Simplest Blog Ever: Why I Can’t Shop at Whole Foods or Alfalfa’s (which I love) Anymore.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 23, 2012
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Vitamin Cottage is 20 – 30% cheaper for the exact. Same. Stuff.

This was honestly hard to write: I’ve supported Alfalfa’s like family since it started up, love it.

I love and respect what Whole Foods and Alfalfa’s stand for and have accomplished. But: they’re a rip-off.

A pint of vegan ice cream, say, is two bucks less at Vitamin Cottage. A can of beans is a buck less.

I feel rich when I shop there.

It’s a Smallish Chain, Family-run (Publicly-traded). The produce section is too limited, but during summer I get most of my produce from our local farmers’ market, anyways.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


30 Responses to “Simplest Blog Ever: Why I Can’t Shop at Whole Foods or Alfalfa’s (which I love) Anymore.”

  1. sanstrustfund says:

    Sucks to live on a trust fund in Boulder and have such conundrums.

  2. @RupertSully says:

    Where is it? Rupert

  3. Harmony0 says:

    so true. but alfalfas is just one store and doesn't have the lower wholesale prices available to them that whole foods does. so, clearly, vitamin cottage chooses to make less profit and offer affordable prices to their customers–so you are very right, and i too do much of my shopping at vitamin cottage. great place to meet new people, as well, because it is so small and the aisles are narrow, bumping into others seems to be…well…inevitable :o)

  4. Hi. says:

    I'm a graduate student, and I totally agree with the issue. One wants to buy healthier stuff, but it's freaking expensive at WF's and Alfalfas. I hate the Whole Foods on Pearl anyway–it's pretentious!

  5. elephantjournal says:

    Sucks to have a bad attitude. I'm no trustafarian—I'm what Mitt wishes he was, which is someone who was given one awesome parent and a great education and has otherwise made (with community and government support) my own success, through hard work. First world problems? Yes, of course, and I count myself lucky.

    But trying to afford groceries is something that all middle class and lower class Americans deal with and struggle with.

  6. Grace Boyle says:

    I know, it’s tough. Alfalfa’s is a few blocks from me so I still go there (convenience). That said Vitamin Cottage doesn’t have a lot of things I’m looking for. It definitely has the basics and the produce is far cheaper with things not crazily marked up. But I am still happy supporting Alfalfa’s since they have things I can’t find at Vitamin Cottage (just so much smaller). Whole Foods is forever expensive.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    There's one out by Whole Foods, on 30th and Pearl, basically, by Barnes & Noble. A bunch of my pals have started going there now…I was a hold-out.

  8. elephantjournal says:

    Amen—I agree—and that's why I've tried to support Alf's for so long. But charging so much for basic staples? Not offering at least some real deals on staples for middle and lower class and students? I give up.

  9. elephantjournal says:

    I like pretentious—it's a great experience at Alf's and Whole Foods, like getting to hang out at a rich friend's house for awhile! But fundamentally, yes, it's about buying healthy, affordable food and supporting good companies and our environment and not getting ripped off in the process.

  10. pam says:

    I’ll still go to Alfalfa’s!! I love that place and want to support them so they don’t go out of business.
    Plus…they have MEAT! and awesome cheese! and stuff that Vitamin Cottage doesn’t have, like sushi, lamb burgers, and the best is their own cured BACON!
    that’s right, I’m not a vegan..

  11. Guy Leisure says:

    Love it, The last time in over 5 years I was in one of the WF/alfalfas stores was for a meeting in their cafe and I was appalled by the law office feel. They used to be real now they are just fashion. If you shop there check you self identity for elitism.

  12. Guest says:

    Alfalfa's sealed their customers' economic fate with a $5m remodel when he got it back from Whole Foods. VC is the, uh, 'natural' way to go. I noticed years ago that whenever a new farmer turned up at the market, in short order their prices would be very similar to Whole Paycheck's. Add my general aversion to crowds, and between those facts it's never been a viable shopping option for me.

  13. @benatkin says:

    I've noticed the cheaper prices and I'd tend towards shopping there too if I'd started preparing my own food like I've been meaning to. In reality I've been going to Whole Foods to eat a baked potato.

  14. Liz says:

    i stopped shopping at VC in boulder last winter or maybe the winter before because the prices seemed to be skyrocketing. good to know sounds like they are back down.

  15. Brianna says:

    I love VC and did all my grocery shopping there when I lived in Boulder. I never understood people going over to Whole Pay Check to shop when VC is right next door. Oops, did I say that out loud?

  16. Alf'sFan says:

    Alfalfa's prices are higher because, as a single-store, locally owned, independently operated business, it doesn't have the buying power that chains like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage have. That's what you get when you support a local business that puts the importance of community first. Deal with it. For me, it's worth paying a little more while keeping this in mind.

    Plus, the customer service at Alf's is amazing. Refusing to shop there because they are trying to stay profitable in a city filled with chains that have duped the average Boulder customer into thinking they're local seems pretty silly to me…

  17. tharpa says:

    Here's our Saturday morning shopping route: coffee at Logan's, a swing through Lucky's for Hazel Dell shiitake (cheaper than at VC), Merlin's popcorn, and whatever else is cheaper than at other stores, then to Safeway for certain staples like bubbly water and frozen wild-caught salmon, then to Vitamin Cottage for everything else. We live a block from Ideal (Whole Foods) and only go there for emergencies.

  18. Guy Leisure says:

    Can we get a fact check in aisle three. Alfalfa's has/had over 10 stores and it appears that they are owned by Wild Oat's. After some quick research I find that the current store is simply a reassertion of the name not independent from the Wild Oats Ownership, check me on that. None of that justifies the high prices which are in place because too many people are willing and able to pay them. How about cutting our indulgences down and donating to something worthy and long lasting instead of spending too much on products that will only stay in our bodies for less than a day.

  19. Sarah says:

    Disclosure: I work at Whole Foods, have for a long time, and they treat me well.

    Here is an independent study Wells Fargo did that found that WF is actually cheaper than buying natural and organics at conventional groceries, and not that much more expensive overall. Also interesting information about the future of organics and the rise of organic commerce.

  20. Alf's Fan says:

    Uhhhh… I don't know where you're getting your "facts" but Alfalfa's hasn't been owned by Wild Oats in a couple decades… The one (1) store that it has now is independently owned and operated.

    And I don't know if I would classify eating real food as an "indulgence." Past generations simply called organic food without any genetically modified material "food." Perhaps you've heard of it? I think it's silly that we have to pay extra for this "food" I refer to, but I wouldn't classify it as an indulgence.

    If you think what you eat only stays in your body for less than a day you seriously need to see a nutritionist. Or go to a high school biology class.

  21. Lady Leisure says:

    "Less than a day?" REALLY?! Whoah, I'm scared of the health issues you probably have. That's pure ignorance right there. Perhaps you should do a little research on the difference between organic and conventional foods.

    Alfalfa's IS independently owned and operated. They haven't been under the Wild Oats name for years! And besides, I love to support local business and keep my money in the local economy.

  22. elephantjournal says:

    Yes! I've argued for years that buying bulk and such is super-affordable. I guess it's the canned staples, and other weekly purchases that seem so much cheaper at Vitamin Cottages.

  23. elephantjournal says:

    Yes: Alf's is indie. It's confusing 'cause Mark, who I love, was a founder of the original Alf's which was bought by…Wild Oats. This new Alf's is indie.

  24. elephantjournal says:

    I've gone out of my way to shop there, every other day on my way home, for a year plus or however long they've been open. I love them. I can't pay 20-30% more for the same stuff, anymore, however. I. Just. Can't.

    If they offered more real discounts for lower, middle class, and for students, that'd be enough to get me back. As it is, their discounts bring the price down to what Vitamin Cottage is, full price.

  25. elephantjournal says:

    Well, it's a goooooooorrrrgeous build-out!

  26. elephantjournal says:

    Hope they aren't skyrocketing!

  27. Evan Ravitz says:

    Another reason to avoid Whole Foods: they tell their employees to lie and say they don't carry food with GMOs:

  28. Kathy says:

    I shop at all three & here are my reasons:
    Alfalfa's is locally-owned and is compact enough to find things easily — good location, good quality and most prices are competitive, but I do notice I pay more for several items. I want to support local businesses and like their non-GMO stance.
    Vitamin Cottage has lower prices, but the selection is limited. I buy carrots & apples for juicing there & nuts for making nut butters. Great nuts & prices, but don't look for veggies like Brussels sprouts! They negotiate a discount with suppliers (or else they don't pick them up) and pass this on to consumers. The only negative I've heard is that they pay employees a little lower.
    Whole Foods — higher prices, but they have everything. I go there when I want to find all the ingredients for a great paella.
    I don't like that they don't financially support the GMO labeling proposition in California.

  29. JWAY says:

    Yeah baby. But I will still go to 5 stores to get all the things I need. Alfalfas has great sales and City Market (King Soopers to all you eastern slope folks) has great local organic greens and for less than all of them!

  30. Jill Bielawski says:

    I used to shop at Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage, but Whole Foods Market's recent introduction of rabbit flesh to its meat department is the final straw. I now boycott Whole Foods and shop at Vitamin Cottage, which you're right, is cheaper. Too bad Trader Joe's uses excessive packaging, particularly in its produce department.