 is a lot to use.
    It’s just so ironic than to live green (more natural) you need to pay more. How is that for encouraging people to start buying organic and swich to healthier foods… ?!

    • Ewa, i always thought that processed and imported foods should be more expensive, due to actual production costs. and shipping and middle men’s bonuses. but this corporate system we are being tied to manipulates resources to our with our little dollars..if we don’t buy it they’ll get tired of making it..eventually after trying to greenwash our ears with more chemicals first.
      i hope that you can enjoy a little relaxation before your little one comes, creative laziness is acceptable. if you need to feel artistic..attack a closet or a small drawer and find a piece of yarn or cloth , some paper and make an object out of ‘nothing’… every day one tiny something for the inner woman. give it sell it or keep is the expression of your exquisite talents. so are those photos of your lovely ones.

      • You’re right Nadine. It can’t be THAT difficult, right? Imagine if I could do the editing myself, the freedom I would have to do what I wanted with it! I’ve heard about the history of stuff. And Mrs. Green knows too! Hmm…I’ll have to think about this…

    • SO true! I wish we had a WF for poor people!! Maybe I should scout a little harder….for bulk foods.

  9. We vote with our purchases. One person can make a difference.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Stephanieough! You’re right. I won’t give up.

      • I am constantly having to defend my work towards less waste (and it is work). It’s amazing how defensive people get. My family is not close yet but at least we are trying. Luckily there are people like Bea we can look at for ideas!

  10. @ Stephanie—since I grew up doing it, it just seems normal. Though I’ll admit some of it is work. Like the pulling recyclables out of your trash when a visitor comes to your home, etc….but my biggest problem is clutter. Because we use and reuse everything to death, my house looks nothing like Bea’s. My house is….messy and I’m constantly trying to “fix” that. (Sigh.)
    It’s ironic. I’ve only been to Bea’s site once. My husband and I were doing the same thing ( just seperately when we got married)—Bea just gave us the word “zero waste.” We just used “cheap” and “nonwasteful!” I get most of my ideas from my mother or visitors to my blog who are doing the same things we are. Mom Photographer and Nadine Sellers of Verdigrass give me the most. I think it’s because they grew up in Europe and doing these things are second nature to them. They’ve done it all their life. And are AMAZING, crafty reusers.
    I am THRILLED to find you, and to hear that you’re doing this too! And looking forward to getting ideas from you as well!
    I am SO glad to meet you Stephanie!

  11. Loved the post and your determination to go zero waste. Would like to go that route but where do you get the mesh bags with the drawstring? I live in the city and do not own a car so the idea of using glass jars to tote food is daunting. How do I go plastic-less?

    • joanie, would a wheelie cart such as a rolling travel case help you? or do you fancy a sleek backpack to balance heavier loads while walking home? there are small metal collapsible roll-carts available in the store’s travel sections which really help pull or push groceries around.
      your minimalist option may be to save all the safe plastic containers to buy and carry meats or grains–and then to put them in your own glassware at home..not a terrible imposition once you are used to it..
      beth at life less plastic (formerly fake plastic fish has a complete list of ideas about just that..deplastifying our lives, you reminded me to visit her on her new blog version soon thanks jennifer and commentors.

  12. Joanie, these are the mesh bags I’m using. I bought them at a green store that went under at the Virginia farmer’s market in Norfolk, but you can find them on Amazon.
    And I’m sure they sell others at any health food store.
    I agree with Nadine. Traveling with light plastic until you get to the house might be lighter than lugging around glass. But if you have a rolley travel case, that would work!
    I’ve found a couple plastic-free blog sites. I’ll have to try and find where I put them and I’ll send them your way!

  13. Pingback: Homemade museli for breakfast! | Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household

  14. Pingback: Prunes | Attempting zero waste lifestyle in a military household

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