Whole Foods started as a local organic market in Austin, TX, in 1980 and has since grown into a national chain that was
recently acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion — in cash. Despite its mass appeal, Whole Foods has garnered a reputation as being a pricier shopping destination. Its nickname, "Whole Paycheck," basically says it all.
And while we won't deny Whole Foods is an easy place to drop a couple hundred on aged cheese and grass-fed, free-range whatever you could want, it's also possible to shop strategically and walk away without too much of a dent in your own paycheck.
Click through to see our ten favorite ways to shop big and still save big at Whole Foods.
Photo: Courtesy of Whole Foods
Shop 365 Whole Foods' private label, 365, offers prices that are not just lower than the national brands on the shelves but competitive with (if not lower than) Trader Joe's. Most pantry items, like spices and nut butters, as well as some perishable items (like cheese, butter, and milk) can be found with a 365 label. Just remember that the cheaper items are often placed out of eye line, so it may take more than a quick scan to locate it the first time.
Stock Up On Wine If your Whole Foods sells wine (or has a wine store attached), consider stockpiling wine. If you buy six bottles, you get a case discount typically around 10%. Throughout the year, stores often offer better case discounts of up to 20%, as well as deals in individual labels.
Just In Case Buying cases of snack bars is also an easy way to save — and to store them when you get home. Like with wine, many stores offer a 10% discount on cases, or buying 12 or more. If you always keep a Larabar in your work or gym bag, you could save as much as $60 a year if you eat one every day.
BYOB Bringing your own bag will save you ten cents per bag — not a huge discount, but a discount nonetheless! (and a good motivator to remember to bring those bags in the first place.)
Shop Seasonal While Whole Foods markets typically make it easy to eat local and seasonal, there are also usually plenty of things out of season and from far away — which can mean higher price tags. Generally, you'll find apples will be cheaper in the fall, and strawberries will be cheaper in the spring. If you shop with the seasons in mind, you may find your produce price tag gets lower.
Order In Whole Foods is available for delivery through Instacart, and while there are associated fees with having your groceries delivered straight to your door, if you are often a victim of impulse buys (I mean, the cheese counter is awfully tempting), shopping online will keep you strictly to your shopping list. You may even find that the delivery fee, which starts at $5.99, is less than the cost of unplanned purchases.
Shop The Prepared Foods — At The Right Time In general, prepared foods are not a money saver — until right before closing. Many stores will offer discounts up to 50% of foods like sandwiches, hot bar items, and sushi that won't keep till the next day. Some stores will post their policies and at others you may have to inquire (or stop by before closing) to find out.
Photo: via @wholefoods.
Bulk Up The bulk section is a great way to get exactly what you need. (After all, how often do you finish up a bottle of oregano?) But the prices are also lower, if not significantly lower, than the pre-packed options. Keeping nuts, grains, and flour floating around in plastic bags can be unwieldy, but many stores will weigh your container first so at the register you will only pay for what you buy.
Check Coupons Each Whole Foods runs separate deals and sales, but you can check online before you shop to see what they are or grab a flyer when you walk in the door. The deals will also be on the items themselves, but if you look ahead of your trip you may be better able to plan what you'll cook that week based on what deals are available.
It's Easy Being Cheesy One of the great appeals of Whole Foods is the giant cheese counter — but those giant hunks of goodness can really run up a tab. While the cheese behind the counter can of course be cut to your specifications, the pre-wrapped cheese in the display areas can also be cut down as well. The same is often true for meats that are wrapped in stores as well. Just ask the butcher if they can split up a pre-packed container of ground beef, for example, into just what you need for your recipe. You'll wind up spending less and wasting less.