How to Save Money at Whole Foods – 6 Shopping Tips

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Does Whole Foods Market really deserve the nickname “Whole Paycheck?” 

Maybe not. 

The store does have a reputation for selling overpriced specialty foods (like a $6 bottle of “asparagus water”). But it’s also possible to get some fantastic deals if you know what to buy, what to skip, and where to look for money-saving opportunities.

How to Save Money at Whole Foods

You know the drill for saving money on groceries. Don’t go grocery shopping while hungry, make a meal plan before you go, and bring a grocery list with you. But that’s not always enough at Whole Foods.

But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it. Just arm yourself with these Whole Foods savings strategies to get the Whole Foods goods you crave with a lower price tag.

1. Sign up for Amazon Prime

Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017. Since that purchase, a few things have changed about the Whole Foods shopping experience. 

You can still get organic veggies, fancy cheese, and prime cuts of meat. But now, you can get all those things with the discount that comes with your Prime membership. 

Prime members get an extra 10% off sale items. For example, if a product that’s normally $6 is marked down to $5, as a Prime member, you’d only pay $4.50. These deals are labeled with a little yellow tag that reads, “extra 10% off sale.” Whole Foods also lists sale products on its website. 

You can also find special Prime member-only deals on seasonal goods like strawberries or squash. A little blue label reading, “Prime member deal,” alerts you to those. That label means non-Prime members pay regular price while you get the deal. 

To get your discount, Prime members can shop through the Amazon website for two-hour delivery and free one-hour grocery pickup. In-store, you can select the deals you want from the Whole Foods app, which will generate a code you can use at checkout. Or you can just give the cashier your phone number.

2. Get an Amazon Visa Credit Card

If you shop at Whole Foods or Amazon frequently, it’s probably worth your time to sign up for the Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. You get 5% cash back when you shop at Whole Foods. 

But you can also use it at any merchant that accepts Visa. The card gives you 1% cash back at most places, with 2% back when you use it at drugstores, restaurants, or gas stations. The card doesn’t have an annual fee but does require a Prime membership.

If you’re not a Prime member, opt for the regular Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card and enjoy 3% cash back at Whole Foods. The Amazon Rewards card also gives you 1% cash back at most merchants or 2% back at drugstores, restaurants, and gas stations. There’s no annual fee for this card, either.

2. Shop the Weekly Sales

Despite its “Whole Paycheck” reputation, Whole Foods actually has pretty impressive sales, especially if buying organic, free-range, or sustainably raised food is important to you. 

Many sale products are already on the expensive side, such as shrimp and animal welfare-certified sirloin. But if that’s what you’re looking for, Whole Foods’ sale prices often can’t be beat (even on less sustainable food elsewhere). And you may not find such high quality at a regular grocery store, anyway. 

When meal planning or making your shopping list, check out the sales flyer on their website for inspiration. Even if you don’t typically eat such expensive food on a random weeknight, you can find deals for special meals like birthday dinners or date night.

The sales flyer is also available on the Whole Foods app, making it easy to add discounted products to your list for the week. 

You can also find Whole Foods’ sales flyers on Flipp, an app that aggregates sales flyers for multiple stores and makes planning your shopping list from them a breeze. That way, you can compare Whole Foods’ sales to other stores’ prices in a single place.

3. Use Coupons

You can use manufacturer coupons at Whole Foods, despite what the rumors say. The store happily takes coupons for branded products. 

It also occasionally offers its own coupons or deals, such as $10 off a purchase of $50. Usually, the deals are specific to local stores and aren’t available at every location.

You may be able to practice some form of extreme couponing at Whole Foods. For example, you can combine a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon for an even bigger discount.

4. Shop the Bulk Section

Buying in bulk at Whole Foods is different from buying in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco. You’re not going to walk out of the supermarket with a 10-gallon jug of mayonnaise or 5-pound barrel of pretzels.

The bulk section at Whole Foods consists of rows of bins full of dried pantry goods, such as grains, beans, and nuts. Each bin has a code and a price by weight. You can buy as much or as little as you want. 

If you need a handful of nuts to dress up a salad, you can fill a plastic or paper bag with the exact amount you need. You can even bring your own reusable bulk bags to further cut down on waste. Write the SKU or product number on the tag or bag, then take it to checkout so the cashier can weigh it when you finish shopping. 

Along with letting you buy only what you need, helping you reduce waste, bulk bin products tend to be a little cheaper than their packaged counterparts. 

But compare prices to be sure. Look at the per-ounce or per-pound price of a bag of rice, nuts, or beans, then look at how much the same food costs in the bulk section. 

5. Buy Everyday Value Products

Whole Foods has its own brand, 365 Everyday Value. The store’s label sells pretty much everything, including both staples and treats. For example, products include olive oil, grains, cereal, milk, beans, and ice cream. 

The store’s private-label products are pretty good and usually cost less, sometimes substantially so, than branded products. 

6. Bring Your Own Bags

Whole Foods has a bag refund policy that gives you $0.05 or $0.10 back (it varies by store) when you bring your own reusable bags. 

The bring-your-own-bag policy isn’t going to make you rich, but it is a nice incentive to remember to take a few reusable bags with you when you go to the store. Plus, every cent adds up.

Besides, some cities and states now have bag bans, meaning you have to pay to get a paper or plastic bag if you don’t bring your own. While each state’s or municipality’s bag fee is minuscule — for example, $0.10 or $0.25 — it adds up if you forget your bags every time you shop.


Final Word

Even before Amazon introduced Prime member savings and deals at Whole Foods, it was possible to shop at the natural foods store without going broke.

The store’s private label and bulk bin section in particular make it easy to save money on pantry basics without a Prime membership. Plus, advice for saving money at any grocery store also applies to Whole Foods.

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7 Online Shopping Hacks to Save Money

There’s no question that shopping online is more convenient than shopping in-store, but sometimes you pay for that convenience in the form of shipping charges. With the holidays coming up, that cost difference can add up fast.

Thankfully, you can make up that difference by taking advantage of some tried-and-true online shopping hacks. Here are some of our favorite ways to save money when shopping online.

Download Money-Saving Browser Extensions

Rakuten, Capital One Shopping and Honey are some of the most popular browser extensions for saving money online. There are two ways that browser extensions can help: offering cash back on purchases and providing special coupon codes to save you money at checkout.

Capital One Shopping provides cash back, coupon codes and even shows if you’re getting a good deal on an item. If not, the extension will show where you can find a cheaper version.

When you download these browser extensions, they’ll pop up every time you visit an eligible site. For example, if you go to Target.com through the Rakuten extension, you can earn 1% cash back on your purchase in select categories.

Not every retailer provides cash back with these extensions, and some may have limits on which categories you can earn rewards with. For example, you often can’t receive cash back on electronics, toys or video games.

Different browser extensions may offer different rewards. For example, if you visit Walmart.com through the Capital One Shopping tool, you may receive 2% cash back in certain categories. But if you visit Walmart.com through the Rakuten extension, you’ll only earn 1% cash back.

That’s why it pays to download all three browser extensions and compare the various deals.

Pro-tip: Set up a holiday spending goal in the Mint app to help you stay on track.

Sign Up for Retailer Emails

Most online retailers offer a special welcome discount when you sign up for company emails, usually ranging from 10% to 20%. Visit the retailer website and wait for a pop-up that asks you to input your email address.

If you’re already an email subscriber to the retailer in question, search through your emails to see if you’ve received a coupon code recently. Check both your spam and trash folders since promotional emails often wind up there.

Abandon Your Cart

If you’ve ever put an item in your shopping cart and not checked out, you may have gotten an email for a special discount code. Many retailers will automatically send out these emails when the customer has abandoned their cart to entice them to complete the purchase.

Use this strategy to your advantage. Visit the retailer’s website, add the items to your cart and exit the browser. Within a day or two, you should receive an email reminding you about the purchase with an extra discount offer.

Not all retailers will provide a coupon if you abandon your cart, and an item in high demand may be sold out before you get the email. Still, it’s worth trying to see if you can snag a better deal.

Cash In Rewards Points

If you’re like some cardholders, you probably have credit card rewards points that you couldn’t redeem for travel purchases in 2020 and 2021. Instead of hoarding them for your next trip, redeem them for a digital gift card to use on purchases right now.

Cashing out for a gift card usually isn’t the most efficient way to use points, but it is a great strategy to save money on online purchases.

Reach Out via Social Media

If you’ve tried all the tricks mentioned above and still can’t find a discount, contact the company on social media. Twitter is usually the preferred method, but you can also try a private message on Facebook or Instagram.

Be polite, friendly and mention how you want to see if there’s a special sale or coupon. Not every company will respond with a discount code, but it only takes a few minutes to try.

Once, I posted a tweet about dying my hair purple using a specific at-home product. I received a discount code from its competitor in just a few hours.

Use a Rewards Credit Card

Many credit cards offer extra cash-back when you shop at participating retailers, usually ranging from 1% to 5%. For example, the Discover it® Cash Back card provides 5% cash back when you shop at Amazon.com.

Most cards provide a fixed cash-back percentage at all times, with special categories that earn an extra percentage. These categories often rotate every quarter.

The rewards may be given as a statement credit, miles you can redeem for travel or points you can use for digital gift cards. These cash-back rewards can be added on top of the browser extension or discount code.

Getting a new card in the mail can take up to two weeks, so apply soon if you want to earn rewards in time to buy holiday presents.

New cardholders may even qualify for an extra sign-up bonus, like $200 when spending $1,000 or 50,000 bonus points.

Follow Influencers on Social Media

Your favorite influencers will often post special discount codes that are only available through them. Follow influencers who shop at similar stores and check their Instagram stories daily to see if they’ve posted a code.

Search for hashtags related to the retailer you’re interested in to find influencers who provide special codes.

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