Gourmet food Stores

Let’s talk about gourmet food stores for a minute. We’ve all seen them – Wegman’s, Whole Foods and even Harris Teeter.  The question today is: Are they worth the hype? And the answer is yes and no.

Here are some thoughts to help guide you when you’re shopping at a high-end gourmet food store.

The Pros

There really are a lot of pros to shopping at a gourmet food store like Whole Foods, for example.  The choices you have in produce are far greater even though you are paying a higher price. Why? Because the produce you’re looking at isn’t picked over.  Typically, produce in a high-end grocery store can to be, well, high end. It’s usually fresher because the product is turned over more often.

Buying in bulk: One thing we really like about stores like this are the bulk aisles. You can save a good bit of money buying things like granola, nuts and dried fruits in bulk rather than buying them in prepackaged containers.

Seafood and meat counters: While meat departments in conventional grocery stores are common, not every grocery store has a good seafood counter. That’s one of the advantages you get in a gourmet grocery store.

Salad bars: This is very popular in Whole Foods and something we love.  Every Whole Foods store has a cold and hot food bar.  The salad bar includes many items besides greens and vegetables, and the hot bar usually has pre-prepared meals as well as soup.

The issue with the food bars, of course, is that you pay by the pound. With the cold food bar, don’t bother spooning salads into separate containers — just pile it all up into one container.

Organic sections: High-end grocery stores typically have a section where you can buy organic vitamins, beauty products and bathroom essentials.

The Cons

The biggest con to a gourmet grocery store is price.  Because they bring in the highest quality products possible, they will pass that cost on to the consumer. So how do you get around that? Be a good detective and look at the pricing on the shelves.  Take a look and see if the unit price for a small can of beans is more expensive than a larger can of beans. This is the same kind of detective work you can use at a conventional grocery store to determine whether getting a bigger version of the product is worth it.

If you find that the prices at a gourmet grocery are just too high for you to pay and you can get the same product at your local grocery store, then you should do that. The items we typically buy at gourmet grocery stores are things we can’t get locally and when we’re looking for the highest possible quality.

Long story short

Are gourmet food stores worth the hype? Yes, sometimes. Should you shop that way from week to week?  That depends on what your budget is but if you can afford to do that, why not?

Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com

What are some of your favorite gourmet food stores?