In Nutrition Education by Contento, she categorizes grocery shoppers into three categories – economizer, carefree spender & time-challenged. From my perspective, we can be at least two at once and those categories can change depending on the economic freedom or stress we are experiencing. In terms of looking for the availability of healthy food options and price comparisons, here is a summary of a couple of local grocery stores in my area.
In order to make a comparison of availability and pricing in my neighborhood, I shopped at Whole Foods (WF) & Tom Thumb (TT, a Safeway store), both within 4 miles of my house. Because it is an urban area in a mid to upper income level area, both stores are well stocked. There were wide varieties of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and meats available. In fact, I was truly amazed when I stopped to consider the sheer variety of items present in each of the large supermarkets. Both stores also carry an extensive line of prepared foods, specialty shops for coffee and floral department.
In terms of differences, I found significantly more processed food and candies at the TT than the WF, although the WF would win the prize for the expansive bakery department. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of organic foods available at TT, but they were mostly in the produce section with few organic choices in the meat section. The regular meats were from major industrial producers such as Sanderson chickens. The TT also acts as a community hub with a pharmacy, a bank branch and a Western Union in the store.
In terms of price differences, the prices at WF were typically higher, although if you shopped for the specials they would compare favorably with the organics. In the case of organic foods, of the 16 foods where there were comparisons, WF was higher in 11 cases. Several of those were a clear quality difference such as the raw Swiss cheese at WF versus the national producer, packaged and pasteurized Swiss at TT. In comparing the non-organic prices, WF was higher in 6 of 11 products, but it would be difficult to shop at WF if you were specifically looking for non-organic. It is not a complete product line, but apparently a filler of variety when organic is not available.
All in all, most people I know shop at both. They simply carry different products and if you are interested in organic or grass feed meats, WF is the place to go. However, if you want garbage bags and paper towels at a more reasonable price, stock up at TT. The good news is that while you are there getting paper towels, you can pick up some organic apples and bananas as well.