Truth: I am a vegetarian that has not set foot into a Whole Foods Market, so I warn you, this post will not be revolutionary for veteran Whole Fooders. I have always thought of Whole Foods as an expensive place for super rich kids (see: Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt), women who wear head-to-toe outfits of brand name athletic wear and the evangelical crunchy granola bunch. I do not fit into any of these categories and I also enjoy wisely spending my hard earned dolla dolla bills, y’all – so I have always skipped out on going to Whole Foods and instead frequent my local No Frills or FreshCo.
In the spirit of my blog, “hunting” for all that Toronto has to offer in the realm of vegetarian food, and in an effort to be more open and less judgemental…yesterday evening I decided, “you know what? eff it, I’m walking my butt up to Whole Foods to check this place out.” So I took a stroll to Yorkville and went to the Whole Foods in the Hazelton Lanes building. I picked up a green basket and headed through the gateway to grocery adventure.
My first thoughts were, “this place is so lusciously GREEEEEEEN! Look at all the fresh herbs and lettuce and chard and spinach! It’s beautiful!” Then I looked at the prices and I almost threw my basket against the wall in a fit of WTF rage (and sorry, Mum, this WTF does not mean “well that’s fantastic”). I heard this place was expensive, but I really didn’t think it would be over double the price for most produce. I was too scared to even touch the veggies in the produce aisle in fear that the market operates under the “you break it you bought it” philosophy. I would definitely be the poor klutz who accidentally drops a green pepper, bruises it and has to fork over $5.00 for the trouble I caused. I pretty much sped my way through the produce section and left empty handed.
Once I got past my initial shock and went on to the next section (the international, soup, rice and beans aisle) the prices did start to normalize and matched most Loblaws’ pricing. I was pleasantly surprised to see such diverse and plentiful vegetarian options in a grocery store. For example, there were four full shelves of Amy’s brand vegetarian soups, with over 20 kinds of soup. I didn’t even know Amy’s made that many types of soup! I usually only find 3-4 kinds in a regular grocery store.
My wonderment continued down the frozen food section where I found several different variations of veggie burgers, microwavable dinners, and a much larger selection of frozen vegetables/legumes (including frozen chickpeas and kale). Unfortunately, much like the produce, the frozen meals were way over my budget. The snack aisle, aka the best aisle, was pretty standard in terms of pricing so I stocked up! My basket filled up with organic popcorn (whatever that is), baked kettle chips and granola bars that were on sale
One of the best parts of the market is the prepared food area that is huge compared to other grocery stores and includes way more vegetarian options like: curried kidney beans, roasted veggies, a taco bar, salad bar, fresh neapolitan pizza and so much more. The fresh pizza slices were decently priced at $4.00 so I snagged myself a margherita slice, which was pretty tasty!
In the end, I didn’t leave the store with much in tow besides the pizza and snacks, which I DEFINITELY did not need (stupid lack of self control). Overall, I was delighted to see that Whole Foods had a lot more to offer those who are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free than the average grocery store. I can see why a lot of people shop here – the layout is beautiful, the produce looks like it just came in from the farm, and the store has something for everyone. It’s nice to know that the Whole Foods option is out there but for the sake of my mental health and the health of my wallet, I think I’ll stick to my neighbourhood discount grocers for now.
Oh and for those of you still wondering… although there were a lot of upper middle class looking yoga moms in the store, there were also a few regular cheapos in there like me!
Share your Whole Foods and grocery store experiences with me in the comments below!
Photo Credit: Rohini Chopra