Can someone help me out?
I can’t seem to stop leaving Whole Foods feeling emotionally and financially burdened by the money I’ve pissed away.
Do you know the feeling?
It’s a bittersweet exchange.
My last $57 food budget dollars squandered away for a few frivolous items.
In part due to a hot bar excursion for weight-wise, two meals worth of food that last less than 30 minutes once taken to my lair.
Coupled with my inability to stay away from those ruinous, dairy-heavy mashed potatoes and the fatty smoked beef brisket (an indulgence I’m ashamed to say I gravitate towards the most); I’m often tapped out.
Something had to give and fortunately it did.
So if you want to have your Whole Foods groceries and your check too, I’ve searched the internet and included a few of my strategies for leaving Whole Foods happy and unshattered.
1. All Your Produce Doesn’t Have to Be Organic
Whole Foods perpetuates this idea of organic anything as king –same for local or handcrafted– with a lot of the items they market.
But with a little consumer education, you can throw your wallet a lifeline.
Let’s take buying your fruits and veggies for example.
Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a shopper’s guide for what you should buy organic (loads of pesticide residue detected) and produce you CAN buy non-organic, i.e., conventional (least amount of pesticide residue) and sleep well at night too.
For a quick reference here’s a list to help you quickly decide below; the choice is yours.
The Clean Fifteen
Frozen sweet peas
The Dirty Dozen
Sweet bell peppers
But, of course, if you MUST have your organic produce and can afford to without breaking a sweat, play on.
2. Buy Bulk and Ask About Case Discounts
Every Whole Foods comes with a combination or all-of-the-below, a handy-dandy bulk section with everyday kitchen items including:
Grains (Jasmine white rice, wild rice, quinoa, etc.)
Legumes (Red kidney beans, fava beans, lentils & pinto beans)
Common spices like allspice, cumin, garlic powder & onion powder
You can get a pinch of sea salt, a tbsp of allspice, a cup of beans and a whisper of garlic powder for less than a few dollars and a couple of dimes.
The store I’m closest to even carries bulk flour and sugar; a major deal since flour is something I stray away from unless it’s around the holidays ( I love making apple and sweet potato pie).
Plus, why buy an entire ounce of onion powder (especially from Whole Foods) only to lose it in the dark abyss of your cabinets never to be seen again?
It’s a good strategy, too, to allow bulk spices and items to dictate how you plan to eat during the week, as you’ll find your number quite low at the register when you cook with simple, widespread ingredients.
For those of you who are predictable in your shopping, case discounts are also available too.
Just ask a team member.
3. Use the Cash App Card
I was amazed not see this littered on blogs, stunned even.
The cash app card is my saving grace making the chokehold on my wallet a little less aggressive.
Cash App Card offers a 10% off boost at Whole foods.
And you can revisit every 30 min for a discount totaling up to $7.50 equivalent to spending $75.00.
I don’t care if the cashier bagged the groceries and everyone is passing glares my way if I forget to apply my boost I refuse to swipe my card until the 10% off boost is present.
You also get the perks of 10% off at other establishments like Chipotle and Shake Shack and $1 off at all coffee shops (though, I recently learned Starbucks in Target locations don’t count).
Download the Cash App app, link a bank account or debit card and request a Cash App card with a custom signature in the mail.
You’re in business, to handle your business.
4. Leverage Amazon’s 13.7 B Acquisition of Whole Foods
When Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017, the acquisition came with the promise of slashed prices and a more intel-driven shopping experience.
One of the ways Amazon has achieved this is by offering Prime users special deals at all Whole Foods locations just by looking out for the blue, and yellow signs providing an additional 10% off the tag.
Not only are the deals exclusive but most actually quite practical for the average shopper with items such as fruits and a whole chicken commonly labeled an additional 10% off.
I can’t think of a better time to become a Prime member.
5. Remain Cool at the Hot Bar
The hot bar is a money-scavenging devil lying in a steam tray, showing no mercy on your quest to whet your appetite with a few buffalo chicken wings.
You know this.
And never forget: Whole Foods’ hot bar is $8.99/lb.
Before you can say ” Should I have another scoop?” Your tab has already shot up over $10.
And Whole Foods knows what they’re doing too, that’s why there are no scales in site!
Those clever, tricky tricksters.
So we need a new strategy, and it is this: Have what you want, but stay light all around.
Start with the box size.
Don’t set yourself up for failure grabbing the largest box, choose a small container or the proportioned paper plate.
When you reach the hot bar, be careful and mindful of the weight.
Instead of an entire scoop of those cheesy mash potatoes take a half of a scoop, enjoy a slither of meat, and delight in all the greenery you can like green beans, Brussel sprouts, and other lighter options.
They are often pretty tasty albeit needing a dash of salt.
6. Buy Whole Fruit + Asked for Customized Cuts
With 24 hours in the day, it’s impossible to conclude you don’t have 5 minutes to cut fruit.
You may think by buying a small container of pineapple chunks for $3.67 is saving you money.
But for $3.99 conventionally, or $4.99 the organic way you can have an entire pineapple yielding about 3 of those containers.
Another thing, If you’re shopping as a single person don’t shy away from asking for a customized cut.
Whole Foods wouldn’t want your purchase to go to waste and it’ll save you a few dollars too.
7. Individually Wrapped Cheese > Brand Cheese
When I use to work at MOM’s Organic Market — a DMV grocery chain — one of the things I learned is that you pay for packaging.
Every part of the manufacturing process adds to the total.
When buying cheese, look for the small wrapped packages (or ask for customized portions)
These vary in weight, and the price can go as low as $2.50 for 4 oz.
Don’t pay for the convenience of shredded cheese and the brand name, and likely way more cheese than you’ll ever need for the recipe.
8. Have you subscribed to the Whole Foods newsletter?
You at least have to start there.
And I know what you’re thinking…
There is probably nothing in Whole Foods that goes on sale that you would want to buy.
But that’s not true.
If you sift through all the packaged fluff, Whole Foods puts a quality selection of meats, kinds of seafood and produce on sale.
These are items you can plan a menu around.
For illustration, here are a few items on sale at my local Whole Foods store in D.C. :
Boneless Sirloin Steak for $6.99/lb (Regular $9.99/lb)
Wellshire Organic Pork or Turkey Bacon $4.99 ea (Regular $6.99 ea)
Bell & Evans Chicken Tenders 2 for $7 (Regular $6.99 ea)
SPENCE & CO. Nova and Traditional Lox 20% Off (Regular $8.99-9.99)
TALENTI Holiday Gelato $4.99 ea (Regular 5.49 ea)
Now get out there and shop to your budget’s content!