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27 Insanely Smart Ways To Save Money At Whole Foods

The ultimate guide to avoid spending your whole paycheck.

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1. Check for local deals online.

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Although it has a reputation for being a pricier grocery store, Whole Foods actually offers a lot of ways for bargain hunters to save.

First and foremost, always check local sales flyers and coupons online. While you're at it, sign up for their free newsletter. You'll also be entered to win a $50 gift card.

If you're at Whole Foods and didn't bring coupons, just grab a printed copy of The Whole Deal as you enter the store.

2. Don't forget about manufacturer coupons.

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In addition to its in-store coupons, Whole Foods also accepts manufacturer coupons. Just make sure to familiarize yourself with the products and brands that your local store carries.

If you can't find any coupons for products you like in the Sunday paper, try emailing a few of the companies that produce them to see if they can send coupons via email or snail mail.

3. Find out about unadvertised local sales.

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Most stores have frequent unadvertised “one day” sales. The exact goods and days will vary by store and by season, but these sales often present decent opportunities to save money. Customer service can usually tell you what upcoming sales they’re planning so that you can visit on days when items you use are on sale.

5. Bring lots of reusable bags, since you get a discount for each one.

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You'll get $0.10 off your total per bag that you use during checkout. Keep in mind, this is a PER BAG discount, so you aren’t doing yourself any favors by bringing one gigantic reusable bag. Instead, bring three or four smaller bags to maximize your discount. That's 50 cents you spend on laundry!

6. Compare the prices of 365 Everyday Value products to name brands.

Whole Food’s 365 Everyday Value line of products are usually on the cheaper end, especially compared to some of the more exclusive brands they also carry. Definitely keep your eyes peeled for the 365 logo, but don’t assume that just because something is 365 that it’s the cheapest option. Always make sure you compare prices before buying.

7. Be on the lookout for yellow and red tags.

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Whole Foods uses yellow tags to identify sale items, usually with red font. Sometimes these items have been advertised as being on sale, but sometimes not.

8. Try before you buy.

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Whole Foods has a very liberal "try before you buy" policy that apparently applies to almost everything in the store. The company wants you to feel confident about your purchase, so employees will happily open products for you to sample them. If the employee's in a good mood, they might even let you take the rest of the product as a freebie.

Don't count on scoring free tester items every time you go to Whole Foods; eventually the staff will catch on to you. Instead, take advantage of this policy to avoid buying items that you aren't already sure you'll enjoy.

9. Get a supplement punch card.

If you buy a lot of 365 brand supplements, ask someone at your store if they have a supplement punch card program. The exact offer varies, but at many locations you'll get 10 bucks off after spending $100 on 365 Everyday Value brand supplements.

10. Start your shopping trip in the bulk section.

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The bulk section is usually located in one of the corners of the store. As soon as you enter, go directly to bulk and buy what you can from your shopping list there. The prices are usually great compared to prepackaged versions of the same food, and you can buy exactly as much as you need.

Although every bulk section varies, they typically have all kinds of baking supplies, pasta, oats, dried fruit, beans, tea, rice, seeds, nuts, nut butters, and more!

11. Don't be shy about weighing items and using the calculator on your phone to keep spending in check.

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Who hasn't gotten a bit carried away in the bulk section? Some items, like pine nuts, are expensive no matter how you buy them. So check the price per pound, weigh bags of pricer bulk goods, and use the calculator on your phone to make sure you aren't buying too much.

12. Buy spices in bulk too!

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The bulk spices are usually located with the regular bottled spices, rather than with the rest of the bulk items.

The prices on spices aren't always that great (in my experience), but it's convenient not having to buy an entire jar of a spice for just one recipe. For example, if you don't bake often, then you really don't need a full jar of whole nutmeg for one pumpkin pie. Instead, you can get just one little nutmeg nut, which will shave a good 5 to 10 bucks off the cost of the pie.

13. Bring your own containers.

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When you buy bulk items, you're paying for the weight. Most of the time, the weight of the plastic bag isn't going to make that much of a difference. But if you're buying a nut butter or another item that would come in a plastic container, then you might be able to save a little by bringing a container from home. Just have customer service weigh it before you head to the bulk section and you'll be good to go!

14. Buy cases and save 10%.

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Almost every packaged item in the store can be bought in a case, which will save you 10%. You might be thinking that a case of anything is extravagant, but if you've got a favorite type of chocolate candy or energy bar, then buying a case will save you some serious cash. Typically, you'll find cases behind the individual items on the shelves, but if not, definitely ask an associate for help.

15. Always purchase six bottles of wine at a time.

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If you live in a state where Whole Foods sells wine and you drink lots of it, buy six bottles at a time to get 10% off. 🍷

While you're at it, try Whole Foods' store label Three Wishes, which has delicious wines for under 5 bucks a bottle.

16. Buy seasonal items.

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Buying fruits and vegetables when they're in season can really make or break an attempt at a "frugal" visit to Whole Foods. Their seasonal produce isn't actually that expensive, especially compared to organic produce at other stores. However, off-season produce can be expensive no matter where you buy it, and especially so at Whole Foods. I once spent $12 on a tiny head of cauliflower during off-season, without realizing it until I was already at home.

Always check prices on produce and keep an eye on your total as you're checking out. If something rings up as more expensive than you were anticipating, simply ask your checker to remove it from your bill and think of more affordable alternatives.

17. Avoid containers of diced fruits and vegetables like THE PLAGUE!

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Seriously, you'll spend 9 or 10 bucks for a small container of cantaloupe, when you could buy a whole cantaloupe for a fraction of the price and slice it up at home for free. 🍈

18. For smaller produce needs, get items from the salad bar.

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If you want to make a coleslaw, but don't need a whole head of cabbage, hit up the salad bar!

A trip to the salad bar can get expensive if you go wild (see below), but it can actually be a really convenient source for small amounts of presliced produce.

19. If you buy fresh squeezed juices often, consider larger bottles, and look out for sales.

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The smaller bottles are super convenient, but super expensive. Keep a few, wash them, then refill with juice from larger bottles and you'll save some serious cash. Also, keep an eye out for sales. My store will often feature a flavor and discount bottles by 20%.

If you don't see any yellow or red tags in the juice section at your store, ask customer service if they know of any upcoming sales.

20. Ask the butcher about bulk meat deals.

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A lot of stores offer discounts on meat purchases weighing three or more pounds. Ask your local butcher about this and other potential ways to save on meat.

21. Watch out for expensive frozen and prepackaged meals.

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Frozen and prepackaged meals from the refrigerated section are perfect for lazy yuppies, but wreak havoc on the shopping budget. If you do buy a lot of frozen meals, then keep an eye out for sales, and find yourself some manufacturer coupons.

22. Make your own pizzas.

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Most Whole Foods locations sell fresh pizza dough for a couple of bucks. Grab a container of 365 Everyday Value pizza sauce, mozzarella, and some fresh toppings from the salad bar, and you'll spend significantly less than it would cost to buy frozen pizzas.

If you're serious about your pizza, get a pizza stone to take your homemade pizzas to the next level. Whole Foods doesn't sell them, but I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond for only 15 bucks. 🍕

23. Don't EVER buy more cheese than you need.

Whole Foods has a wide range of delicious cheeses. But just because wedges are prewrapped doesn't mean you have to buy twice the amount you need. The person working the cheese counter will happily split apart and rewrap wedges for you. There's also usually a small wedge bin with items for $4 or less.

24. Don’t put heavy items in your salad.

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Just don't. I know, hard boiled eggs are delicious in a spinach salad, but your salad is being weighed and those eggs are expensive as hell. Other items to avoid: beans, bulky vegetables like broccoli, etc.

Some people get pretty dedicated when it comes to keeping their salads insanely light, but I usually just avoid heavy stuff, and keep a few bottles of my favorite salad dressings at home. Dressing inside a little plastic container is unnecessary weight, IMO.

25. The fresh fruit may look delicious, but DO NOT buy fruit from the salad bar.

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OK, a couple of grapes probably aren't going to cost that much, but watch out for heavy fruits like melons. You can buy regular fresh fruit and yogurt only a few feet away, for significantly less cash.

26. Bring back glass milk containers.

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If you buy milk or cream in one of the glass containers, you'll be charged a deposit. It depends on the size of the item, but can be up to $3. So make absolutely sure that you don't toss the empty container into your recycling bin — bring it back next time you go to Whole Foods, and they'll give you a voucher at customer service.

27. Return items that you change your mind about, or that go bad quickly.

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Whole Foods has a great return policy, and customer service representatives are usually pretty friendly. Don't hesitate to return items you either don't like or change your mind about. Additionally, they'll usually let you swap items if they went bad really quickly after you bought them. This depends on the store and specific situation, but I've totally swapped out berries that developed mold overnight.

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