I’ve been on the receiving end of many an eye roll when people find out that I shop at Whole Foods. You probably rolled your eyes when you saw the title of this blog post. I get it. Whole Foods has a reputation for being pricey. I used to roll my eyes at the mention of it, too. But now I know that Whole Foods is an essential stop when trying to eat organic on budget. Really. I pinkie swear.
Here are my tips for not spending your whole paycheck at Whole Foods Market:
Watch for sales – Sign up to have the sales emailed to you every week. There are also sales fliers at the entrance of the store, but having sales delivered to your inbox makes planning so much easier. I scan the email for items on sale for a price too good to refuse. Then I stock up. These emails also include recipes, in-store events and sometimes Whole Foods’ own tips for making shopping in their store budget friendly. And those better-for-you personal care products and cosmetics we love here at Savvy? One brand or another is often on sale for 40% off or more.
Download the app – The Whole Foods Market app has only been around for a few months, but it has already rocked my world. It’s very much like the Cartwheel app from Target. Special app-only coupons are there and you redeem them by letting the cashier scan a barcode on your phone. The most memorable coupons so far have been $5 off a $20 purchase of fresh produce and a free 365 Everyday Value ® Organic Peanut Butter with any purchase of $10 or more. Coupons are updated on a regular basis so it’s worth it to check the app weekly. Sales items for your local stores are also in the app, but not all of them, so your best bet is to sign up for the emails so you don’t miss out on a great deal.
Never Miss A Madness Sale – Whole Foods has a wonderful program called Madness Sales and they are true madness is the very best sense of the word. For a couple of days a product will go on sale for an unbelievably low price. Savvy peeps have seen grass fed ground beef at 50% off. Organic apples at a price per pound that’s cheaper than conventional. The list goes on! Organic Greek Yogurt at less than $1 a container and organic grapes at more than 50% off per pound. These sales are often announced just before they start and the best place to find out about them is on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – take your pick. Like or follow your local store and never miss a Madness Sale. They also post information about sales exclusive to your store and will spice up your feed with mouthwatering photos of food.
Clip coupons the old fashioned way – Throughout the store and at the end of every checkout line, you will find a little book called The Whole Deal ® . It is published six times a year and contains coupons for all sorts of products, even the already budget friendly 365 Everyday Value ® line. Whole Foods also accepts manufacturer coupons, and coupons for some popular organic brands can be found at mambosprouts.com.
Make Friends with the Bulk Bins – When I first started making a regular appearance at my local Whole Foods, I stayed away from the bulk bins. I found them intimidating, and I don’t know why. Now we are BFFs and I can’t imagine a trip to Whole Foods without them. The prices of items in the bulk bins are more often than not cheaper than prepackaged versions of the same foods. However, the true beauty of the bulk bins is that you can buy as much or as little as you want. Don’t want to buy a huge bag of flour you might not use? Just buy what you need from the bulk bins. I love to cook, but hate to bake (don’t judge, I can’t help it) but I have been known to occasionally bake a batch of muffins or cookies. I need flour for my unpredictable baking whims, but those bags most people buy would be rancid before I would use them up. Bulk bins to the rescue – I can buy just a bit of flour, saving money and waste. Grains, nuts, seeds and pulses are also a great deal in the bulk aisle. Containers are provided for you, or you can bring your own reusable ones. They also have a handy (free) guide to the bulk aisle called Bulk Basics. Most stores also have spices in bulk. You can refill a spice jar for a fraction of the cost of buying a new jar. My personal favorite part about bulk spices is that I can buy just a teaspoon or two of that never-gonna-use-again spice for a recipe I want to try.
Get to know 365 Everyday Value ® – This is Whole Foods’ private label and has great prices on everyday items. My staples may be different than yours, so get to know what products are available and find some of your own deals! Just make sure to read the label carefully. Many products in the 365 Everyday Value ® line are organic, but not all are.
An added bonus for parents and pizza lovers – Whole Foods has special perks for parents and pizza fans. Stop at customer service and sign your munchkins up for the Kids Club. Every time you shop your mini me will receive a snack (usually an apple, animal crackers or fruit leather) to keep them occupied. If your store, as many do, offers fresh pizza, get the pizza punch card. Get it punched every time you pick up a pie and your sixth pie is free. At my store a large pizza is the same price as it is at my local pizza joint, but is made with ingredients that live up to Whole Foods’ quality standards. Order at the beginning of your shop and the pizza will be ready by the time you’re ready to check out.
(Not a Whole Foods pizza. But you get the picture.)
You don’t do all of your shopping there - You don’t need me to tell you that not everything at Whole Foods is a deal. However, there are staples for which Whole Foods has the best prices in town. I go to Whole Foods once a month (maybe twice, depending on what’s cooking in my kitchen) and load up on organic, budget-friendly basics. They include: chicken broth, sandwich bread (which can be frozen), olive oil, butter, cheddar cheese (which I buy in a block, not shredded because it’s cheaper that way. It takes no time at all to grate a little cheese,) beans, peanut butter and pasta sauce.I also buy milk, which can also be frozen. It’s hard to stock up on milk, but at least I can take advantage on their great prices on organic milk for the week I’m there. (Would you like to round out your shopping with more budget-friendly tips? Did you see Savvy's post sharing tips on shopping organic at Target? )
It's About More Than What You Are Putting On The Table
There are so many ways to make Whole Foods friendly towards your wallet, but that’s not the only reason to shop there. Whole Foods has quality standards above and beyond your average grocery store.All of the meat and poultry is raised without the use of hormones and antibiotics. In 2011 Whole Foods introduced the 5-Step® Animal Welfare Rating. This system promotes animal welfare and all producers providing meat to the fresh meat department are required to have their products be certified to one of the steps on this rating scale. Whole Foods is also committed to seafood sustainability and has a list of products it has banned from the food, cleaning and personal care products it sellts.
When I first started writing this blog post, I did a price comparison between Whole Foods and my local “normal” grocery store. My plan was to included a item by item price comparison between the two stores. In the end, I decided not to do this because cost of living (and thus grocery prices) varies so much across the country, and what may seem like a deal to me in the ‘burbs of Boston may not seem like a deal to readers in other regions. However, I will tell you that the results of my cost comparison had me spending less than $2 more for the entire month to buy an organic version of everything on my basics list at Whole Foods than I would have paid for conventional products at the “normal” grocery store. See? There are so many reasons to shop at Whole Foods; ingredient transparency, commitment to the community and all while being budget-friendly – no eye rolling necessary. Happy shopping!
(Disclaimer: I was not paid by Whole Foods Market for any of the above content, nor did I receive any goods for free. I embarked on this quest to share what I have learned and make your journey easier)
This lovely - and delicious - blog post is part of Savvy's month of Veggies. Browse all our penny-pinching and veggie exploring posts here!