After getting a tour of Whole Foods with other Spoon UF girls, I realized how much I’d been missing out on: the acai bar, grind-your-own peanut butter station, orange and cream soda, and so much more! My eyes were wide with $5 pecorino cheese and fresh spanakopita – as the title indicates, it felt like spending an evening at Magic Kingdom during midnight fireworks.

The Associate Store Team Leader, Benjamin Martinez, gave us the tour and his enthusiasm about everything – from salmon fish farms to homemade ramen – was infectious (he also inspired this article title). After going through the departments and giving us a rundown on Whole Foods’ policies, partnership with Amazon Prime, and their various amenities, Benjamin made me feel like a pro. Here are the top 10 things I learned about Whole Foods that made it *extraordinary.*

1. Amazon Prime Members Get Special Deals

Mackenzie Patel

Because Amazon acquired Whole Foods, Prime members get everyday items at lower prices – just look for the yellow sales tags and blue signs, and members get 10%+ off! To claim your discount, download the Amazon or Whole Foods Market apps – after signing in, a Prime Member QR code appears, which you scan during check-out.

2. Their Farmed Fish and Animals Are Raised Sustainably

Mackenzie Patel

With no antibiotics or color dyes, Whole Foods’ farm-raised fish are healthy and have a high quality of life. They’re raised in fish pens off the coast of Norway, and the ratio is 1% fish to 99% water. As for the animals, Whole Foods has a “5 step rating system” indicating sustainably-raised meats – Step 2 is “Enriched Environment,” meaning the animals are given toys to play with at the farm and comfortable living conditions. Cheers for animal welfare!

3. Salmon Is Only $9.99/lb – and Whole Foods Will Cook It For You

Mackenzie Patel

First of all, $9.99 for a pound of fresh salmon is incredible - I’m not a fish girl, but I will be if it’s healthy and inexpensive. Whole Foods will also prepare the salmon if you call beforehand; it’s free of charge, and all you pay for is the actual salmon. Instead of having Whole Foods prepare it, you can also grab a prepared salmon dish (i.e. smoked habanera salmon). Pop it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, and you’ve got a first-class dinner.

4. Their Alternative Meats and Dairy Section is Flourishing

Mackenzie Patel

Since Gainesville has a high proportion of vegans and vegetarians, Whole Foods caters to that demographic – Benjamin pointed out his favorite chocolate oat milk, or rather its price sticker since it was already sold out. Expanded to over six fridge cases, this dairy section won’t leave vegans high and dry.

5. Whole Foods Has Over 200 Types of Cheese

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Yasmeen Aboulhawa

Seeing Whole Foods’ specialty cheese section felt like riding the Everest rollercoaster at Animal Kingdom –exhilaration, trepidation, and amazement all in two minutes. My eyes were racing, unsure of whether to examine the Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino cheese first.

Shoppers can also try any cheese they like – just ask the employee behind the counter, and they’ll open a package on the spot. And as a policy, they always carry two Parmigiano cheese wheels from Italy. Whole Foods also hosts wine and cheese Wednesdays – for $10, you can try iconic and interesting pairings in their bar.

6. Their Wine Section Features Bottles That “Talk”

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Caroline Ingalls

This is straight out of an animated Disney movie. Whole Foods carries the 19 Crimes brand of wine – their bottles feature mugshots of black-and-white criminals, some scowling, some smug. Download the Living Wine Labels app, and these mugshot men literally “come to life” and start talking about the crimes they committed.

7. Whole Foods Has An Acai Bar

Mackenzie Patel

Spoon UF has already written about the Whole Foods’ acai bar, but I want to reiterate how incredible this is. With diverse toppings like kiwi, granola, and coconut flakes, patrons can get an acai bowl for $8.99. The area where the acai bar is also contains coffee machines, tea, oatmeal (only in the mornings), and a natural soda fountain with flavors like orange, cream, ginger, and rootbeer. It’s like a general store, Panera bread, and health food store in one – all for affordable prices.

8. The Ramen Bar and Homemade Indian Food Are Next to Each Other

Mackenzie Patel

Who knew I could get authentic curry on Archer Road? Whole Foods employees about ten chefs that prepare all the food for the hot bar, including East Asian, Indian, and American styles. When Benjamin was giving us the tour, I saw an array of Thanksgiving dishes including turkey, cranberries, and mashed potatoes. People were loading up paper plates, buying dinner as if from a family-style buffet. Their Ramen bar also has diverse options such as spicy veggie ramen and chicken miso.

9. Their Pizza Station Has Dough Straight Out of Italy

Mackenzie Patel

A slice of Whole Foods pizza costs $3.75 and features dough that took 6 to 8 weeks to travel from Italy. Who needs to travel to Tuscany when you can get juicy dough from Whole Foods?! They prepare the pizza with less cheese so the flavor of the dough shines through – they also started baking a Detroit Style Pizza on focaccia dough.

10. Shoppers Can Grind Their Own Peanut Butter and Pour Their Own Honey

Mackenzie Patel

Self-service just went to a whole new level. Shoppers can choose which peanuts (i.e. honey roasted) or variety of honey they want (i.e. Florida wildflower) and pour to their desired quantity. I needed a quarter cup of honey to make pumpkin peanut butter balls and only spent $1.68 for my jar. This customization is priceless (or at least less expensive than buying a whole jar) and feels like a mini-adventure.

Whole Foods Gainesville Has It All

Mackenzie Patel

There’s nothing humdrum about the Whole Foods shopping experience – between the Pecorino excitement and hearing I’m Waiting for my Man on the radio, I was content and filled with free samples. Besides their fresh food, Whole Foods is an industry leader in “green” standards as well. They have electric car chargers in the parking lot, won the Green Certified Building Award, and are the only certified organic grocery store in the world.

People point out their high prices as a con, but that only really applies to their produce section (which is more expensive because of higher quality and fair wages of $15/hour to all starting employees). Overall, Whole Foods changed my perception that grocery shopping is a chore – and it’s a lot less pricey than going to Disney.

Thanks to Benjamin Martinez and the staff of Whole Foods Gainesville for the tour!