I can’t tell you how often people ask me, “How do you afford to shop at Whole Foods?” If you read about me here, you will quickly realize that prior to my husband’s diagnosis of brain cancer, I was an AVID coupon shopper! We started shopping at Whole Foods when David was a patient at MD Anderson and we were living in Texas during the summer of 2012. Shortly after we arrived back home, a Whole Foods opened a few miles from our house! You can call it fate…destiny…whatever. I call it a blessing. I immediately realized that I was not in the ‘Publix coupon world.’ As much as I love that Publix doubles coupons and as much money as I saved shopping at Publix, I now REFUSE to buy products with artificial ingredients/colors/preservatives. I didn’t know better before. I LOVE what Whole Foods stands for. You can read about their quality standards here. The other night David was brave enough to watch Food Inc. (on Netflix) with me. Previously he hasn’t been willing to watch it because he is afraid that it will turn me into a vegetarian…and I do all of the cooking. He’s not interested in becoming a vegetarian-by default. (Shhh! don’t tell him our diet is mostly plant based) Anyway… after watching the documentary, he definitely wants to continue eating meat, but did say that he’s completely done with fast food (which is a HUGE change from 2 years ago). What we don’t know about the food we eat is terrifying and is hurting our nation and our health.
Okay-sorry for that little aside…back to saving money at Whole Foods. Bottom line: YOU CAN SAVE MONEY AT WHOLE FOODS. YOU CAN SAVE MONEY AND BUY QUALITY PRODUCE/PRODUCTS! Don’t be intimidated! This is my first in a series of posts about how to save money at Whole Foods and other healthy grocery stores in town. In case you’re curious, Whole Foods did not sponsor this post. These are my own ideas and opinions and I’m writing this because I am passionate about helping people eat healthier on a budget! Here are a few tips to get you started…more to come!
#1 Shop In-Season Produce- It’s corn season right now. Obviously, when produce is in season the prices will be lower because there will be more supply. It’s difficult, if not impossible to find fresh organic corn…but non-gmo is the next best thing. You DO NOT want to purchase GMO corn. Here’s why- Look for non GMO signs..corn is one of the top GMO crops. Another example: I buy a ton of fresh organic blueberries in the summer…and buy frozen organic ones in the winter when the fresh ones aren’t in season. Fresh organic blueberries are much more expensive in the winter (if they are even available at all). I love cooking with produce that is in season…it’s fresher, it tastes better, and it’s a fun way to enjoy the harvest of each season!
#2 Buy in Bulk- So I’ll be the first one to admit that the bulk section can be a little intimidating. Imagine a bunch of clear bins filled with a lot of items I haven’t heard of and/or don’t know how to use! If you learn how to shop them they can be very useful! Whether you need a little or a lot of an item, bulk bins can be a great way to save money! Example: I use dates to make these delicious peanut butter cookie larabars. Pitted dates would save me a lot of time, so I asked one of the friendly produce men where I could find some organic pitted dates. The dates I used to buy are found in the refrigerated section, are around $8.00 per pound, and aren’t pitted. The dates from the bulk section are already pitted (easier and you’re not paying for the pit) and are $5.69 per pound! One of my favorite parts of shopping the bulk bins is that you can buy as little or as much as you like. If you want…you can just buy a few items to try-no strings attached! Just remember to write the PLU # on the bag so they will know how to charge you at the register. (One of my first trips to Whole Foods in Houston I didn’t know that trick and it took forever for the cashier to figure out what items I had in the bags)…Lesson learned-label your bulk items.
#3 Use Coupons/Buy Cases- Every two months, Whole Foods puts out their “Whole Deal” coupon booklet. The same coupons are also available on their website. The most awesome thing about the Whole Foods coupons is that they can be used an unlimited number of times! Yes–you read that correctly! This means that if you like a particular item enough to buy a case…for bars a case is 12 (or how many come in a box)…for other items it may be different. Soft drinks are four 6-packs to a case. Ask to find out the specific quantity to make a case. If you purchase any item by the case you will automatically receive 10% off your total for that case. You are allowed to mix/match flavors. If the item has a Whole Foods coupon available, you may use the Whole Foods coupon on EACH item. Right now there are 50 cent coupons available for CLIF Mojos and Kit’s Organic bars. You can use this deal to get a great price on a case of bars! This is a great example of how to save money at Whole Foods! Note: Manufacturer coupons may only be used once. Whole Foods issued coupons are the only ones that allow multiple uses!
#4 Shop for Produce in the Freezer Section- Don’t you hate it when you buy some fresh produce, stash it in the fridge when you get home, and a few days/weeks later you throw out something that doesn’t even resemble the fresh produce you ‘recently’ bought? One tip for keeping produce fresh longer AND saving money is shopping for produce in the freezer section. Organic peppers are expensive. They are also hard to find when not in season. Alas, Whole Food’s store brand (365) has a large bag of already chopped red, yellow, and green organic peppers for just shy of $3.00. This bag usually lasts 3-4 recipes in my house. Frozen produce is packed with nutrients because it’s harvested and quickly frozen at it’s peak. From organic corn, to organic berries, to organic quinoa. The frozen section is the way to go for saving money and convenience!
#5 Shop the Sales I spy BOGO. Do you see it? Whole Foods might not advertise their BOGO deals quite as well as some other stores in our area…but they have them! Pay attention to the advertised specials and sign up for their newsletter. Sometimes I find the best deals when I’m doing my regular shopping and see a sale tag. One thing I really love is that their deals go on for longer periods…2 weeks up to a month. That gives you ample time to get back to purchase more of an item before it goes off sale. For more information you can check our their money saving site here.
#6 Learn the Store- This tip is for the prepared food section. Whole Foods has a label “Health Starts Here” that means items are the epitome of health. Foods with this label are whole foods, plant strong, and don’t contain any added extras (like extracted oils or sweeteners). More info here if you’re interested. Anyway…if you need a quick lunch or dinner…you can grab $4/4. In the prepared food section (foods behind the case) you can choose anything with the Health Starts Here label. You can choose 4 different items or double one. You may not double two items. Each day the selection varies a little. If you do this you’ll be getting a ton of really healthy food for $4.00. You can’t beat that! Here’s a picture of one I purchased this week. You can’t see how deep the container is, but let me just say you’ll definitely be pleasantly surprised by the amount of food. I chose the three items pictured below and doubled the Caribbean Chicken Salad.
I hope this posts leaves you excited about your next trip to Whole Foods. I will say that we frequent Whole Foods so much that when Wells is ‘pretend driving’ anywhere..and I ask him where he’s going he says “Whole Foods.” Cracks me up. If I drive by and we don’t go in he has been known to cry. He loves the store…and REALLY loves the snack wagon for kids. A free treat per visit. In Wells’ opinion…you can’t beat that.
Do you have any other tips? If so, please leave a comment below!