Usually, I cringe at the thought of setting an alarm on Saturday morning, but this weekend, I had a fun special event to attend at one of my favorite stores: Whole Foods Market on Pearl Street in Boulder!
After the amazing Vegan dinner I attended a few months back, the fabulous hostesses Stephanie and Dana invited me to come back to this flagship location to do a private tour of the store. As the store’s local healthy eating and green mission specialists, they have a ton of knowledge to share and I was eager to learn! I even invited some of my favorite gal pals to join me.
After this tour, I feel like I know so much more about Whole Foods, and I’m excited to share more details with you! Steph and Dana really customized the tour based upon our questions and our desire to eat healthy. They also, however, put a frugal spin on the tour… which I loved. Let’s get started!
Our tour began at the entry way into the produce department, where we learned a little bit about the store’s design. As you’ve noticed when you walk into the store, the seasonal sales items are always featured in the foyer. Yesterday, apples and figs filled the entry way.
Have you ever noticed this display? Spend a few minutes here!
Somewhere close to the entry way, you’ll find the week’s sales flyer and The Whole Deal. Grab one of each! The Sales Flyer lists the most popular items on sale for the week, and you’ll want to check them out. For example, I’ve never looked at these but was incredibly pleased to see that Heirloom Tomatoes were in the flyer… and I picked some up right away!
The Whole Deal flyer was the one that I found most interesting… it’s filled with COUPONS. Wait, I didn’t even know Whole Foods accepted coupons… and there were more than $50 worth of coupons in this booklet! Pick one up, and browse it before you head into the store!
And… they also accept manufacturer’s coupons! Who knew!?
The Produce Department
Once you get inside the beautiful produce department, you’ll notice that the freshest, most in-season will be closest to the door and ripe for your picking!
We also learned something AWESOME about the veggies by the pound. If you are interested in buying something, but you don’t want the whole thing… um, they’ll cut it for you. SERIOUSLY. Example: I love broccoli, but I hate paying by the pound for the stem that I throw away. You can ask them to cut that off! Just find a nearby team member and ask. Also, if you want 1/2 a watermelon or squash, you can ask for that too!
Steph referred to “greens by the pound” station as the BEST VALUE IN STORE. Here you’ll find spinach, kale, mixed greens, and arugula all for $6.99 per pound. Compare that to bagged salad or even the heads of greens, and you’re saving a ton! Afterall, it takes a LOT of spinach to make a pound. I totally took advantage of this idea, and stored it in the brown bag per Dana’s suggestion to keep it fresh longer. GENIUS!
I was almost sad to leave the produce section. There seemed to be so many nuggets of good information there, and it’s really my favorite place in the store. Alas, there was plenty more to see!
Meats and Seafood
I’m not going to try to sugar-coat it. Meats and seafood at Whole Foods will cost you a little more than what you pay at your local grocers. However, you will have the peace of mind of knowing exactly where the meat/fish came from which can be very reassuring.
They’ll also sell you what you need. If you’re like me and you want 4 oz. pieces of meat individually wrapped, just ask for it… they’ll be happy to accommodate it!
Also, note the signs around the seafood department… there’s a lot of information about how to choose seafood, and safety ratings. Even more than that, there is a super-smart employee behind the counter that can offer preparation suggestions, make recommendations, and share information about your selections. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have a feeling this is an under-utilized resource for sure!
Another Tip: Did you know that they will be happy to steam your salmon/shrimp/seafood for you? Absolutely! This will help you save on your prep time once you get home. If you stop by the counter and request they prepare the food for you, give them ten minutes while you shop and stop back to pick up your freshly steamed goodies.
Same is true for the meat department where they will cook/smoke/prepare your meats. Such good information to know!
This section is one of my favorites. The Whole Foods on Pearl has one of the largest selections of any in the area (and that I’ve ever seen!) Tiffany, Lauren, and I were like kids in a candy store here, asking questions about all the foods we had never tried and getting tips from the ladies on how to prepare/use many of the items.
Quick Bean Tip: Many people shy away from dry beans because you have to soak them. Did you ever consider that you could SOAK them, and then FREEZE them to use later? Easy peezy!!!
Tiffany and I were taken aback by this black rice called “Forbidden Rice” and both had to fill a bag to try. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet, but stay tuned…
The great thing about the bulk section is that you can buy JUST AS MUCH as you need for your given recipe. This reminder was like music to my ears. As you friends know, I try a TON of new recipes with a variety of new ingredients. For the life of me, I don’t know why I don’t utilize the bulk section more for this… I will in the future. Especially when it comes to spices. Genius!
Example: Tiffany was putting together a new Greek creation and bought the spices she needed for a whole $0.17. SERIOUSLY!
Something else that the ladies
shouldn’t have told us was that they sort of expect people to try things at the store, including the bulk section! If you ever want to try ANYTHING in the store, just ask a team member and they’ll open a bag of chips, slice into an apple, or provide you with a cup to sample a new soup in the prepared foods section.
In the bulk section, the only ask is that you use the scoops and do not reach directly into the bins. If someone reaches into a bin, they have to throw away the whole container, sanitize it, and refill it with fresh product. Use the scoops!
I don’t know how it came up, but we also found out that you could sample the nut butters. You’ll note there’s no pictures of us trying these nut butters (to protect the bloggers, of course), but the three of us MAY have tried all of them during our shopping trip. The hands-down favorite: Almond Butter. Holy Hannah…
Bakery and Prepared Foods
We made a quick run through the bakery section and deli area, drooling over all of the delicious items on display.
Something I didn’t know: Whole Foods doesn’t use any artificial sweeteners or colors, so all of the beautifully decorates cakes and cookies are all flavored and colored naturally.
Their frostings are colored with beets, tumeric, and other natural colorings! I just loved that, and had to go peek to see how bright the colors were. Perfect, if you ask me! I’ll take two of each!
We also peeked at the fresh Pappardelle pasta case and drooled quite a bit. Seeing that beautiful beet pasta had me craving some ravioli for dinner, and I bought some of the Roasted Red Pepper and Smoked Mozzarella – - AMAZING!
Also, in the deli… it smelled deliciously of fresh rotisserie chicken – - Yum-o! Rotisserie chickens are a great fast option for busy weeknights and lunch salads! PS… These bad boys go on sale on Wednesdays for $6.99.
These grilled veggies were also on the prepared food bar, and I truly wanted to buy them all. I ended up with a few peppers to use with my ravioli resisting those gorgeous purple onions.
Wrapping Up the Tour
Here are a few final tips that just didn’t seem to fit anywhere else, but definitely needed to be mentioned…
Try New Cheese – In the deli section there are tiny pieces of cheese that you can peruse and sample new flavors! Instead of purchasing a huge wedge of truffle gouda, you can just pick up a small piece here! (Note: The cheese team will be happy to cut you a small piece, but this bin is just fun for bargain shopping!)
Whole Foods’ 365 Brand – You’ve probably seen the 365 brand throughout the store. Dana and Steph let us know that the products are actually made by their top brands, just packaged differently with a lower price point. Don’t be afraid to try them!
Also of note, watch for the non-GMO labels popping up on the products. This will help you determine what you want to buy and give you an indication of what’s in your food…
Holy Goody Bag!
If all the information weren’t enough… Dana and Steph put together awesome goody bags for us with some fun products from WFM! Thanks so much!
We finished the tour with an amazing bagel from Small Batch Bagels. I can’t even describe how delicious the rosemary and sea salt bagel was. I’m jealous of Lauren who took a bag home to enjoy… that good! Denver peeps – - She’ll be in the Cherry Creek WFM next month. Find her there! Amazing…
It wouldn’t be a visit to WFM without a quick shopping trip. Each of us filling our carts with items from our lists and new items we’d found along the way.
I think I can speak for all three of us in that we had a blast during the tour on Saturday and learned so many useful tips that we’ll use moving forward. I can’t thank our lovely tour guides enough! Looking forward to attending more events in the future!
Do you have any Whole Foods Shopping tips to share?