Before I moved to Charlottesville, I’d never been inside of a Whole Foods. But since I’ve exposed myself as a shameless hippie before, it won’t surprise anyone that I fell in love with the place. The little signs that tell you where the food came from? The grind-your-own peanut butter? the rating scale for the quality of life for all the meat products? Cue a foodgasm every time I walk through the doors. It was only after I had shopped there for a while that I realized that WF is the butt of some common jokes. “Oh, you mean Whole Paycheck?” Other comments have mentioned dreadlocks, patchouli, and corporate greed/corruption, but you get the idea.
In an ideal world, would I get everything direct from a farmer? Sure I would. But for me, WF was an excellent introduction to the world of fresh and local produce with an emphasis on clarity and honesty in packaging and presentation. It also provides a good halfway point between my daydreams, in which I arrive at the farmers market with my bamboo totes the minute it opens, (preferably 20 pounds lighter and in a sundress!) and the real world, in which I scarf down yet another bowl of cereal at 8pm because I’m trembling from hunger and too tired to cook. WF means that if I don’t make it to the farmer’s market on Saturday, I’m not condemned to row after row of “low fat antioxidant rich granola bars!” with high-fructose corn syrup proudly holding 2nd place in the list of ingredients.
With that in mind, I hatched a small plan. Could I buy enough with $75 at Whole Foods to feed myself three (relatively) wholesome meals a day for a week? I didn’t want to go below that $75 mark, because I’m not crazy, and these people have already lived on a $1 a day, and being a copycat is lame. I also set a requirement that a food item should be local, unpackaged, unprocessed, organic, or all of the above. I’m not trying to live on frozen meals in plastic trays, people.
I’ll shut up now and we can get to the food. With my $75 I bought the following:
- 1/2 pound of butter (local from here!)
- 1 dozen eggs (local from the very valley I live in!)
- 1 gallon skim milk (local from here!)
- 6 apples (from VA!)
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1 package dark leafy greens (organic)
- 1 pound of rolled oats (bulk; no packaging!)
- 2 pounds of sugar (also bulk!)
- 1 whole chicken (organic!)
- 1 white baguette (made at WF)
- 1 loaf Whole Wheat bread (made at WF)
- 1 Bavarian style pretzel (made at WF)
Total? $64.86. Definitely under the goal of $75. I could have picked up a few more things (I was eyeing some raspberries longingly) but since I’ll be using some things I already own, I wanted to up the realism a bit by not squeezing every penny out of my allotted cash. The total also includes $4 in bottle credits I payed for because of the milk, which theoretically I could use to “pay forward” my next grocery purchase. A ‘bottle credit’ means I pay more up front for a glass bottle, but if I return it I can get that money back.
For the objectors: I realize I could get these things cheaper than $75. I realize that $75 is not even considered cheap if you have to multiply it by four for a family. I realize that even WF has had issues with its corporate accountability, like most grocers. I’m not a social scientist. I’m just a girl who likes recognizing the ingredients in her food and pretending to know how to cook. I’ve heard so many times that it’s impossible to eat well, with local foods, minimizing waste, without spending a fortune. I wondered if it was possible, so I’m trying to figure that out.
Stay tuned for what I actually ate for the week! Oh, and if you’re wondering where the doggies are, here’s a little something to tide you over: