First Trip to Your Local Health Food Store

I have been asked many times how I go about shopping in a health food store. Many folks will not step foot in a store other than the regular supermarket for fear of the unknown and/or the prices. To tell you the truth, a supermarket or a superstore is actually a much harder place to navigate, since those stores have so much of everything.

Compared to a supermarket, a health food store will feel and look more like a neighborhood grocery store. You can expect to find less quantity, but definitely more quality. Due to its small nature, parking is easier, and you can be in and out of the store in a matter of minutes. Even my husband enjoys shopping in such small stores, where there is a real sense of community.

It is worth mentioning that vitamin stores are not health food stores. By health food store I mean a store that carries quality foods such as organic and/or natural vegetables, bread, pasta, grains, beans, dairy, meat, natural cleaning products etc.

If this is your first time going to a health food store, here are a few pointers from Melinda, of Grassroots Natural Market:

  • I would say that a new customer to a health food store should come with an attitude of adventure and pick a time when they can spend a little while exploring the aisles. They'll see that there are healthy versions of everyday products. 
  • When a staff member greets you is a good time to introduce yourself as a new customer.  If you are lucky enough to shop at a health food store with a knowledgeable staff, they will offer to answer questions you may have as well as take the time to show you how the store is laid out.  At our store, a majority of the staff members use the products we carry and are helpful in making choices concerning tastes, textures of foods as well as ways to prepare them. 
  • A staff member can guide you in making a decision on multivitamins and/or essential fatty acids etc. 

I would also add:

  • Make a small shopping list before you go to the store. That will give you the appropriate time to check labels and select the best item for you at the store. 
  • Stick to your shopping list. Not only will it keep you from forgetting the item you needed the most, it will help you stay within your budget, and bring home only what you intended to buy in the first place.
  • Even if you are a veteran shopper, check the labels of your favorite products once in a while, as companies change ingredients and formulas from time to time. That applies to most packaged foods, cosmetics and cleaning products.
  • Choose the least processed foods you can find. The less processed the food is, the cheaper, fresher and more nutritious it will be.
  • Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need. That is the way to find the best, most honest information on the products you are buying. Due to the small nature of the business, the staff is constantly in touch with the farms, producers and suppliers, and have the kind of information that you may not find anywhere else.
My favorite local stores are Native Sun Natural Foods Market and Grassroots Natural Market. Both stores have juice bars, great coffee, and sandwiches. Native Sun also has its own bakery and cafe.

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