By Sheela Prakash
Whether or not you regularly shop at Whole Foods, you’ve likely heard it jokingly called “Whole Paycheck”. The grocery store has a reputation for being, well, pricey. I visit Whole Foods almost weekly though, and I tend to disagree. While there are most definitely plenty of tempting items to splurge on, I’ve yet to break my budget by being a regular customer — and I do keep a pretty tight budget. Take a good look and you’ll come across a number of groceries that are as cheap, if not cheaper than they are at some other stores. There five are a handful of my favorites because they also have the added benefit of being the base for healthy dinners that are so quick and easy, I cook them on the regular. Here’s what to grab the next time you make a trip:
1. Frozen Vegetables
Whole Foods frozen vegetable situation is pretty great. It’s larger than many other grocery stores, which means it’s got a lot more variety. They’ve got frozen artichokes so you can make a fast and fancy pasta. There’s a great stir-fry blend of broccoli, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and green beans that needs no more than some cubed chicken breast cooked in a skillet with a bit of garlic, olive oil, and soy sauce or coconut aminos to become a feel-good dinner. Or try this mix of cooked quinoa and vegetables. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare in the microwave or on the stovetop and can become dinner if you top if with leftover cooked chicken or a fried egg, or stir some chickpeas or black beans into it.
2. Canned Beans
Speaking of beans, canned beans from Whole Foods are just as inexpensive as they are elsewhere. In fact, they’re actually cheaper at Whole Foods than at a few other stores I frequent. The non-organic beans come in at just 79 cents a can. So it’s worth stocking up when you’re shopping. Then use them to make 10-minute tacos, a big pot of soup, or a simple skillet meal.
3. Quick-Cooking Whole Grains
I love cooking up big batches of whole grains like brown rice and farro to use as a base for a healthy grain bowl or salad but it usually takes a solid 45 minutes to prepare. When I don’t have that kind of time, I reach for Whole Food’s quick-cooking bags. The outer bran has been removed — a process that’s called pearling — so the grains cook in just 10 minutes. I use their farro to make simple but satisfying salads, turn it into a fried rice-like dinner, and of course, use it as a base for a colorful bowl.
4. Frozen Shrimp
If you don’t already have a bag or two of frozen shrimp in your freezer, most definitely pick one up the next time you’re at Whole Foods. Unless there’s a sale at the fish counter, it’s cheaper than buying fresh and usually the fresh is previously frozen anyway. This also means that defrosting the shrimp yourself when you need it rather than picking up it pre-defrosted results in a better-tasting dinner. Turn it into an easy sheet pan dinner, toss it with pasta, or use it with the frozen bag of stir-fry veggies to make a simple stir-fry.
5. Salad Kits
Salad kits aren’t always cheaper than buying all the components yourself but if you’re in need of something quick, they’re definitely an affordable option. One kit feeds about two people as a main and has everything you need except a little protein to enjoy as a complete meal. Add a jammy egg, beans, cooked chicken, or even cubes of baked tofu to round it out.