Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods: It Can Be Done

Hi guys! This week is seriously flying by for me – I can’t believe it’s already Thursday! It’s supposed to be super nice outside in DC, getting up to 65º today and 69º tomorrow. I’m really going to try to enjoy it while it lasts… maybe lunch outside today? Also, random, but last night I watched The Social Network because I got in on Netflix. I LOVED the movie. I loved Zuckerberg’s character even though we were supposed to think he was a jerk because his sarcasm had me laughing out loud several times. I also thought Jesse Eisenberg did an amazing job playing Zuckerberg. Have you seen it? What did you think?

whole foods

So, as you may know, I am a total bargain shopper. I’m that way with clothes, electronics, body products, household items and food alike. A lot of people refer to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck, but if you play your cards right, you can actually get some great deals there. It can certainly be very expensive if you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your cart and go without a plan, however, I shop at Whole Foods a few times a month and a lot of times walk out with a lot of loot for not a lot of money. As with anything else, you just have to have a plan of attack. I thought it would be fun to write a post with some tips and tricks for navigating your way around Whole Foods without breaking the bank, and open up the comments section for additional tips from readers. Here goes.

  1. Whole Deal Coupons – I only recently learned that Whole Foods has coupons you can print directly from their site for products they carry. You can find them here. These are not your Sunday Paper coupons, but store specific coupons that you can’t find anywhere else. Click on that link and you’ll see deals for Siggi’s Yogurt, Protein Powder, Soymilk, Larabars, and SO Delicious products, among others.
  2. Every Wednesday, Whole Foods put up the specials in your area on their website. Check the flyer before you go to add things to your list that are on sale and do some meal planning based on those items. There are usually items in every section – including fish, meat, and poultry – so you can pick your protein and go from there.
  3. Bulk Bins – Don’t skip these when you go! There are tons of organic products you can buy for under $2 or $3 per pound. Some of the best deals I’ve found include quinoa, wheat berries, raisins, almonds, walnuts, steel cut oats, rolled oats, brown rice, lentils, black beans and kidney beans.
  4. Some products are actually cheaper at whole foods than they are at other places. Some examples I’ve found:
    1. Bagged Salad – It’s always 1.99 at my store for baby arugula, baby spinach, mixed greens – any kind. That is much cheaper than the prices at regular grocery stores and they are organic!
    2. BabyBel Cheese – These are only $2.99 for a bag at my WF, which is much cheaper than other places.
    3. Canned Goods – Organic beans, canned tomatoes, and hearts of palm.
    4. Corn Tortillas – 79 cents for a bag – can’t beat that.
    5. Organic Bananas – They are the same price as regular bananas there – usually 69 cents a pound.
  5. OrganicDeals.com. Basically, this is a coupon site with lots of deals on organic products that you would find at health food stores. There is a specific part of the site that has deals by store, so in the Whole Foods Section of the site, they update it weekly with things that are on sale and then link to manufacturer’s coupons for the same products so you get super cheap deals. Stacy (who I learned about this site from!) got almond milk for 50 cents this week by using a coupon from the site on top of the sale price at the store!
  6. Buy Generic – the 365 Brand – You can find a lot of good deals on lots of store-brand products. Many of these products are organic, though some are not. A few of my personal favorites are the water crackers, organic cider vinegar, different types of flour, olive and canola oil, agave nectar, and frozen fruit.
  7. Go With a List – My plan of attack always includes walking in with a few things jotted down so that I don’t go completely crazy. Consult the online flyer, do a little meal planning, and then write a list. Always. Even if I just have “fruit” or “stuff for salad” on my list, that opens it up to shopping the produce section by what’s on sale. My strategy is usually to mostly stick to the list, and then allow an additional 3-4 things that catch my eye (but usually only things on sale because it hurts me to pay full price for things unless it’s a great bargain).
  8. Free Appetizer – Sample things around the store and it costs you nada! 🙂

Do you shop at Whole Foods? What are some of your strategies for shopping there without going broke? Are any of these tips new to you?

49 Comments on Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods: It Can Be Done

  1. Katie Photiadis
    February 17, 2011 at 8:35 am (10 years ago)

    Haha, it’s funny because for some reason I absolutely hated the Social Network =)

    Reply
  2. fitandfortysomething
    February 17, 2011 at 8:38 am (10 years ago)

    wow these are some great tips Beth. whole foods is about 30 minutes away so when we go it is a treat. however it would be nice to save a few bucks next time 😉

    Reply
  3. Stacy @ Every Little Thing
    February 17, 2011 at 8:39 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for the linkage! You’re right, you can get great deals at WF if you plan it right. It takes some time to prepare but it’s totally worth it. They stack coupons on sales just like everywhere else! You can use any newspaper coupon there as well as WF coupons. I love it.

    365 brand is great, and they generally have great prices on all dry goods. Love their bulk bins, and I can get fairly priced organic dairy there that is double at my grocery store (because it’s so limited in quantity). I also love that they carry organic bread products (SO hard to find!), and often they have amazing sales on their produce.

    Tomorrow ONLY they are having an insane sale on whole chickens (under $2 a pound!). Check to make sure your local store is doing it but it’s a national sale. This is an amazing price, so grab one if you’re in the store! They’ll sell out fast.

    P.S. It was almond milk, not soy 🙂 Green & Black Organic Chocolate was also a good deal. I paid $1.50 for a bar, which is usually $3.50+

    P.P.S. I second the list! If I walk in there without one…well, you might need to help me out of the store with my three carts of groceries.

    Reply
  4. definediana
    February 17, 2011 at 8:42 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for these tips. I may take a trip over to Whole Foods this weekend now. With a plan of course

    Reply
  5. One Is The Magic Number
    February 17, 2011 at 9:05 am (10 years ago)

    I shop at whole foods frequently, and because I’m a broke grad student it’s really important to keep money in the forefront of my mind. I usually only shop at WF for specific items- eggs, bulk dry items, and fruits/veggies. I also make a list of things on sale and make sure to leave leeway for those ‘I can’t possibly walk out without it’ items. Oh, and the samples rock my face off 🙂

    Reply
  6. Holly
    February 17, 2011 at 9:10 am (10 years ago)

    Thank you for these tips Beth — I haven’t been to WF in months, mostly because when I go, I buy way too much. The store is 30+ minutes away so I go with the mindset that I won’t be back for a few more weeks so I load up, but then most of what I get spoils 🙁 I need to be there more frequently and I definitely need to go with a PLAN, not just buy with my eyes.

    I have not seen The Social Network but I want to! My parents saw it and afterward they were so interested in how facebook works. It was hilarious.

    Reply
  7. Amy @ Second City Randomness
    February 17, 2011 at 9:14 am (10 years ago)

    I just introduced my friend Annie to the bulk bins. She about fell over… lol

    So glad you liked Social Network! Now do you know why I have a crush on Jesse Eisenberg??? 😉

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 17, 2011 at 10:49 am (10 years ago)

      I loooved him in the Education of Charlie Banks, too. He’s such a good actor!

      Reply
  8. Victoria (District Chocoholic)
    February 17, 2011 at 9:19 am (10 years ago)

    I agree on going for the 365 brand – for many items it’s cheaper than a lot of national brands at a “normal” supermarket like Giant. And their sales can make produce cheaper than at a standard supermarket.

    Even if produce isn’t discounted, I think I sometimes get a better deal because the higher quality stuff doesn’t rot as quickly, and I’m less likely to have to throw any away.

    Finally, I have found that my local Whole Foods is the cheapest place to find unsalted butter. By like $1/lb. Weird.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 17, 2011 at 10:50 am (10 years ago)

      Wow that’s good to know about the butter!

      Reply
      • Victoria (District Chocoholic)
        February 17, 2011 at 11:00 am (10 years ago)

        It’s even cheaper than the Giant brand. $2.49 per pound, I believe. This is important knowledge when you bake compulsively.

        Reply
  9. Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle
    February 17, 2011 at 9:39 am (10 years ago)

    I do shop at Whole Foods occasionally, but I only buy things there that are either on sale or that I can’t get anywhere else (I can get most organic produce at my regular supermarket for cheaper) but when things are on sale there I stock up! Stocking up when things are on sale can save me a lot of money, particularly on meat and canned goods.

    Reply
  10. Ashleigh
    February 17, 2011 at 9:50 am (10 years ago)

    I didn’t even want to see The Social Network, I thought the previews looked horrible, and I LOVED IT!! I thought it was such a good movie!!

    I usually spend less at WF than anywhere else because I am very aware of what I am actually buying. Sure, you can way overspend on all of their pre chopped stuff, but you can save too!! Their beans and diced tomoatoes are cheaper than Trader Joe’s. I also use the bulk bins for oats and nooch! Thanks for sharing those websites, I’ll be sure to check them out.

    Reply
  11. Kate Walsh
    February 17, 2011 at 10:10 am (10 years ago)

    Thanks for all the tips and links to coupons. I shop at Whole Foods only occasionally since I usually spend too much when I go there. But I do love their products.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer
    February 17, 2011 at 10:32 am (10 years ago)

    I pretty much only shop at WF when I want to find some unique items (esp. produce) that I know my normal grocery store probably won’t have. But I need to better about checking out the bulk bins. I never would have thought the packaged greens would be cheaper there. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the coupon tips, too.

    I loved the Social Network. I was so impressed by how they took a seemingly “eh” story line and really made it interesting. Jesse Eisenberg did an amazing job, too!

    Reply
  13. Liz
    February 17, 2011 at 10:36 am (10 years ago)

    The free appetizers are the best 🙂 I used to work near a whole foods and would go there for afternoon breaks

    Reply
  14. Amanda @ A Little Less Lazy
    February 17, 2011 at 10:46 am (10 years ago)

    This is a great post, especially because I’m really bad about showing up at Whole Foods to buy one thing and walking out with a basket that costs $65. Next, find a way to go into Target without spending $100 on your way out–that’s an accomplishment I’ve never been able to handle.

    Reply
    • Beth
      February 17, 2011 at 10:47 am (10 years ago)

      haha now unfortunately I have no advice for that. I can never get out of there spending less than $100, even if I go in for just a few things!

      Reply
  15. kandiscorner
    February 17, 2011 at 11:37 am (10 years ago)

    I watched Social Network last week. Great movie!

    I always forget to check the Whole Foods website for the coupons. Just saw the Siggi’s yogurt and Soy Dream coupons. I’ll definitely be using these!

    ~Kandi

    Reply
  16. Lisa
    February 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm (10 years ago)

    GREAT tips! Thanks! I like Whole Foods for certain things but usually go to Trader Joe’s because WF is just sooo expensive. I have a gift card to WF that i need to use so I’ll try your tips.

    The movie was good. I watched it last weekend. He was such an unlikeable character but he did have his funny moments!

    Reply
  17. Brian
    February 17, 2011 at 1:01 pm (10 years ago)

    Great post! Thanks for the links. Whole Foods and coupons are two things that make Brian happy. Also, totally agree on the Social Network. I didn’t want to like Mark Zuckerberg’s character, but I couldn’t help myself!

    Reply
  18. Jennifer
    February 17, 2011 at 3:54 pm (10 years ago)

    These are great tips! Thanks! I shop at WF every now and then and I always love what I buy there. But finding bargains seems tricky! I’ll definitely use the coupons and specials though!

    PS—I also liked The Social Network and I found Zuckerberg amusing and his social awkwardness kind of endearing…he seemed like such a jerk, but I kept thinking, “I just don’t think he understands that he’s being a jerk!”

    Reply
  19. Ang
    February 17, 2011 at 4:47 pm (10 years ago)

    No Whole Foods or even a similar type of store here. I just have the Kroger Natural foods section to try to make do with. Everytime I travel I make Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s trips so I’ll keep these tips in mind. 🙂

    Reply
  20. indeeskitchen
    February 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm (10 years ago)

    I used whole foods coupons yesterday for the first time ever! Awesome – thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  21. Evan Thomas
    February 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm (10 years ago)

    Great tips! I think I follow most of them(sometimes I’ll get overexcited and go on Whole Foods’ website late Tuesday night to see what the sales will be. I’m crazy like that). I also try to shop the perimeter and avoid the center, because that’s where I’m most likely to make impulse buys.

    Reply
  22. Amanda
    February 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm (10 years ago)

    Great ideas about getting a good deal on the stuff that is best for you! I have been so lonely for a WF since 2006….yes, 2006! That is when we left Vegas and moved to Korea (then to Okinawa, and now onto Germany), I have already checked out Wisconsin for WF so I can do a good haul while I am there in April…we will be in Baltimore a few days so I will also be checking there. I just hope Germany has some sort of store like this…makes life a lot easier than having to order everything on-line…seperately!!! Wish I could have you with me on a shopping trip…you sure know what you are doing 🙂

    Reply
  23. healthyteacher
    February 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm (10 years ago)

    I wish we had a WF in town. 🙁

    Reply
  24. Beth
    February 19, 2011 at 7:54 am (10 years ago)

    Excellent tips! I always avoid WF because I am super cheap, but I may have to reconsider!

    Reply
  25. Erica
    February 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm (10 years ago)

    Beth- your tips for whole foods shopping are so good! U always give such good info on your blog! I’ve been following your site for a while and I LOVE it and im definitly printing my WF coupons asap!

    Reply
  26. RhodeyGirl
    March 8, 2011 at 2:43 pm (10 years ago)

    Thanks for sending me this link!!!!!

    Reply
    • Beth
      March 8, 2011 at 2:47 pm (10 years ago)

      You’re welcome! I hope you find some useful tips on here! =)

      Reply

17Pingbacks & Trackbacks on Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods: It Can Be Done

  1. […] weight is not the only thing I let spin wildly out of control in my life. You guys know I am a bargain shopper at heart, but what you probably don’t know is that I am still in the process of working myself out of a […]

  2. […] I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to heading to Whole Foods after work yesterday! It was almost sad, but I hadn’t been there since MARCH (thank you blog) so it was definitely time to reunite. I checked out the weekly specials on the Whole Foods site, printed out some coupons, and drove to the store immediately after work. (Side note: if you are looking for tips on saving money at Whole Foods, check out Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods: It Can Be Done!) […]

  3. […] I cannot tell you how much I was looking forward to heading to Whole Foods after work yesterday! It was almost sad, but I hadn’t been there since MARCH (thank you blog) so it was definitely time to reunite. I checked out the weekly specials on the Whole Foods site, printed out some coupons, and drove to the store immediately after work. (Side note: if you are looking for tips on saving money at Whole Foods, check out Bargain Shopping at Whole Foods: It Can Be Done!) […]

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