Welcome to the Real Whole Foods: A Former Employee Tells You How to Save Big
I started working for Whole Foods Market in 2007. I worked off and on for the company at multiple stores throughout California until last year. I guess that you could say I just could not stay away. I shop there when I am working there, when I am not working there, when I am traveling ... it’s my place. I feel at home even when I am at a store that I have never been to.
Whole Foods gets a bad rap among penny-pinching grocery shoppers. When I worked there, at least once a day, a customer would say, “You know what they call this place, right? Whole Paycheck.” This would normally be followed by some chuckle as if every team member in that store had never heard that before. We have.
The truth is, Whole Foods is like anything: It is what you make it. If you want to spend $12 on almond butter and $60 on essential oils, then yes, you will be paying quite a bit of money. The problem is not the cost of items at Whole Foods. The reason that you spend so much at Whole Foods is because you have so many options to choose from that you could spend your whole paycheck there, and some people do—if they aren't prepared.
It is possible to be frugal and buy quality foods for yourself and your family. When I shop there, I have a strict grocery budget: $20–$25 for a week’s worth of groceries.
So, how do you get started? Let me give you some ideas.
First of all, look for sales. They are everywhere! Here are the five easiest ways to get started saving money at Whole Foods.
1) Whole Deal—Grab a Whole Deal book when you come in the store. These coupon books are normally by the front door and Customer Service. Not only will there be manufacturer coupons, but you can get 365 (the Whole Foods Market brand) coupons there as well. From meat to Whole Body products, you can always find great deals with Whole Deal. You can also print out Whole Deal coupons from your local store at wholefoodsmarket.com.
In addition to that, you can bring other manufacturer coupons with you on your shopping trip. Double check what store rules apply because most stores do not allow you to get money back from coupons. Also, make sure to give all of your coupons to your cashier before they start ringing up your items. It saves everyone time, especially you, and we know how busy you are!
2) Wednesday Sales—Wednesdays are when new sales begin. So, if you see yellow tags throughout the store, those are sale signs! Check them out.
Don't need that item today but may want it later? You can look in the lower left-hand corner or upper right-hand corner (depending on which region you are in) of the tag to see how long the sale will be running. Plan accordingly.
3) Friday One-Day Sales—These sales equal big savings, so make sure you look at the One-Day Sale signs throughout the store and at the register. You can also call your local store or look online and see what the next sale will be. It's often advertised a few weeks in advance. From wine to fish to produce, there is not much that the One-Day Sale has not touched.
4) Weekend Sales—The weekends are a great time to buy produce, prepared foods, and even meat and seafood. That's the time when these items are marked down, so you can load up. Don’t forget to check the Whole Deal for additional discounts, especially in the produce department.
5) Case Discounts—When you buy a case of an item, you will get a 10% case discount if it is applicable to that product. The number of items that make up a case, whether it is 6 or 12, is determined by the manufacturer. (Everyday Deals—more on that later—and Specials do not qualify for case discounts.) Items such as grains, rice, and produce are available for case discounts when they are 15 pounds or more. Check with a team member from that food's department before you make your way to the register. Again, it will save everyone time, and time is money!
My favorite of the case discounts is the wine discount. Whenever you buy six bottles or more of wine, you get 10% off. Also in the stores where I have worked, you get a free wine bag with your case purchase. Keep an eye out for wine sales because the discount increases to 20% from time to time.
Bonus: Kid's Club—If you have kiddos, make sure to stop by Customer Service for a Kid’s Club treat. From a piece of fruit to juice boxes, there is always something for the little ones to nibble on. Oh, and if you ask Customer Service or your cashier if they have stickers, your little one might get another treat.
Bonus: Bring Your Own Bag—I've heard some folks claim that their Whole Foods store cuts 10 cents off their bill for each reusable bag they bring. I, however, have never worked in a store where that was true. I have only experienced 5-cent bag refunds. Check with your store to find out your discount. Every little bit adds up.
Even better: If you donate your bag credit instead of taking a credit (which does not affect your original bill at all), you are directly contributing to a local charity or community organization. These include animal shelters, after-school programs, and neighborhood community groups. It doesn't save you money, but it does do some good for your community.