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As you may be aware, Whole Foods will be opening their first New Hampshire store this Tuesday, August 19th. Last night I had a unique opportunity to tour the new store. There is a really fun sneak peek event planned for Saturday the 15th if you’re interested, with proceeds to benefit Meals On Wheels.

RSVP Here!

I’ll be honest; prior to last night my personal exposure to Whole Foods, while always positive, has been somewhat limited. This will be the first time I’ve had a Whole Foods store so geographically accessible. Visiting Whole Foods stores in the past, I’ve been delighted to find products on their shelves like my beloved Friendship Whipped Cottage Cheese (divine, I tell you!).  Unfortunately, since the closure of all of Stop and Shop’s NH locations last August, I have seen this personal fave only sporadically. The availability of these gems will draw myself along with fellow New Hampshirian food enthusiasts to the new Whole Foods location. While I’m sure the company will be thrilled to have my business, it takes a broader customer base to keep an establishment of this size thriving in such a competitive market. So what sort of allure is there for the average southern New Hampshire consumer?

I don’t think many of us feel we have an unlimited grocery budget. For as selective as I’ve become about quality and sourcing of the products I buy, price always comes into play. I grew up the oldest in a family of 11 children, and reading the unit price is as automatic for me as brushing my teeth. Personally, I often stick to brands that I have come to trust, and purchase on sale and in bulk whenever possible. Price has played an even larger role in my buying perspective lately with a decrease in availability of fresh food due to the boycott of the Market Basket stores.  In this respect, I don’t think Whole Foods could have imagined a better competitive climate in which to launch their first New Hampshire store.

On opening day, the Nashua Whole Foods will begin selling products from at least fifty local producers, and the aim is to add more in the near future. This has huge appeal to someone like me, who values not only how far my dollar goes, but that my money is going back into my local community. I have certainly heard the “Whole Paycheck” criticism of Whole Foods… the implications that they cater to the monetarily elite. I stumbled upon proof of this perception last weekend when my husband Brian and I were dining at Republic Café. The Market Basket debacle came up in our conversation with our waitress, and then conversation turned to the excitement surrounding the opening of Whole Foods in Nashua. A neighboring diner shared that Whole Foods would only be a ‘sometimes store’ for her. Republic Café prides themselves on sourcing from local farms and fisheries. Clearly Whole Foods shares in this mission, and yet is relegated to an occasional splurge.

Marketing Team Leader and Community Liaison Jaimee Rondeau was our tour guide through the Whole Foods experience last night. She showed us around the store, and offered sample 365 products for us to try. She also hosted a Q&A session, where she addressed the criticism that Whole Foods has faced in the past, and exclaimed “We really care about what we do.” She strongly suggested that you can shop at Whole Foods market on a budget for your whole family.

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So how does one shop Whole Foods cost-effectively?

Here are a couple takeaways from my tour last night:

-Whole Food’s 365 store brand is made for just this purpose: providing natural, nutritious products at an affordable price. Whole Foods 365 Organic Light String Cheese just won a Taste Test Award from CookingLight magazine.  If you can get the best for less, why wouldn’t you?

-They take coupons of all types and offer their own! You can print off and use as many as you like.               Check Out: The Whole Deal Coupons.

-If you buy a case of anything at Whole Foods, you get 10% off. Good to know for those of us that buy things things in bulk! This could really give them an edge locally competing against Wholesale clubs – Watch out Costco!

-The stores periodically offer ‘value tours‘ to the public on ways to save in the store.

I think Whole Foods also offers an excellent value proposition beyond the tally at the register. I respect that the company acts conscientiously to reduce their environmental footprint, and is so sincere in their mission to ‘go green’ that they compost at every store. The store in Arlington, MA apparently even started sharing their compost facility with a neighboring school. The attitude of responsibility that seems to prevail throughout the company’s missions is admirable. Whole Foods has programs that give back both locally and globally, taking an active stance on issues like fighting childhood obesity, labeling GMOs, supporting local growers, and maintaining their commitment to ethical trade.

I don’t know if the 365 brand will change my life, or convince me to shop exclusively at Whole Foods. What I did take away from last night is that while Whole Foods is a corporation, they are intertwined with the local communities that surround their stores. Between their community outreach and local sourcing, they symbiotically empower the communities that power them. That’s the sort of business that I want to give my business to. (See what I did there? 🙂 )

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Some Additional Takeaways:

-Whole Foods offers a Local Producer Loan Program

-In 2018 all products in the store will be labeled as to whether or not they contain GMOs.

-Try Before You Buy Sampling and Easy Returns

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