• Shopping Sales & Using Coupons at Whole Foods {Week 5}

    March 25, 2014

    Ok, here we go! Week 5 of my grocery budget experiment!

    This week I was all about shopping sales and using coupons at Whole Foods to guide my meal planning for the week. I ended up shopping the in-store sales like it was my job, but I only used one coupon. Even still, I came in well under budget. (Well, technically, we don’t have a grocery budget, but anything under $100 per week is a win in my book!)

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    Here are some ways to get coupons and find out about sales at Whole Foods:

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    Here is this week’s shopping, which includes breakfasts, lunches, a few green juices, and dinners:

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    Total: $78.48

    Not bad, right? I’m pretty pumped about this week’s bottom line. I definitely think it has to do with smart meal planning and shopping in-store sales.

    A few tips and tricks from this week:

    • Incorporating on-hand ingredients into meals: I mentioned this tip in my Assess Your Kitchen post, but I often build my meals around what is already in my kitchen instead of buying more ingredients. For instance, I bought ground chorizo at Stop & Shop last week, so I incorporated that into a meal this week.
    • Eat from your pantry or freezer (at least) once a week. Similar to the tip above, I try to create at least one meal each week using ingredients from our pantry and/or freezer. It’s a great way to save a few bucks and use up food before it goes bad or becomes freezer burned. We had frozen Brussels sprouts with chicken salad wraps for dinner last night and, later in the week, Trader Joe’s French fries (from our freezer) with burgers are on the menu.
    • Stick to your list. You’ve probably heard this one a million times before, but it’s important. Once I make my grocery list for week, I really try stick to it unless our favorite items are on sale (i.e. Annie’s Mac & Cheese). Otherwise, I end up with all sorts of random and often fun foods in my cart.
    • Nix “fancy” ingredients. Unless I’m making a fancy meal or trying to impress guests, I only buy the really essential ingredients for a recipe. So, often times, ingredients like fresh herbs or fancy oils get nixed from my cooking. (I’ll typically use dried herbs or regular ol’ olive oil to save a few bucks.) I also make a lot of substitutions with whatever ingredients I have around the house. For example, this week, I’m planning to make a pasta recipe that calls for broccoli rabe, but I’m going to use regular broccoli instead.
    • Use the same ingredients in multiple meals. Instead of buying all sorts of ingredients to make a variety of different dinners throughout the week, I typically stick to meals in the same “family.” For example, this week I bought chicken breasts and brown rice tortillas—both of which will be used in two different meals (+ lunch leftovers). That way, I save money, cooking time, and the foods will likely all get eaten up. I change up the kinds of foods I buy from week-to-week, so I don’t get bored eating the same things over and over again.
    • Buy and cook extra for lunches. Mal pretty much takes leftovers from dinner for lunch during the week, so I always buy and cook a little extra food. It makes planning lunches a piece of cake and helps us save money since we’re not cooking multiple meals or spending money to buy lunch everyday.

    This week’s meal plan:

    Sunday prep:

    • Homemade granola
    • Hardboiled eggs
    • Chicken breast (for Sunday and Monday’s meals)

    Question of the Day

    What is your #1 tip/trick for saving money on groceries? 

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    { 48 comments… read them below or add one }

    Katie @ Peace Love and Oats March 25, 2014 at 9:00 am

    I read on another blog as well that you can shop all at Whole Foods if you do it correctly – this definitely proves it true! I also nix inessential ingredients and I almost always make a big crock lot meal for all of my lunches during the week. Those are great because they usually incorporate inexpensive ingredients like dried beans, chicken stock, canned tomatoes and frozen veggies.


    Katie @ Talk Less, Say More March 25, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I feel like meal planning is HUGE for sticking to a food budget! And I’m all for using what I have on hand but also trying not to have TOO much food on hand…it just goes bad or is forgotten about and wasted.


    Kelby March 25, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Woah! I’m impressed with your Whole Foods grocery trip. I love WF, but hate how expensive some of the items can be. Great tips on finding coupons! Thank you!


    Kim @ FITsique March 25, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Wow a trip to Whole Foods with groceries for a week and under 80$!?!?! I can’t even do that at Kroger! You need to come shopping with me and show me your ways! I always try to buy the things on sale and use coupons when I can, but I also find myself wanting to try new things or create “fancy” meals. Most of my budget goes to my proteins like chicken, turkey, greek yogurt, and cheeses.


    Emily @ The Swallow Flies March 25, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I would say my number one tip is to meal-plan very carefully, specifically taking into account produce/meat that needs to be used rather than wasted, and to stick to a shopping list at the store.


    mary @ minutes per mile March 25, 2014 at 9:27 am

    one of my favorite tricks back when i shopped at harris teeter and giant: buy fancy cheese at the salad bar! i think the salad bar cost $7/lb whereas a tub of crumbled feta from the cheese section cost about $9/lb. i don’t think this trick works at whole foods, though, where the salad bar is a huge cash cow 😉


    Tara March 25, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    @mary @ minutes per mile: I do that all the time for items I need for recipe. Pepperoni, cheese, spinach…seriously, paid $0.17 for pepperoni I needed for bread recipe, instead of $6/lb at the deli or $4.00 prepackaged.


    Lisa March 25, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I took your advice of incorporating what you already have in your kitchen and I told my husband I was going to see what I could make with what we have before buying new groceries. He was like ok lets go for it! So……16 MEALS!!! NO GROCERIES NEEDED!! Isn’t that insane??? I came up with that many meals using cookbooks and pinterest and I don’t need groceries for two weeks. We truly live in a world of excess. Crazy.


    Tina March 25, 2014 at 9:38 am

    That is awesome!!!


    meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles March 25, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I love the Whole Foods flyer- great deals listed in there! I have come to learn that most of what I buy doesn’t offer a coupon option on a regular basis (produce, organic products – not often found in the coupon section of the Sunday paper)…My best tip is seeking out the store weekly circulars, making a list of the sale prices for the items I buy and then going to the specific stores for the best deals. Sometimes it can be time consuming running store to store but I am usually willing to do it in order to save money.


    Cate @ Mangoes Margarita March 25, 2014 at 9:34 am

    $78 at WF is impressive! I always have a hard time keeping my budget down at that store… my best “trick” is shopping the bulk bins. It’s the same quality food, just much cheaper than pre-packaged/brand labels. We buy all of our qunioa, rice, nuts, ingredients for baking (dates & shredded coconut), as well as a few treats. Sometimes WF stocks some dark cocoa dusted almonds that are amazing!!


    Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} March 25, 2014 at 9:45 am

    I love this series. I am all about saving money at the grocery store and seeing that you can eat healthy and not break the bank literally makes my day!! 🙂 I love using coupons and the virtual coupons are a great way to save money as well!


    Ali March 25, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Nixing the fancy ingrediens helps save a ton on groceries. Those specialty items are always so expensive, but I still love to experiment with them, so I buy them very gradually.


    Caroline Combs March 25, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Yes now you see this is what makes me mad. Why can’t all countries have coupons like this for grocery shopping?! There is no such thing here! Well done keeping it under $100, by the way. Nice job!


    Nicole March 25, 2014 at 9:52 am

    I agree with no fancy or one-and-done ingredients.
    I also think that buying what’s in season is best for saving money. Even though I’d really like to load up on berries right now, at $5 for a tiny container of 10 raspberries, it’s not worth it. I know they’ll be in season and much less expensive in a couple of months.


    Ashley @ A Lady Goes West March 25, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hi Tina,

    I’m so impressed you can get out of Whole Foods without spending $100. Sadly, my grocery shopping is always upwards of $150 at Safeway. However, in San Francisco things are a bit more pricey, so that has to count for something.

    I haven’t mastered money saving tips yet, but do always use the Safeway organic brands where possible, instead of the name brands. Seems like it’s always just as good.



    Stacy March 25, 2014 at 10:09 am

    HI Tina, do you have a recipe from Sunday’s meal, baked chicken?


    Tina March 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

    It’s just olive oil, salt, and pepper, baked on 400 F degrees until cooked all the way through (~30 minutes). Super easy!


    Stacy March 25, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Thank you, sounds GOOD!


    Megan @ The Skinny-Life March 25, 2014 at 10:40 am

    My number one is meal planning 1 month out. This may sound extreme but it helps you see the big picture and organize when to eat meals so that you utilize the food effectively. I may make one dish that utilizes chicken and they use the rest of the chicken in soup or salad later in the week. It’s about smart planning.


    Annette@FitnessPerks March 25, 2014 at 10:47 am

    This is awesome. Great tips! I really need to continue to use up stuff that we already have on hand!


    Jill March 25, 2014 at 10:49 am

    may i ask who and when you eat the annies? (its one of my favorites!)

    also, do you prefer the taste/health reason/other of the rice tortillas vs wheat?

    i am trying to figure out when if at all it makes sense to eat gluten free. i do not have a sensitivity to it so i just try to eat all carbs (rice, wheat, corn) in moderation. i am just curious not trying to be nitpicking just like hearing opinions, especially yours.

    also, you look kick ass on the rower doing 14.4!!


    Tina March 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Annie’s usually ends up being lunch or a quick weeknight meal. I just like to have a box or two on hand if we need an easy meal. I’ll typically throw in broccoli, spinach, or kale too.

    I pretty much buy whatever tortillas are on sale! 🙂


    jen March 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

    for fresh herbs, grow your own its pretty easy and in the winter they just need a sunny window, and you can dry them when they grow like crazy!


    Tina March 25, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I’m actually in the market for an herb garden this spring. I love fresh herbs!


    Shel@PeachyPalate March 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Buying whats in season always works!


    Jackie March 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Wow that’s a steal from whole foods!


    Jolynn March 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I don’t get to shop at Whole Foods often because the closest one to me is about an hour away so when I go I always spend WAY too much money. I never knew they had coupons so this will help a bunch. Thank you!


    Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat March 25, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Definitely some great tips! I think the biggest one for me is buying what’s in season.


    Jenn@ Mark My Miles! March 25, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I love Annie’s Mac and Cheese and will even buy if it’s not on sale. I love to add a can of tuna to it. Great tips and I love using what we have at home first, it’s like spring cleaning the cabinets and fridge!


    Chelsea @ BigBitesLittleBudget March 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

    I am a fan of buying in season! I write a general menu plan and look at the produce at the store. I buy what is on sale and use that in my meal plan. I also recently started getting bountiful baskets and that is taking a load off of my grocery bill. I get a ton of produce each week and absolutely love it!


    Bethany March 25, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I have always said, if you shop the sales WF is much better quality for the money. My problem is I don’t always shop the sales, and get caught up in some of the items I love from WF.


    Sara @ LovingOnTheRun March 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    We don’t have a WF here, but we used to go and if you go with a plan and really know what you are looking for you can find good things there!


    Katie @ Live Half Full March 25, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I do a lot of the same things- but Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are budget busters for me since I end up buying fun things.

    Here’s my money-saving grocery process!


    Kate @ Trekking Kate March 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I make it a week to week challenge to try to save as much as possible on groceries. The tip that I use with my husband and I are making big quantities to try to at least 2 dinners and a lunch out of a meal. I find it works best with food like chili, soup, and mac and cheese.


    jen March 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    what is your take on eating organic?


    Meme March 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I cant wait to start trying this – just downloaded the Wholefoods App. I am going to try to spend under $100.00 this week. Thank you for the tips!


    Angela March 25, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I try to use what I have on hand before shopping again! I also try to buy ingredients that are on sale that I can use in multiple recipes.


    Angie @ Pint of Goals March 25, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I recently joined a freezer meal group in my town. There’s eight women, and once a month everyone gets together to assemble seven meals. One woman does all the shopping (except for most meat, which you bring your own) and divides the cost. Last month I spent $25 in meat and owed the woman who shopped $28. I’ve enjoyed steak stir fry, turkey meatloaf, quinoa chili, and lots of other yummy dinners. $50 for seven complete meals (enough for four people) is a good deal to me!


    Jen March 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    check-out http://archive.feedblitz.com/693962 for money saving tips at Whole Foods and other stores



    chau March 25, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    i believe whole foods take store coupon and mfr coupons. i think you can save more doing that since you frequent them weekly. There was also a recent groupon for whole foods too that was out. A lot of store brands are cheaper than certain brand names.


    Delia March 26, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I’ve been trying my own experiment alongside you & found I did fairly well ($80/week) @ WF vs. Stop & Shop/chain grocery store. Shopping the 365 brands, proteins on sale, and very little processed foods helped but I was still surprised to have saved over $20-40 from my regular grocery bill. Will keep headig to the WF; and you’re right – the South Weymouth location is great & fairly quiet every time I’ve been in there!


    ashley March 26, 2014 at 10:58 am

    We are getting a Whole Foods right down the road from us and I am pumped! Its good to know there is a WF app with coupons =)


    Livi March 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I can’t believe you got such an awesome and cheap haul at WF!


    Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork March 27, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    That’s a seriously impressive (as in, low) total for two people for Whole Foods. I think if we meal planned more, we could possible pull it off. Though we do tend to buy some of the same things every week (such as 2 quarts of yogurt, protein bars, eggs) that I do wonder if they’re more than at MB. I’ll only know if I compare, though!


    Cristina Soto March 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I have a question, what do you mean by Maine for Friday and Saturday? New to this page. Also for those of us who want to try it out would you consider a shopping list you used? Just so we could list the actual name of products that come out blurry. This is such a cool site. Thank you.


    Kelsey at The Primal Yogi March 31, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Such a useful post since I’m a weekly Whole Foods shopper lately. I didn’t know they had an app, definitely will have to check that out!


    CommonKindness April 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    A wide range of coupons available for products carried at Wholefoods can be found on CommonKindness.com. Happy shopping!


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