Fresh Food Markets – Healthy Ingredients
Once you begin down the path of being a “Foodie”, you will soon find yourself hunting for specialty food items. Inevitably, you will be shopping at smaller fresh food markets. These stores carry less common ingredients and fresher vegetables. Many have excellent meat and fish departments. Others feature extensive salad bars, hot lunches, artisan bakeries or international cheese counters. The staff is friendly, helpful and available to answer food related questions.
Why The Prices Are High
With all those features and services, why would any sane person shop at the large grocery stores? One simple answer – The Price. It is true. Specialty Food stores are expensive. The prevailing joke is that Whole Foods should be called Whole Paycheck. In my food journey, I regularly read about unusual ingredients only to realize the price is three to four times the cost of standard brands. Whether it is low carb noodles, gluten free wraps or non-GMO butter, they all cost more. High-quality food offerings coupled with their commitment to customer friendly services, leaves specialty markets with only one choice – Charge more!
Small Healthy Food Markets
Many smaller stores focus on healthy fresh food options. They feature large vegetable and fruit sections with both organic and non-organic varieties. They stock fewer established brand names in favor of specialty brands. They have limited sections dedicated to canned or frozen goods. The shopping area is clean and well organized. The staff is friendly and helpful. Perhaps best of all, these small healthy food stores have a few incredible deals. For example, I found Campari tomatoes on sale for one dollar per pound (regularly $3 per pound) and low carb noodles for $2.50 per bag (normally $4.00). When visiting one of these stores, take your time, and you will find many great deals.
Ethnic Food Stores
Health-conscious cooks will find ethnic markets focusing on cultural cuisines like Mexican, Italian, Indian or Chinese. These markets carry authentic ingredients in bulk. Oddly enough, many of their prices are cheaper than the big stores. You will find items like rice, cooking oil, peppers, and spices at reduced prices. However, be prepared for a different shopping experience. These markets are mostly smaller in size with only two or three aisles of shopping and one cash register. Their shelves are poorly organized. Their floors are dirty. Their fresh vegetables are in open plastic bins. Price tags are often missing or in a foreign language. Customer service is almost non-existent. In short, ethnic markets are small, cramped, disorganized, and dirty. However, just try to find Urad Dal or Dosa batter at your large grocery store. …Not going to happen.
With the success of stores like Whole Foods, health conscious food markets are expanding into large national and regional storefronts. Independent chains with names like VG, Busch’s, and Randazzo, boast vast shopping spaces with a greater focus on healthy food options. These stores attempt to strike a balance between the large corporate style grocery store and the small fresh food market. We applaud their commitment to healthy choices and customer service. However, our experience with these types of stores is less enthusiastic. We find their prices to be higher on the fresh, healthy items with “On Sale” items focusing more on unhealthy choices like potato chips, frozen food, and canned goods.
Our message is simple. Buy fresh, healthy ingredients. Yes, the price will be higher but taking advantage of the smaller fresh food markets can keep your overall food costs within reason. Find low-cost substitutions like Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Also, do not feel guilty about buying canned or frozen goods. Reading nutritional and ingredient labels can lead to some exciting discoveries like “No Salt” canned beans and tomatoes or organic, gluten-free macaroni & cheese. We found a bag of frozen potato wedges with only 130 mg of sodium for the amazing price of $1.00.
• Why Shop at a Farmers Market | Nutrition.gov
• 10 Reasons to Support Farmers Markets | CUESA.org