Having access to a Whole Foods in your neighborhood is both a blessing and a curse. This shiny, certified-organic overlord is a place where you can find the most beautiful produce, organic groceries, and fair-trade tchotchkes in the world, if only you’re willing to trade your entire bank account or your very soul in exchange. When you’ve gotten used to fancy bacon and organic milk, though, it’s hard to go back to those commodity products from your supermarket days. Once Whole Foods lures you in, there’s no turning back.
Which means that in order to justify dodging hippies in the quinoa aisle and paying more for a fancy loaf of bread at Whole Foods, we occasionally have to lie to ourselves about why we’re actually there. There’s no shame in wanting to cook with and eat the best ingredients you can afford, but let’s be real—sometimes the dizzying selection of produce and elaborate coffee displays at Whole Foods causes us to lose our damn minds.
Normal people only go to the grocery once a week, but food nerds know that going into Whole Foods inevitably means spending at least $100 and forgetting the most important thing on your list because you were distracted by a beautiful pile of locally-grown Japanese eggplants. You may think that you’ve gotten everything that you needed to cook a week’s worth of dinners, but you have inevitably forgotten an ingredient that is an absolute necessity. When you trudge back to Whole Foods, prepare to spend even more on things you don’t need.
The idea that Whole Foods is a place where only “healthy” foods exists is a hilarious lie. There are plenty of cheeses, chips, and delicious baked goods to blow your daily calorie allowance on, but we always somehow think that they’re healthier because we paid more for them at the “organic” grocery store. Even if you’ve only got kale and coconut water on your shopping list, you’re not going to be able to resist those freshly-baked brownie bites in the bakery or a cup of that smoked mozzarella salad that gets you every time.
Good try, but no. Whole Foods is not a place where you stick to your guns or your budget. It is a place where you buy eight dollar baskets of weird produce that you’ve never tried, ecologically-friendly makeup that is always oddly waxy, and loaves of imported brioche that cost more than your shirt. Whole Foods has designed their entire store around the idea that you just won’t be able to resist a shiny new ingredient, which is simultaneously charming and incredibly annoying.
If you know how to properly use a knife, chopping your own ingredients really isn’t that difficult. But after you’ve worked all day and are feeling a bit hangry, peeling and seeding a butternut squash for the soup course doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. The allure of Whole Foods’ prepared sliced vegetables, perfectly-diced onions and beautifully-arranged $20 bowls of fruit is just too much for anyone without the steeliest of willpower to resist.
I have no idea whether or not the organic agave nectar that I insist on spending $2 more on actually tastes better than its conventionally-grown counterpart, because I have never tried it. Shopping at Whole Foods reinforces the idea that “organic = better,” even if the word has lost a lot of its meaning as massive food conglomerates take over smaller producers. Deep down, I know that I’m paying those extra couple of bucks for peace of mind, which sounds much more ridiculous now that I actually think about it.
Amy McCarthy is a writer and editor living in Dallas, Texas. She enjoys lipstick, cooking, and fighting with celebrities on Twitter.