That specialty grocery store that everybody loves to hate just might be the answer to your next dinner dilemma. Never underestimate the power and breadth of your local Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Snack Dinner
Credit: Sara Tane

I think we can all agree that the last thing anybody wants to do at the end of a long, hot summer day is turn the oven on and hover around your kitchen for an extended period of time. It is days like these, when the mere thought of cooking exhausts you, that throwing together a genius snack dinner is the best thing that you can do for you and your family. And, because grocery shopping can be just as much of a nuisance as cooking itself, we centralized all of your snack dinner grocery needs at Whole Foods, because a #OneStopShop is the only way to do it.

A good, well-rounded snack dinner should* have a few key components to qualify it as a legitimate dinner (because as nice as a sheet pan loaded with cheese and bread is, it might not be the most wholesome meal). Any conglomeration of fruits, veggies, cheese, dips, spreads, nuts, crackers, bread, and some sort of protein is what you should aim for. Here’s how to take advantage of all those little bonuses that make Whole Foods so great in order to make your snack dinner that much better.

For my approach to the Whole Foods snack dinner, my mind immediately went to the olive bar. This pay-by-the-pound offering isn't unique to this high-end grocery store alone, but it is one of my favorite perks because the variety and quality of their olive buffet is generally something to behold... and for the price, it's definitely a steal compared to buying jarred.You can pick whichever varieties and whatever obscure amount that you want, without having to commit to a large (*expensive*) jar of it. #CommitmentProbs

Another quality of Whole Foods that you’d be a darn fool to turn a blind eye to is the cheese section. Yes, you can buy cheese just about anywhere, but does your local grocery store have nearly the breadth of variety, samples, and sales going in its cheese section? I think not. Let’s not forget the trusty, all-knowing cheesemonger that is always more than willing to hold your hand through this intimidating process. I went with the Bellavitano Merlot cheese because they had samples out, it was on sale, and it seemed like a ~cultured~ decision. If none of the sale cheeses are tickling your fancy, most locations offer an “under $5” basket, which holds smaller hunks of the same cheeses that are perfect if you want to sample a variety for the low low. Wins all around. Now scoot over to the cracker aisle and get yourself those Everyday 365 Everything Crackers. Speaking on behalf of personal experience, here.

Let’s take our journey through Whole Foods to the bulk aisle. If you are one to pass right through this impressive wall of heavy-duty bins, might I offer that you...don’t. Just like the olive bar, the bulk aisle is your friend because you only need to stock up on just as much as you need. Want to hit your snack dinner with a small bowl of tamari almonds or curry-roasted cashews? Do it, and while you’re at it, skip the pricey bags of it that you’ll surely be sick of once you’ve had two handfuls.

Onto protein—which you can achieve in a variety of ways throughout the store, depending on what you’re in the mood for. For a vegetarian option, head to the prepared foods section and pick from one of the many hummuses or bean dips. If seafood is calling your name for dinner, set your sights right next** to the fish counter and buy a package of smoked salmon. For $6.99, I scored a fresh packet of lox, and that felt worthy of a nice pat on the back. Finally, for an easy poultry to accompany your snack dinner, look no further than the prepared foods section for chicken salad. There’s plenty of different varieties, and it’s sure to taste delicious on pretty much every component that you’ve got on your sheet pan.

And finally, the glue that ties it all together and makes you feel like you’ve actually made a dinner that is of service to your #healthylifestyle: the produce aisle. Sure, all grocery stores have an expansive produce section. However, there are some aspects about what this store has to offer that should be noted. Two words: watermelon radishes. These beauties can be somewhat hard to come by in a neighborhood grocery store and boy, is that a shame or what? Crispy and loaded with Instagramming potential, these hot pink-ish beauties are a no-brainer for any snack-y situation.

Aside from radishes, I urge you to take advantage of ~the unknown~ here. The produce aisle at Whole Foods versus other local supermarkets might just be a few notches above, so don’t be afraid to branch out with specialty items or hyper-seasonal produce. Break off endive leaves to dunk in your spreads, seek out the wild colored cauliflower for an elevated crudité, or snag a golden beet because you know you’re not going to find it anywhere else. Moral of the story—try out something you’re new to, but find comfort knowing that it is truly impossible to mess up your Whole Foods snack dinner.

*Notice how I said “should.” Ultimately, it is your snack dinner and it is your life. Make with it what you will. I am not here to tell you what is and is not an adequate dinner.

**You could, in theory, go to the fish counter and adorn your sheet pan dinner with peel-and-eat shrimp or your shellfish of choice, but that would go against my whole spiel about not actually cooking. This brings me back to, your dinner, your choice.

By Sara Tane and Sara Tane