Written by Jill Ettinger
Say what you will about tie-dye wearing hippies, but the 1960s gave birth to a slew of natural food co-ops and health food stores that sparked the organic movement now mostly defined by Whole Foods. Also known as Whole Paycheck for their expensive and irresistible offerings, a trip to Whole Foods can tip the $100 mark in just a single bag. As the nation's largest natural food chain now tries to shake its nickname (especially in these that-darn-recession-just-won't-quit times), it's a good time to consider our shopping options, from the superchains to the Mom and Pop stores to the farmers markets.
Take a look at the pros and cons of the organic food shopping options. What's your preference?
- Accessible in many major cities (and often with parking lots, double score).
- Wide selection of fresh, local and organic produce, staples, snacks and prepared foods.
- Private label brands offer low-priced alternatives to brand name foods.
- Lots of personal care and household items that can make it a one-stop-shopping trip.
- Having a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables year round can mean importing from far-away countries, not the most sustainable practice.
- Despite the lower-priced private label items, the store is full of high-priced enticing items that can easily lead to over-spending.
- Even though the chain promotes a long list of quality standards (like humane animal treatment and cage-free eggs), some items can contain unhealthy ingredients, not easily discerned by the common shopper.
The Mom & Pop Natural Food Store or Co-op
- Higher likelihood of being locally owned and operated.
- Often offers only seasonal, local and organic produce, meat and dairy.
- May be more capable of special ordering items (even if they don't sell them in the store).
- May have large bulk food selection with better pricing on commodity items.
- Can lack on selection.
- May not be as accessible as a larger market.
- May be more expensive on some items than stores that offer private label or monthly specials.
- Freshest, farmer-direct options always in season.
- Typically affordable pricing well below grocery stores.
- Fun community environment.
- Organic options may be limited.
- Markets may not be frequent in your area.
- Still need to make other shopping stops for household items and staples.
Eating organic means being discerning in food choices and foregoing the mass-marketed shopping experience. While Whole Foods might meet most of your shopping needs, spending time in a variety of local markets and farmers markets will provide you both variety and community—factors integral to the shopping experience, not to be overlooked.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger