As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently moved from southern NM to the Virginia suburbs of DC. One of the things I was looking forward to (which were admittedly not many; I loved living in NM and was NOT very happy to be moving to the East Coast) was the greater variety of food options I'd have: more grocery stores, more restaurants, different types of ethnic food.
I'm interested in eating more organically, but the reality is that I just don't have the funds to buy all of my groceries at organic grocery stores. They're expensive, you know? Plus I like regular old store brand stuff once in a while. Anyway, I have a sensitivity to gluten, so I have to visit "health" food stores every few weeks to stock up on GF goodies (I know, I know, more grocery stores are getting GF products ... but not all of them carry the best ones!). When I got to Arlington, I immediately went to Whole Foods, thinking it would be a total food mecca for me. The biggest and most well-known organic grocery store in the country? Can't wait!!
Wow, was I wrong. Not only was the store incredibly expensive (ok, not that big of a surprise), but I was shocked to find that the big deal grocery store didn't carry many of the products I had begun to consider staples of my diet. I eat a ton of quinoa and like to switch it up by using different varieties and different brands, but Whole Foods only carried white quinoa in bulk and the Ancient Harvest brand, also in white. Only a few types of kombucha, not the five or six regularly carried by the co-op I visited in Las Cruces. And, they also didn't carry Seasnax, the incredibly addicting seaweed snack my boyfriend and I are obsessed with. I actually ordered a case of Seasnax on the very first day I went to Whole Foods, about 7 weeks ago, but haven't heard anything about it yet.
The store was also absolutely packed with people (like, running your cart into someone every couple of feet packed), and I could hardly get anyone's attention to help me find what I needed. I guess I assumed that a big deal grocery store in a highly populated area would have MORE to offer me than Mountain View Market, the little food co-op in the small desert city of Las Cruces, NM. But not only does Mountain View have a better selection of the food I want to buy, but the people who work there are kind, knowledgeable and serious about the mission of the co-op store. They know what kind of vitamins to recommend for digestive upset and what specific farm in the area grew the bok choy that just came in yesterday. And their products are actually cheaper than what Whole Foods offers. That seems crazy, doesn't it? That a little store can actually offer lower prices than a big name store?
I don't know. These differences should probably have been obvious to me. I actually feel kind of naive now that I'm writing this post. But after living in a place where you sort of get used to not having all the big-city amenities people brag about, I couldn't believe that the little-city amenities actually turned out to be BETTER. I will say that Whole Foods did have a rockin' selection of prepared foods. I got a huge salad with all kinds of different veggies and grains and I ate it all, I'm not going to lie. Not a bad wine section, either.
Still, while I appreciate the idea of Whole Foods and its mission, I think I've learned that I better stick to the smaller stores for my organic grocery needs. I've since started to shop at MOM's Organic Market, a locally-owned chain in the DC/MD/VA area, and I like it WAY better. It definitely has more of a local feel, the employees don't seem so frazzled, and they have at least four different types of quinoa to choose from. Plus, a commendable bulk foods section. First world problems, much? Yeah, I know.
Anyway, what do you think? Do you shop at Whole Foods, a local coop store, or do you stay away from "organic foods" altogether? I'm not the only person to be a bit disgruntled with Whole Foods, but it's definitely all about your preferences and your perspective, I think.