New Whole Foods Market in Melrose MA

When I received my receipt from my last purchase at the local Whole Foods Market, there was also an attached coupon for $10 off $50 purchase at one of two new Whole Foods Massachusetts stores (Melrose and Weymouth).

Of course I wanted to check out the closest one in Melrose, so I planned a shopping trip on Friday, which was also their one-day sale for Alaskan Coho salmon ($10/lb).

I knew the Melrose location was previously a Johnnie’s Foodmaster store, so I wasn’t sure how large the store would be, in comparison to other stores. As I suspected, it is smaller, and crowded, especially when trying to navigate a shopping cart in the produce area, during lunchtime on a Friday.

If the produce area wasn’t cramped enough, the “bulk” section is also situated in the same isle, which makes it very difficult to get near with a cart; same with the salad/food bar on the other side of the store. But I was patient, and just went with the flow.

The employees (or team members) were extremely nice, which made up for the lack of space. I had a lovely conversation with the man behind the fish counter about salmon pin bones, and the woman who helped me with my probiotics return/refund was very cheery.

I was disappointed though, when I arrived at check-out and the cashier gave me a little bit of attitude. I always put my poultry and meat purchases in one particular re-usable shopping bag, and I’ve never had any issues at the stores when I leave the meat inside the bag. The cashiers (even newbie ones) usually understand the process and scan each item from the bag then pack them back into my bag afterward.

Well this particular cashier proceeded to unpack all my poultry items onto the belt, coming inches close to my produce. I became annoyed, and told her that I didn’t want the meat touching/contaminating my other items, to which she rudely proclaimed that my fish was already touching the items (as if it was MY fault), and I told her it wasn’t the same as poultry, and that I wasn’t worried about the fish. I never raised my voice, and I didn’t take the issue further, but I could tell that she was not happy with me as she scanned the rest of my items.

If she just left my poultry in the bag, she could have easily scanned each piece and simply re-packed, like the dozens of other cashiers have done. But instead she was rude.

I’m not out to get her into trouble, and I am not one of those entitled shoppers that think customer service workers need to kiss up to me. (In fact, I really hate that!) But in this case, a little bit of the “customer-is-always-right” should have come into play.

I spend a lot of money on my groceries, and I choose specific items (especially perishable produce) very carefully, so I expect the food to arrive into my home in the same condition that I chose it. (Not covered in poultry bacteria.)

She should have seen that the situation upset me, and immediately tried to make it right, instead she tried to prove me wrong. It was something I rarely ever encounter at Whole Foods Market. They do a remarkable job at defusing any customer issues before they escalate.

But all in all, the experience was positive at this new store and I was thrilled to use my $10 off coupon!

It makes me happy that the Melrose area now has a Whole Foods, as it’ll be a benefit to the community. It was also wonderful to see local produce being sold there, but at the same time, I would rather consumers support their local farmers directly at a farmstand or farmers market.

But if shopping at Whole Foods is the first step in getting people to consciously eat more local produce, then that is what matters. The next natural step will then be seeking out a farmers market or buying into a CSA.

Homemade Blueberry Jam (Lower Sugar)

homemade blueberry jam

Okay someone please tell me why I feel the need to make my own jams and jellies when there are perfectly good store bought products available?

Tell me that it’s totally worth it because I’m controlling the ingredients and sugar content. And it doesn’t matter that I’m melting over a hot stovetop on a 90° day!

Okay enough self-pity.

Late last summer, I decided that I was going to try to create enough canned jams and jellies so there wouldn’t be a need for commercial product.

Since I started so late in the season, all the cool fruits were out of season (like strawberries, blueberries, and stone fruit), so I started with an easy apple cider jelly, then onto batches of Concord grape jams & jellies.

I’m so proud that I made enough to last us through winter! But spring couldn’t come quick enough as I was down to one last jar of sad apple cider jelly, along with a few emergency jars of Concord grape “syrup” that didn’t quite work itself into jam.

So when Whole Foods Market announced that they were offering organic blueberries for $1.99/pint I knew it was time to start making more jam!

I had borrowed “Put ’em up” from the library and I found a “quick blueberry jam” recipe that utilized Pomona’s Pectin without the need for massive amounts of sugar, so along with 4 pints if blueberries, I also purchased a box of Pomona’s.

I used Pomona’s a couple of times last year. I like that I can use a smaller amount if sugar and didn’t have to worry about making the jam thicken on its own.

So this morning, despite the 90° heat wave, I got my ingredients ready and proceeded to make a batch of blueberry jam while a big pot of water and jelly jars came up to boil next to it.

I was doing really well, following the directions, allowing the jam to come to a boil slowly. I then added the lemon juice, calcium water, and sugar pectin mix and stirred stirred stirred waiting for the second boil.

I kept peeking, and it wasn’t quite there yet, until I turned away for a little too long and splurshhhh, blueberry jam erupted all over my gas stove!

Then it was time to remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes before ladling into jars for the hot water bath. When I was finished, I had 4 (eight oz) canned jars and 2 for the fridge.

The other good news was the sticky blueberry mess on my stove was thankfully easy to clean!

Here’s the recipe:

Quick blueberry jam

Based on recipe from “Put em up” cookbook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Makes about 6 cups (original recipe stated 4 cups, I used 4 US dry pints of blueberries. 1 US dry pint = about 2.3 cups, even after losing some to boil-over on the stove)

This jam is full of fresh blueberry flavor. Because these berries are easy to stem and have no hulls or noticeable pips, it’s a quick project too.


1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons Pomona’s universal pectin
4 US/dry pints blueberries, stemmed (about 9-10 cups, original recipe stated 8 cups)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
2 teaspoons calcium water (mix included in the Pomona’s box- I still had a batch in the fridge from last year)


  1. Whisk the sugar and pectin together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Rinse blueberries and add them into a (nonreactive) sauce pan (I used my 4qt stainless pot) and slowly bring to a boil over low heat.
  3. Continually stir and crush blueberries with potato masher and/or immersion blender (I used both)
  4. Add the lemon juice and calcium water.
  5. Slowly pour in the sugar pectin mixture and keep stirring to make sure it all dissolves.
  6. Return jam to a boil, and then immediately remove from heat to let the jam rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to release air bubbles. Skim off any foam.
  7. Carefully ladle jam into small jelly jars and either store in fridge for 3 weeks or process for 10 minutes using hot water bath method.

Using only 1 cup of sugar, it’s approximately 17 calories and 4g sugar per Tbsp!!!

I couldn’t resist sampling on a slice of my homemade whole wheat bread!

homemade blueberry jam

Why Non-GMO Takes So Long

I just read an article from the NYT this morning that does a great job explaining why products with non-GMO ingredients can’t happen as quickly as everyone wants, or as quickly as *I* want! ;)

Right now, there’s a scramble for companies to obtain non-GMO ingredients, since there are now a couple dozen states that are pending GMO ingredient labeling. Instead of admitting that their products have Genetically-altered ingredients (oh the horror!), food companies feel it’s much better to switch to all non-GMO. I guess it’s like the scarlet “A” of food! haha!

Anyway, there’s still some talk that non-GMO will cost more, but truthfully, once farmers are on board, it’ll all work out eventually, because they will be a greater need for GMO-free products, so farmers will naturally switch…the problem is, it’s not easy to transition, because of the soil. Which perfectly proves the point that GMO is NOT good for farming!

I found it also very interesting that food companies feel that to switch from say GMO corn to non-GMO corn would result in further product testing because of changes to taste, consistency and mouth feel of the product. All along, hasn’t Monstanto been saying that there’s no difference? That it’s safe and “natural” just like regular corn?

The one part of the article that really scared me was that companies could be forced to obtain their ingredients from overseas, which means more food from Asia! I really hope that doesn’t happen! Farmers need to start to transition NOW because it’s going to happen.

One way or another, GMO labeling is going to come! Hurray! VOTE with your FORK!

Whole Foods Requiring GMO Ingredients Labeling by 2018

Whole Foods Market burst into the news a few weeks ago when it announced that it’s requiring that all products sold in their stores will be labeled as such if they include any GMO (genetically modified) ingredients.

This is great news, but at the same time, I’m disappointed because the mandate doesn’t start until the year 2018! That’s 5 years from now! Why such a long time? I mean who knows what’s going to happen by 2018.

Our outlook on food has been changing so quickly. Consumers are coming back to local farms, and demanding better, safer food choices. Word is getting out about how bad our food system has become, and we are voting with our forks!

It makes me wonder if it’s just a marketing stunt to soften the public’s reaction to their lackluster support of California’s Prop 37 for GMO labeling. Hmm.

But nonetheless, it’s still a good thing.

The word is that no food manufacturer will want to admit that their products contain any GMO’s, so in essence, labeling could possibly wipe out GMO ingredients! Wow, wouldn’t that be something!

But I doubt it’ll be that easy. Monsanto is not going to take this lightly. After all, GMO’s are vital to their existence, and they have deep pockets. Perhaps deeper than Whole Foods Market.

We’ll have to see where this goes.

Easter Ham Compromise: Trader Joe’s

My mother-in-law has offered to pay for the Easter ham.

I knew it would be troublesome to knowingly cook a Smithfield brand ham. Whether it’s Smithfield, or one of their hidden brand like Carando, it’s all you can find at most local supermarkets!

But how could I even suggest that she pay for a natural brand like Wellshire or Neman’s, which sells for at least 3x the amount of a cheap Smithfield ham?

My husband told her that we could pay for any extra expense, but she insisted that it was fine to purchase a more natural brand…but I still feel it’s inappropriate, so I compromised and picked up an “uncured” Trader Joe’s spiral ham which was less than half the price than the Whole Foods Market offerings.

No, it’s not antibiotic free, and I’m positive it’s not humanely raised, but it’s got a lot less sodium and there’s no added nitrates (except for the naturally occurring).

It’s not the perfect ham, but it makes me feel a little better than if I had to purchase the regular supermarket Smithfield hams.

Let’s just hope it tastes good and there’s no complaints! :) Happy Spring!

Whole Foods Wake-up: Salsa GMO vs Non-GMO

Non GMO Project verified

While shopping at Whole Foods Market this morning, on the salsa shelves, I noticed that only two of the Whole Foods 365 brand (non-organic) salsa were verified by the Non GMO project. Hmm, why only two? What was up with the 4 or 5 other flavors?

So, I looked at the labels of the 365 Black Bean & Corn and the 365 Tequila Lime, the latter of which was GMO-free verified. (Note: I saw only the paper verification tag under each product; there wasn’t any notification on the actual label)

Click the photo to view each jars’ ingredients
365 salsa gmo or not??

365 Black Bean & Corn Salsa Ingredients

(probable/possible GMO ingredient bolded)
Diced tomatoes, water, tomato paste, black beans, onions, corn, jalapeno peppers, green chiles, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, dehydrated garlic, cilantro, citric acid, basil, oregano, natural flavor

365 Tequila Lime Salsa Ingredients

(without distilled vinegar and citric acid)
Diced tomatoes, water, jalapeno peppers, tomato concentrate, sugar, salt, dehydrated onions, onions, lime juice, cilantro, dehydrated garlic, coriander, natural flavors

Hmm, no actual tequila in this salsa? Funny, must be in the “natural flavors” sigh.

Why Such a Fuss Over GMO

Anyway, my point is, Whole Foods Market makes such a big fuss over a selected few products being verified for the non-GMO project, but in reality, most of their non-organic products don’t qualify!

Why only 2 flavors of salsa? Why not take the extra step and use non-GMO ingredients for all flavors? It’s not that difficult to do.

Maybe it’s a marketing ploy. (It’s how Kashi/Kelloggs plays.) If WF verifies only 2 flavors out of 6, maybe when the customer sees the little “non-GMO Project Verified” tag, they won’t notice or realize the other flavors don’t meet non-GMO standards.

Or maybe it’s just that they need to keep their prices as low as possible, trying to distance themselves from the “Whole Paycheck” moniker. But while keeping their prices are low, are they any better than General Mills or Kraft? Sadly, no. Whole Foods Market is getting more and more like conventional Big Food every day.

Years ago, Whole Foods Market used to mean trust-worthy, quality, safe ingredients. It’s unfortunate that they are slowly sliding away from those qualities for more profits and sales.

See all posts in my Whole Foods Wake-up series.

Whole Foods Wake-Up: GMO Ketchup

I admit I was one of the biggest Whole Foods Market groupies. Visiting to one of their stores was like going to church. But the delusion is over, at least for me. I still shop there, but my eyes are open and I diligently read labels.

I think what really set me over the edge was California’s Prop 37 for Genetically Modified (GMO) food labeling and the fact that Whole Foods Market was virtually silent. They pretended to care at the last minute, but Really! Whole Foods doesn’t want GMO labeling any more than other Big Food companies like General Mills, Kelloggs, and Pepsi. If a law like that passed, they would be forced to share with all of us (including their millions of blind-trusting shoppers) that a good chunk of their products do indeed include GMO ingredients.

Non GMO Project verified

Case in point, their 365 house-brand ketchup.

A few days ago, I noticed their organic ketchup had the “Non GMO Verified” paper tag under it. Well duh! It’s organic! GMO ingredients are not allowed in any organic foods, so it’s really irrelevant, but that verification label sure does look good, doesn’t it?

Then I glanced to the left, and noticed the non-organic Ketchup did not have the certified GMO free tag. Hmm, why? What’s in ketchup that could be GMO? And there it was: Distilled White Vinegar, made from cheap GMO corn.

(click for larger view)
whole foods ketchup organic vs regular

Notice that only the organic version has the little blurb about how their “private label products are formulated to avoid genetically engineered ingredients” – those words are missing from the label on their regular ketchup.

What I’d like to know are are there any non-organic 365 branded foods that are GMO Free? And I don’t mean single-ingredient foods like rice or beans.

I’d like to see a 365 product that specifically includes some form of corn or soy that is on their Non-GMO verified list. Perhaps there is one, perhaps there isn’t. I’ll be sure to keep looking!

See all posts in my Whole Foods Wake-up series.

When Did Chicken Stock Stop Being a “Whole Food” at Whole Foods Market?

Over the last year or so, I’ve been slowly losing confidence in the integrity of Whole Foods Market. Their product ingredients are gradually becoming more and more similar to the Big Food ingredients that a lot of us are trying to avoid.

Today I noticed the ingredients in their low sodium chicken stock. When did chicken stock become such a complicated recipe?

whole foods market 365 brand low sodium chicken stock ingredients

  • Organic chicken stock (filtered water, concentrated organic chicken stock)
  • Contains less than 2% of the following:
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Organic chicken flavor (organic chicken, sea salt, organic gum arabic)
  • Organic vegetable stock (organic carrot, organic onion, organic celery, sea salt)
  • Yeast extract
  • Salt
  • Organic turmeric

whole foods market 365 brand low sodium chicken stock ingredients

Were these always the ingredients in their chicken stock? A few months ago, I might not have noticed or thought twice about any of them, but I guess I’ve become more fussy about what I consider a “whole food” — I don’t believe sugar, gums and yeast extract (hidden MSG) belong in my chicken soup. sigh.

It’s become more important than ever to scrutinize ALL labels and ingredients, especially when shopping at Whole Foods Market. Gone are the idealistic days of blind trust, assuming they have our backs when it comes to natural wholesome foods.

Thankfully I try to make my own stocks, but it’s nice to keep a carton in the pantry; this time, I left it on the shelf!

Other links:

It was so funny to find this 2008 article from the WF web site: “Myths and Misconceptions: MSG” where they contradict the critics that state certain ingredients like yeast extract are hidden instances of MSG. It’s even more interesting to read the comments from some of their shoppers.

See all posts in my Whole Foods Wake-up series.

Project Food Budget / My Healthy Budget: June Month 8 / Week 1

Project: Food Budget Weekly total: $148.31

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 $350 $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

June – Month Eight, Week One

This week, I’ve spent $148.31. (It’s always a big first week of the month, but wow, this was a doozie!) That leaves $251.69 for the rest of June.

I’ve decided to stick with my original monthly $400 budget to give myself some leeway. If I can remain under $400 for June, I’ll be happy.

Dining Out: $20.00
Entertaining: $0
Gardening: $0
Groceries: $91.80
Vitamins/Supplements: $36.51

Store % Spending

This week, I received an email from Whole Foods for an online survey, and one of the questions asked the percentage of shopping I do at Whole Foods. I initially assumed it was around 75%, but it got me thinking. How much DO I spend at Whole Foods Market?

I dug into my reports in MS Money and discovered that from Jan – May 2012, I spent 45% of my grocery dollars at Whole Foods, along with 23% at Market Basket, 10% for my meat CSA, & 9% at Trader Joe’s. Hmm, interesting.

Still curious, I dug deeper, and during the same time-frame last year (Jan-May, 2011), I spent a whopping 84%of my grocery dollars at Whole Foods and 11% at Market Basket. Wow! What a difference a little frugality makes, huh?

I am now more conscious of my spending; I’m planning my shopping lists, looking for sales/coupons, tracking prices, and carefully deciding which store(s) will give me the best choices that week!

Spending Details

Phew, I always spend a lot the first week of the month, but this week was really over the top! I bought fish oil supplements, some grains, and lots of fresh produce! Plus, I’m trying to use up some of the CSA meat in the freezer. Big big first week! If this keeps up, I will be over my budget in week 3! (affiliate link) $54.11 – they were offering 14% VIP discount! I ordered Nordic Naturals DHA (180ct) fish oil capsules, (2) 5lb bags of Bob’s Red Mill WW flour, Bob’s corn flour, Bob’s 7 Grain cereal, Bob’s pealed barley, Bob’s bulgar (& fish oil for dogs’ which is on a separate budget)

Wilson Farm (large local farm) $32.28: their-own radishes (w/ greens), their-own sugar snap peas, (2) their-own lettuces, their-own extra large eggs, HUGE bundle of NJ beets w/ greens, (2) pints CT strawberries, 3+ bag o’ GA vidalia onions, organic SC nectarines/peaches, and a few plums.

Trader Joe’s $22.88: seedless watermelon, (5) bananas, 5lb bag o’ organic potatoes, (2) peanuts (found out later he didn’t charge for one), almonds, organic raisins, red wine vinegar, feta cheese, organic half/half (DH), and I had a refund for the dry/bitter grapefruit from a couple of weeks ago.

Meat CSA $19.04: pork baby back ribs and 1 lb ground beef(Luckily, products from the Meat CSA are paid in full, so technically no real money is actually spent, but I apply the cost to my budget as we consume it.)

Week of Meals

  • Thursday: baked scallops (local) with brown rice, roasted onions, and a special salad from my garden!
  • Friday: Fried egg topped over frozen corn, with huge fresh salad with green leaf lettuce, radish greens, snap peas, celery & carrots
  • Saturday: Take Out
  • Sunday: Baby back ribs with roasted potatoes & onions and a big veggie salad (lettuce, radishes, snap peas, carrots)
  • Monday: Brown rice & beans veg soup with tomatoes, beet greens, jalapeño pepper
  • Tuesday: Leftover soup with leftover rice & beans & an added fried egg and a small lettuce radish salad
  • Wednesday: Beef oat flax burger with brown rice, steamed beets & small lettuce radish salad

Want to Join the Project Food Budget?

project food budget

It’s never too late to join the Project Food Budget!

If you’d like to participate, get the details and let Emily know you’re on board!

Here’s who else is budgeting this week:

Project Food Budget / My Healthy Budget: February Month 4 / Week 2

Project: Food Budget Weekly total: $70.25

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal, home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and spices/herbs.

There’s two of us eating 3 (mostly) meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

February – Month Four, Week Two

project food budget

This week, I’ve spent $70.25, with a month total of $272.39. After my CSA meat delivery later this month, that’ll leave approximately $127 for the rest of February. Yeah, I’m a little nervous, that’s $60 for each of the two remaining weeks of groceries.

On paper, it’s doable, but it’s going to be tricky.

Budgeting Dilemma

I hate saying it, but I think I’m now starting to regret signing up for my local meat CSA. It was paid-in-full months ago, but I am applying the monthly cost of $83+ to every month that I receive a delivery. Problem is, we don’t eat much meat, and I now have a freezer full of meat!

It’s annoying because I’m applying the cost, but we’re technically not consuming it. The positive side is, I’ll have enough meat into the summer! :)

I’m putting WAY too much pressure on myself to keep within this budget. Last month really depleted my pantry, and I’m starting to feel deprived and a little resentful. sigh. That’s not good! So, I have a choice.

Either add a little bit more to my budget, until the CSA is over.

Or, maybe I could go back to my original idea to apply the cost of the meat we actually consume each week. I think I’m leaning toward raising the budget.

***What do my budget buddies think???

Spending Details

Dining Out: $11.00 – ice cream sundaes
Entertaining: $0
Groceries: $59.25

Whole Foods Market (Fri, 2/10) $59.25: organic bok choy, (2) grapefruit, organic cauliflower, beet root (local), 2lb bag o’ organic carrots, 3lb bag o’ gala apples, 4lb bag o’ navel oranges, split chicken breast, uncured ham, Emmenthaler cheese, feta cheese, (3) Nasoya tofu, Earth Balance mindful mayo, frozen organic green beans, (2lb) Lundberg brown basmati rice, peanuts, wild Alaskan canned salmon, peanut butter, salsa, Muir Glen tomatoes, Sonyfield plain yogurt, dark chocolate

Food Notes:
WF had a “Madness” sale on split chicken breast value packs for $1.99/lb. My dogs eat raw, so most of it was for them (their food is on a separate budget), but I kept a piece for us and split the cost appropriately. They also had Hake fish on sale too, but I resisted. It’s not the most sustainable fish choice, and DH isn’t a fish-fan anyway.

See? It’s missed opportunities like this that are starting to drive me bonkers!

I did pick up some Nasoya organic tofu…for FREE! whoo hooo. $1.25 Whole Foods store coupon stacked on to the $.75 newly printed internet coupon I found this morning. They were selling it for 2/$4. I got three: 2 silky and 1 soft.

I also just realized that they are a local company from Ayer, MA – very cool. I’m not a soy eater, but I tried a sample of the “Engine 2” fruit mousse a couple of weeks ago at WF and it was delicious. Plus there are tons of recipes and videos over at Nasoya, so I’m willing to give tofu a shot. I just won’t tell DH!

I also used coupons for Lundberg rice, Stonyfield yogurt, Earthbound mayo, Muir Glen tomatoes, and Whole Foods chocolate bar, saving over $12. It’s not “extreme” coupon-worthy, but it’s a start! Thanks to Kait, I’m a coupon-luvah!

Week of Meals

  • Thursday: Trader Joe’s Vegetable Lasagna – ok for frozen, and cheaper than take-out. Takes an hour to bake.
  • Friday: Baked sweet potato and fried eggs
  • Saturday: Ham split pea soup w/veg stock, carrots, celery, celery root topped over brown rice
  • Sunday: Oven braised bone-in chicken breast w/ tomatoes & onions, over lentils and roasted cauliflower
  • Monday: Pasta with canned whole tomato and bok choy
  • Tuesday: Frozen leftover beefalo meatloaf with roasted beets, carrots, and quinoa
  • Wednesday: Upside Down Pizza (veggie bake) made meatless with frozen mixed veggies, canned tomatoes, sauteed onions, chili peppers, roasted peppers, and feta cheese.

Want to Join the Project Food Budget?

project food budget

It’s never too late to join the Project Food Budget!

If you’d like to participate, get the details and let Emily know you’re on board!

Here’s who else is budgeting this week: