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Alex Frank / Spoon

The Story of a Broke B****’s First Trip to Whole Foods

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UVA chapter.

I grew up in a low income household; most of our grocery shopping was done at discount stores like Aldi. I remember the monthly grocery trips growing up where my parents would walk through the store with their phone’s calculator app open, typing away to make sure they stayed under budget. Whole Foods wasn’t even on my parents’ radar. I also grew up in a small rural community, so the closest Whole Foods to me was actually the one in Charlottesville (I grew up almost 2 hours from here). Now, as I’ve moved out on my own, and I do all my grocery shopping on my part time budget, I am all too familiar with the calculator shopping method.

This week, my best friend asked me to run into Whole Foods for some supplies to help her fight a cold. Let me tell you, when I walked in there, I was on another planet. The first thing that caught my eye was the flower section. Their bouquets and arrangements were absolutely GORGEOUS, and the prices weren’t bad either. A mixed bouquet was running between $5-$8, depending on the size, which is comparable to Trader Joe’s or Kroger flower prices, and actually cheaper than Target. However, this is probably the only compliment on pricing that I’m going to give.

I actually went into the store without my glasses (oops), which led to me wandering aimlessly while looking for soups and vegan chicken salad for my friend. During my travels through the store, I encountered so many interesting things, from probiotic shots to squashes I didn’t even know existed, to vegan frozen lasagnas to cuts of meat I had never heard of. Whole Foods is filled with so many different, outlandish products, so if you’re someone who likes to explore new things on your grocery run, Whole Foods should definitely be on your list. However, to no one’s surprise, the pricing is outrageous. I knew that the prices would be pretty high before I came into the store, but I didn’t expect them to be as ridiculously high as they are. One of the probiotic shots I mentioned earlier was only 1 oz of actual product, and it was priced at $10.99! As someone who grew up with store branded, basic groceries, I just can’t see why anyone would need to spend that much on something that small (especially when the jury’s out on how much good it does for your body, according to experts).

Another thought I had as I walked was just how many things reside in Whole Foods that are just unnecessary. Maybe this is just how my brain is programed from growing up poor, but I can’t wrap my head around how someone can budget for a grocery trip and buy so many things that they truly don’t need! As I stopped to look in the freezer section, I saw a display case of macarons, priced at $8! If I am going to pay that much for a macaron, I would rather support a small local business over Bezos’s wallet. If the price points were lower, this would be more excusable in my mind, but maybe I just don’t fit into the “lifestyle.” However, Whole Foods does have some interesting novelties that you’d have a hard time finding anywhere else. In my opinion, Whole Foods is a grocery store for people with extra money to spend, and while I don’t fit that qualification right now, if you do, do you!

I definitely didn’t hate my Whole Foods experience. In fact, I would gladly return, if I had extra money to spend on treating myself to what they have to offer. But to be honest, a lot of the things I found interesting in Whole Foods, I can find at a better price (and probably higher quality) at local establishments such as Foods of All Nations or Market Street Market. In my opinion, Whole Foods is not a place to be making your average grocery trips (but if you do, there’s nothing wrong with that.) Whole Foods seems like the kind of place that you run into when you need something special, like that vegan chicken salad, or when specifically want to treat yourself to Whole Foods. Personally, I can’t ever see myself fitting into the “lifestyle” of a Whole Foods regular, but I would definitely love to have one of the bouquets sitting on my coffee table (someone relay this to my boyfriend asap.)

Growing up broke has definitely shaped the way I think about budgeting and spending on groceries. While I love Trader Joe’s, and I can respect what Whole Foods is there for, I don’t think that I can ever see myself going into those stores for my weekly grocery runs. For my life, that’s just not what they’re for. While I’m not necessarily as strapped financially as I was growing up, I’m the type of person that would rather treat myself to a new book or dinner with friends than a trip to Whole Foods. That’s just what my definition of treating myself is. But, that’s just my take, and if you enjoy shopping at Whole Foods (and you can afford it), go ahead! I suppose my biggest takeaway is that I didn’t find anything in the store that was necessarily worth the price point or the hype that I hear about the place. Bottom line, Whole Foods is not an institution of practicality. But, I’m a broke baddie, and everyone’s stories are different, so if you can afford to be a Whole Foods queen, no one is stopping you. Next time you go grocery shopping, whether it be at Whole Foods, Kroger, Aldi, Walmart, or a little local market, I say treat yourself to some flowers! You deserve it queen!

Hi I'm Morgan! I use she/they pronouns. I'm a 4th year at the University of Virginia majoring in Art History. My greatest passion is raising my 2 cats. I'm a first gen, low income student living on my own, so if you ever need budget hacks, I'm your gal! Happy to have you here!