I launched a new feature here at KOAB a few weeks ago – Whole Foods Deals. I know that sometimes Whole Foods gets a bad rap in the frugal world. My own father – who actually shops at Whole Foods – jokingly refers to it as “Whole Paycheck”.
And yes, a lot of the products sold at Whole Foods are more expensive than the same (or comparable) products available at Walmart, Target or even your local grocery store.
But in my experience, you can actually get some killer bargains at Whole Foods – savings of as much as 70% or more off the shelf price on kosher, organic food.
If you want to be able to enjoy shopping at Whole Foods without handing over your whole paycheck, here are my best tips to ensure savings success:
1. Adjust to the fact that there is no national policy.
The first thing you need to know about saving money at Whole Foods is that just about everything I say comes with the caveat of “your mileage may vary”. That’s because there is no national coupon policy at Whole Foods.
For example, most stores allow stacking of store and manufacturer coupons, but some still don’t. This can be very frustrating for couponers, who want a cut-and-dry shopping experience. To cope with this, I recommend three things:
(1) Stop by customer service to clarify your store’s coupon policy – this will help avoid a lot of frustration off the bat. Once you know the policy, you can develop your game plan.
(2) If the store’s policy isn’t as “coupon friendly” as you want it to be, let the manager know that you would be happy to shop at Whole Foods more frequently if they had policies that were more conducive to coupon usage.
(3) Again, if your store’s policy isn’t what you’d like it to be, consider sending an email to Whole Foods Corporate.
2. Get the case discount.
You know I’m a big proponent of stocking up on the products that your family uses when they are at their rock bottom price. Well, Whole Foods makes stockpiling even easier by offering a 10% case discount.
In most cases, a case = 12 like items. Buy 12 cans of beans and automatically save 10%. If those beans are on sale, and you use coupons, voila! Your savings are even sweeter.
To figure out how many items equals a case, check the price tag hanging on the shelf. Under the UPC code is a string of numbers – then there will be one or two numbers apart for that, ranging from 5- 20. This is the case unit. As I said, most cases are twelve, but this is a good double check.
Some stores, like mine, require that all items be the same “flavor”. In other words, if you buy a case of Stonyfield yogurt, all of them have to be vanilla. You can’t mix and match vanilla, plain and chocolate. Other stores are more flexible. Again, this is something that you can clarify with customer service.
Finally, when you are checking out, be sure to tell the cashier that you have a case, since he or she will have to manually input that information – the computers (at least in my experience) aren’t coded to recognize it as a case.
3. Use Whole Foods store coupons.
The Whole Deal is the primary source for Whole Foods store coupons. It is a bimonthly (meaning every other month) newsletter, which contains recipes, cooking tips and loads of store coupons. You can access The Whole Deal online or pick up a copy at your store. I usually find them in magazine racks between the cashiers and the exit doors. Occasionally, they have them right inside the front doors.
The newest issues of The Whole Deal come out on January 1, March 1, May 1, July 1, September 1, and November 1. But, here’s the kicker — the coupons run through the end of the next month. Meaning the coupons in the January 1 issue are good through March 31. But come March 1, you can no longer get the January 1 Whole Deal online nor at the stores.
So, what I recommend is that you pick up several copies (I usually take 12, so I’ve got enough coupons to stack with a case discount) and hold on to them until the coupons expire. I’ve noticed many times that items with Whole Deal coupons will go on sale during the one-month grey period – and if I’m fortunate enough to still have the coupons, I’m set.
You can also print off extra copies of the coupons online before the new Whole Deal is released – but I prefer to save the ink if I can.
To make my life easier, I just file the newsletters in my no-clip coupon filing system. I have one hanging file folder just for Whole Deal.
The biweekly (meaning every other week) Whole Foods sales flyer may also have a few store coupons attached to it – so be sure to check it as well.
If your store allows you to stack manufacturer coupons with store coupons, these Whole Deal coupons will help you save a LOT of money!
4. Sign up to get email updates from your store.
If you go online to Whole Foods Market, you can find and select the store nearest you. Then you can sign up to get email updates from your store, which include the biweekly sales flyer and any one-day sale events.
Even though I post a weekly Whole Foods deal match-up, my sales are based on the Mountain Region. If you live anywhere else, your sales and prices may vary slightly. By signing up for the sales flyer, you can quickly find the best deals for your area.
5. Buy in bulk.
Many of the Whole Foods bulk items – such as lentils and dried beans – don’t require a hechsher and are priced very competitively. Often these go on sale, making your savings even greater. If you have proper storage, you can really save a lot by buying bulk in bulk.
6. Bring your own bags.
You should do this anyway – whether or not you are shopping at Whole Foods (says the woman who 9 times out of 10 forgets her bags in the car and has to go back for them). But at Whole Foods, it’s especially valuable, since you get $.10 back for every bag. Do a big shop and use 5 bags – that’s a coupon’s worth of savings right there!
Are you a Whole Foods shopper? What tips do you have to turn a shopping trip into a savings trip?