Next time you’re on the prowl for a cheap meal, think beyond Burger King. In fact, think a little south and a little east of Burger King, down to Whole Foods. Although it’s not open 24/7, Whole Foods is a fabulous place to go for a healthy, inexpensive meal. Here’s how to enjoy tantalizing dishes on the starving college kid budget.
First course: For appetizers, take a leisurely stroll (or two) around the store and sample all kinds of free delicacies. Fresh fruit, chips and guacamole, shish kabobs, cheese, tea and chocolate all await you, depending on the time and day you visit. Prime sample locations are the entryway, fruit section, produce shelves, meat counter and wine aisles. Use your sampling expedition to scout out store items that are on sale, so when it’s time to stock your pantry for the week, you know where to find the best deals.
Second course: You have a well stocked buffet, salad bar, deli, sandwich shop and pizzeria at your disposal, as well as a prepared food section filled with 2-for-$5 deals. Both the buffet and the salad bars are $7.99 for a pound of food. As long as you load your to-go box in moderation, it isn’t hard to come out with a good deal of food for around $6. Since the price is determined by weight, use the lighter take-out boxes instead of the plates.
“Whole Foods is very sensitive to special diets, be that a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet or a gluten free diet,” Jessica Hochman, Whole Foods’ community outreach specialist, said. “We hold ourselves to a very strict standard of labeling ingredients.” The labels make it easy to know exactly what you are eating.
In addition, all of the dishes are made with fresh ingredients in the nearby Midwest kitchen or in-house, Hochman said. The dishes feature regional and seasonal ingredients for an all around feel-good dining experience. In the seating area behind check out, there are free cups and purified water, but if you feel like a more flavorful beverage, grab a can of soda for only 69 cents.
Dessert: Finish your meal with a something sweet and fresh from the bakery cases. Some of the cookies are sold by weight, while others are only 99 cents. If you need a chocolate fix, buy one or two of the miniature bars by the checkout, and if you want something lighter, just hit up the fruit samples again.
You really can’t go wrong with Whole Foods. Before you leave, make sure to peruse the weekly sales flier. And if you need something on the go, pick up an entire pizza for $9.99 with your Wildcard. A dinner at Whole Foods lives up to the cliché: It’s good for you and your wallet.