This is part of the storyCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home and inside.
Whole Foods has long been thought of as an overpriced supermarket by many. But times — and the national grocery business model — have changed. There’s even an argument you could make.
Sound shocking? hear me
It wasn’t long before Whole Foods Market expanded nationally that the “Whole Paycheck” moniker took hold. (Urban Dictionary says it appeared in 2006.) Since it was one of the first chain organic grocery stores, it probably has at least a little bit to do with the sticker shock most Americans experience from the price hike from conventional to organic foods. Maybe Whole Foods’ attractive layout and deep selection can convince us to load our carts with more than we really need to. Maybe it’s just something that speaks to us consciously and says: Add to your cart.
But after doing price comparisons between Whole Foods and other organic and conventional grocers for certain products, I’m not so sure the Whole Paycheck moniker is appropriate. As you’ll find at any retailer, there are items that can be overpriced due to the additional costs associated with maintaining a store like Whole Foods, but there are values to be found here, too. By crunching the numbers, I’ve come up with a few strategies that show you how shopping at Whole Foods can save you money.
For more, check out CNET’s top picksand the best places to buy and Online in 2022.
Editor’s note: The special prices shown below were obtained online in New York City through Whole Foods Market via Amazon, and comparable prices were found using various local grocery stores including Wegmans, Stop & Shop, Key Foods and ShopRite via Instacart. Other national retail prices, such as Target, were obtained through their websites.
Get the Amazon Prime discount
, creating an online ordering system for store pickup and even offering delivery in certain areas. Along with the convenience of buying groceries online, Amazon has also passed on some savings to Prime members. By downloading and you can get an extra 10% off sale prices at Whole Foods by combining your Amazon Prime account. This doesn’t just apply when you’re shopping online — there’s an Amazon Prime barcode to scan at checkout in-store. In addition, Whole Foods has even deeper discounts on groceries during Prime Days, with special weekly deals just for Prime members and savings of up to 50% on select items. (This year, Whole Foods had Prime Day sales from July 6th to July 12th). If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account yet, you can .
A little math: As of this writing, a prime example of the in-store sale available at Whole Foods is grass-fed boneless beef New York strip steak for $14 per pound — $12.60 per pound with an Amazon Prime discount. Compared to $24 per pound for the same quality steak elsewhere, that’s a potentially huge savings on your summer meals. Looking for sale items is a good strategy; Even better with the Prime discount.
Whole Foods also sells regular groceries, but it’s a good place to buy organic. You can even get organic groceries under the 365 store brand by Whole Foods Market. While organic foods are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts—whether at Whole Foods or elsewhere—you’ll generally pay less for organic foods at Whole Foods than you would for the same organic products at conventional markets. If you’re interested in eating only or mostly organic foods, you’re already shopping at Whole Foods, but let’s make sure you’re making healthy, mathematical choices.
A little math: Organic grapes currently retail for $3 per pound ($2.70 with Amazon Prime discount) in my area (see editor’s note above), compared to $5 per pound at Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Lincoln Markets and other grocery stores. I also compared the price of organic broccoli at Whole Foods and the competition. It cost $3.49, cheaper than a pound of organic broccoli at Whole Foods Aldi ($3.65), Brooklyn Harvest ($8.09), Stop and Shop ($5) or any other option that populates Instacart.
At $3.69 per half gallon, 365 by Whole Foods Organic Milk alone might be worth a trip to Whole Foods. (Depending on how close you live to a Whole Foods, of course..) One of the countless benefits of organic milk compared to conventional milk is that organic milk stays fresh longer due to its natural preservatives, which are not affected by fertilizers or other chemicals.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, look at the expiration dates between conventional and organic milk brands. The case is closed. If you’re someone who saves milk for coffee or the occasional bowl of cereal, but has trouble using it all up before it turns sour, this might be an effective strategy for you. Not only do you save money on Whole Foods organic milk compared to other organic brands, but you also save money on milk by never going down the drain. Am I speaking from personal experience here? I. I don’t always bother with organic products, but milk is a definite exception. While you’re already in the dairy section at Whole Foods, you can also check out the great prices on organic eggs.
A little math: 365 by Whole Foods Organic Milk is $3.69 per half gallon, even when it’s not on sale. Try to find a lower price; I will wait. By comparison, other popular organic brands like Organic Valley, Horizon, and Stonyfield Organic tend to retail for $3 to $4 more per half gallon. Even specialty or generic brands like Full Circle, Wholesome Pantry, or even Good & Gather start at $4 a half gallon.
Know the top performers of the 365 brand
At 365 by Whole Foods Market, generic brands are just as common at Whole Foods as they are at regular grocery stores, making it the best savings anywhere you shop. Products labeled as 365 by Whole Foods will be cheaper than the same products with any other brand name attached. This is a good place to start when shopping at Whole Foods with a money-saving mindset, whether or not any particular 365 brand item is necessarily cheaper than the same generic items at other stores. (As noted above, milk is a notable exception.)
There are known ones, however, they “over deliver” for their price and are worth the few extra cents for the positive reviews and customer loyalty they inspire. Regardless of which list you want to refer to for this, a simple Google search for “top 365 brand products” will reveal several repeat contenders for the top few spots, notably organic almond and peanut butter, extra virgin olive oil, and riced cauliflower.
A little math: $8 for 33.8 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil, $11.79 for 16 ounces of creamy organic almond butter, and $2.39 for 12 ounces of organic riced cauliflower, all great values for great versions of these products.
Whole Foods has serious buying power when it comes to artisan cheese, but unlike many other large retailers, it has a cheese expert named Cathy Strange, head of the program. Different Whole Foods stocks different cheeses, depending on the stores’ relationships with local dairies. Because of the company’s buying power, it can offer prices on artisanal and other gourmet products that smaller, specialty stores often can’t match. While “buying gourmet” isn’t necessarily a money-saving strategy, when it comes to entertaining or your other cheese plate needs, it’s good to know where to get good cheese for a little less.
Whole Foods not only has a great selection, but the best prices. Since it’s never too late to start planning your winter vacation, especially with inflation at the current level, watch this space for information on Whole Foods’ annual data.campaign in December with up to 50% discount on 12 different cheeses for the season.
A little math: For example, Parmigiano Reggiano is a cheese with strict DOP regulations, which means that the quality of the cheese bearing this name is guaranteed. It’s a steal compared to $21 a pound at Whole Foods and $24 and up at other retailers. Other world-class cheeses available at Whole Foods are typically $2 to $3 less per pound than those available at specialty cheese markets or even online gourmet retailers.