25 Genius Tricks for Saving at Whole Foods
By Brittany Anas
You can stop calling it 'Whole Paycheck' now.
Once you've shopped at Whole Foods, returning to your regular grocery store is tough to do. Um, where are the massage chairs and essential oils? How else would we zen out before looping around the store in our yoga pants, delighting in organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, locally-sourced foods to load into our Subarus with the Namaste bumper stickers? Plus, lunch at the salad bar is ah-maz-ing.
Sure, we're spoiled. And sure, we like to gasp and drop that 'Whole Paycheck' one-liner at the register once our grocery store tab surpasses $200. Jokes aside, we've turned to the pros to glean some genius ways to save some dough at Whole Foods. Psst! even the store is spilling some of their secrets to help you save! Score the secrets here and then keep the savings going by finding out 21 Times You Should Choose the Generic Brand.
You don't have to buy that whole block of cheese
We feel like we just learned a secret handshake! This tip comes straight from Whole Foods. In many departments, if you need only a certain portion of a particular item, you can ask a team member to get you just what you need. Yes, it's totally okay to ask for a half head of cabbage, a chunk of cheese, half a watermelon, or a small fish filet.
Increase your app-etite
Get smart with your smartphone before you hit up the store! "I always check out the Whole Foods app for the latest sales and coupons at the store where I will be shopping before I go," says Eliza Whetzel, RD at Middleberg Nutrition in New York City. You can also find recipes and curate a shopping list with the Whole Foods Shopping App.
You don't have to be buy everything organic
That avocado that's marked up because it's organic? You're fine to buy a less-expensive counterpart. That's because avocados have thick outer skins to protect its inner flesh from pesticide residues, says Tieraona Low Dog, chief medical officer of Well & Being and director for the first Interprofessional Fellowship in Integrative Health and Medicine. Whetzel suggests following the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list for purchasing organic veggies.
"While it would be ideal to buy all organic, focus on buying the 12 worst offenders as organic—and the others you can buy conventional," Whetzel says. Strawberries, apples, nectarines, celery and peaches are some of the foods you should always buy organic. And then there are the organic foods that just aren't that expensive to buy in the first place—like these 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Must Buy.
Follow your local store on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, suggests Kaleigh McMordie, RDN and a food and nutrition blogger at LivelyTable.com. "Look for special deals at your store," she says. "They will often announce daily specials specific to that Whole Food location." You can also subscribe to Whole Foods newsletters to stay in the loop on sales.
Go for a less expensive cut of meat
This tip is also straight from Whole Foods. Every store has trained butchers and meat cutters who cut to order. Since the store buys the whole animal, lesser known cuts of meat can be a great value. Look for budget-friendly pricing on lesser-known cuts such as boneless sirloin, flat iron steak, or skirt steak.
Let the fish mongers do the seasoning
Instead of buying an entire jar of spice to shake on your filet of fish, Whole Foods can probably do it for you. The store says fishmongers will custom cut and debone your piece of fish and then season it. "We're not just talking salt and pepper," the store says. "There's a huge selection of spice blends inspired by Thai, Latin, and other global flavors. " Caution ahead, though; not all fish choices good for you. Find out the best and worst seafood options in our exclusive report on 40 Popular Types of Fish—Ranked!
Go easy on the eggs at the salad bar
We've all been there. You create a salad masterpiece and it rings up at $17. Remember, it's pay-by-weight at the salad bar, says McMordie. "So, keep that in mind when you're loading up your salad with heavy items like boiled eggs, broccoli, and all those pretty grain salads!" she says. And there's no shame if you head over to the bulk section to buy dense nuts to top your salad with. With the entire salad bar for your taking, here's how to Build Salads that Will Help You Lose Weight.
Kids eat free!
If you're grocery shopping with your kids in tow, stop by customer service at Whole Foods. You can get a "Kid's Club Coupon" that's good for a complimentary organic apple, an organic fruit leather, or natural animal crackers.
Shop the salad bar
If you need just a few beets to add some color to a dish you're sharing, take a loop around the salad bar. "If you need just a little bit of produce for a recipe that you might not need again, check the salad bar and get just what you need," McMordie says. Whole Foods actually welcomes this. The store says it's especially great when you're prepping for a party and need a few strawberries or some chunks of celery.
Ask for a sample
Get this: Whole Foods tells us they have a "try before you buy" policy that applies to just about anything in the store so you don't end up shelling out cash for something that you never eat. "Team members will open almost anything on the shelf to sample," the store says.
Buy in season
There's a reason why clementines are always on sale in the winter! When you buy produce in season, it tastes better. It's also much less expensive compared to out-of-season fruits and veggie, says McMordie. "Make a habit of eating seasonally and you'll save tons of money," she says.
Check the unit prices
It's easy to base decisions off the overall price, says Esther Avant, a certified Nutrition Coach, Personal Trainer with Esther Avant Wellness Coaching. But if you start paying attention to the unit price, you may realize that prices aren't always as great as they seem. "Buying a larger option will usually save you money in the long-run because the cost per serving is lower."
Buy at the bulk bins
When it comes to dry goods like beans, oats, nuts, spices and dried fruits, head to the bulk bins rather than swooping up the pre-packaged options, Avant says. You'll spend a lot less when you're not paying for all that packaging, she says. "And you can buy as much or as little as you need," Avant says. On the flip side, find out the 12 Things You Should Never Buy in Bulk!
Don't let your mind play a trick on you
Our brains are biased and tend to associate healthy with expensive, and this can cause consumers to make uninformed decisions on what we perceive as healthy food, according to researchers at Ohio State University. Don't just assume that a protein bar with flashy buzzwords is any better than a less expensive counterpart in more humble packaging. The theory is being called the "healthy = expensive intuition" and their research will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Beware of these 32 Foods with Health Halos while you're at it!
Shop the 365 Brand
365 by Whole Foods has foods like organic barley, date and fig Greek, and plenty of other great items. Of the more than 4,400 exclusive brand products, about half are organic. Hungry for more? Here's a guide to 20 Surprisingly Cheap Eats from Whole Foods.
Ask for leftover bones
Whole Foods will throw you a bone. Yes, literally. The store says you can ask for leftover bones from their meat departments. Or you can head over to the seafood departments for shells. They're great for making homemade stock for one of these 20 Broth-Based Soups for Weight Loss.
Buy the whole case
Whole Foods tells us they'll give a "whole case" discount of 10 percent when customers buy the entire case. Yes, this includes cases of wine!
Buy wine on sale
While we're on the topic of wine, Whole Foods does a seasonal "Top 10 Wine" programs where the store sells some hard-to-find wines for less than $20 a bottle. In fact, some of these artisan wines come in at under $10 a bottle. If you've got any leftover after #WineWendsday, here's 5 tips for Cooking with Wine; you're welcome.
Go in with a list
Yes, shopping with a list is a good idea at any grocery store. But walking into Whole Foods without a shopping list is a total rookie move. Hello, artisan gruyere cheese! Oh hi, dill pickle potato chips. Summed up, it's a spending trap. "Go in with a list and stick to it," says Michelle Gindi, health coach and founder of the Buddha Bowls and Burpees blog. "If you see something interesting, take a screenshot on your phone," she says. Then, you can do a little research later to decide whether it should go on your next shopping list instead of impulse buying it on the spot.
As in Bring Your Own Bags! If you live in a city that has bag tax of a nickel or a dime, this is probably a no-brainer. But you can actually get a 10 cent rebate from Whole Foods for bringing your own grocery tote.
Shop on a full stomach
You know the rule! Shop on a full stomach or risk filling up your cart with organic cookies—which, by the way, are still cookies. "Unless you're going to Whole Foods to eat a meal, do not go there on an empty stomach," says Valerie Agyeman, a registered dietitian in Washington, D.C. "It's very easy for shoppers to be tempted when you are hungry while grocery shopping."
Use your knife skills
Sure, that diced melon could win a beauty pageant and the spiralized squash looks straight from a cookbook photo. But you should avoid buying those pre-cut fruits and veggies, McMordie says. "The prices on pre-cut melon, spiralized veggies, and other packaged, pre-cut produce is ridiculous," she says. "Buy the whole fruit or vegetable and cut it up as soon as you get home. You just saved a ton of money for the same exact thing."
Get brand coupons
Become a crazy coupon lady or lad! In addition to the Whole Foods in-store coupons, stretch your savings further with coupons you find from the websites of your favorite brands and manufacturers, suggests Melissa Eboli, a nutritional chef and wellness coach at ViaMelissa.com.
Get a job at Whole Foods
If you're a Whole Foods fanatic, you might just want to consider a part-time job there. All team members get a 20 percent discount at the store; just saying!
Use Weekly Ads to meal plan
Here's a brilliant idea: Whole Foods website offers digital versions of their sale fliers, which you can then use to build your grocery list, suggests Kendal Perez, a savings expert with CouponSherpa.com. "Planning a menu based on what's on sale versus what you're craving is key to saving money on groceries," she says. Speaking of planning, you'll love this Meal Prep Guide to a Quick, Healthy Breakfast.
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