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Shopping at Whole Foods on a budget

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aspiring chef shane Nov 11, 2007 04:08 PM

I went to the new Whole Foods in pasadena today and was pretty shocked by most of the prices. It seems like i would have to be a plastic surgeon to be able to afford shopping there. Do any of you guys think its possible to shop at WF regulary on a budget?

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  1. c
    Cathy Nov 11, 2007 04:57 PM

    I only buy what is on sale or 365 brand stuff. I do the same at every grocery store, except of course Trader Joe's...where they don't have sales. It is kind of a game for me, to never pay full price for anything, But I could never do all my shopping at only one store.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cathy
      ArikaDawn Nov 11, 2007 06:51 PM

      I am glad I am not the only one who does my shopping at multiple stores. Typically, I will go to at least three. My SO gives me a hard time about this, saying the gas expense and time do not make it worth it, but just today I made a special stop at store on the way home from another grocer because they had Luna bars $.50 cheaper perbar than our regular grocer. That extra 10 minutes saved me $15 on a two week supply of Luna Bars. Definitely worth it IMO.

      Back to the original question, for me, it would be out of my budget to do all of my regular grocery shopping exclusively at WF, but I am able to regularly shop there for select items that are available only at WF. For instance, I love WF bulk section and regularly take advantage, but their deli is much more expensive than a deli located at another grocer I shop at, so I skip the deli when at WF.

      1. re: ArikaDawn
        danhole Nov 14, 2007 06:32 AM

        <Do any of you guys think its possible to shop at WF regulary on a budget?> Haha! I guess if you have a very big budget you could, but like Cathy and Arika I am a "Grocery Hound". I get my circulars out and compare prices, then make my list with a code for each store and the offered price. If I am at "A" store for avocados @ 5 for a $1, and planning to go to store "B" for chicken @ 69¢ per lb., but store "A" has the same thing, same brand for 59¢, I get it there.

        I also like the bulk items. I love pumpkin seeds, and get them raw, bring them home and roast them myself. I also like the cheeses, and sometimes I can get good deals on some of the spices. The 365 brands are usually competitive. It's really good to go on a weekend, so you can browse and taste the samples they have throughout the store. I have jokingly told my daughters that if they are ever broke and hungry go to WF on Sat. I also like the produce, and one of the big draws is they have things I can't always find at major chain stores. Also if you see something that you are unfamiliar with you can ask them for a taste of it, and they will oblige.

        If your grocery store has an organic section, you should look at it and compare the prices. There was one particular bread that I used to get at WF for a high price, but then found it at my favorite store for less, in the organic section.

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      CrazyOne Nov 11, 2007 06:26 PM

      It's pretty tough. We haven't been in a few months now, instead deciding we can except in rare cases get by with whatever we can get from Trader Joe's and increasingly a couple of small stores near us, and the supermarket chain as a last resort. Of course, it helped that we had our CSA delivery all summer and fall (this upcoming Friday is our last one, though) so we haven't had to buy too much additional produce since the end of May.

      Still, the trick is to check it out carefully and find the things that are decently priced. They have some loss leaders in there, or used to. In our case the Trader Joe's is nearby, and so is an outpost of the largest local grocer (Giant Eagle), so on certain items they price competitively. This went down to even pricing for example the one variety of Kiss My Face shower gel (yes, not food, but example of pricing) that TJ's carried actually lower than TJ's, although they continued to rip you off for any other variety. ;-) I buy cold cereal and remember that our WF had certain varieties at everyday lower prices than the regular supermarket and others would be on good sale occasionally. So the trick is to scope this out and limit yourself to stuff that can't be found elsewhere or is actually at a competitive price. If WF is significantly more convenient for you, you can allow yourself a bit more by figuring in the gas and time spent getting to the cheaper but less convenient places.

      One other big reason we stopped going to WF (which we used to do after almost every TJ's run) is that we had a habit of making a run at the prepared foods area and couldn't get out of there without dropping at least 20 bucks just on that. We had to curtail that particularly, and the easiest way is to just not go. Since the last time we went to WF, we haven't actually needed anything we couldn't get elsewhere.

      3 Replies
      1. re: CrazyOne
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        dishchrista Nov 12, 2007 08:05 AM

        I quit shopping at WF when the traffic became too narly to handle, but I always shop on a budget and I relied on them for bulk items [nuts, flours, noodles, rice, honey] and 365 label staples like canned tomatoes, oils and nut butters. They had a nice selection of canned fish that was more expensive than what I could find locally but the quality made up for the difference. I remember their spices as being quite overpriced, I get organic vanilla on eBay for a fraction of what they charge. But in the produce section they had live basil plants for just a few dollars, much cheaper than Krogers and Albertson's little bitty containers of herbs. Bottom line, stay away from prepared foods.

        1. re: dishchrista
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          aspiring chef shane Nov 12, 2007 05:21 PM

          Thanks for the advice, especially about the organic vanilla on eBay,

          1. re: aspiring chef shane
            d
            dishchrista Nov 13, 2007 08:44 AM

            I should have said organic vanilla beans. Pop them in a bottle of vodka and wait a month for extract.

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        odkaty Nov 12, 2007 07:14 PM

        I shop at Whole Foods weekly and rarely spend over $40. I buy vegetables, cheese, bread and the occasional specialty item (rice paper, tamarind paste).

        I spend an equal amount weekly in the summer at the farmer's market. While I would rather spend that money locally, I need vegetables in the winter too!

        1. coney with everything Nov 13, 2007 04:57 AM

          They don't call it Whole Paycheck for nothin!

          I make a run about once a month. Like the others, I look for sales and 365 brand, and I know my prices pretty well, especially those items that are also available at Trader Joe's.There are a few things that they have that are difficult to find elsewhere so I stock up when I get there. I allow myself one "indulgence" and get out under $50 (usually).

          1 Reply
          1. re: coney with everything
            MMRuth Nov 13, 2007 08:49 AM

            That's what we do too - I like their 365 brand Italian sparkling water, olive oil, some canned beans - and at least in Manhattan, their prices on dairy items are very good. I also like to buy boneless chicken thighs there, because I rarely see them elsewhere.

          2. wleatherette Nov 15, 2007 06:49 AM

            as everyone has said, if you're careful then you can actually do very well at whole foods. i buy a lot of their own-brand 365 items (pasta, sauces, canned fish, nut butters, cereal, frozen veg, etc), which are just as good or better than most competing brands and also generally much cheaper. i don't buy much produce or meat/seafood, though like MMRuth says, their dairy section is very competitive for nyc. milk, butter, eggs, yogurt - all are a better value (even organic/free range) than at any other supermarket.

            1. stellamystar Nov 15, 2007 10:01 AM

              Bulk items - yes (especially quinoa)

              the Amy's frozen line is cheaper at Whole Foods and so are there Whole Foods frozen brands comparable to any other stores. I get organic milk there also.

              But, a lot of the nicer grocers carry these items now, so it's not worth a different trip.

              I am also one of those people - I will buy at Aldi's so I can splurge on really good meat or cheese at the nice market. or go to Dean and Deluca..

              1 Reply
              1. re: stellamystar
                drmimi Nov 18, 2007 08:59 PM

                Okay for Bulk items, 365 brands. Sale items and using the coupons help.... but Stay away from the bakery, deli and meat counter--- money will just fly out of your wallet...Whole Foods is a "treat store" not a regular store for me. Lucky to have a local chain grocery store with similar items more competitively priced than WF and at times Trader Joes. It is also three blocks from home so the gas savings helps:)

              2. l
                linsue Nov 17, 2007 11:49 AM

                no way. i am an impulse shopper and I buy delicious bottled chcolate milk ($3.99) and some of the prepared foods (expensive and not very good-I don't seem to learn) and cakes expensive and also not very good(although the tira misu is excellent). meat is good fish is not very fresh. I now avoid the shopping center where they are located.

                1. zorra Nov 18, 2007 06:55 PM

                  It would be difficult to do most of your regular shopping there and stay on a budget. But now that all of our local supermarkets (finally) have bulk departments, I have found to my surprise that WF has, not only the best selection, but also the lowest prices on some bulk items (my husband eats a lot of granola).

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