Where I live, there are health food stores, but they are small- the largest one is roughly the size of your average Payless store. When I knew I was coming to the US, in addition to visiting Walmart and Target, I wanted to pay a visit to either Whole Foods or Trader Joes, a health food store that is super sized (like everything else in the US ;) ) also for the experience, and also to get a taste of how American health food shoppers shop, to get ideas of pricing and such so I know about how much my American readers end up spending on various health food items.
My hosts in Kansas City took me on a trip to Whole Foods, which has been nicknamed "Whole Paycheck", and now I understand why.
I have to say, it was quite an experience for me- so many options of healthy items in one place- locally, I either can't find what I'm looking for, or have only one option and can't really price compare or even decide which brand I prefer....
The problem with a place like whole foods, though, is that with so many options in front of you, it's very tempting to just browse the aisles and just get what appeals to you, even if you don't need it, because it's good looking, it's not unhealthy, and it's right there in front of you!
Take this shelf of chocolates, for example. Locally all the chocolate is filled with such garbage, and here was a shelf filled with chocolate made with 3-5 ingredients, all not bad. For example, they were pure cacao powder, cocoa butter, and unrefined cane sugar, and then maybe a natural flavoring or two. It is so tempting to want to treat yourself to a bar of chocolate... but at 6 or 7 dollars for a small bar of chocolate, those little treats add up in price very quickly.
We did end up buying one bar for 3 adults to share- a chili flavored chocolate- and it was out of this world delicious- and unlike most chocolate, I didn't feel sick after eating it.... But this was definitely a one time treat, because it is seriously too expensive to buy even on a semi regular basis.
We passed by this shelf filled with dairy free milks. It's nice to have such a variety- where I live, you have two choices of soy milk, one brand of almond milk, one brand of rice milk, one brand of oat milk. That's it. So being able to take my pick of so many types of non dairy milks (at home I can only buy almond milk or rice milk since I don't do soy or oats), from almond to rice to oat to hemp to hazelnut to quinoa to coconut to soy, etc... with a few different brands and flavors of each type- it was definitely nice... However...
That was until I looked at the price tag.
These non dairy milks are super expensive- more expensive than they are locally, in my opinion...
This just reinforces how much of a good idea it is to make your own homemade non dairy milks if you're dairy intolerant, because homemade stuff is far cheaper, by a mile, and they don't have any problematic ingredients that might cause health issues...
I checked out the shelf with gluten free flours, and, again, the variety there was so amazing. Of course, it almost all was Bob's Red Mill brand, so you couldn't really price compare between brands, but still...
But again, these gluten free flours were so expensive that it reinforced for me what a good idea it is for gluten free people to purchase their own grain grinder and grind their own flours instead of buying them pre-ground.
I actually came to whole foods intending to buy one specific thing- Daiya cheese. It's a dairy free, soy free cheese that is meltable, and doesn't contain too many bad ingredients. I've looked for something like that locally many times, but from what I've discovered, they don't sell it in my country. I do make my own vegan cheeses, but they aren't so easy to make and don't taste 100% cheesy- meaning, they're close, but not perfect, and it would be nice to have something like Daiya stocked in my freezer for lazy times, etc... I was planning on buying a bunch of Daiya to bring back with me, but quite a few people warned me that I shouldn't do that until I try it, since some people react badly to Daiya cheese, and it would be a shame if I stocked up on it and it ended up making me sick.
So I wanted to buy a bit, try it out, and if it agreed with me, buy a bunch to take home with me before I leave on Sunday.
So the visit to Whole Foods was mainly intended to get that.
And wow, what a selection of Daiya!!!
I price compared, to see what was cheapest per ounce- shredded, sliced, or chunks of cheese, and the sliced stuff ended up being cheaper, so I bought a bit of the Daiya cheddar to try out. Oh my gosh. We had broccoli with our supper, and I melted the Daiya cheddar on it, and it was amazing, and best of all, no bad reaction to it! So I'll definitely be stocking up!!
I have to say the thing that amused me the most about my visit to Whole Foods was watching this tour there. I have never before seen a grocery store tour, so I don't know what they showed and what the purpose of the tour is... but either way, I found it cute/strange enough to photograph.
The tour was right near the bulk food section, which is the cheapest part of Whole Foods- how you can get grains and nuts and seeds and other dry goods cheapest...
When we got to the shelves of olive oil and other oils, I was shocked at how expensive the oils were. I rarely buy olive oil because it is simply super expensive where I live, but after seeing the prices at Whole Foods, I am definitely appreciative of how "cheap" our olive oil is locally...
Last but not least on our pictorial tour of Whole Foods was this shelf filled with all different varieties of kombucha!
I got so much inspiration from the different types of kombucha there, which I want to try out at home. Some of the kombucha was mixed with fruit juices, some was mixed with greens, and some was mixed with fruit juices and chia seeds. My hostess treated me to a bottle of chia and black currant kombucha to drink before flying out of Kansas City this morning, and it was delicious!
I also checked out the section where they sold homemade soaps, some made with goat's milk and oatmeal... I recently made some goat's milk and oatmeal soap and it came out a really wonky color, so I was afraid I did something wrong, but the goat's milk oatmeal soap there was exactly the same color, so it reassured me that I made it just fine. I checked out the prices, and discovered that my soap bars, the size that they are, would sell at about 5 dollars each at Whole Foods. And they definitely cost me much less to make!
So, what did I get from my trip to Whole Foods? What was my impression?
Well, I have to say that as a health conscious person, I sometimes feel like people think I'm a crazy nutter, and it was a nice feeling to have so many similarly minded people nearby, none of whom think I am crazy for looking for a fever/pain reducer (similar to tylenol or ibuprofin) that didn't have fake sugars like sorbitol in it, but understood why I was looking for that (unfortunately, Whole Foods didn't carry such a thing), or didn't think I was nuts for drinking kombucha, etc... It's just a nice feeling to feel "normal" and not like a "weirdo" for caring about my health and wanting to live a more natural lifestyle.
And it was definitely nice to have a large selection of stuff to choose from that were suitable to the type of lifestyle I lead and diet I eat.
At the same time, Whole Foods is super expensive, and I think shopping there regularly could be too big a temptation for most people, because the cost there really adds up and because everything is "totally fine" there is too much of a pull to just "add one more thing into the cart" that you wouldn't necessarily have when shopping in a regular supermarket and weeding out the healthy items there. In a way, I'm glad I don't have a Whole Foods locally, because I think too much variety makes people think they need to try EVERYTHING, because it's available, instead of being satisfied with just the simple stuff they could make from scratch.
And speaking of making from scratch, I did enjoy seeing the variety of healthy processed foods at Whole Foods, which gave me ideas of things I can make at home, whether different granola type bars (made with raw buckwheat, sprouted seeds, and dates) or raw granola mixes (similar to the bars) or flavored kombuchas, etc...
I think it's a good idea to get occasional cooking inspiration from Whole Foods, and then go home and make those foods from scratch instead of buying them already made and prepackaged from Whole Foods.
Either way, I had a fun time and am glad I checked it out.
Do you have a Whole Foods locally? Do you buy from there? Is that where you do your usual grocery shopping, or do you only buy certain items from there, and if so, which items? What is your impression of Whole Foods? Do you agree with my assessment?