1. Local produce
I love fresh produce—especially when I know that I’m buying items that have been farmed locally—and Whole Foods is one of the best places to get it. Whole Foods often features produce that has been sourced locally and, because it doesn’t travel very far, often costs less. While checking out the produce department at Whole Foods, watch for the red signs that they typically use to highlight local items. To save even more, be sure to "like" your local Whole Foods Market on Facebook, where they often post flash sales or specials going on in the store. Last week my local store posted a one-day sale on one-pound packages of organic strawberries for $1.99, which were on sale at Sprouts for $2.98! Whole Foods also recently had organic local peaches priced at $2.49 a pound, which were $3.49 per pound at Safeway. They also had organic carrots priced at $1.29—79 cents less than Target!
2. Fish and seafood
Whole Foods’ standards for seafood are some of the toughest in the industry. The company proudly boasts that their seafood will never contain antibiotics or added growth hormones and that there are no land animal by-products in the feed. In addition, all farms must pass an annual third-party audit before they buy their fish. In addition to the strict quality standards they place on their seafood, their team members are trained extensively and can offer recipes and cooking tips. Heck, they’ll even marinate your seafood for you while you shop! Although some of the items can be budget-busters, they often have great weekly specials. Just recently Whole Foods had fresh salmon priced at $5.99 per pound—while it was $9.99 at Sprouts and $6.99 at Kroger. Whole foods also occasionally offers select filets buy-one-get-one-free! To keep up to date with the latest sales, be sure to sign up for the Whole Foods Newsletter, which is filled with weekly sales, coupons, recipes and more.
3. Frozen treats
Frozen foods are definitely a mainstay in my house. I love ice cream and other frozen treats, and I always keep a few frozen meals or snacks on hand for when I’m in a rush. Just recently I discovered that Whole Foods sells their brand of organic frozen pancakes for $2.49, compared to the Eggo brand of frozen pancakes that I purchase at Tom Thumb for $2.99. Not only are they cheaper, but they’re also organic and GMO-free. Another item that I love to purchase at Whole Foods is their frozen pizza. Priced at $5, their pizzas are loaded with toppings and are a great deal compared to other frozen brands like Freschetta, which are $6.99 at Kroger and $6.49 at CPK. If you love trying new items, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store in their frozen food aisles, which offer everything from Caramel Apple Blossoms to Gourmet Chicken Meatballs with Parmesan and Fennel to Vegetable Potstickers.
If you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur, the selection of beans at Whole Foods is sure to make you do a double take. In 1996, Whole Foods acquired Allegro Coffee Company and has since expanded the line to encompass a massive variety of coffees. They offer beans ranging from light Full City Roasts to extra dark French Roasts and everything in between! Whole Foods also prides themselves on sourcing their beans from over 25 different countries, and many beans come from family-run farms.
If you’re worried that the result is an overpriced, overrated cup of coffee, you’d be wrong. Allegro coffee, which is normally priced around $11 per bag, consistently comes up in the top-rated brands, and the Organic Breakfast Blend was even labeled the best ground coffee by Real Simple Magazine. However, don’t let the $11 price tag put you off—this coffee often comes up on sale for $7.99. To compare, Target’s private label coffee, Archer Farms, is priced at $9.99 and Gevalia coffee is priced at $8.99. To get the best deal, be sure to watch the Whole Foods weekly ad and grab the Whole Deal Value Guide to check for sales on coffee and many other items. This booklet, available in the store, usually contains more than $50 in coupons as well as additional money-saving tips, recipes and meal-planners.
5. 365 private label
If you’re worried about GMOs (genetically modified organisms), as many people are these days, Whole Foods makes it easy for you with their private label brand, 365. According to Whole Foods, all ingredients derived from plants are sourced to avoid GMOs, and hundreds of those products are verified by the Non-GMO Project for the products in their 365 Line.
In addition to their stance on GMOs, the company also keeps a list of "unacceptable ingredients" which will never appear in their line of products. Not only does the 365 line offer quality ingredients, but it also offers a great range of products at a good value. Last time I shopped at Whole Foods, I grabbed a box of the 365 brand cereal bars for $1.99—far less than the $3.69 I pay for Special K bars at CVS. Another great product from this line is the Chipotle Salsa. This salsa, priced at $3 for 16 ounces, is a favorite amongst Whole Foods shoppers. Other brands that compare are Amy’s, which is priced at $5.49 at Safeway and Tostitos Salsa, which is $3.99 (and only 15.5 ounces) at Kroger and most other grocers.
The products in the 365 line don’t just include shelf-stable products, but fresh items, as well. I always grab a package of their fresh feta cheese crumbles, priced at $3.99, as opposed to purchasing the Athenos brand at Tom Thumb for $4.49. Other products in the 365 line include ice cream, milk, yogurt, crackers, chips, pasta, salsa and so much more.
6. Bulk Foods
The bulk items at Whole Foods are some of the best buys in the store. Not only can you find an unbelievable assortment of goods, but in most cases, you’ll pay a lot less than if you purchased these items prepackaged. In this department you’ll find all the items that you would expect to find such as nuts, seeds and beans, but also many items that you wouldn’t expect to see, like soup mixes, cereals, pastas, nut butters, herbs, coffees, teas, snacks, treats and more!
Last time I hit the bulk bins I snagged a pound of rolled oats for 99 cents, which is a full $2 less than the prepackaged Quaker brand at Kroger. I also grabbed couscous for $3.99 a pound. To get the same amount of the popular Near East brand, which comes prepackaged in 5.8 ounce boxes at Sprouts for $2.99, you would have to purchase 3 boxes and spend a total of $8.97! Be sure to take advantage of the great prices on herbs in the bulk bins, as well. You can pick dried cilantro for around $1.25 for .5 ounces, which is a steal compared to the $4.79 for a jar of McCormick brand at Kroger. Not only can you find some great deals in the bulk section, but you can purchase as much or as little as you like, which is great if you need a small amount of something or just love testing out new foods!