Putting Food on the Table

For most of the past three years, Joe has been working at Whole Foods. This came with good points and bad, but the best was the 20% employee discount on everything sold in the store.

I have been shopping for much of my food at specialty food stores since I became a vegetarian as a teenager. When I was in college in the 1990s, this meant the local Boston chain Bread and Circus, which was bought out by Whole Foods shortly after I started shopping there. What I’m saying is that I already spent a large amount at Whole Foods, so the employee discount meant we did almost all of our shopping there.

However, Joe moved on to a different job at the start of the year. The more consistent hours and better pay are balanced with the loss of the grocery discount. So I have been looking into the best way to get the most value for the same foods we normally buy. We only have one car, which Joe uses to commute, so delivery options are important.

We decided that our basic plan would be twice a month trips to Trader Joe’s, a weekly box from Imperfect Foods, and small deliveries from Whole Foods (we are already Amazon Prime members, so delivery is free).

First stop: Trader Joe’s

frozen food at Trader Joe's

Ah, TJ’s. I missed you. I also bought a bunch of random food I normally wouldn’t have just because it was there.

Since they do not deliver, this isn’t going to be a weekly thing for us. We are trying not to make “trip to the grocery store” our event very weekend. In addition to the random snacks that are so hard to resist, we stocked up on eggs, oatmeal, and frozen meal starters.

Second: Amazon/Whole Foods delivery

grocery delivery from Whole Foods

Before Joe started working there, I used to get Whole Foods delivered via Instacart. Comparing the two methods, the delivery through Amazon is quicker and better, but the ordering process is far worse. You know how when shopping on Amazon you will get recommendations that have nothing to do with what you are searching for? Well now your groceries are like that too.

Sometimes things that are not available through Whole Foods are recommended and if you add them by mistake, they get added to a second, standard Amazon checkout cart. It is very confusing. I couldn’t get it to work on my phone at all. Search is just broken. I search for “Tofurky” and get recommendations for cheese. It’s just bizarre.

There are also unlisted item limits on some things. Because the items are shopped from a store, not a warehouse, they can only give you what is in stock. Some items only allow you to put one of a kind in your cart. All that said, my food was ordered around 11am on a Thursday and was dropped at my door around 3pm (they did not bother to knock, so I am unsure of the exact time). I bought much less this way than if I had gone to the store myself.

Third: Imperfect Foods

So. I was supposed to be getting a box from Imperfect foods between noon and 4pm on Friday. Instead, around 1pm on Friday I got this email.

Imperfect Foods email

My “customize” window has just opened up for this week, so I am trying again. But this was a very bad start to using this service. Most frustrating was that the website was never updated with this info. Even after I received this email the website just kept saying “Your order will be delivered soon!” And I have received emails that say “now that you have received your first delivery box…” which are kinda insulting considering they never sent it for unknown reasons.

I will be tracking my expenses to see how my combined grocery bill from several places compares to just 20% off Whole Foods. What are your favorite ways to get high quality food on a budget?

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