Whole Foods' reputation as an expensive grocery store is well known. After all, it's often called "Whole Paycheck." But that doesn't mean that devotees of this upscale grocery chain can't get good deals when shopping at its more than 435 stores in the U.S.
"Saving money at Whole Foods is similar to shopping at any other grocery store," said Josh Elledge, founder of SavingsAngel.com. If you know cost-cutting tricks, you can easily avoid spending an entire paycheck on groceries. Here are seven ways to save money on your next shopping trip to Whole Foods.
1. Shop With a List
Shopping with a list is one of the key ways to save money on groceries. However, this strategy is especially important for trips at Whole Foods.
"If you're easily distracted by fancy, impressive displays, you'll want to make a list and stick to it when shopping at Whole Foods," said Elledge. "It's way too easy to overspend if you're lured away from your list."
2. Save With Seasonal Items
If you shop at Whole Foods to take advantage of its large offering of organic produce, you can save money by purchasing only fruits and vegetables that are in season, said Elledge. That's because the prices are lower on seasonal produce.
For example, apples recently were marked down in some stores from $1.99 per pound to $1.29 per pound and pears were marked down from $2.49 per pound to $1.69. If you were to buy 3 pounds of each, you'd save $4.50 off the regular price.
Plus, you can find recipes for seasonal produce on WholeFoods.com, said Elledge. This makes it easy to plan meals and take advantage of lower-priced fruits and vegetables.
You also can find other items throughout the store that are marked down during certain seasons. Soups and canned foods are marked down heading into winter, said Teri Gault, author of "Shop Smart, Save More." Condiments, salad dressings and barbecue sauces go on sale in the summer. You can stock up when these items that have a long shelf life go on sale.
"You should never run out of mayo and have to pay full price to make a sandwich," said Gault. "If you're always stocking up on sales, your favorite mayo will always be up to 40 percent off at Whole Foods."
3. Shop the Sales
Before you head to a Whole Foods store, visit WholeFoods.com and click on the "On Sale" tab to see which items are on sale that week. You also can download the free Whole Foods mobile app to see what's on sale. Letting sale items determine your weekly menu — rather than buying what you're in the mood to eat — can help keep down the cost of groceries. Plus, you can save money by stocking up on nonperishable items when they go on sale.
"Even perishables last longer than you may think," said Gault. For example, sour cream is good for up to two months, cream cheese can last six months and organic milk stays fresh almost twice as long as conventional milk. And, you can get these items for 30 percent to 40 percent less when they go on sale at Whole Foods. "Check the tiny date on the package, and stock up accordingly," she added.
Gault also recommended looking for sales that aren't advertised in the weekly sales circular. "It really pays to compare prices," she said. "Sometimes, you'll find another 10 percent to 20 percent off on an unadvertised sale."
4. Opt for Store-Brand Products
Whole Foods offers more than 2,600 products under its private-label Whole Foods Market, 365 Everyday Value and Whole Catch brands. These store brands typically are cheaper than their brand-name counterparts, said Gault.
A recent check of prices at a Whole Foods in Nashville, Tenn., revealed that several 365 Everyday Value items were at least $1 less than comparable brand-name products.
For example, 365 organic yogurt was $3.69 for 32 ounces versus $4.69 for a 32-ounce container of Stonyfield organic yogurt. A gallon of Whole Foods 365 organic milk was $5.99, while a gallon of Organic Valley milk was $6.99. And 365 organic cinnamon graham crackers were $3.99 versus $4.99 for the same-sized box of Annie's organic cinnamon grahams. That's a total savings of $3 if you opted for the 365 brand of all three items.
Gault said you can save even more when Whole Foods' private label items go on sale. "By stocking up on everyday essentials of 365 brands when on sale, you can save up to 40 percent," she said.
5. Take Advantage of Coupons
You can visit WholeFoods.com before shopping to find and print coupons for items you want, grab a coupon booklet as you enter a store or use the app. With the app, you don't even have to search for the coupons you want to clip. All coupons are available with a single bar code that appears on your mobile device's screen once you sign into your account. You can show the code at checkout to get discounts.
Gault cautions against buying something just because there is a coupon for it because you might find another brand on sale for less. However, the savings can add up quickly if you use coupons for products you normally buy.
Recent Whole Foods coupons included:
$1 off for an Imagine brand soup
$3 off Garden of Life Raw Organic Perfect Food
$1 off a Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free item
$1 off any two Almond Breeze 32-ounce cartons
$1 off a Back to Nature Product.
The best way to save is to pair coupons with Whole Foods' private-label items when they're on sale, said Gault.
6. Buy in Bulk to Score a Discount
You likely don't associate bulk shopping with Whole Foods as you would with a warehouse club like Costco. But you can save money by buying several of a particular item at this grocery chain.
Gault said customers can get a 10 percent discount if they buy a case of most products. The discount even applies to wine. You usually can pair coupons with case purchases, too, she said.
7. Sign up for the Rewards Program
If you live in the Dallas or Philadelphia area, you can take advantage of Whole Foods' pilot rewards program. And there are plans to roll out this program nationally, according to Whole Foods.
Shoppers who register online for the program get 10 percent off their first purchase as a rewards member. They also get a one-time 15 percent discount off items from a department of their choice and select products. Like many other retailers' reward programs, Whole Foods' program allows members to accumulate rewards as they shop.
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