If you’ve walked around a Whole Foods Market, you can probably understand how the upscale grocery store chain got the nickname “Whole Paycheck” — as in, “this place is so expensive you will spend all of your money.”
What you might not notice at first, though, is that there are actually a lot of ways to save money at Whole Foods.
The publicly traded company has also been working to address its expensive image, as co-founder and CEO John Mackey hinted in a recent statement about earnings:
“Food retailing is evolving at an incredibly fast pace, and consumers have more options than ever before. In addition to becoming more competitive on price, we are making measurable progress in fundamentally evolving our business and providing an enhanced experience for our customers …”
A recent comparison by Bloomberg Business also found that Whole Foods’ prices for packaged foods were “relatively competitive,” with price differences more noticeable on specialty produce.
That’s not to say you should shop there exclusively or even necessarily often. But as with any retailer, understanding how Whole Foods works can help you save money there — whether you stop in weekly, monthly or yearly.
To help we’ve rounded up some of the lesser-known ways to save more of your paycheck when shopping at Whole Foods.
1. Download the app
The Whole Foods Market App launched earlier this year.
To learn more, check out the “Digital Coupons FAQ” page.
2. Use paper coupons too
In addition to its digital coupons, Whole Foods offers its own paper coupons and accepts manufacturer coupons.
Look for store coupons in the flier available in stores. You can also print some of the same coupons by visiting WholeFoodsMarket.com/coupons and selecting your store.
Look for manufacturer coupons:
- On websites devoted to printable manufacturer coupons, like Coupons.com.
- On specific manufacturers’ and brands’ own websites.
- In Sunday newspaper circulars.
Also note that Whole Foods’ global coupon policy allows you to redeem both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on a single item.
3. Ask about case discounts
Whole Foods offers case discounts, meaning you’ll save more if you buy a case of an eligible item. For example, you might save an extra 10 percent if you buy a case of six bottles of wine.
The terms of this discount can vary, though. So ask your local store’s customer service desk for details.
Also note that Whole Foods’ coupon policy allows you to combine case discounts with coupons.
4. Buy in bulk
Whole Foods’ bulk departments are packed with bins filled with items that you scoop into a plastic bag, taking as much or little as you need. These items vary by store but can include:
- Soup mixes
- Trail mixes
- Nut butters
- Dried fruits
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Salts and peppercorns
According to Whole Foods, buying items from its bulk bins saves you money because you don’t pay for packaging.
5. Buy less
Say you want to buy only half a melon because that’s how much you need for a recipe, or that’s all your household will eat before it spoils. You can ask an employee to cut a melon in half, according to Whole Foods’ own shopping tips:
If you want only half a melon, fish fillet, piece of cheese or loaf of fresh bread, we’re happy to provide just the half you want.
Bring your own shopping bag to Whole Foods and you’ll be credited up to 10 cents per bag at the register.
To learn more, check out “7 Stores That Pay You to Bring a Reusable Bag.”
7. Connect with your local store
The weekly sales in the flier and at WholeFoodsMarket.com/sales-flyer are but a sampling of current sales.
As that web page notes, it highlights “some of today’s best deals” and you’ll “find hundreds more in store.”
Sales vary by location, though, so sign up for your store’s email newsletter or follow the store on social media to be notified of specials. Stores with their own Facebook or Twitter accounts, for example, note specials on their “Store Info” page, which you can look up here.
8. Try 365
Whole Foods says its house brand, 365 Everyday Value, “can fill your pantry without emptying your pocketbook … and will change the way you shop at Whole Foods.”
The product line offers cheaper alternatives to a wide variety of brand-name products, both organic and nonorganic, while meeting Whole Foods’ quality standards.
You’ll also find “365” in the name of Whole Foods Market’s new lower-priced grocery chain, dubbed “365 by Whole Foods Market.” The first 365 store opened in May in California, and additional stores for California and eight other states are currently in development.
9. Check out the Kids Club
Shopping with children? Stop by customer service for a Kids Club coupon good for a free organic apple, organic fruit leather or natural animal crackers.
Monthly educational workshops like cooking classes and art activities are also offered through the Kids Club. Check your store’s events calendar.
10. Use common sense
Whole Foods might not be considered a traditional grocery store, but traditional money-saving common sense still applies.
So you should still comparison shop and make a grocery list and stick to it, for example. And pay with a rewards credit card, or look for discounted gift cards on reputable exchanges like Raise.com and Cardpool.com.
You can also use some of the same rebate apps like Ibotta that you use at more traditional grocery stores. To learn more about Ibotta and similar apps, check out “9 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs.”
Of course, remember that experts like the nonprofit Consumer Reports and Stanford University researchers have concluded that not all organic produce is worth the higher price. For specifics, check out “10 Foods You Shouldn’t Buy Organic — and 12 You Should.”
Do you shop at Whole Foods? Let us know why by commenting below or over on our Facebook page.
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