My Favorite Grocery STores to Find Affordable, Plant-Based Foods
Does grocery shopping count as a hobby? If not, whoops...because it's my main one.
Grocery shopping hasn't ALWAYS been a pleasure for me though.
Back when my diet consisted of frozen, packaged, processed foods, I was typically just running to Walmart and grabbing whatever was quick and in-sight. If it looked good, I bought it. Think canned soup, ramen noodles, and Pop Tarts. Yeah...it wasn't good.
Nothing really changed until I finally invested in a meal plan that gave me some much-needed guidance on how to eat healthily--not on a DIET--but ho to actually eat real food. (That's another post for another time, and if you too need meal planning help, reach out! The easiest way is to fill out the form under my "coaching" tab on this site!)
For TODAY, I wanted to give you a bit of a quick grocery store cheat sheet. A who's who of where to get this vs. that, because grocery stores are not all created equal. People often ask me where's the cheapest place to shop, and my answer isn't that black and white!While Trader Joe's might be super cheap for peanut butter, for example, maybe not so much for organic produce. And while Whole Foods may seem pricey to you if you're basing that opinion off their freezer aisle, check out their organic produce and you get a different story.
Best Option: Whole Foods, Sprouts, Lucky's or a farmer's market
If there's one area to splurge in a bit, it's produce. You can't buy sub-par produce and get away with it. Not only will it taste like crap, it will rot and end up getting tossed/wasted. You may spent a bit more at a "health food "store like these, but your produce has a far better chance of being local, picked closer to peak ripeness, there are more organic selections, and as a result of all of this, will taste so much better. Plus, health food stores tend to use less packaging, because who wants to contribute to the plastic waste issue with each shopping trip!? I've also noticed far more variety in the produce section at these stores. If you have a farmer's market in your town, that's probably your best bet to at least go check out! (Slight caveat--I still would check if their produce is organic...just because it's local doesn't mean it's not sprayed with chemicals). If you have a bad taste in your mouth for Whole Food prices, they've lowered their produce prices a LOT recently, so give them another go.
Okay Option: Publix/King Soopers/Kroger or Walmart
If you don't have any of the above options, this is your next best bet for produce typically. While not as many organic options, they do exist. Yes, even at Walmart. Check the labels or ask an employee if you can't find something. I've found organic celergy, apples, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, and more at both Publix and Walmart and King Sooper's, no matter where I travel.
For Pantry Staples (canned good, dry rice, beans, condiments, baking goods)
Best Option: Trader JoesIf you know me, you know TJ's is my go-to for all pantry staples, and I save SO much money. It's the cheapest store I've come across, considering the variety and quality--hands down. I pretty much exclusively buy beans, pasta, pasta sauce, flours, peanut butter, cereal, oats, spices, dried fruits, nuts, and condiments from Trader Joes. These items are shockingly cheaper here than anywhere else, and good quality too.
Ok Option: WalmartSad but true, and in this case helpful--no matter where you live, I bet you got a Walmart. It might not be the sexy option on this list, but they've got it all. They also have a lot of organic options for things like pasta sauces, diced tomatoes, canned beans, quinoa, lentils, rice, etc. And usually for very cheap--sometimes the exact same price as the conventional option! (Yes, I've literally seen this multiple times.) Tip: familiarize yourself with your Walmart because some have organic and healthier options inter-dispersed into the aisles, and some have one whole dedicated aisle where all that lives.
For fun/new vegan finds:
Best Option: Whole Foods
In general, if you're trying to find a new plant-based option like the new Ben and Jerry's flavor, a new milk, or boxed vegan mac and cheese, check Whole Foods. They are usually either first to get new things, or at least will have it soon. This isn't always the case though, and I've also found goodies at Target well before anywhere else.
Ok, honestly, I struggled with who should be the best vs. okay option here. Because truthfully, depends on the item and the store. I've found vegan cheese puffs at Publix before anywhere else, and I've seen the latest flavor of SoDelicious vegan ice cream at Walmart before anywhere else....same with Chao vegan frozen mac and cheese! So this is just going to take a little browsing on your part. In GENERAL though, it's safe to assume Publix or Target will be a smidge behind in getting new products. But just check, and don't be shy about asking your store manager about a specific product. My former-Publix employee boyfriend tells me Publix will often special order items for you!
Best Option: Costco
Costco is my absolute favorite for bulk-sized healthy options. It's a whole different game than it was 10 years ago, and a whole different game than Sam's, I have to say. To me, Costco is the bulk-sized Whole Foods, whereas Sam's is literally the bulk sized Walmart. Even Costco's cafeteria carries tons of vegan entrees and snacks! If you are feeding a family or just find yourself buying the same things on repeat each week, it's worth the membership price to be able to snag huge bags of dried beans, cases of diced tomatoes, large bottles of salsa, hot sauce, spices, coffee, you name it!
Ok Option: Sam's Club
So I actually have a membership at Sam's currently (I only got it because they carry the cheapest car tires in town...so there's that free tip), and while I don't love it near as much as Costco, I have used it recently to grab 20 lb bags of dried Pinto beans, huge cases of organic spinach, and some really cheap boxes of glass Pyrex containers. And if it's your only option, you can find plenty more gems at Sam's, it just may take a little more selective browsing. In my experience, they tend to have way less healthy, organic options, and way more "Standard American" diet staples.
I suggest taking one day over the weekend to drive to all the options you have in your town. Go armed with a list of your often-purchased staples you know you'll need, and price compare! I did this with my mama when I was little, and it stuck with me!
Take one day to do your research and form your own conclusive list of what's cheaper where, in YOUR town, and you'll save soo much time and money moving forward, and can shop smarter--not harder :)
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