Recycla gets mad, then she gets creative

Recycla has been a devoted fan of Whole Foods for over a decade and has preached the love here on this blog many times. She loved having easy access to hundreds of organic foods, all under one roof, especially back when organic foods were more difficult to find. She adored not having to worry about undesirable ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup, because you just don’t see that stuff in Whole Foods.

However, this summer, Recycla broke up with the Whole Foods store in her town after a 12 year relationship. The reasons for this were varied, but all boiled down to the construction of a new store (and the closing of the old store) which lead to three main complaints: 1) the new location is in a part of town with notoriously bad traffic, 2) the new store is not well organized, and 3) prices went up across the board over what they were in the old store.

So where has Recycla  been shopping for the past two months? The short answer is that she’s been going to a combination of stores, most of which are locally-owned.

The weekly shopping is done at a terrific market that sells fruits and vegetables at some of the best prices in town. Even better, the store has a nice selection of bulk foods, organic foods, and Virginia-made products.

Every couple of weeks, Recycla is going to a conventional grocery store to stock up on basics, like baking supplies, some dairy, and the few pre-packaged foods that her family eats. While this store does carry organic foods, she’s not buying only organic things. Recycla had forgotten just how insidious high fructose corn syrup is — it’s in everything. She’s having to read labels carefully and on a few occasions has had to choose between buying something with HFCS or doing without altogether. (She chooses to go without the item in question.)

Recycla’s family is omnivorous, so while many meals are vegetarian, others are not. There’s a great organic butcher in town, so Recycla popped by there last week and stocked up on about two months’ worth of beef and poultry.

While going to a few different places to buy food might seem inconvenient, the reality is that it is not and this was a practice that Recycla already had in place. She mostly goes to the one market and then visits the other stores only occasionally.

And, Recycla is sneaky and has figured out how to get more bang for her buck time-wise: She bikes to several of her errands. She bikes a lot anyway, so by combining her exercise with her errands, she’s maximizing her time, using her car less, and generally very happy with the arrangement.

Overall, Recycla is going to the store approximately the same number of times per month as she was before. It helps that she cooks mostly from scratch, so she doesn’t buy a lot of pre-packaged foods anyway. She hasn’t calculated numbers yet, but she’s pretty sure that she’s spending less money on her groceries than she was before.

Recycla hasn’t sworn off Whole Foods altogether — she’s sure she’ll need to pop in there at some point — but for now she’s getting along just fine without it.

Tell the Eco Women: Where do you shop for groceries?


16 thoughts on “Recycla gets mad, then she gets creative

  1. I run an airport which is an amazing job for which I feel very blessed. The down side is we have a very small staff & I have many days where 8 hours ends at 4:30 pm but I don’t pull in at home until 7:30 pm. This has cramped my ability to have nutritious meals & I fall prey to prepackaging more than I should. I love Whole Foods but not going because of the drive.

    My goal right now is to pre-plan on weekends & do prep work & even cooking on Sunday afternoons for the entire week. This keeps my family happy & healthy. I’m learning to like it even though it is less time I have for “down time”. Because of my schedule, I can’t move around to stores easily so I am in love with RelayFoods! This gives me the ability to order from the organic butcher & even Whole Foods but still pick up on my side of town. My conventional shopping is done at Harris Teeter because I can take my laptop & grocery list to bed & get my shopping done before peaceful slumber! I find that I am much more selective, careful about things such as HFCS, & spend far less because I am not tempted to get something I can’t see!

    You rock Recycla!

    • Oh behalf of all the folks here in our town who fly in and out of that airport, we’re grateful for the long hours you put in!

      I think Relay Foods makes a lot of sense for you, especially given your schedule.

  2. Second Relay Foods, with occasional supplementary stops at Giant for stuff they may not have (Giant because it’s right next to work and 2 minutes from home). I do not have the storage space for 2 months worth of meat and envy you that you do! 🙂

    • I really don’t have much storage space, just the freezer in our side-by-side fridge. It’s because we don’t eat that much meat that I’m able to stock up. So, three pot roasts will last two months because we’ll have one for dinner, then freeze the leftovers, which will then end up in a soup or cottage pie. A few weeks later, another pot roast comes out for the same treatment. Ditto for whole chickens. I made my first pork roast last week and am so excited that we’ll have the leftovers this weekend.

    • I think the recipe in “The Joy of Cooking” is probably the best and simplest overall. Cooking Light magazine, however, is going to have the healthiest recipes.

      Shepherd’s Pie isn’t something I make, because my husband and girls don’t eat lamb, which is why I always make Cottage Pie (the beef version).

      The very easiest recipe is to take leftover pot roast and chop it up. Put it in a pot on the stove and add some beef or vegetable broth. Throw in vegetables and let them cook a little. (For vegetables, I use some combination of frozen peas, corn, and/or edamame, plus chopped carrots and/or cauliflower. It depends on what I have on hand.) Thicken the broth with a little flour. Put the whole shebang in a baking dish and cover with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle some cheese on top (optional). Bake at 350 until the potatoes are a little browned on top. Since my girls aren’t fond of this dish, I make sure to have some nice bread to go with dinner and also have either a salad or steamed broccoli on the side, as well as some sort of fruit.

  3. We have no Whole foods to reject here, but I do a combo approach myself:
    Summer CSA, Fall/winter CSA and Farmer’s market for most veggies and fruit, occasional meat
    (new experiment) Local Food Share (picked up once a week) for meat, most cheese, and eggs
    Natural living store: bulk staples
    Grocery store: milk, some cheese, other staples. veggies and fruit in winter.
    This sounds complicated but in practice is not bad at all. 🙂 The CSA is picked up at the Farmer’s Market (one trip a week). The local food share is picked up across the street from the library at a time the kids go to an activity there. I only buy the bulk stuff once a month, and the grocery store is a basically weekly errand.

  4. As much as possible, I try to purchase directly from local farmers. If I buy in bulk, I always get a great deal for fresh produce that I know was grown sustainably, and all of the profit goes to support our local farmers. This summer I canned / froze / lacto-fermented (pickled) a lot of the fresh produce, and other items like onions, potatoes, carrots, and winter squash store well in a cool cellar.

    For folks who eat a lot of meat, it is really worthwhile to invest in a large freezer so that you can buy whole or half animals directly from the farmer. Once again, you get a great deal, you know that the livestock have been raised in accordance with your beliefs, and your local farmer gets to keep all of the profit. (Just make sure that you have a generator to protect your investment in case the power goes out.)

  5. We have an awesome all season CSA here in Vermont that has a
    locavore store (Pete’s Greens’s) we get nearly everything we need there. We fill in with the local Co-op.!

  6. There is a grocery store across the street from my gym. I stop there two to three times a week to see what is on the produce bargain table. Whatever is marked down because it’s bruised is the veg we eat that day. Or, if I am lucky and they have a package of four red peppers for 89 cents, I roast, peel, slice and freeze them.

    I stop at another store on the way home for milk – they have the hormone-free milk. This store also usually has decent fish, egg, cheese and produce prices. My husband eats cold cereal, so I grab that up when it’s on sale. It’s nice to have a basement.

    I grow a lot of my own vegetables and have finally discovered a farmers market with non-yuppie pricing, so will be getting there every week or so. I also buy a lot of my produce and herbs (basil is dirt cheap there) at the Vietnamese grocery store four miles from my house.

    We buy meat in bulk, which is why we bought a chest freezer last year. My husband watches the sales for steak and tenderloin. Once a year, we visit family in the northern part of Wisconsin, where my uncle, who is a butcher, loads us up with venison bratwurst.

    Another butcher, whose shop is in the building that used to be my grandfather’s auto repair business, has great steaks, boneless llama chops ($2/lb and they are so good!), and ground bison. I spent $180 there last month and we will be eating that meat at least once a week until next year. I make a trip to Usinger’s downtown about three times a year to see what’s on their bargain counter: we had grilled pizza with their back bacon @ $2.99/lb yesterday.

    I get my oatmeal and other bulk items from the organic co-op 3 miles from our house.

    I cook almost everything from scratch. I do bake bread when we need it, but we don’t eat that much bread and my dad’s cousins own a bakery chain here in Milwaukee and throw bread at me every time I walk in the door. Oh, the horror that is my life.

    Frozen custard from Kopps, of course.

  7. I go to a locally owned Piggly Wiggly and to an independent shop called the Free Market for lots of organic stuff–and the grocery in town carries local eggs and stuff, so life is surprisingly convenient here!

  8. Considering how much I hate crowds and traffic, I don’t mind the new Whole Foods. It has calmed down considerably since it opened, and even on a Saturday morning is no more crowded than an ordinary supermarket.

    I once tried an experiment where I shopped for all our food at locally owned stores, which meant chiefly C’ville Market, Reid’s, Integral Yoga, and bodo’s (for a week’s worth of bagels at a time, that I would freeze). (This was before Market St. Market opened.) Despite the higher prices at Reid’s, I ended up spending less because prepared food was SO expensive, I just didn’t buy it. I did find that I wasted a lot of time travelling between the stores. IY doesn’t sell eggs or meat (and only soy ice cream, last time I checked) but they were my source for bulk items, sometimes the produce at C’ville market is “off” but they have the best eggs ( I don’t trust their cheese), etc. Everybody says the meat at Reid’s is good but I haven’t tried it. Lately I’ve been doing most of our shopping at Harris-Teeter, with occaisional trips to Whole Foods. I was at Giant a couple of weeks ago, but I was so disgusted by the wilted produce and other poor quality stuff passing as “food” not to mention the surly staff, I have sworn never to shop there again.

  9. Oh, and I do go to the much-maligned Food Lion. The one near Mill Creek has a decent natural foods/organic section. It’s my cheap source for things like all purpose flour and sugar. They even carry ghiradelli chocolate chips now, but not the milk chocolate. Don’t ever buy the Food Lion store brand. I don’t trust their meat but they carry organic eggs (sometimes).

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