I frequent our local Whole Foods, in addition to QFC, a kroger NW brand. I find that shopping at several different stores allows me to buy a wide array of products and foods I need for my household, while keeping an eye out for the best deals at each store. In general, I like QFC for packaged and dry goods, and household/cleaning supplies. I like Whole Foods for bulk items, some produce, the occasional locally sourced meat I purchase (we only eat meat sporadically once or twice a week), produce, and their 365 brand items. And yes, I know that its lovingly referred to as Whole Paycheck. And I can understand why. There are so many specialty items (cheese, desserts, anyone?), pre-cut fruit, pre-made burgers, already-squeezed juice, etc. that you can easily spend $300 without even a second cart. But Ive found shopping at Whole Foods doesnt have to break the bank. If you are strategic about your choices and if you skip the specialty items, you can become a smarter Whole Foods shopper. I want to share with you some tips Ive learned along the way to shop and save money at Whole Foods. Here Ill focus on grocery items, as they are related the focus of this blog.
1. Dont walk into Whole Foods without a game plan
Without a game plan, (or on an empty stomach!) you will toss extra items into your cart that you dont need. Plan ahead, and come in with a grocery list, if possible.
2. Grab a yellow flyer when you walk in the door to find out whats on sale
All Whole Foods sale items are described in this brochure spend an extra 3 minutes reading it to see if there are any sale items you can substitute for things on your list. For instance, lacinato kale was on sale when I went in to snap photos. This can easily be substituted into a recipe for spinach, other kales, chard, collards, etc.
3. Buy the 365 branded items
365 is Whole Foods store-brand, which is almost always cheaper than name-brand items. I love 365 brand canned tomato products, whole wheat pasta, canned beans of all kinds, organic frozen veggies and fruits, organic olive oil, vinegars, brown rice, etc. They are priced very well, and there is often an organic variety.
4. Buy less meat, and more vegetable-based proteins
Meat is expensive, both at Whole Foods and at mainstream branded grocery stores. If you choose to eat less meat, even just one less meat-based meal per week, you can easily save money. For me, personally, I choose to buy high-quality and local meat, but sparingly. We do eat meat in my house, just not very often. This way, we can buy the organic and local meat for our meat-containing meals. Beans, tofu, and starchy vegetables are always cheaper than meat.
5.Buy from the bulk bins, if possible
Nuts, grains, and spices are all cheaper in the bins than in packages. Buying in bulk wastes less plastic, and oftentimes less product. When was the last time you went through a whole spice jar of coriander before it expired?! Buying spices in bulk also ensures your spices are more potent and fresh.
6. Remember the frozen veggies aisle
I kind of forgot about frozen veggies until my daughter Elsa started eating solids. Now they are a regular stop at the store, because frozen veggies are already prepped and rinsed and are so easy to prepare, especially for a toddler who might only eat 3 pieces of broccoli at a given time. Frozen veggies are also frozen at the peak of the season, so they are the most flavorful of the season. They are also prepared and ready to toss in a stir fry, or salad at a minutes notice, and so much cheaper than their fresh and salt-laden, canned counterparts.
7. Buy multiple sale items at a time
If the canned refried beans are on sale, buy multiples to last you through until the next sale. This goes for yogurts, pasta, oats, tomato sauce, etcbasically anything you can keep in your fridge or pantry for a reasonable amount of time. Thats my little helper looking at the almond milk on sale!
8. Only allow yourself one splurge item per trip
By allowing yourself one item or treat per trip, you will limit how many pricey specialty items that end up in your cart at the checkout stand. For me, that specialty item is either a wedge of brie, interesting nut butter, bottle of kombucha, or chocolate.
9. Be careful of dry goods
Ive noticed that crackers, non-365 pastas and canned goods, cheese, flours, sugars, even the same Organic Valleymilk I often buy, and other basics, etc. are often more expensive at Whole Foods. Make sure you pay attention to prices, and remember to check your mainstream store. My mainstream store, QFC, now has a natural section that often has great sales on these items that are much cheaper than Whole Foods.
10. Be a vigilant and self-controlled shopper
Youll save money if you pay attention to the sales, are strategic with your menu-planning and shop with a purpose. Happy shopping!