Over the past couple of years since I’ve started my blog, I often get asked where I do my grocery shopping. When I first started this real food journey, we did not have a single big chain healthy food store. No Whole Foods, no Earth Fare, and no Trader Joe’s. We did have a local co-op downtown: Three Rivers Co-Op Natural Grocery & Deli, but I’ll admit that I had never stepped inside of it and barely knew it existed. The only reason I even knew it existed was because I would pass it on my way to and from the zoo in the summer. Well, this past Spring, Fort Wayne finally welcomed it’s first natural grocery chain: an Earth Fare…but it was still located on the other side of town from me. Now, Fort Wayne is not all that big, but if you add an additional 30+ minutes of travel time (round trip) to do a little grocery shopping? That time adds up! So, even though I was excited about the new store (and wrote a review about the grand opening), I knew that I wouldn’t be making it my regular shopping spot, just based on location.
So, where do I shop for our real foods? Well, it’s not a straight forward answer because there are three places I buy from on a regular basis and a few more that I visit much less frequently. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not, especially when you see how how it all breaks down at each location.
Here is where I shop in Fort Wayne, Indiana (in order from most frequent to less frequent):
- Kroger – This grocery chain is my favorite because there are two of them within 5 minutes driving distance from my house. It’s where I go the most and I’m probably there 1-2 times a week, every week. I used to buy the majority of my foods at Kroger (and Sam’s Club), but since we’ve eliminated processed foods, I buy mostly fresh produce here now. Kroger’s organic selection has been expanding quite a bit and they’ve also introduced the “Simple Truth” line of products that I’ve been happy with. Not everything is organic and I still have to read labels carefully, but there is a lot I can find within this brand that used to be really hard to find locally. And I love the price. That’s very important to us! So, what do I buy from Kroger? Organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables (this is why I’m usually there two times per week!), organic raisins, organic milk, almond milk, cottage cheese, canned organic beans, Parmesan cheese wedges, and anything else that I may need at random.
- Costco – I am so happy with Costco these days. For being a big-box store, they are really impressing me, especially when every time I go, it seems they have more and more organic foods! The one thing I would like to see more of is fresh organic produce (we still only have a few options, but it’s getting better). I go to Costco probably once every 2-3 weeks, just depending on when we run out of things. I buy A LOT from Costco these days. Oranges, organic brown rice, quinoa, ground flax seed, almond butter, peanut butter, organic spinach, asparagus, mangoes, organic tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, organic canned kidney beans and black beans, Tillamook cheese blocks, frozen organic broccoli and corn, frozen organic fruits (berries, etc.), medjool dates, organic individual guacamole cups, organic tortilla chips, non-GMO potato chips (they had organic for a while, but I haven’t seen those lately), Greek yogurt, organic veggie patties, organic string cheese, organic extra virgin olive oil, and more. I’m always pleasantly surprised with ‘something’ new each time we go. I love that! (I should also note I’ve always been one of ‘those people’ who enjoys grocery shopping…) 😉
- Seven Sons Family Farm – This is a pasture-based livestock farm located in Roanoke, IN. I buy directly from its tiny little farm store (that’s open 7 days a week from 8 am – 8 pm), but they have buying clubs located all throughout the Midwest. If you’re looking for a good source of grass-fed/free range meat and eggs, you should definitely check them out! I buy all my meats through them: ground sirloin, ground chicken, chicken breasts, whole chickens, ground breakfast and Italian sausage, bacon, eggs, and even honey and maple syrup. They offer MUCH more than what I’ve listed, but those are the items I find myself buying regularly. I generally make the little trip out to Roanoke every 6-7 weeks (it’s about 12 minutes away from my house). And yes, I can buy eggs in bulk and they will last that long in my refrigerator. This is when I’m very grateful that we have a second refrigerator/freezer in our basement to store extra food. All the meat in the farm store is already frozen, so it just goes straight into my freezer until I’m ready to use it. The meat IS more expensive than what you’d find at the grocery store, but the benefits of good quality meats are worth it to our family. (Plus, we’ve significantly cut down our meat consumption over the last two years, so it probably evens out in the end.)
- Earth Fare – There are a few items that I can’t find at Kroger, Costco, or Seven Sons, but not much! I find that I’m usually ready to make a trip up to Earth Fare when we’re getting low on organic popcorn kernels. That seems to be enough to justify the mini trip up to the north side of town. 🙂 I would say I go there maybe one time every 2-3 months. I stock up on organic popcorn, bulk nuts (like dry roasted cashews, pistachios, raw almonds, Brazil nuts, etc), and whatever other bulk item I might need. (Next time I’m there I want to try hemp seeds and goji berries. I think I’ve seen them there.) I also like to buy different varieties of the Earth Fare brand organic pasta and 1-ingredient organic apple juice. I usually find a few other items while I’m there, but that’s about it. I don’t seem to rely on Earth Fare for much these days.
- Amazon – I haven’t yet taken advantage of all the bulk foods on Amazon, but I’m starting to more and more. I just bought Organic Red Ape Cinnamon that a reader recommended. It seems expensive to pay for cinnamon in bulk, but…we go through a lot of cinnamon and buying in bulk is much cheaper per ounce than buying the little organic jars from the grocery store. I also buy Organic Raw Cacao Powder from Amazon. I often forget about this online buying option, but I always make sure to compare prices before I buy. Food is not always the cheapest on Amazon, but when it comes to bulk items, it may be a better deal! If you’re struggling to find something locally, definitely check out Amazon!
- Whole Foods – When we first started eating real foods, I was so jealous of cities that had a Whole Foods. Well, I still am…a little, but now that Kroger has came out with the Simple Truth line of products and Costco and Earth Fare opened up here, I’m dealing with our lack of a Whole Foods a little better. 🙂 The closest one to us is 90 minutes away in Carmel, Indiana. I don’t get down there very often, but whenever I’m in Indy, I try to make it there and see what I can find. I love their bulk foods section and always find a few items I want to buy there. I also have been stocking up on organic white whole wheat flour–buying several 5 lb bags at a time! I like the Applegate organic deli meats, so I’ll usually buy a pound of turkey or ham, which we eat within a few days of getting home. And I will try to buy some Applegate pepperoni from the deli to put on pizzas. When I get home, I divide it into a few containers and freeze it. Next time I make a pizza, I have pepperoni I can add to it (but feel good about the quality). Of course, there are always foods I come across–like organic cheese slices, pasta, sometimes pretzels, etc…but I really don’t rely on Whole Foods like I used to when we first started transitioning to real foods. And thank goodness for that! It’s not easy to grocery shop at a store an hour and a half away from home!! 😉
Looking back on this list, it’s funny to see how much ‘simpler’ buying real foods in Fort Wayne has become since I started this process two years ago. Not only are there more natural stores and organic products in my area, I’m also more confident in my ability to find what I need. That makes a big difference, too!
I should note: the new chain ‘Fresh Thyme Farmers Market’ opened up in Fort Wayne this past fall. I’ve been there twice. While I think there are a lot of good natural and organic options, there are still foods being sold that contain artificial dyes, which really disappointed me. For that reason (and the fact that it’s 15 minutes away from my house and near the mall), I really don’t plan to go there all that often. I know the prices are good on sale items, but it’s not worth the trip when I’m rarely in that area.
As you can see, shopping at multiple stores is why I had a hard time tracking our grocery/food expenditures over the last year. However, both my husband and I were curious how much I was spending each month. (I would say he’s more concerned, whereas I’m curious…) 🙂 Anyway, I’ve been going through each receipt as I get home from shopping, subtracting out purchases like soap, detergent, bandaids, whatever…and adding up our food costs as we go. I hope to report on that sometime in a few more months once I feel like I have an accurate picture of our average monthly grocery expenditures. Some months are going to be more expensive than others because we buy in bulk and when things are on sale, so I’ll be anxious to see how it all averages out over a 6 month period.
So, there you have it! Now you know where I do all my real food grocery shopping these days! 🙂
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