It’s a common, catchy little phrase that I hear all the time from my friends and students. “Whole Foods means whole paycheck” they exclaim after expeditions to our local WF where irresistible produce, fish, and meats often have hefty price tags.
An inveterate grocery shopper (I’m in supermarkets at least 3 to 4 times a week!), I’m aware that many things do cost more in this food emporium, but there are bargains too tucked among the shelves. Listed below are six items I routinely put in my cart. All are of excellent quality and a terrific value.
And speaking of non-monetary value, my local Whole Foods rates high for me on the service scale. Last week I asked a stocker where the peeled and cubed butternut squash was. She quickly explained that it was early in the season and that the store hadn’t begun to display packages of peeled and cut fall squashes. Then she continued, “Just go pick out a squash and I’ll take it in the back and prep it for you!” That little extra service is a bargain too!
Bulk Herbs and Spices
I save lots of $$$ by buying most of my dried herbs and spices in this section. When a recipe calls for a seasoning that I don’t use often (such as cardamom, mace, or mustard seeds) I get what I need from this counter. And, I stock up on my favorites (basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon) for refilling my spice jars.
Olive Oil 365
WF’s own brand of olives oils, known as 365, have an excellent flavor and are a true bargain. I most often buy the extra virgin and cold processed Mediterranean blend ($6.99 for 33 oz) to use in vinaigrettes and marinades, and for sautéing.
I used to make my own crème fraîche, but now I buy containers produced by Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery, a local company. It’s $3.99 for 8 oz at WF, a dollar less than at the other markets in my town. It has a long shelf life so I always have it on hand in my fridge.
I love this crusty baguette made with a hint of sour dough, and priced at $1.99. It’s excellent sliced into croutons for bruschette or crostini. Most often, though, I place a loaf in a hot oven (375 degrees), pour 1/2 cup water on the floor (of the oven, please!) to create steam, and heat the bread for 5 to 6 minutes until it is hot and crisp.
I was skeptical about buying “prepared” meatballs at the butcher counter, but these, scented with Italian seasonings and Parmesan cheese, are well flavored. Extra large (about 2 to 3 inches in diameter), they are good browned in olive oil, then simmered in your favorite tomato sauce and served over mounds of pasta. At $6.99 a pound they won’t break the bank!