Monday, September 8, 2014

How to Save Money at Whole Foods

 "A trillion dollars for baked beans? I didn't know they had a Whole Foods in Zimbabwe!" - Lewis Black in the Back in Black segment on The Daily Show

Whole Foods is the last place people with limited funds would choose to shop. I'm sure we have all heard of the moniker "Whole Paycheck" when it comes time to checkout from their stores. No matter how we slice it the total will be more than places like Aldi, Walmart and Food 4 Less (check out why cheap food actually costs you more here) but there are some strategies to make it more affordable.

In addition to a wide variety of organic and non-GMO goods they also have some of the highest standards in the grocery industry. They do not allow hydrogenated fats or artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and sweeteners in any products sold in their stores. That right there pretty much wipes out most of the foods causing our obesity epidemic. And the real winner for me: come 2018 all items sold in Whole Foods' U.S. and Canadian stores must have labeling if it contains genetically modified ingredients. This is a huge step for food transparency that is sadly lacking in our country. I could go on with their green business standards and their local community & global efforts but I will stop shooting you with rainbows and unicorns from dark orifices now and get to the good stuff: How to actually save money at Whole Foods.

1. Buy Whole Foods' 365 brand organic products. It is the house brand so it will be cheaper than             name brand organics.

2.  Pick up a copy of The Whole Deal that comes out every other month. It is full of tips for using and preserving in-season produce as well as coupons and recipes for budget meals.

3.  Utilize coupons to their fullest. The Whole Deal is also on and the coupons can be printed out multiple times for each shopping trip. When there is a coupon for Kit's Organic Bars I will buy the 12 pack case and print out twelve coupons. Depending on the coupon you can get a $15 case for under $4 in addition to using tip #11.

4.  Whole Foods' website also has their weekly sales flyer posted.  Planning meals around what is  in-season and on sale really helps stretch meal dollars.

5.  National and even some local organic brands have their coupons on their own websites. You can use manufacturers coupons in conjunction with Whole Foods coupons. 

6.  Take advantage of daily specials: Mondays- $2 off in-house sliced turkey. Tuesdays- half chickens are $4.99. Wednesdays- large take and bake pizzas are $10. Thursdays- $5 panini. Fridays- different sushi specials. (These specials are specific to my local store. Specials may vary by location.)

7.  Purchase from the bulk bins. This allows you to buy just as much or as little as you need. Great for trying something new and not wanting to be stuck with two pounds of something you will never eat again. It also considerably lessens the amount of manufacturing waste. You can get organic rolled oats for as little as $1.69 a pound.

8.  Check unit prices on the price label. This is usually broken down to cost per ounce. Sometimes the bulk bins are not the best deal, especially with the organic nuts- the packaged nuts are actually cheaper in some cases. The larger package items can also fool you like the chocolate chips price label in the photo above. Most of us assume that the larger the packaging the better the deal but this is not always true with the 356 brand. Always check the unit price!

9.  Buy your ingredients at Whole Foods- not the prepared packaged items. One quart of organic pastured-raised heavy cream costs $7 but will yield half a pound of butter, 8 oz of buttermilk, 10 oz of sour cream with 3/4 cup of left over cream to use for coffee or as whipped cream. No butter churning necessary- these items are ridiculously easy to make and are upcoming in a future post.

10.  Use your own shopping bags. Whole Foods reimburses 10 cents for every bag you bring. This in and of itself is not a huge money saver but it is huge for the environment. Bring in three bags every week and that adds up to $15 at the end of the year. This money can also be donated to one of their causes either going back into your community or helping better the lives of impoverished women all around the world.   

11.  Buy in case amounts for a 10% discount.  For Whole Foods, a case equals twelve items. In my family we do this with the shelf stable almond milk, baby food and the Organic Kit Bars (when they have a coupon for the bars) since we go through those items quite often.

12.  This goes without saying but I'm sayin' it anyway: eat less meat! Humanely-raised and pasture fed meat goes for a premium but it is affordable when you are only eating it three times a week or less. Not having meat as your main course but using it as a garnish to the meal also will help bring costs down. As citizens of this planet, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to educate ourselves on the devastating effect that conventional-raised meat is having on this world (A good place to start is with the documentary Food Inc.). Cut down on meat, cut the detrimental harm to our planet and cut grocery bills. Win-win-win. 

13.  Buy frozen organic veggies, especially when they are out of season. This is a great economic way to get your organic produce.

14.  Slice, dice and shred at home. Buying whole heads of romaine and cabbage, and blocks of cheese, is cheaper than having the store or manufacturer do it for you. Intimidated by a head of cabbage?  Watch a two minute YouTube video and you'll be wondering what you were stressing out about.

15.  Don't buy toiletries, super foods in packages, tea or vitamins from Whole Foods. It is much cheaper to buy these items from online retailer like Swanson's Vitamins and Vitacost.

You have to shop smart to shop savvy. Hopefully this will get you in the door if you are new to Whole Foods and thought it impossible to shop there. If you are a seasoned shopper and have some tips of your own, please share below!

Linked with Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity on the Homemade Monday series. This article was their featured post of the week. You can check it here.

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