5 tips to keep Whole Foods from becoming ‘whole paycheck’

Home Chef, Killer Techniques — By KF Louis on June 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I’m guessing that 90% of Whole Foods customers have made the ‘Whole Paycheck’ complaint at least once in the past 10 years.  Why not?  This crack gets a laugh.

Me?  I’m starting to get irritated.  Because what I’m realizing is that the complaint comes from lazy shoppers.  Here is my take on why the Whole Paycheck phenomenon occurs in the first place, and some tips on how to keep your extra cash out of their hungry till and in a better place – like your IRA:

1. Shopping Manogamy.

When I hear the WP joke, I always ask:  “So, do you do the majority of your shopping at Whole Foods?”  The answer is often a sheepish ‘yes’ followed by a ‘but’…  “But it such a better shopping experience than Safeway.”  Or, “When I have a dinner party, I only need to go to one place… it has Mt. Tam AND Tallegio…”  Whatever.  If you only shop at Whole Foods, I can’t help you.

2. Buying ‘Flintstonian’ portions of meat.

The U.S. is still reeling from its meat-abundance issues that began in the 1950s.  Check out the photo to the right.  Whole Foods prides itself on offering premium cuts and sizing, evidenced by this bone-in pork loin chop clocking at 15 ounces.  But does that mean everyone at your table need one?    At my dinner parties and everyday meals, I try to keep meat portions down to about 4-5 ounces, and load up the plate with reasonably priced vegetables and starches.

3. Lust-driven produce selection.

Buying in season is always a good idea, but not enough at Whole Foods’ pricing schemes are downright clever.  Even in San Francisco, when asparagus is being harvested 20 miles away in Pescadero, it can range between $1.99 and $7.99 a pound!  If priced at the top end, why not lay off the asparagus until the next trip, when the price will likely improve?

4. Staple price UN-consciousness. This is the one that drives our coupon-clipping ancestors to stir in their graves.  If you are a normal working professional, you probably have no idea how much sphagetti sauce should cost.   If so, avoid buying staples at Whole Foods –skip the aisles in the middle of the store.  Or if you have an iPhone, get Red Laser to at least get a price comparison before you drop it in the shopping basket.

5. Too lazy/not enough time to prep ‘whole foods’ yourself. A whole pineapple costs $2.99.  A tub of pineapple ready to eat  is $8-9. Marinated meats see about the same markup. I’ll leave it to you to assess your skill set and available time to figure out what things are worth taking on from the original form.  But if you commit to just an hour of prep time a week, you will do wonders for your food bill – and likely bump up the nutritional quality of what you are eating during the week.

Disclosure:  While I’m hardly a shill for Whole Foods, I do shop there once a week to the tune of about $50-75 per trip.  For a store chain, there is consistently no better produce and meat under one roof.  But you won’t find me in their middle aisles, nor pushing a large cart that includes all the staple items… isn’t that what Safeway Home Delivery is for?

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