Welcome to the Real Whole Foods: A Former Employee Tells You How to Save Big

July 6, 2015 | By | Comments (34)
Whole Foods Plans To Be More Animal Friendly

Credit: Tim Boyle / Staff / Getty

I started working for Whole Foods Market in 2007. I worked off and on for the company at multiple stores throughout California until last year. I guess that you could say I just could not stay away. I shop there when I am working there, when I am not working there, when I am traveling … it’s my place. I feel at home even when I am at a store that I have never been to.

Whole Foods gets a bad rap among penny-pinching grocery shoppers. When I worked there, at least once a day, a customer would say, “You know what they call this place, right? Whole Paycheck.” This would normally be followed by some chuckle as if every team member in that store had never heard that before. We have.

The truth is, Whole Foods is like anything: It is what you make it. If you want to spend $12 on almond butter and $60 on essential oils, then yes, you will be paying quite a bit of money. The problem is not the cost of items at Whole Foods. The reason that you spend so much at Whole Foods is because you have so many options to choose from that you could spend your whole paycheck there, and some people do—if they aren’t prepared.


Credit: Betsie Van Der Meer

It is possible to be frugal and buy quality foods for yourself and your family. When I shop there, I have a strict grocery budget: $20–$25 for a week’s worth of groceries.

So, how do you get started? Let me give you some ideas.

First of all, look for sales. They are everywhere! Here are the five easiest ways to get started saving money at Whole Foods.

1) Whole Deal—Grab a Whole Deal book when you come in the store. These coupon books are normally by the front door and Customer Service. Not only will there be manufacturer coupons, but you can get 365 (the Whole Foods Market brand) coupons there as well. From meat to Whole Body products, you can always find great deals with Whole Deal. You can also print out Whole Deal coupons from your local store at wholefoodsmarket.com.

In addition to that, you can bring other manufacturer coupons with you on your shopping trip. Double check what store rules apply because most stores do not allow you to get money back from coupons. Also, make sure to give all of your coupons to your cashier before they start ringing up your items. It saves everyone time, especially you, and we know how busy you are!

2) Wednesday Sales—Wednesdays are when new sales begin. So, if you see yellow tags throughout the store, those are sale signs! Check them out.

Don’t need that item today but may want it later? You can  look in the lower left-hand corner or upper right-hand corner (depending on which region you are in) of the tag to see how long the sale will be running. Plan accordingly.

3) Friday One-Day Sales—These sales equal big savings, so make sure  you look at the One-Day Sale signs throughout the store and at the register. You can also call your local store or look online and see what the next sale will be. It’s often advertised a few weeks in advance. From wine to fish to produce, there is not much that the One-Day Sale has not touched.

4) Weekend Sales—The weekends are a great time to buy produce, prepared foods, and even meat and seafood. That’s the time when these items are marked down, so you can load up. Don’t forget to check the Whole Deal for additional discounts, especially in the produce department.

5) Case Discounts—When you buy a case of an item, you will get a 10% case discount if it is applicable to that product. The number of items that make up a case, whether it is 6 or 12, is determined by the manufacturer. (Everyday Deals—more on that later—and Specials do not qualify for case discounts.) Items such as grains, rice, and produce are available for case discounts when they are 15 pounds or more. Check with a team member from that food’s department before you make your way to the register. Again, it will save everyone time, and time is money!

My favorite of the case discounts is the wine discount. Whenever you buy six bottles or more of wine, you get 10% off. Also in the stores where I have worked, you get a free wine bag with your case purchase. Keep an eye out for wine sales because the discount increases to 20% from time to time.

Bonus: Kid’s Club—If you have kiddos, make sure to stop by Customer Service for a Kid’s Club treat. From a piece of fruit to juice boxes, there is always something for the little ones to nibble on. Oh, and if you ask Customer Service or your cashier if they have stickers, your little one might get another treat.

Bonus: Bring Your Own BagI’ve heard some folks claim that their Whole Foods store cuts 10 cents off their bill for each reusable bag they bring. I, however, have never worked in a store where that was true. I have only experienced 5-cent bag refunds. Check with your store to find out your discount. Every little bit adds up.

Even better: If you donate your bag credit instead of taking a credit (which does not affect your original bill at all), you are directly contributing to a local charity or community organization. These include animal shelters, after-school programs, and neighborhood community groups. It doesn’t save you money, but it does do some good for your community.

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  1. Drea

    So many people misunderstand the reason for shopping at Whole Foods. You shop there to get the products you cannot find elsewhere, such as, 100% grass finished meats, heritage and responsibly raised animals, pastured chicken, really fresh produce that will last 2 weeks if you aren’t able to use it the week you bought it, wild seafood, grass finished dairy, eggs, etc. If you can get these products from a local farmer, then by all means, go ahead, but I know, first hand, you have to join a co-op and it’s a pain in the butt to get your stuff. Been there, not doing that anymore. So many more choices at WFM. I’ve been shopping there since 2000, but not exclusively. I do Trader Joe’s, and a local Supermarket depending on what I am getting. I won’t buy meat and leafy produce elsewhere. The produce never last from other stores and it is usually soggy and nasty in two days.

    September 25, 2016 at 10:46 am
  2. Julie

    Clearly this whole spot was done to push Canola Oil..how can you sleep at night spreading the lies that Canola Oil is as healthy for you as Olive oil…http://wisemindhealthybody.com/anya-v/cooking-canola-releases-toxic-cancer-causing-chemicals-type-oil/?c=sfm

    September 15, 2016 at 4:52 pm
  3. Jan Carter (@Rome_Adventure)

    Yes, there are so many choices. Ever grabbed an item from the top shelf? Watch all the dust fly off. Lots of items sit there for months and get covered in dust and grime even past their expiration. I’ll stick with Trader Joe’s!

    July 14, 2016 at 10:10 am
  4. Sandra

    Where is the PRINT BUTTON on this article??? It is a great article, but I want to print it (I’m very visual). There is every other option, but “print.”

    July 14, 2016 at 8:34 am
  5. Brenda

    Since they are supporting No Labeling of GMO foods with Monsanto, I think I shall
    shop somewhere else — even though I truly like them.

    July 11, 2016 at 4:31 pm
  6. michelle ferrer

    I enjoy shopping at Whole Foods. The quality is great, the staff very helpful and friendly, the selection wonderful. Organic items are pricey everywhere. WF carries items I can’t find in other stores, so I am a fan. I would say to the detractors if you can’t afford to shop there don’t. You can always find food someplace else. I don’t shop Whole Foods weekly, but ALWAYS shop there when I’m planning a special party or event. Keep up the good work WF! and Thank you.

    July 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm
  7. v Campisi

    What a laugh! If you want to see good prices check out the chain called Market Basket. They will make you want to move to be close to one. Another money saver is Aldi. WF is in the same fraud boat as the warehouse clubs. The ONLY time WF has bargains is the annual Xmas eve sale and even then you have to get there right when the doors open or the small quantities sell out. WF is a waste of real estate and doomed to failure. Use the coupon books? Ha! And if you live in Greater Boston see Fairfoods.org where you can get a giant bag of fresh produce for $2. as often as you want. If you don’t live near contact them anyway to see how you can start one in your area. Then. Do. It

    July 11, 2016 at 1:42 pm
  8. Dawn Beasly

    Really? The advice was to look for sales? What a waste of time reading this article.

    July 9, 2016 at 6:16 am
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  13. Jaynne

    Really interesting… But part five wouldn’t open

    August 2, 2015 at 1:22 am
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  15. Lynne

    I’m an ex WF person. I have a better tip. Shop someplace else. Every other large grocer has the exact same stuff for much cheaper. Also, the deli food is premade off site for the most part. Not Chef made. Sorry. They carry the same produce that WF carries but cheaper as well. You can also find comparable animal welfare standards elsewhere, and since the 5-star program is really just expensive marketing, chances are that the Kroger Amish chicken lived about as well as the free to roam around the barn “free range” chickens at WF. If concerned about seafood, check out the Monteray Aqiarium’s Seafood Watch rating before you shop. You are paying for the name, not the product when you shop at WF.

    July 26, 2015 at 4:06 pm
  16. Janet

    Some of the things they presents freshly made, like dips in the deli case are actually shipped in in plastic bags and squeezed into the refrigerated bins.

    July 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm
  17. Thrifty Guy

    Why does Whole Foods charge $2 more for a five pound bag of King Arthur All Purpose Flour than Target? It’s the same product! Get real, man!

    July 20, 2015 at 9:12 am
  18. Tracy

    Good grief, they’ve been sued for so many lies, I wouldn’t shop there on principal alone.
    Google “Whole Foods News”

    July 20, 2015 at 8:24 am
  19. donellacandra

    Not very illuminating. What we really need is for Whole Foods to actually care about providing healthy food to people and make things cheaper. I know there is no way that they need to charge as much as they do. Earth Fare (which I despise as a company, especially being an ex-employee and knowing about their practices with both food and employees) and Trader Joe’s are considerably cheaper. Even with coupons and sale dates, someone who makes less than $500 a month like I do could never afford to eat health especially couldn’t afford to shop at Whole Foods. They are just part of the whole deal to keep poor people eating unhealthy food. If they really cared, they would make it accessible to the average minimum wage worker. No wonder our country is so full of unhealthy people and the majority of people don’t care because they know outright, companies like Whole Foods price things outside of the average consumer’s budget. This is not a store for the average person, it is simply just another thing designed for the elite only they try to make it look like they’re a good thing.

    July 19, 2015 at 11:57 pm
  20. Mariaelena Guiller

    My comment is real ,I live in a fixed budget ,I’m71. I need to eat very healthy ,I drive an hour to find a Whole Foods ,in Marlton ,NJ or Cherry Hill ,wonderful. New store ,since I cook every meal and I live in the Atlantic County ,NJ,where my only option is Shoprite ,bad quality ,lack of respect for customers I feel frustrated ,therefore Whole Foods ,an hour away is my store ,I find 365 ,great brand loose oatmeal ,beans ,flour ,herbs ,first quality ,incredible prices ,I don’t live my check. Thanks to Whole Foods I can arrive to the end of the month. Big sales in Salmon ,chicken ,etc ,please Whole Foods come to the shores. We need you. Mariaelena Guiller

    July 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm
  21. Meh

    Nice commercial.

    July 16, 2015 at 9:47 pm
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  25. kgmom

    Beware – not all Friday deals are good for the whole day! Sometimes there are limited hours, very frustrating.

    July 12, 2015 at 10:46 pm
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  27. For Eat’s Sake

    Love this!! Thanks for the point of view. I’ve noticed that a lot of other markets around where I am are actually more expensive than Whole Foods, and I find myself doing the bulk of my shopping there now!

    And thank you for pointing out that WFM is what you make it – you truly can keep your budget down buying similar items that you would in a conventional market, or you can buy fair trade, free range goji berries, picked by shamans and dried during a solar eclipse. If that’s your thing.

    July 11, 2015 at 6:30 am
  28. Mike Moneysaver

    Or you can save 25-50% off the same products every day by shopping at Thrive Market: http://www.thrivemarket.com

    Easy!!! Way more savings and better mission!!!

    July 10, 2015 at 5:11 pm
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  31. pilotsandpugs

    In other words, look for sales and bring your kid (if you have one) for a free 20 cent apple or sticker? That’s how you get your budget to $20.00-$25.00 a week? Doesn’t add up. Another worthless article. Most people know what coupons are, and that sales happen.

    July 8, 2015 at 3:06 pm
  32. Bill Smith

    Don’t shop there. Too pretentious. Interesting read though.

    July 7, 2015 at 10:11 pm
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  34. Tracy Owen

    Great article, Amanda! Thanks for sharing your insider’s knowledge…and for letting me know NOT to crack that joke at checkout! 😉

    July 7, 2015 at 11:25 am

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