Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that Whole Foods is one of the highest quality grocery stores in the nation. If you're looking for lots of organic options, and hard to find ingredients like coconut aminos or bulk millet, it's one of only a few convenient options. A major drawback is Whole Foods pricing scheme, which for many people, is sky high. In a recent tell-all, however, a long-time employee explains a few tricks to shopping at Whole Foods that will help you avoid spending your 'whole paycheck.'
For my partner and I, entering a Whole Foods is like going to church. We talk in hushed, reverent tones while squeezing organic avocados, and 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the beauty of the wild-caught seafood. The entire experience is pretty glorious until we take our tiny basket up to the cashier. With each beep of the scanner, the total seems to jump exponentially ($7 for a jar of organic spaghetti sauce?!), until we're almost cringing. Even with a total that's approaching $100, everything fits in one paper bag, and we're left wondering how we'll afford to eat for the rest of the month.
And that's just for the two of us! I see entire families shopping at Whole Foods with an overflowing cart and can only imagine the number at the end of the receipt.
According to the Whole Foods worker who spoke with Business Insider on ground of anonymity (which doesn't really surprise me) this painful experience doesn't have to be the norm. Following her expert do's and don'ts, you can actually get some good deals at Whole Foods, and leave feeling savvy instead of sad.
Here are her top 5 tips for what you should (and shouldn't) buy at Whole Foods:
1. Oats, raisins, and other dried goods sold in bulk (this also cuts down on packaging waste!)
2. Cakes (the ingredients are MUCH higher quality than other grocery store bakeries. Also they sell single slices if you're low on self-control)
3. Bread (for around $2.99 you can get a loaf that was baked in-store that day, and they'll even slice it for you)
4. Soy or almond milk—but only in double-packs. Single packs are the same price as other stores, if not more.
5. Spices--again, only if they've got what you need in bulk.
1. Nuts (in most cases you can find the same quality for less elsewhere, especially if they're on sale)
2. Produce (I know, Whole Foods produce is so pretty! But in most cases, identical stuff, even organic, is cheaper at other stores)
3. Chicken (organic, free-range options exist elsewhere, and for less)
4. Dairy milk (better to look for national organic brands sold elsewhere, or hook up with a local dairy or milk share program)
5. Meat (another one that hurts! Even stores like Safeway and Kroger/King Soopers are carrying organic/grass-fed meat now, and it's at least a dollar or two cheaper per pound).
Final thoughts: Lest it seem like I'm bashing Whole Foods or glorifying conventional grocery stores, I wanted to clarify a few things.
First, savvy shopping saves you money no matter what store you frequent or how you eat. So most of these tips are fairly common sense, i.e. buying in bulk is cheaper.
Second, while many people get stuck on the price tags at Whole Foods it's necessary to think about exactly what you're paying for. Whole Foods is well known for unprecedented transparency in its supply chain. No, it's not perfect, but when it comes to verifying that stuff labeled "humane" is actually humane, or supporting local farmers and artisans whenever possible, they've done a really great job. Most national grocery store chains won't go nearly as far as Whole Foods when it comes to quality (which yes, is something you have to pay for!), and for that, we commend them.
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