If you saw my #surviveon35 wrap up, you saw that I did all my shopping at Whole Foods – all USDA certified organic – and had to be strategic about it. Do I prefer my favorite farmer’s market? You bet. But that’s not to say that it’s always an option. If Whole Foods is where you’re venturing off to, then here are five tips I learned (or was reminded of) in order to walk out of Whole Foods with everything I needed, without my poor wallet being torn to shreds:
1) Stay your entire behind out of the processed food aisles. Because the items may have better quality ingredients or may not be as hyper-processed as regular supermarket fare, prices do tend to be higher, and rightfully so. When it comes to pre-packaged and processed products, flavor and quality – not just empty calories – cost money, and that has to be accepted. Since there are very few pre-packaged products that cannot be reproduced at home for cheaper, you’d be better off buying the ingredients to make whatever it if you’re wanting. At least then, you could use those ingredients to make other dishes at your leisure.
(But, if you insist on using that stuff? The store often has coupons at the front door for you to use.)
2) If you’re looking for organic produce, check the frozen foods section first. If a single organic red pepper is looking like it might cost $2, and I can get onions, red peppers and green peppers for $2.39 for a bag… you already know what time it is. Brussels sprouts, which I can rarely find for less than $4 a pound – on sale – are usually less than $3 a pound frozen. Organic yellow corn – I never buy corn that isn’t organic – often goes for $2. Like… this quickly becomes a no-brainer.
Frozen foods do sometimes have their drawbacks. If it’s frozen, chances are high that they won’t work well without being cooked. Like, you couldn’t buy organic spinach and expect it to come out looking like salad leaves. Those frozen onions? They’re not going to come out looking fresh and raw when they thaw. If your dish won’t accommodate all the displaced water in the frozen item, you’ll have to cook it.
3) Subscribe to the Whole Foods sales listings for your specific store. There’s random unimportant stuff in there like cookies and chips, but the sales for the protein are what are most important. Salmon, shrimp, ground turkey, chicken… all of these sales are prominently displayed in those weekly mailers, and that’s what I plan my meals around for the week. Not to mention, all of the greek yogurt sales on sales on sales? Mind you, I can only take but so much meat, so I have plenty of vegan dishes, too, which leads me to my next point…
4) The bulk items section is your friend. Your best friend, in fact. The bulk items section is the part of the store that “you love so much, you’d marry it.” Oats, beans, couscous, lentils, nuts, dried fruits, raisins, flours, quinoa, nutritional yeast, seeds, rices, shredded coconut, herbs, spices, teas…all of it. There’s something for everyone in the bulk section. Take advantage.
Also: if your Whole Foods doesn’t have a bulk section (or a bulk spices section) then feel free to complain. Request one! How else will they know you’re willing to spend your money on it if you don’t tell ’em?
5) Lots of the more important things – the staples – are available in Whole Foods’ own private, generic label brand, 365 (Everyday Value), and are often organic and just as high quality as the store’s other offerings. Don’t be so attached to a particular brand – that generic brand stuff is often same quality, with cheaper price. Buy the private label generic brand.
Also, as an additional point: if your Whole Foods has the wellness program, consider becoming a member. On top of cooking and nutritional classes that promote plant-based lifestyles, there’s a ten percent discount on all produce (frozen or otherwise), almost all meats, and some other thousands of items.
Now, there are also a few other tricks of the trade (bringing your own reusable bags makes a teeny, tiny difference on your bill; and buying in bulk gives you an additional 10% discount on each bulk item you’re buying, which is great if you’re a Greek yogurt hoarder like me.) And there’s also the number of things we can discuss in regards to how to start your clean eating stockpile. But as far as how to survive Whole Foods, wallet intact, I think this is a pretty good survival guide.
What are you spending to shop at Whole Foods, and if you’re living that cheap life, how are you saving your pennies?