Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You CAN Afford Whole Foods

"Whole Foods is a great place for shoppers on a budget. Really!

Lurking beside the Bleu d'Auvergne and the Chilean sea bass is a supermarket ripe with deals ready for hard-working individuals wanting a little more bang for their buck, company officials say.

And they can prove it.

Perhaps hoping to combat the store's "Whole Paycheck" nickname, Whole Foods branches in Santa Fe and other cities, under a directive from the company's Austin headquarters, recently began offering weekly tours on how to "value shop" and affordably stock a pantry.

"We cater to a whole variety of people, from gourmets to those feeding families on a reasonable budget," said Tom DiRuggiero, marketing director of the Santa Fe Whole Foods. Organized tours in the City Different run every Wednesday afternoon and will continue at least through February. While the Casual comparison idea hasn't exactly caught fire yet -- a Journal reporter and photographer were the only participants during the Cerrillos Road store's second tour Jan. 30 -- guides DiRuggiero and Jeremiah Schultz, chef de cuisine, are eager to spread tidings that Whole Foods budget shopping is not an oxymoron. Their advice boils down to two rather simple suggestions: Buy generic and shop the sales. The company's private-label 365 Everyday Value brand, which offers a multitude of items, is "probably the greatest value we have to offer in the store," DiRuggiero said. In addition to 365, Whole Foods carries two other private lines: 365 Organic and the somewhat more expensive Whole Kitchen and Whole Pantry. "Compare the prices and it's really not out of line with what you see in other stores," DiRuggiero said."

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