Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thrifty Thursday: Shopping at Whole Foods on a Budget

Whole Foods is expensive. Actually, Whole Foods is crazy expensive and I hope that this small blog can help other moms figure out a way to shop at this place and stay on a budget. I won't go into all the reasons I am trying to eat mostly organic, or why I can muster up the energy to enter this store even when I am without sleep and with two children in tow. I will simply assert that Whole Foods (WF) is the closest thing I can find nearby, that captures the kind of grocery store I am looking for in this world, and plays out the kind of food politics I want my dollars invested in. SO, every Thursday I will post a couple of money-saving tips that I have discovered during my quest to cram a grocery budget into a Whole Foods shopping excursion. If I have the time, I will even provide the week's menu and I will let you in on what I am spending.

So let us get started:

Top 5 tips for shopping at Whole Foods on a budget:

  • Bring your own bags from home or reuse last week's paper bags. To be honest, I am not automatically inclined to bring cloth bags to the grocery store. But at WF you are given 10 cents off for every bag you reuse. The cool thing is that this even applies to reusing the WF paper bags that the store supplies for free. For me ,this is a weekly saving of about 70 cents to $1. It is also a great way to avoid having mountains and mountains of brown paper bags erupting from the space between my dryer and the wall where I store my bags. I know this isn't much but over one year that amounts to $52 which is an extra $52 into the kiddo college fund. (Assuming it makes it there of course). I recommend just emptying the groceries and then putting the flattened stack of bags in the back of the car, so you don't have to worry about remembering them.

  • Skip the pre-made food altogether. I know it is beautiful but that nearly one-third of most WF is the devil if you are on a budget. Just close your eyes and walk away really really fast.

  • Shop in season. This is a universal grocery tip. Produce tastes better and is cheaper when it is season.

  • Buy the house brand and know that 365 is typically less expensive than the Whole Foods label. But the 365 brand isn't always organic so pay close attention if that is important to you. Also, Whole Kitchen (the Whole Foods brand name for many items) tends to be a smaller amount of food in a similar sized package so you may want to compare beyond just the price.

  • Sometimes it pays to shell out an extra 40 cents. There are some house brand items that in my humble opinion are not worth the saved pennies. If an item ends up in the trash can because no one in the house will touch it, it doesn't really matter if it was 40 cents less than the tasty competition. A few examples of rejected Whole Food knock-offs include: Knock-offs of Stacy's Pita Chips (WAY WAY WAY to much salt on those suckers and let it be known that Sizzles licks salt straight out of her hand), Whole Foods fig bars (okay if you haven't had Fig Newman's recently then these beige little stinkers will suffice. If your kids eat Fig Newton's or Fig Newman's on a regular basis I doubt the Whole Food fig bars will cut it), Whole Foods knock-off cheetos (I don't eat this kind of thing often but I will say, dude, these are just gross and just try not to purchase them. Ever.)

So there you go, a couple of tips to start you on your way. Go forth and pinch those pennies for the greater good!

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