Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In Defense of Whole Foods

Wait. Before you fire up those flamethrowers hear me out. I'm not going to sit here and extol the virtues of any money-grubbing corporation, Whole Foods included. But I thought I'd comment on this recent NY Times article about Whole Foods and how they're trying to convince people that they can be an economical place to shop. I find this amusing because I already know that. Oh sure, the moniker Whole Paycheck is not without reason and if you just go in there willy nilly and buy whatever you want it may hold true. But for a lot of our staples, believe it or not they're the least expensive game in town. And that's important when you're on a budget - especially a new-baby-budget. We don't have a Trader Joe's here, nor do we have a co-op where you could become a member and get a discount. So for things like tofu, soy milk, a lot of bulk items and even the occasional produce item we shop at Whole Foods. Yes they often irritate me but no more so than any other mainstream grocery store.

What I really wanted to point out though are a couple of choice quotes from the article that just rubbed me the wrong way. I've written before about how the mainstream media often takes little pot shots at vegetarians and vegans and this article is no exception. First up is the quote from the Whole Foods employee regarding tofu, "It looks gross but it's delicious." I supposed you could view that in a positive light but still. What looks gross is a package of bloody ground beef, or a whole fish laying on ice and staring up at you with cold dead eyes. Hell, some things in the produce section look gross (celery root anyone?) but tofu? C'mon! It's an innocuous white block. Get over it.

Worse though is the closing quote from a Whole Foods shopper who says she considers "Whole Foods expensive for average people...It was only cheap if you were a vegetarian willing to eat beans and tofu." Well count me in then! So I guess if you eat beans and tofu you're not average. I just looked up antonyms for 'average' and the first one I found was 'abnormal'. I always suspected I might be abnormal, now here's validation ;-)

23 comments:

Catherine said...

Well, join the club -- the abnormal club, that is! :) People are always so shocked by vegetarianism, it seems . . . why?

Anyhow, I don't shop at Whole Foods myself, (because I have a kick-ass co-op about seven blocks away,) but I'm glad you guys have one, and don't have to dig around your supermarket for tofu and organic produce!!

kindkitchen said...

I agree that some stuff is very reasonably priced there. Tofu is a great deal as well as many bulk items.

It's sad that a WF shopper thinks tofu and beans are weird!

Amie Eliza Pinkerton said...

I do love how so many people think that only vegetarians can eat tofu. I friend of mine recently had a tofu dish at a restaurant and said "I'm not a vegetarian, but this tofu is really good." I'm pretty sure it tastes the same regardless of whether you include meat in your diet or not.

Jan Scholl said...

I live an hour away from the nearest Whole Foods-I go about once a month as I plan my trips (I drive less than 3000 miles a year). I stopped shopping at Kroger and most other chain grocery stores because of the moldy food on the shelves. I buy in bulk, getting a lot of fresh stuff from Costco-also an hour away. When I see a great deal, I stock up. I go in between to the farmers market or my own back yard. I have two freezers. Most grocery stores are hurting for the same reason most of us peons are. But I won't compromise on the quality of food I buy. If I want crap, I will go to some unbranded foodstamp place. I don't say that to be mean or upitty. I am just not trusting of where a lot of food comes from-but I trust Whole Foods (they arent gonna slap a label saying USA on it and inside have it Mexico) I will cut elsewhere if need be. There is also an article at Smart Money today about the stock and analysts cutting it to hold. http://tinyurl.com/55je4n ya know what I did? Went and purchase more stock. I invest for the long run and only in companies I believe in (no Exxon for me) I won't get rich overnight but I will make money for my retirement many years from now. Maybe by then I won't have to drive an hour or there will be mass transport for me.

Kristen said...

I was also irritated by the tofu comments in that NYT article. I've been a vegetarian for 15 years and I eat tofu maybe 4-5 times a year. Sheesh!

Anyway, I do have a good local co-op, but I can't afford to shop there for everything even with my member discount. I wish I could, but Whole Foods is significantly cheaper on a number of counts (I know, volume buying, etc.) and on my grad-school budget it just is the way I have to go. I have cringed a number of times about the behavior of John Mackey, but I continue to believe Whole Foods is a good company worth my support.

Bianca said...

I love Whole Foods. For a mainstream corporation, they're actually really good. Our vegetarian society meets there once a month in their community room, and they're so supportive. They even give us free food to munch on sometimes. And they provide faux meat samples to hand out when we have events in the store...plus, they're about the only store left that I know of that ALWAYS has free samples. I love free samples.

Courtney said...

Trader Joes is not any cheaper than Whole Foods, so don't worry--you are not missing out! And the co-op is more expensive than both of them...even with the member discount! Thanks for the link to the article--I had not seen it.

Courtney

Amey said...

Hi Chris!
Interesting post. Yes, it really does get tiresome hearing everyone bash on vegetarian food. All they'd have to do is click around on a few of these blogs and see that none of us are suffering. Or go to India.

We will be getting two Whole Foods in our county in the next year, and I personally am pretty excited about it. Most people around here are all nasty and critical, since Whole Foods is a chain and not locally owned. But I, for one, and psyched to have more options, and more neat products to explore!

Chris said...

Well I'm glad to have some validation - about our shopping at Whole Foods that is. I've seen a lot of Whole Foods bashing from the vegan community (and often for good reason) so I wasn't sure what kind of response I'd get from this post.

Before baby we used to shop at Trader Joe's a lot because we have them within a couple hours drive and we'd stop by when traveling. Several years ago I did a comparison and found TJ's to be around 30% cheaper than Whole Foods but more recently TJ's prices have been going up and Whole Foods' prices have come down for some things so it's more of a wash now. Though WF prices have been increasing lately but I think that's more due to fuel prices and is happening everywhere.

alaina said...

ugh, i am so with you on the "tofu is gross" thing. i can't remember how many things i've cooked/baked that people have loved until i said "it's got tofu in it." and then they get freaked out because they can't believe they just ate a vegetarian food, oh the horror! ;)

Jackie v said...

I'm with you. We also do not have Trader Joe's or other stores like it. Our local grocery store does carry organics, but they are way more expensive than Whole Foods on them. The San Marzano tomatoes that I love so much are $2.89 a can at Whole Foods and are $5.79 a can at my grocery store.

There are many things I can get cheaper at Whole Foods, I just have to go in with a list!

T said...

Wow, I totally thought the same thing. Because its not like average people eat beans, ho-no. Only imported organic goat cheese and foie gras for the average person's refined palate. What an obnoxious quote to end on.

Susan G said...

Who wants to be average, anyway? I take pride in being "different!"

Lily Girl said...

Ugg, I keep having to tell "remind" people (my family...) that they will in fact NOT starve if they don't eat meat for a meal. Honestly...
And while I would *love* to have a co-op and I shop regularly at TJ's, WF just has a variety of veg-friendly foods that is hard to beat where I live.

aTxVegn said...

I will agree with you, Chris. I live in Austin so I have always been behind the success of Whole Foods. I find plenty of "abnormal" shopping items are cheaper than the neighborhood market, and I like many of their brand products as well.

Mostly, I agree with your assessment of what is gross!

pixiepine said...

Nice perspective. I shop the bulk aisle and carefully pick from the rest and have never had an issues with Whole Foods.

Tuesday K :) said...

Hi, I just found your blog and I have to say I gave a chuckle about this post. Everyone in my immediate family (and some not :X)knows that if Whole Foods were a man I'd seriously think about leaving my hubby ;) Okay...maybe I don't love it THAT much, but....you get the drift ;). I'm a relapsed Vegetarian (LOL!) and I'm working back towards it after a year of falling off the wagon :(....and I've eaten Tofu, what? twice? ROFL. anyhow...that's beside the point...back to WF.

Frankly...I can go in there in a bad mood and walk the aisles for about 30 minutes with my lavender latte I got at the deli when I walked in, and then come out of the store ready to face the world ;).

I use their meals for 4 under 15 dollars thing they have and spend the same as I would at Lucky's...LESS than I would at Safeway AND I don't have to meticulously read the labels to make sure my son's allergies won't go haywire after he eats his snack....

TJ's is cheaper for us, but by the time I drive 20 minutes there, I've made up for it $$-wise thanks to our lovely cali. gas prices :P

So.....anyhoo.

Just wanted to say, I totally appreciate your post, lovin' your blog, and have a super duper day :D

Chris said...

thanks for the affirmation tuesday k! glad you're back on the wagon and moving towards the vegan wagon I hope ;-)

B Kinch said...

Yeah, the comment about tofu looking gross is pretty off base. I wonder if that person thinks that a block of jack cheese looks gross. how about a a square of nougat? A marshmallow? A half gallon of vanilla ice cream? It's a white rectangle. I don't get it.

sherry said...

Tofu - probably *the* first word that comes to mind when people think of vegetarians. I would say vegans too, but sadly I still get a blank stare out of most people with that term.

I hate tofu. I tried so hard to love it when first taking the step to vegetarianism years ago and no matter what I did I could not convince myself I liked the stuff. Even to this day I'll occasionally try to enjoy tofu only to remind myself I still hate it.

I wish more people knew that just because you have decided to abstain from eating animals doesn't mean you'll succumb to a diet centered around tofu. Even if I liked it, that would be completely boring. Our diets are wonderfully diverse, flavorful, and frugal. It sad so many are in the dark about that.

munin_and_hugin said...

For someone with a Trader Joe's down the street, I prefer Whole Foods. It used to be quite close, and now that I moved it's not. :/ Trader Joe's is notoriously bad with their produce. In my, and other's experiences, they don't do a very good job of checking expiration dates. For this, and the huge variety, I love Whole Foods.

Chris said...

I've definitely found suspect produce at TJ's and rarely get produce there (it's all that packaging too). We don't have TJ's here but there are several within a couple hours drive and we stop by when we're traveling. They used to be a major bargain compared to WF but lately we've found that TJ's prices are increasing and WF has actually come down on some things. There are still a few items that are a lot cheaper at TJ's but not as much as there used to be.

Andrea said...

You're absolutely right about Whole Foods. We have a fabulous food co-op where we do much of our shopping — but it's fairly expensive. We have a Trader Joe's which can be interesting, and we have a Whole Foods. We find that 365 brand items are often the cheapest. We especially like their organic canned beans which are not only cheap, but can also be found in a salt-free version. And, if you shop the sale items, even the veggies can be well-priced.

Sometimes it seems like the less likely a person is to buy basic, healthy food, the more likely they are to make fun of Whole Foods.