Grocery Gauntlet: Comparing Four National Chains And The Likelihood Of You Getting Diarrhea And/Or Spending Your Entire 401k On One Meal

Grocery shopping. Aside from scooping soggy poop from the tub and scraping boogers off the wall, it’s hard to think of a worse reminder you are an adult. No matter where you go, some combination of crowds, cost and the Mad Max style parking situation leaves you frazzled before you even set foot in the airlock. But some places are better than others, and today we will compare four national chains to assess the likelihood you will leave with your 401k intact, and clean britches covering your bottom.

Whole Foods:

Overall Experience: Educational and cleansing, if not mildly confusing and entirely over-priced.

buddhas hand

This is not a starfish. This is a fruit. Seriously.

Upside: The produce looks as if angels grew, harvested, and arranged it according to beta carotene content. The meat is fresh, the cheese is exotic, and the selection of gluten-free, organic, non-GMO fruit snacks is second to none.

Downside: After circling for no less than 8 minutes, you will be forced to wedge your car between a Prius with a Vegan Is The Answer sticker, and a Denali with spinners who is parked over the line of the compact spot. You will spend your entire paycheck on Kefir and crackers you didn’t realize are made of raw quinoa and taste like broken dreams. Your visit will be cut short once it becomes clear you are battling to squelch a bout of fiery diarrhea resulting from drinking a $9 green drink you picked up between the Kombucha and whatever Aloe water is.

Noteworthy tidbits: Stress from your parking debacle, oncoming diarrhea, and freshly acquired debt melts away as you breathe in the lavender and calendula essential oils being pumped into the air by the $85 micro-diffusers being sold next to the Diva cups and organic llama wool berets.

Trader Joe’s:

Overall experience: The lovechild of a beefed up interstate gas station and a backwoods, patchouli-stinking co-op, Trader Joe’s is strangely familiar yet always surprising. Everything is packaged, and there are limited choices, but what is offered is marketed in a way that makes you believe a box of frozen bite-sized organic tacos is a perfectly healthy and reasonable sober choice for dinner.

Upside: The place is cheap. Like, did-I-accidentally-Delorean-time-machine-back-to-1975-when-I-ran-that-light-at-midnight cheap. Whilst schlepping eighty pounds of groceries out to your car, you will feel the urge to run because you fear at any moment, a large security guard named Voltron will come charging after you yelling “Stop, thief!” in a surprisingly high-pitched voice. But upon safely reaching your car and unfurling your 3 foot long receipt to see what kind of dark magic was behind your savings, you will confirm everything was paid for, and you are still the upstanding citizen you aim to be. Unless you count that one time in Mexico when you ran drunkenly through the decorative pool at the front of the hotel shouting about remembering the Alamo, and brandishing an iguana as a weapon.

iguana hair

I-guana regret that.

Downside: Their produce goes bad faster than a Disney starlet with a record deal, and never, in the history of the establishment, have they ever had a ripe avocado in their possession. There is no actual deli, and the likelihood of opening your package of Farm Fresh Organic Chicken, and being moved to tears as you are overcome with the smell of rotting meat is disturbingly high.

Noteworthy tidbits: Two words: Cookie Butter.


Overall Experience: Upon seeing the word ‘artisanal’ on nearly every store brand item, you will wonder A) If potato salad, donuts, prepared fruit cups, and sliced turkey can indeed be ‘artisanal’, and B) How you never noticed the word ‘anal’ in ‘artisanal’ before.

Upside: The local fire department shops here, and the artisanal garlic bread they sell by the cash registers is crack in carbohydrate form, so you can almost guarantee leaving with something for your eyes and something for your thighs.

Downside: The meat department smells like a marine biology anatomy lab, which is to say it reeks of fish and blood. This smell permeates the root vegetable area of the produce section, making it impossible to be choosey when selecting your potatoes and beets. Further complicating your shopping experience, at least one wheel on your cart will be caddywhompus, giving you little control as you attempt to avoid the display of cheap wine that has inexplicably been placed in the middle of the pet care isle. Even if you avoid breaking 13 bottles of wine, your bill is higher than you’d like, though it pales in comparison to what you’d spend at Whole Foods on one third of the groceries.

Noteworthy tidbits: It’s a great place to get a cake, especially if you want to wish someone a happy bathday.



Overall impression: You go for a toilet brush, cayenne pepper and milk. You leave with something to wear, something to share, something to eat and something that must have cost $55 dollars (seasonal throw pillows, on clearance for the win loss?) because even though you promised yourself you wouldn’t do this, your bill is once again over a Benny.

Upside: This is one stop shopping at its finest, with the added bonus of feeling like you are amongst your people. As you stroll down the spacious isles, surrounded by fellow parents in dirty yoga pants with poorly behaved children in tow, a sense of calm washes over you because these people get you. You don’t feel the cruel eye of judgement casting down on you while you buy a weeks worth of Kraft Mac and Cheese and fruit snacks, nor do your cheeks burn with shame as you casually drop the Preparation-H and economy-sized pack of jumbo pads into your cart. This is your tribe. This is your clan. You are Target.

Downside: You will not leave without spending $100. You just won’t. It’s against the laws of the universe.

Noteworthy tidbits: The family bathroom is located across from the cashier area, and is so easy to unlock and open, even the dumbest of raptors could do it. This creates a really fun situation when your child realizes they are basically holding you hostage, and can bargain for anything they want by threatening to open the door and expose your drippy bits to your fellow shoppers.


Peek-A-Boo. I see your drippy bits.

So where do you shop? Am I missing a notable tidbit you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments.


Image credits: Cover imageBuddha’s Hand fruit Iguana hair, Cake, Raptor.





  1. Spot-on! Whole Foods is my go-to for seafood and meat as it’s consistently reliable. Trader Joe’s produce isn’t too bad and it’s pretty well-priced, but only if you plan on eating it all in 1-2 days! I’m not sure about your local Safeway, but mine has an awesome produce selection and great quality lately too. And you can’t beat those racks of warm baguettes at checkout! Target is a hit or miss for me, but I’m never mad because it’s Target…I can go in to get the 1 thing I need and leave with 100 other things I never knew I needed! 🙂


    1. Ha, thanks! You’re totally right about how each place has quality stuff. In a perfect world, I’d be able to go to each place and get what I needed…scratch that. I’d have a personal shopper do it. But at least I live in a place where they are all close enough to have the option if I ever feel like getting super fancy with my grocery shopping. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s