Whole Foods gets a bad rap for being expensive. But you know what? It’s one of the best places to shop if you want quirky, health-conscious ingredients. I’m 3,000% basic, so Whole Foods is my go-to store for finding more exotic ingredients. I’m basic, sure, but I’m not made from money.
Fortunately, there are ways to fight for a lower total at my beloved Whole Foods. Check out these Whole Foods shopping hacks to score healthy food without compromising your budget.
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Go with 365
Like many grocery stores, Whole Foods produces its own generic brand of products. You can score 365 brand coffee, peanut butter, granola bars, and more for way less. If you aren’t finicky about name brands, the Whole Foods store brand is the way to go.
Do the math
Unless you calculate the cost per ounce, it’s hard to tell if pre-packaged or bulk items are the better deal. Whip out the calculator app on your phone to do some math. I was shocked when I realized packaged dried parsley was cheaper than bulk parsley. Who knew?
I like to grab the pre-packaged version of a food and take it with me to the bulk area. I’ll compare the cost per ounce to find the cheaper deal. If you’re math-challenged like me, I use this calculator to do the heavy lifting. Don’t judge.
Buy actual whole foods
Whole Foods is known for its focus on minimally processed foods. Processed foods tend to be more expensive because they go through additional manufacturing and packaging. To save more at Whole Foods, buy actual whole foods. This means opting for veggies and fruits from the produce aisle and some bulk bin items, like grains.
Put down the coconut water
I’m guilty of buying the $4 can of Fair Trade organic nitro coffee at Whole Foods. While a neat treat, the beverage aisle at Whole Foods is a budget nightmare. Prepared beverages have some of the highest markups in the grocery store. Think about it: they just add flavoring to water and resell at a big margin. If you want to keep your Whole Foods bill manageable, I say skip the fancy drink aisle. You can make a cold matcha latte at home!
I used to straight-up ignore the bulk bins at Whole Foods, mostly because it looked like effort and math. Fortunately I’ve changed my ways and come to realize that the bulk bins are where it’s at! I don’t have to buy a five-pound sack of bulgur wheat if I don’t need it. I just swing by the bulk area and scoop up one pound of grain for way less.
The big caveat to the bulk bins is to compare prices. Sometimes the unit prices on bulk goods are higher than the pre-packaged goods.
Time your trip
Check your local Whole Foods to see if they do daily deals, like $1 Taco Tuesdays. If you want first pick of the best sale items, swing by on Wednesday, when the week’s sales are announced. Some stores also do Friday-only sales, so keep your ear to the ground for upcoming deals.
Chop it yourself
Whole Foods is infamous for selling prepared whole foods, like supremed grapefruit slices, cubed melon, and even pre-peeled oranges. I’ve fallen for their siren song of convenience before, but the markup on these items is ridiculous. It also produces a ton of unnecessary plastic waste.
If you’re intimidated by the thought of processing your own produce, YouTube has tons of great video tutorials. If my clumsy self can do it, you can, too!
Follow Whole Foods
Companies want to reward their loyal followers with insider information. That’s why it’s important for any Whole Foods savings lover to follow the chain online. Subscribe to their email newsletter and follow both the national and local branches on social media. They like to send coupons and exclusive sneak peeks to followers.
Some Whole Foods locations produce coupon books. If your store offers them, they’ll usually be located near the sale papers at the front of the store. When in doubt, ask customer service. You can save a lot of money just by connecting with the awesome Whole Foods employees.
Join Whole Kids Club
I don’t have kiddos, but I salute the brave people who shop with their little ones. If you take your little ones shopping at Whole Foods, look into joining the Kids Club. Some locations offer free treats or snacks to pint-sized members. They also offer great educational resources for kids on healthy eating and gardening.
Buy in bulk
This isn’t just about exploring the bulk bins. If you buy lots of product at once, you can score a sweet deal. For example, buy six bottles of wine to get 10% off. You can also get 10% off your bulk bins purchase over 25 pounds. You can even get 10% off when you buy an entire case of products. Just check the price on the shelf to see how many items are in a case to qualify for the discount. Sure, this means you have to reaaaaally love Larabars, but if you’re okay with stocking up, you can save a bit more.
Talk to the employees
I’ve never met a Whole Foods employee who wasn’t an amazing person. Talk to the deli employees or the butcher to ask for deals. Once I had a butcher give me a free sack of soup bones just because I mentioned I was cooking beef stock.
You can even get cuts of meat and cheese divided into smaller portions by taking it to the employees. This is a great way to buy only what you need and save a bit more money, too.
Eat the samples
I’m sure I don’t have to twist your arm here, but the samples at Whole Foods are a great way to save money. You get a free snack and can sample a food before you buy it. Whole Foods actually has a generous sampling policy, so you might try asking an employee to sample something, even if it isn’t in the sample display.
Bring your own
Whole Foods is all about healthy, sustainable living. It’s no surprise that they give incentives for people to reduce waste. Bring your own cloth bags and get a 10 cent credit to your bill for each bag.
I’ve heard of some people bringing their own containers for bulk bin purchases, too. Some stores require you to stop by customer service to weigh your containers, so don’t forget to check first! Other Whole Foods stores sell milk in glass jars. Remember to bring back your jar for as much as a $3 rebate.
The bottom line
Whole Foods is a magical wonderland of deliciousness for foodies. But your total can skyrocket if you aren’t paying attention. Use these shopping hacks to save even more money at Whole Foods so you can eat well, even on a shoestring budget.