Shopping at Whole Foods: 12 Smart Ways to Save
A while back, I gave you a list of 25 frugal items for your vegan grocery list. As you know, writing the list is only half the battle. A lot depends on where you shop. At Whole Foods, for example, it's easy to get carried away — at least for me it is! The inviting atmosphere with bright, warm colors highlights all those goodies that just weren't in the original plan. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Groceries)
If you're strategic, though, you can get the healthy foods at Whole Foods for a great price. Here are some suggestions for before, during, and after your shopping trip. As always, we'd love to hear your budget-friendly tips, too — so be sure to leave them in the comments!
1. Clip Your Coupons
Before you grab your bags and head to the store, check out The Whole Deal, a value guide specifically written by and for Whole Foods. The website and in-store paper booklet are full of coupons to save you some major cash at the checkout. While you're writing up your grocery list for the week, try to incorporate these items for the most savings.
2. Mark Your Calendar
Along with keeping up with the latest store news and coupons, be sure to check out store events that might provide unique opportunities for savings. Many, if not all, locations offer "Value Tours" that are around an hour in length. These events cover various topics from using coupons to your advantage to sussing out the best deals to figuring out the best days to visit the market. (See also: 20+ Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill)
3. Learn Your Colors
Bright yellow tags indicate big sales, especially in the produce section. Smaller red tags indicate everyday deals. Be sure to scan the store for those cheery signs and consider making some swaps if there are like-items on your grocery list. Stores differ from location to location, but most have bi-weekly sales and Friday sales. So, choose your shopping days wisely to preserve your food funds.
4. Shop Seasonally
Along these same lines, the fruits and veggies often on sale are the ones that are in season. Whether it's local farmers who had a great yield or whatever else, you should stock up on these fresh ingredients in bulk while you can. You can always freeze, can, or otherwise preserve them for later consumption. (Here's some handy info on popular preservation techniques.)
5. Bring Your Bags
It can be hard to remember, at least for me, but bringing your own cloth grocery bags will save you around 10 cents/bag each shopping trip. It might not sound like a lot, but if you use 5 bags per trip, once each week, that adds up to $26 a year. It's something!
6. Be Social
Find your local Whole Foods on Twitter or Facebook to stay abreast of the latest insider deals. Many of these same specials can be found in The Whole Deal guide, but if you have trouble remembering to check there, like me, a little tweet might be all you need to get those mind gears going. (See also: Use Social Media to Get Coupons)
7. Shop the Perimeter
This tip isn't new or exclusive to Whole Foods, but avoid heading into those middle aisles of the store with the boxed goods. A healthy diet is made up of fruits, veggies, dairy, meat, fish, etc. — and even if it's touted as "healthy," packaged foods still involve more processing. And dollars. If you just have to get your fix, consider buying the 365 brand, which is the WF generic line of many packaged items.
8. Cook in Bulk
If you're planning to make up healthy foods to freeze for two weeks, a month, or more, be sure to contact your local Whole Foods. You can purchase cases of items, like fruits and vegetables, and earn at 10% off discount for doing so. How's that for bang for your buck?
9. Visit the Bins
For anything from nuts to dried fruit to spices to loose leaf tea, the bulk bins are where it's at to find the healthiest, cheapest foods. Not only will you save money, you'll save packaging from ending up in a landfill. While you're at it, consider bringing your own bulk containers — glass or plastic — to reuse again and again. (See also: Where to Find Free Mason Jars)
10. Fill Your Wine Cellar
If you enjoy a little vino (OK — or more than a little), you're in luck! Whole Foods boasts an impressive collection of organic wines for reasonable prices. What's better? If you buy six or more bottles at a time, you get an extra 10% discount.
11. Ask When in Doubt
Whole Foods staff are ready and waiting to help you with your experience. I've always found team members really helpful and great resources for anything from finding particular ingredients to helping find the best deals. While you're at it, ask about the Try it Out program, you can get samples and even take home certain foods for free!
12. Keep Your Receipts
The best way to track your spending and optimize savings is to read your grocery receipts. Look at them from time to time to observe trends or find particular foods/ingredients that stick out as being more costly than others. You can make a running list of these items to hold off on purchasing until you find the specials or deals through the methods listed above. And you can always ask a sales associate for a heads up on when these foods might be on sale.
Are you a regular at "Whole Paycheck"? What are your favorite saving tips?