I know most people think of Whole Foods as being an expensive place to shop. It can be, depending on what you buy, but there are definitely some deals and splurge-worthy items. I think they have a great selection of vegan products and do an excellent job of labeling vegan items in their bakery and buffet sections. While in New York, we visited the Union Square Whole Foods several times, picking up snacks and lunches to go, all without blowing our budget.
From past experiences, we know to exercise some restraint when loading up a take out box at the Whole Foods pay by weight buffet. At $7.99 USD per pound, the cost can add up quickly. This little box of takeout, just big enough for John and I to share, was about $11.00 USD. Picking only the best looking Indian fare, we enjoyed a mix of chickpea curry, vegetable curry, vegetable biryani rice and several dumplings. The portion was just right for us, keeping in mind we wanted to make sure we had some room for dessert.
For a sweet ending to lunch, we split a peanut butter cookie by Liz Lovely. This huge peanut butter cookie was dipped in chocolate and had whole peanuts on top. It combined chocolate and peanut butter so of course we liked it. For two cookies, we paid $2.99 USD. We left satisfied, spending about $7.00 USD each on lunch, with one cookie for later.
Before heading out, we also picked up some Clif Bars. I was so excited to find unique flavours by my favorite energy bar company. For the first time, we had a chance to try their White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, Blueberry Crisp, Banana Nut, Chocolate Brownie and Apricot bars. In Canada, they have fewer options, and they’re more expensive. At Whole Foods, they’re only $0.99 USD, compared to $2.00 CAD or more in Canada. We liked them all but White Chocolate Macadamia Nut was the best of the bunch. These are a great thing to pack, you never know when hunger might strike.
Whole Foods stocks a variety of baked goods but we just couldn’t make room for them during our trip. There were too many vegan dessert options to choose from and we had to be selective. At the Union Square location, there were a several vegan cakes, puddings and cupcakes. At the Bowery Whole Foods location (95 East Houston St), I found spelt vegan chocolate peanut butter brownies and fudge brownies. They’re all priced between $2.00-$4.00 USD, comparable to what you’d pay at most vegan-friendly bakeries.
One baked good we did make room for was a cinnamon raisin swirl bagel. Topped with peanut butter, it made for a nice alternative to our regular breakfast of fruit and or toast. That’s breakfast for less than $1.00 USD.
There were a few days when we needed a cheap, delicious and healthy lunch we could pack for an afternoon of sightseeing. On several occasions, we picked up their mixed bean and grain salads. For only $3.50 USD per portion, they kept us happy and full while on the move. Yes, there are cheaper meal options but at least we weren’t spending $10.00 USD or more at a restaurant and had a healthy choice on hand.
As vegan backpackers, it’s crucial for us to plan for our meals ahead of time and have some foresight about where to find food. We don’t expect or ask others to accommodate us. Carrying a small food reserve is an important part of maintaining our diet and not compromising the quality of the food we eat. Before John left for the JFK airport, ready to fly to Dublin, we stopped by Whole Foods and picked up some meals and snacks for him to take on the journey. It’s a good thing he was well stocked because the volcanic activity in Iceland resulted in him spending two nights in the London Heathrow airport. Yes, airports are getting better at stocking vegan options but the prices are high enough to make the options at Whole Foods seem like a fair bargain.
Shopping at Whole Foods can be done on a budget. It’s a great place to pick up something when you know the alternative options (fast food, restaurants) will cost more and may not be as healthy as you’d like. It’s also worth splurging from time to time because they do carry a lot of vegan products you can’t find elsewhere.