Whole Foods, or Whole Paycheck as it is known in many circles, is a surprisingly wonderful source of free items. While their food is ridiculously expensive, they provide a plethora of free samples to all who enter the store. This edition of Free Stuff Friday will highlight the key strategies one must employ to make the most of this free food cornucopia and avoid common pitfalls and persistent nut-butter hawkers.
As you begin your free sample journey, you’ll find that some samples will have a sign requesting that customers only take one sample. In the event of a “please take one” sample, don’t worry: you can just loop around the store a few times. If it’s busy, as it often is during lunchtime, no one will notice that you circled back to the free guacamole a couple times.
Strategy 2: Blend in.
Sometimes you also have to be more stealthy. The staff might become suspicious of someone wandering the store with no cart or basket eating all the samples. To prevent yourself from arousing suspicion, grab a cart and put random items in it as you walk around. The second time you walk around (for second helpings), put all the items back, leaving just one or two things in your basket. This will create the illusion that you’re a serious Whole Foods shopper, casually enjoying the free samples you stumble upon during your routine shopping trip.
Strategy 3: Make a “salad.”
If you develop a guilty conscience from
stealing tasting all their samples, here’s the solution: make yourself a “salad.” Simply put 15 spinach leaves in the to-go salad container and buy it. Since spinach is so light, your “salad” will cost pennies, and you can take the spinach home and use it to garnish meat or something.* Whole Foods’ salad containers are opaque, so no one will even know what you have in there.
Strategy 4: Avoid conversation and eye contact.
Some samples are provided by external food vendors who sell their wares at Whole Foods. On a recent trip, I encountered a nut butter vendor. Upon seeing a grey, slimy mass piled upon a cracker that appeared to be made of particularly hard Styrofoam, I attempted to breeze past this table and move on to the steak visible at the end of the meat counter. However, my plan was foiled: the vendor cheerfully greeted me and my Minnesotan brain took over. I greeted her as well, and then she coerced me into tasting some of her nut butter. As I was attempting to keep this much-too-healthy-tasting substance down, she asked me a question that I will never un-hear: “Do you smoothie at home?”
“Do you smoothie at home?”
Yes, this gem of a human used the word “smoothie” as a verb. When I responded that yes, I do sometimes make myself a smoothie at home, she suggested adding nut butter to my usual mix. She continued to talk, edging closer and closer to my face as I continued my attempt to choke down the last bite of my gluten/soy/wheat/salt/sugar/everything-free rice cracker. At this point, I think I entered a parallel universe, because I can’t remember anything else she said. Finally, my free sample safely deposited in my belly, I managed to escape and enjoy a delicious, juicy, freshly grilled piece of sirloin.
Despite these small barriers, Whole Foods is a very solid place to get a light lunch or big snack made up of free samples. Since it is Whole Foods, you can also rest assured that everything you taste is healthy. Win-win!
*If you don’t like spinach, this trick works with other lightweight vegetables such as lettuce, raw mushrooms, shredded zucchini, or 2-3 broccoli florets. The key is to stick to dryer vegetables that don’t have as much water weight.