The $25 Shopping Cart, Version 4.0

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I don’t usually like to toot my own horn about how good I am at cheap shopping, but at the risk of sounding a little cocky, I think I deserve an award for this edition of The $25 Shopping Cart. Or at least a small round of appreciative applause. Going only $2 over, I was able to grab a nice selection of groceries out of which I can make a few great meals at…. *drum roll, please*

Whole Foods Market.

That’s right, ladies & gentlemen! I went on a mission and conquered the “whole paycheck” beast that is Whole Foods. I have been dying to do a $25 Shopping Cart at this wonderful store for quite some time now, but the closest one to me is not that easily accessible by public transit and it’s rather far away. However, this weekend I had access to a car and due to an odd twist of fate requiring me to drive for a long time to recharge the battery properly, I was able to head all the way out to my WF.

It had been almost 2 years since I’d last been to Whole Foods, so I was really excited to see how things had changed. Not much had: same great products, same amazing selection, same beautiful quality of produce and fresh meats & seafood. But one very important thing had changed, and very drastically: the prices. Now, they’ve never been that good, to begin with; there is a reason why I lovingly call the place Whole Paycheck. However, it was astonishing to see just how high their prices had climbed, and for smaller quantities to boot. I used to be quite fond of this little pupusa packet that they sold in their refrigerated foods section (pupusas are a traditional Salvadorean corn sort-of-“quesadilla” if you will; I’ll definitely be making them here soon, so I’ll have a better explanation of what they are later). It came with 4 cheese pupusas, curtido, and salsa, and it only cost $4.49. Now they have this tiny little 2-pack of pupusas with no trimmings for $6.99! Granted, it has been 2 years since I’ve checked things out at Whole Foods, but that just seems like a pretty big price jump for a lot less product. Small, 6 oz cups of yogurt used to go for $1.19 and are now $2.29 for certain varieties. Other outrageous prices included the $6.99/lb asparagus, $4.99 bagged spinach, and $7.99/lb blackberries (!!!). Of course, it was lovely, organic produce, but I can get lovely, organic produce for a lot less at the farmer’s market. I could see that most of the produce would be off-limits this time.

Not all things were as scarily priced. Though it was super crowded (they were having some sort of sample promotion in each department of the store), I took my time and went through each aisle, carefully scanning prices and products for some good deals. I refused to believe I couldn’t find something affordable at Whole Foods! Patience was definitely a virtue in this case, and I was able to score some pretty good stuff. Though I don’t have the receipt with me to give you the exact breakdown on each item’s price, I can tell you that the best deal I got besides my Jarlsberg Swiss was a 41-50 count bag of large, fresh frozen shrimp for just $6.99! I can’t even say that TJ’s has a better deal since their fresh frozen shrimp (not the cooked) starts at $8.99. As much as I love the cooked shrimp, I prefer the fresh frozen because I’m able to play around more with marinades & seasonings that will actually infuse the shrimp with more flavor, so I’m really excited about this score.

Anyway, here’s the list of everything I was able to get (with as many prices as I can remember):

  • 41-50 count bag large, fresh frozen shrimp – $6.99
  • 1 can organic garbanzo beans – $0.89
  • 1 can organic, low-salt black beans – $0.89
  • 1 can organic cannellini beans – $0.89
  • ~ 1/2 lb French green lentils (in bulk)
  • ~ 1 lb Israeli couscous (in bulk)
  • ~ 3/4 lb Jarlsberg Swiss cheese – $3.50
  • 1 carton Good Belly Probiotic Mango Drink – $2.50
  • 1 (very large) bunch organic arugula – $1.99
  • 2 green plantains (not pictured)
  • 1 16 0z. box organic chicken broth
  • 1 16 oz. bag organic tomato & spinach fusilli – $1.89
  • 1 16 oz jar organic mushroom marinara sauce

Grand total: $27.90!

I didn’t get as much as I’m usually able at less expensive stores, but I got some great items from which I can build several different meals, which is the key to making the $25 shopping cart a success. I can’t wait to share some of the great dishes I plan to make with some of this stuff! I already had a lovely dinner of pasta with mushroom marinara and an arugula salad over the weekend and paired with a glass of wine, it truly looked like I was having a much more expensive meal than I was having. Black bean & plantain soup, a fun little lentil & Israeli couscous salad, and another shrimp creation will be on the horizon very soon, thanks to Whole Foods. It just goes to show that it really isn’t necessary to leave one’s whole paycheck there to end up with some great meals.

The $25 Shopping Cart, Version 4.0

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