A Guide to My Second Home(s)
Really odd but true fact about me- I LOVE grocery stores. My dad jokes that I might as well have my paycheck direct-deposited to Whole Foods. I credit this to the fact that I grew up with only a Walmart within about 30 miles of where I lived. It was all I had ever known, so when one summer on a family trip to Malibu we stopped into a Ralph’s, and my life was forever changed…
Okay, maybe a bit dramatic, but I remember so vividly walking through the produce and seeing the fresh, seasonal produce, and thinking how cool it was that the store highlighted what was in season rather than just having the exact same inventory year-round. I remember picking up some fresh kale (which, at the time, I had never cooked with), corn on the cob, and asparagus, and proudly toting them home to make a simple dinner of sautéed balsamic kale, grilled sweet corn, chicken, and asparagus. Looking back, it was nothing fancy, but in my mind, I may as well have been Julia Child mastering her first Sole Meuniere.
And just like that, my love of fresh markets and cooking was born.
Living in Dallas, I am (literally) surrounded with every grocery store known to man within a 5-mile radius of my apartment. Even for someone who loves exploring different stores as much as I do, this can be overwhelming. I know so many of my friends who avoid cooking merely because they hate grocery shopping, or never know which one to choose. So I thought I would compile a list of pros and cons for some of my top stores. Since everyone has different preferences, and grocery lists vary week-to-week, I hope this road map will help narrow down which one best fits your needs. And I hope you will grow to enjoy the process of picking out fresh, seasonal produce just as much as I do J
- Produce prices– Reasonable prices for quality produce
- Wide Selection– You can find most of what you need here- not as limited as TJ’s
- Bulk– Great bulk section that really helps to save money on things like nuts, flours, seeds, grains, granolas, snacks, etc.
- Brands– Has a lot of health-conscious brands that are not usually found at places like Walmart, Kroger, Tom Thumb, etc. (Simple Mills, Nada-Moo, Hail Mary, Fermented Foods, Holy Kombucha, Rebbl, Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurt, lots more vegan/vegetarian/dairy-free options)
- Sales– Frequently offers store-wide sales, such as their 72-hour sale, or gluten-free product sale
- More Than Food– Offers a wide selection of body care, supplements, and “green” household products
- Fresh Foods– Fresh meat and seafood, deli section, prepared foods available
- Pro tip– their “just chicken” is just de-boned rotisserie chicken and is so convenient to grab and throw into lunches throughout the week!
- Non-perishable Prices– “shelf” items can get pricey if not on sale. Best to stay in the outer aisles and bulk section
- Household Items– Their cleaning supplies, storage bags, paper towels, etc. are overpriced if you are not concerned with “eco friendly” or recycled material
- Prepared Foods– Their salad bar and prepared foods section is a bit lacking (in my opinion)
- Chicken– Not a huge fan of their chicken breasts, fresh or frozen (too large and sometimes have an odd texture)
- Produce Prices– Produce is priced “per each” rather than per pound- usually works in your favor, especially if you go for the biggest ones!
- Veggies– Bagged lettuce prices are awesome, and great selection of pre-chopped vegetables
- Unique Items– Many items are “private label” meaning the prices are lower because it cuts out the “middle man”- and value is just as good if not better!
- Frozen Foods– Their frozen foods section is AMAZING. So many unique food items only sold at TJ’s, a great selection of reasonably-priced frozen fruits and veggies, and lots of great appetizers and desserts for parties
- Cheese– Wide selection of reasonably priced cheeses
- Foodie Faves– A few of my favorite products turkey and chicken burgers, frozen tri-color cauliflower, cauliflower pizza crust, avocado goddess dressing, curried cauliflower salad, jalapeno lime almond dip, crunchy salted almond butter, cacao powder, coconut sugar, almond flour (the list goes on)
- Pro Tip– Red Boat fish sauce is SO cheap there, and some of the best prices for quality nuts and dried fruit
- Limited Selection– can’t always find everything I need here which can mean multiple grocery stops
- Meats– Small fresh meat section, and fish is only sold frozen
- Berries– Often overpriced
- DF– Not the best selection of dairy-free yogurts or milks
- Drinks– Kombucha selection is lacking, as well as drinking-vinegars and pre-made coffee drinks and elixirs (i.e. no Rebbl)
- Bulk– nothing sold in bulk
- Organic Produce– Some of the best prices I have seen for organic produce. It varies between location and by week, so it helps to visit often to find the deals.
- “Good4You” Sales– Their sale prices are incredible, but only last a few weeks, so stock up when you can!
- Brands– They sell all my favorite “hippy healthy” food brands, and often have really great discounts that I haven’t seen anywhere else
- More than Food– Good selection of supplements, natural beauty, and skincare
- Kombucha– They hve a good selection, and often have them on sale. Plus, one location I’ve seen has kombucha on tap (praise!)
- Special Diet Friendly– Grass-fed meats, gluten and grain-free breads, and lots of other allergy-friendly options
- Quick Stop– The stores are fairly small, so easy to get in and out quickly
- Foodie Fave– Their unsweetened banana chips are scary addictive…
- Only Organic– They only sell organic produce, so if that doesn’t matter much to you, you probably won’t want to pay the more expensive prices. Some of the organic produce is much higher than conventional, and if it’s not on the dirty dozen list, I don’t believe it’s worth it
- Limited Meats- The meat selection is a bit limited, and you definitely pay for the superior quality
- Bulk– The “bulk” section is pre-packed, so although they charge by weight, you do not get to select the amount
- Health Conscious- If you are very health conscious, this place is a wonderland. If you could care less, and are on a strict budget, this is not the place to get your bread and peanut butter…
- Atmosphere– Just being there makes you want to do yoga and brew your own kombucha
- Hot Bar/Salad Bar– The hot foods bar is hard to beat- so many options with calories and ingredients listed so you know exactly what you’re doing. And they constantly rotate foods so you never get tired of the foods!
- Bulk– The bulk section is massive and great for getting specialty ingredients without having to buy a lot. Plus, they have olive oil, agave, and ready-to-grind almond and peanut butters in bulk as well.
- Quality– This is a great place for high-quality, grass fed and organic meats. And high-quality anything, for that matter.
- Natural, Non-Toxic Products– Wonderful selection of natural beauty, body care, and household cleaning items
- Specialty Ingredients– Great place for specialty items or ingredients that are hard to find other places
- Amazon Prime Discount– members now receive an extra 10% weekly sale items
- Expensive– Just walking in here costs about $10 (honestly though, every time…)
- Expensive – The produce is overpriced
- Expensive (!!!)– Pretty much everything is more expensive just because it’s Whole Foods
- Experience– This is a playground for foodies. They are always giving away samples and celebrating a “theme” that varies month to month!
- Café/Prepared Foods– Awesome quality ready-to-eat foods. I have had many meals here, and it’s great because you can get as much or as little as you want and pay by the pound. Plus, their food is chef-prepared so you know it’s going to taste great.
- Bread– This deserves its own bullet point because OH MY the freshly baked breads and desserts are to die for. I’m with you, Oprah. I LOVE BREAD J
- Bulk– Their bulk section is the most extensive of any place I’ve been
- Specialty Items– This is great when you’re looking for that one ingredient that a recipe calls for that you can’t find anywhere else
- Vast selection– Whether it’s cheese, meat, fish, wines, produce- there’s very little that you can’t find at this place
- Parties– I love coming here if I’m hosting, because they have everything you need to put together a cheese board, high-quality appetizers or desserts because who has time to make everything from scratch?!
- Prices– This is not the place to fulfill your everyday grocery needs. You will pay more just because of where you’re at. I mainly shop here when I need something special, or need to stock up on things I can find in bulk.
- Maze– No kidding, you will get sucked in to maze of aisles and spend an extra 20 minutes (and probably an extra $20) here than you planned. The designers are evil geniuses.
Note: I would love your feedback! Let me know what your go-to grocery places are, your favorite finds, and what tricks you have for getting the best quality for the best prices. And if you do decide to venture out of your usual to one of these places, I’ll probably see you there 🙂