Before we start, a disclaimer: We LOVE Whole Foods. We’ve shopped there a LOT over the years. And more than once we’ve mentioned Whole Foods to someone and gotten this (ok, ok, well-deserved) reply: “You mean Whole Paycheck? Heh heh.” Such oft-heard banter became the inspiration for this post. Much of this “advice” is tongue in cheek. We don’t actually advocate stealing, folks. With that, Enjoy!
Whole Foods, a major seller of quality organic foods and natural products, is also known for giving its shoppers intense sticker shock. ($15 for 6 oz. of organic raw walnut butter? Yup!)
If you want to enjoy Whole Foods’ organic wonderland without deforesting your wallet, we recommend shopping strategically. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
How to Save Money at Whole Foods:
1. Don’t shop for a specific recipe.
If you’re shopping for things in one recipe—4 oz. of capers, ground white peppercorn, etc.—be prepared to freeeeaak out at the cash register. This is the typical rookie mistake. Whole Foods is notorious for high prices with “rarer” ingredients, as well as organic, raw or local versions of more common foods. Instead, be more open-minded and spend a little time browsing for new things you might like to try out, like organic kale or dried fava beans. Even if you get something unexpected, it is still likely to be a great choice, and you can easily shop within a budget.
2. Fraternize with the help.
Over the years, we’ve found employees at Whole Foods to be spectacular. They’re usually very insightful, often well-versed in the section they specialize in, and, generally, nice and helpful. So, want to try a new wine or cheese within a certain price point? Not sure how to make a kale salad? Go ahead, ask—and you probably will discover something great.
3. No, seriously, fraternize with the help.
Did you know Whole Foods employees get a 20% discount? It begs the question, what would you do for a gluten-free Klondike® Bar?
4. Go for the whole foods, bulk bins, and 365 brand.
Whole Foods is best for its namesake items: whole foods. AKA, unprocessed food. This means produce, meat, fresh baked stuff, bulk bin grains and beans, etc. An easy way to think of it: skip the aisles. In most grocery stores, unprocessed and healthier foods are stocked along the outer edges of the store.
Thanks to a dear friend of ours, we’ve edited this point of advice to include Whole Foods’ “365” products, their in-store brand. We use 365 brand a lot and we particularly love 365 Olive Oil.
Experiment with bulk, too. You can easily spend half as much by buying bulk, and the options are fantastic. Some stores even have bulk laundry soaps and oils. Don’t forget to write the numbers on your bulk bags and containers! It will save time at the cash register and everyone in line behind you will be grateful. And, a word of caution: always check the price tag, and make sure you read the cost carefully ($2 each versus $2 per pound can make a world of difference).
5. Move into the store.
Hide during the day and enjoy Whole Foods every night as you pillage the aisles a la Night at the Museum and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
6. Stuff things down your pants.
Look, at some point, it’s just right to steal a little from these big-box chains with their high prices and anti-Obama public sentiment, right? I felt like Jean Valjean with this organic banana down my photoshopped pants.
7. Experiment with Whole Foods’ prepared salads and foods.
Thinking of making your own quinoa salad, but don’t know where to start? It’s cheaper to try the end product at Whole Foods than buying all the ingredients separately, and plus, eating pre-made foods is an easy way to experiment with new dishes (who knew a Cesar kale salad could be so good?!?).
Bring your reusable Whole Foods bags to the Piggly Wiggly.