Shopping at Whole Foods is an experience that takes the mundane out of getting groceries. Step into the store and you feel like you’ve wandered into a fancy farmer’s market, complete with Zen-lighting (not the super bright lights found in other supermarket chains) and a foodies’ paradise. With Whole Foods commitment to all-organic, and its support of local farmers, you know shopping there is a healthy lifestyle choice, but what about its reputation for being expensive? If you shop there with an empty stomach and no plan, you will quickly find out why some jokingly refer to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck. However, if you shop at Whole Foods and use the below tips to find the best deals when you’re making your Whole Foods shopping list (like checking out the salad bar for a healthy Whole Foods lunch idea), you can enjoy its healthy splendor without breaking the bank. After all, there are definitely things to buy and things to skip when shopping at Whole Foods.
If you haven’t shopped at Whole Foods before, here’s what you should know before you go:
Shop 365 Brand. The Whole Foods’ store brand, 365 is like a store brand you’d buy elsewhere except it has higher standards. 365 cans are made without BPA (the synthetic estrogen found in the coatings of food cans linked to health problems) and their products do not contain chemicals or pesticides. With this brand, you don’t have to worry about buying anything with artificial sweeteners, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.
Related: Top 25 Finds at Trader Joe’s
Skip the exotic produce. Stick with the basics on produce that is seasonal and stay away from the more exotic produce if you are trying to keep your costs down. Go with the 365 fair-trade bananas, packaged spinach and kale. Look for the signs that say “Local” to get better prices on produce from local farmers.
Buy in bulk, not boxed. Don’t pay for packaging and choose the bagged versions of legumes, beans and grains. Bulk allows you to buy the exact amount you need for a recipe and it’s typically less expensive than the bagged versions. Stock up on raw nuts, seeds, dried fruits and oats. Now you can make your own (more cost-effective) energy bars.
Skip the beauty products. Whole Foods doesn’t carry a wide variety of beauty brands and prices are a bit steep. Who wants to spend $6.99 for a mid-size bottle of shampoo or conditioner or more than $5 on a small tube of toothpaste?
Shop with deals. Whole Foods has a coupon flyer called, The Whole Deal. Use it while you shop to get discounts off items you will use in meal prep. You can print off individual coupons online before you head to the store or pick up a flyer at the store.
Shop with the app. Whole Foods has its own free app where you can get digital coupons, see savings at your Whole Foods location, browse and save recipes, create shopping lists and even get groceries delivered.
Shop the wine. Whole Foods has a collection of wines from around the globe for less than $20 per bottle. Plus, online you can read its guide to wine pairing and impress your friends without depressing yourself on how much you spent.
Check out the salad bar. The variety of colors and selections at Whole Foods salad bar will make you hungry even if you weren’t when you entered the store. Prices are similar to most restaurants but your choices will be healthier, organic and fresh.
Buy your meat with peace of mind. Comparing meat at Whole Foods to other grocery store chains is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Whole Foods has high standards for its meat—grass fed beef, fair treatment of animals, no antibiotic treated animals or added hormones. Whole Foods has a great price for its grass fed beef when you consider what you are paying for and compare it to other providers of grass fed beef.
Add fish to your grocery list. Like the meat, Whole Foods has super high standards, and a deal is relative. If you want cheap farm-raised salmon, go elsewhere. If you want fresh water salmon, fished responsibly, you can find it at Whole Foods. They only use a handful of deep-water and land-based farms, which are verified to its standards of no antibiotics, no pesticides in the water or feed and never genetically engineered.
Get your morning coffee. Whole Foods offers a wide selection of bulk and packaged beans from its own brand of Allegro Coffee Roasters. Allegro sources coffee from 25 different countries who grow their coffee in environmentally-friendly ways and many are organic. Grind your own coffee beans for fresh and delicious coffee in the a.m. that will be less expensive than hitting a Starbucks drive-through.
Buy cases when possible. Whole Foods gives you 10 percent off any product when you buy a case. If you are stocking up on yogurt or Kombucha, buy a case and save.
You can be budget-conscious and shop at Whole Foods. Make sure you don’t shop hungry. Go with a menu plan and a grocery list. Pick up The Whole Deal for coupons, download Whole Food’s app and buy produce that’s in season. Now you can shop smart, affordably and healthy while supporting local farmers and the environment too. That’s a good day at the store.
P.S. Want some more tips to be budget-savvy while you shop? Here are some straight from Whole Foods:
5 Ways to Eat Better on a Budget
- Skip processed snacks. Prep raw veggies ahead and portion into reusable containers. Store in the front of the fridge, so they’re easy to find when hunger strikes.
- Stretch the animal protein. Fill their plates mostly with healthy whole grains and vegetables, and about three ounces of meat, poultry or seafood.
- Buy some. Make some. Create quick home-cooked meals with a little help from our value-priced frozen entrees, veggies or appetizers.
- Give leftovers a new life. Transform meatloaf to sandwiches, chopped fresh veggies to roasted veggies and diced roasted chicken to burrito filling – just add beans!
- Batch and stash. Prepare a big batch of staple ingredients — lentils, whole grains or veggies — then incorporate them into various dishes during the week.