I consider myself a grocery store extraordinaire. I get great pleasure from exploring new stores, noticing the details and forming opinions and personal rating systems. This is incredibly weird, I understand that, but brings me great joy nonetheless. When Shannon, the healthy eating specialist for the South Park and Lake Norman Whole Foods, stores offered me a tour, I excitedly accepted, figuring it would be fun even though I was pretty sure I’d seen everything that needed to be seen. Little did I know that there are so many details I overlooked!
First, every Whole Foods I’ve been has a few different elements that make it unique. The Lake Norman location has this Veggie Butchers station upon entry.
I’ll fully admit I thought this was a juice bar and was initially a little bummed when I found out it wasn’t. Though they have a squeeze-your-own-orange-juice station, a juice bar it is not. So…???
It’s a food prep station!
(Edited to add: In my initial tour I was under the impression that the food prep is complimentary. It is not. It is $7.99 per pound for whatever you would like them to prep.)
At this corner of the store they will prep any fruit or veggie you buy. For example, hate cutting onions? Go grab one, bring it over to them, specify your cut (minced, please!), continue your shopping and swing by later to pick it up. Cubed butternut squash, diced carrots, cored apples, shredded sweet potato… the possibilities are endless. A someone entering the world of baby led weaning, this is such a time saver.
Considering I was already giddy after our first stop, I was excited to learn more. We wandered into the produce section where I learned a few more fun facts. Like the number of organic and local items available each week are clearly defined on this sign.
‘Local’ constitutes anything coming from within 150 miles of that particular store and detailed information about the farmer hands below the produce item they provide.
And have you ever looked closely at the signs labeling the produce? I hadn’t looked beyond price and organic until yesterday, but check this out:
The produce signs contain an ANDI scale rating in the lower left corner, which is a ratio of calories to nutrient density on a scale from 1-1000.
Lake Norman also has a beautiful bulk bin section.
Years ago I was intimidated by such a set up, but now it’s true love. Grab a bag, pick your good, write the corresponding number on your bag and you’re good to go. There are even directions on how to prepare the item on it’s container, so you can write it down or save time and snap a picture with your phone.
I got a kick (and two tasty samples) from the nut butter bar. I loved the pecan variety and the peanut butter and chocolate combo is dangerously delicious.
Moving on to meat.
Everything that enters the store must at least be a 1 rating, meaning no crates, no cages and no crowding. The trucks going down the highway stuffed full of squawking chickens is never headed to Whole Foods.
I checked out the sausage I bought on Sunday for David’s breakfast sandwiches…
A 5 rating! Those happy pigs spent their entire lives on the same farm. Experts swear it makes a difference in the taste of the meat. I’d love the opportunity to do a taste test one day.
Another little label I hadn’t noticed was the GMO-free count on each aisle.
198 items are GMO-free verified on that aisle. By 2018, Whole Foods will be the first grocery store to be 100% GMO transparent, meaning every single item will clearly state whether it is GMO-free or not. Yay for transparency!
As you work your way around the store, you inevitably end up at what I call “the fun stuff.”
At Lake Norman there is the fresh pasta case…
the olive and pickles bars…
the growler bar and walk-in beer cooler…
and of course all the sandwich stations, pizza stations, sushi stations, bakery, hot and cold bars and smoothie and coffee bar.
I really could have stayed much longer because there was still so much to learn, but my co-pilot has been a good sport for long enough and we had to go pick up her sister.
I had such a good time with Shannon and loved getting to hang with Julie.
I am just thrilled to have an option like this so close to me now. Plus, Shannon even hooked us up with a few goodies to take home. I’m not going to say no to that!
What a fun way to spend a morning.
If you were offered a grocery store tour would it excite or bore you?
What store would you most like to see the behind-the-scenes of?
Or do you just think I’m a little strange for digging grocery stores so much? Ha.