23 Money-Saving Secrets Every Whole Foods Shopper Needs to Know
Whole Foods gives you the option to feed your family healthy food produced in a way you can feel good about.
And Amazon’s recent buyout announcement makes us think that food could come a whole lot cheaper someday soon.
But in the meantime… the chain’s prices still make you want to walk down the street to the discount chain and forget all about the contents of your food.
How has anyone been able to afford groceries at Whole Foods all along?
Well, they know the secrets.
How to Save Money at Whole Foods
There are tons of little ways to save money at Whole Foods — without Amazon’s price magic. You just have to know how to take advantage of them.
We’ve pulled together the best tips from Whole Foods insiders and our personal experience to help you save money on the healthy food you really want.
1. Buy Discounted Gift Cards
To cut your costs every time you shop, buy Whole Foods gift cards online.
You can get them for less than face value through gift card exchange sites like Raise.
Buy a gift card before your weekly shopping trip, and you could save around 2% on all your groceries!
2. Use a Cash-Back App
While coupons often help you save money on carbo-loaded brands and packaged foods, rebate apps can help you save on your staples.
Every time you shop, take a picture of your receipt with a free cash-back app like Ibotta to find deals on non-name-brand items like bread, fruit or milk.
If you can, check the app before you shop, and plan your purchases around available Whole Foods deals.
When you get home, submit your receipt and look for the money to appear in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. You can cash out for gift cards or a PayPal payment you can transfer to your bank account.
Sign up through this link and you’ll score a free $5.
3. Download the Whole Foods App
Download the Whole Foods app for iOS or Android to get free coupons and recipes.
You can also keep your shopping list in the app and even order groceries for delivery by Instacart.
Be sure to scan your app’s barcode at the register to automatically add any applicable coupons.
4. Subscribe to the Newsletter
Tons of stores offer deals and freebies when you share your email address.
Enter your email and location to receive weekly Whole Foods coupons, recipes and tips in your inbox.
5. Find Manufacturer Coupons
In addition to the store coupons, look for manufacturer coupons for items on your list.
These are awesome — and you can usually stack them with in-store sales and Whole Foods coupons.
Here are 100 places to find free coupons for everything on your list. If you’re shopping online to pick up in-store (see #21), here’s where to find coupon codes online.
Looking for savings on healthier choices? Try these secret places to find coupons for fresh fruits and veggies.
6. Follow Your Local Store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Businesses share some of their best deals on social media before anyone else hears about them.
Stay up to date with Whole Foods deals by following your local store.
Choose your store here to find links to its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
7. Check out the Whole Foods Sales Days
Saving money at Whole Foods might simply be a matter of knowing when to shop.
New weekly sales start on Wednesdays, so you’re bound to find the most available deals then.
Whole Foods also runs weekly Friday One-Day Sales on select items. These are usually advertised a few weeks in advance, and you can call your local store to find out what’s coming up.
Keep an eye out for sales, and plan your shopping list accordingly!
8. Bring Your Own Bags
Like many grocery stores, Whole Foods offers a discount when you use your own bag and save the plastic or paper.
Bring lots of them! Depending on your store, you’ll receive a 5- to 10-cent discount per bag, so come prepared.
9. Bring Your Own Containers
When you buy in bulk, you’ll pay for the weight of the plastic container that holds your goods.
It’s intentionally pretty light, but you could always shave off just a little more.
Bring your own jar or plastic container, have it weighed before you fill it, and you’ll only pay for the weight of the contents.
10. Compare Prices
Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand is intended to be the chain’s affordable option.
Keep an eye out for it, but compare it with other brands to make sure you get the best deal.
11. Look for Unadvertised Sales
Not every sale item is mentioned in the flyer, so keep your eyes peeled for other ways to save money at Whole Foods!
Scan the shelves for yellow and red tags, which indicate a Whole Foods clearance item. You can save a lot on staples by stocking up when you find a good sale.
12. Try Before You Buy
The chain actually has a generous sample policy, a former Whole Foods employee says.
To cut down on waste, you can “try before you buy” to keep from buying something you won’t like.
Don’t be shy about asking to sample items like cheese, meat or chocolate. Employees can open the package for you and share the rest as samples with other customers.
13. Get a Whole Foods Punch Card
The Whole Foods punch card offers vary by store, so ask around at your location.
Some stores have punch cards for sandwiches, burritos, salads, sushi and coffee.
You may also find a punch card for $10 off after you spend $100 on 365 supplements.
Also keep an eye out for the Whole Foods Market Rewards program in your area. The pilot program is currently available only in some stores in the Philadelphia and Dallas/Fort Worth areas.
14. Buy in Bulk
Did you know you can buy most packaged items at Whole Foods by the case for 10% off?
The same goes for wine: Get a six-pack to save 10 to 20%.
Some locations also offer discounts on bulk meat purchases when you buy more than three pounds. Stock up, and freeze it!
If you’re looking for particular spices for a single recipe, buy what you need from the bulk section instead of buying a whole jar and storing it.
15. Buy Produce at the Salad Bar
If you’re buying small amounts of produce, check the salad bar before the produce section.
You might be able to find what you need cheaper there, and you won’t have to worry about buying more than you’ll use.
16. Choose Your Own Cheese
You don’t have to settle for the pre-weighed and wrapped cheeses in the case.
For cheeses wrapped and labeled by Whole Foods, ask an employee to split and rewrap the wedge — you’ll save money and only take home what you need.
17. Buy Frozen Meats and Fish
Unless you live near a body of water, the fish at any local grocery store has almost certainly been frozen in transit.
Even when it’s thawed and sold in-store as “fresh,” you’re still buying frozen fish — and paying more for it. Plan ahead, and buy your meat and fish frozen to save money.
18. Return Glass Milk Containers
Do you cringe when you see the price of organic, non-homogenized, grass-fed or whatever kinds of milk come in the glass jug?
You might be missing out on huge savings if you’re just recycling the jug. The price has a built-in deposit for the jug — as much as $3.
Keep your jugs, and return them on your next trip to the store for a deposit refund. Consider it $3 off your next jug of milk.
19. Take Advantage of Whole Foods Kids’ Club
It seems to be a well-kept secret that many grocery stores offer a free treat for kids.
When you shop with the kiddos at Whole Foods, stop by customer service for a Kids’ Club Coupon for a complimentary organic apple, fruit leather or package of natural animal crackers.
20. Shop Whole Foods Online
Even when you’re buying groceries, we recommend shopping online, because it allows you to use a cash-back site and earn rewards for your purchase.
Use Cashbackholic to determine which cash-back site’s offering the best deal. Then shop Whole Foods online through the portal, and pick up your order in the store for free shipping.
21. Find Whole Foods Coupons Online
Before you head to your local store, check the website for Whole Foods coupons. They’re easy to find!
Just go to WholeFoods.com/coupons, and select your location to find current sales and printable coupons.
22. Grab the Store Flyer
On your way into the store, pick up a copy of The Whole Deal, the store’s weekly sales flyer. It’s full of advertised deals and coupons from manufacturers and Whole Foods’ own 365 brand.
You can also print the flyer yourself each week — download it here.
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).