The days of settling for 16-cent breakfasts may be ending — that is, if Whole Foods makes good on its promise to lower prices.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the Texas-based company is taking steps to put its expensive, “whole paycheck” reputation behind it due to pressure from investors who want the organic grocer to behave more like Walmart. However, experts warn shifting to a similar centralized distribution structure could tarnish the brand, which sells locally grown produce.
The company’s in deep water with stakeholder Jana Partners, which wants to see swift operational changes and a reversal of what the Journal described as Whole Foods’ “longest stretch of same-store sales declines since going public in 1992.”
For consumers, that means Whole Foods will be pressed to compete with the likes of Kroger and Albertsons, which have steadily been dipping their toes in the health-conscious market, and that prices will drop.
“Our culture is still very unique,” co-founder John Mackey assured the paper, but the company now has a tall order to mesh its style with big-box performance.
What that will look like in practice remains unclear, though Mackey said the new strategy will make it easier for national brands to pitch at Whole Foods’ Austin, Texas, headquarters, which in turn will enable the company to pass on “tremendous savings” to shoppers. For now, the future of Whole Foods — and its prices — are hazy at best.
How to Save at Whole Foods
Most Whole Foods shoppers are used to paying a premium for their health-conscious food. But there are ways to save on your groceries when shopping at Whole Foods, as Credit.com contributor Kristy Welsh notes. Here are a few of her tips.
BYOB. Bring your own sack to shop, and Whole Foods will give you up to a 10-cent discount on your purchase. Shop weekly and use five bags each time, and you could save $26 over the course of the year, Welsh said.
Buy What You Need. Don’t hesitate to ask the butcher to take out one of those steaks in the pre-wrapped packet. Or to ask the baker for a half loaf of rye. They’ll do it for you, and the price will be cheaper as a result.
Download the App. With coupons and weekly sales in one place, the Whole Foods app is a handy resource for on-the-go savers. You can also check for upcoming sales.
If all else fails and you still find the price of your groceries too high, a rewards credit card can help you earn points for spending — and there are even some that offer higher rewards when you purchase groceries. Just don’t forget to check your credit before you apply to make sure you’re able to qualify, as these types of cards tend to require you have higher credit scores. You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.
According the USDA, the average American family of four spent an average of $250 per week on food in February 2017, if they had a moderate to liberal budget. That can mean upwards of $1,000 a month on food or $12,000 annually. That is a huge chunk of most budgets and can be scary to see in writing.
While this is the average, it does not need to be your reality.
There are simple things you can do to save money on your groceries. I’ve got my five best tips here. I’ve been following these ideas for years and they really can work.
1. Switch Stores
There are times when your larger grocery store might offer a better discount on some items — like these things grocery stores will do for you for free. However, have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’re shopping at the store that offers you the best prices? It may not be worth driving too far, as you may lose more in gas expenses than you’d recoup in savings, but take stock of your local stores and see if there’s one that really may have better bargains.
For example, if you have an Aldi nearby and are not shopping there, you may be missing out on the simplest way to save. It is true they do not accept coupons, however, the prices there are often lower than the prices you pay at your regular store, even if you clipped a coupon. There are lots of options out there, so make sure you’re considering what others might be right for you.
2. Shop Ahead
Most people create a shopping list based on the items they need now. That is important, but you may also want to add items you will need later when you find them on sale.
To help, if you look at your store’s weekly ad, often times the items you see on the front page are loss leaders, which means the store may actually lose money on the prices they are offering. So this may be the time to get the best deal. These sale items can be discounted as much as 50%. This may mean that you purchase three, four or more of the item on sale. Doing so allows you to feed your family and get the lowest price possible.
Keep in mind, stores tend to do this with the idea that these extremely low prices will draw you in and you’ll do all your shopping there, ultimately making up their losses on their sales. If you do decide to shop there, and see other items that are “on sale,” make sure you flip up the sales tag to see if you’re really getting a discount.
3. Plan Ahead
The reason most grocery budgets fail is because people fail to plan. Each week, sit down and plan your meals including breakfasts, lunches (don’t forget meals for work and school), snacks and dinner. And make sure you do your planning the right way. (If you’re looking for frugal meal ideas, check out this 16-cent breakfast.)
The problem most people face with meal planning and budgeting is they do it backward. Most people plan their meals and then create a shopping list but you may want to consider working it from another direction.
First, check your pantry and your freezer. If you happened to get a deal on chicken breasts last week and three weeks earlier rice was on sale and you bought several bags, you can use these items to create chicken and rice. You now have a meal planned that will cost you no extra money.
Once you’ve planned your meals based on what you have on hand, look at the weekly ad. Check to see what is on sale that you might want to use for this week’s menu. Add in those extra items your family needs this week.
Finally, plan out additional meals you need and add those items to your list. Hopefully, most of what you need for your food for the week is already in your pantry or freezer or is going to be on sale.
With a bit of planning and changing your way of thinking, you can knock down that weekly grocery budget.
4. Create & Use a Price Book
As mentioned above, stores can offer amazing deals on items you need. You should stock up, but how much should you buy? That is a challenge, but if you track the sales cycles you can learn how much to buy as you follow when items go on sale.
The way a price book works is simple. You write down the product that is on sale including the size, date and what you paid (not taking coupons into account). Then, watch the weekly ads. The next time you see that same item go on sale, make a note in your book.
As you do this, you will start to understand the sale cycles and can buy just enough to get you through each period of time, so you don’t have too much on hand, but just enough to help ensure you always get the best price.
Of course, not all items follow a cycle, but you might be surprised to learn which items do. However, you have to put in a little bit of work to break the code for yourself.
5. Use Coupons the Right Way
I’m not against using coupons. In fact, I feel they are a great way to save money. However, you need to use them in the right way.
The problem many couponers face is they use coupons as soon as they get them. That is not always the best way to make them work for you. Instead, consider saving them to use when items are on sale.
When you find those items on the cover of the weekly ad (like we mentioned in point two) and you have a coupon to pair with the sale, you’ve really increased your savings and turned a hot deal into a smokin’ hot deal.
So when you get the coupons in your Sunday newspaper, file them away. Watch the weekly deals, and get out the coupons when you can pair them. In fact, if you really watch, you will learn that many items that have coupons go on sale after the coupons are released. That is not a coincidence.
Now you’ve got the tools and tips you need to really make a difference with your budget. It might take a little effort to implement some changes, but it can be worth it.
One of the largest expenses for most budgets is groceries. As much as we want to save money on food, it can feel next to impossible — that is, unless you want to sit and clip coupons.
While using coupons works for many, it is just not an option for some. Of course, if you do clip, these are additional things you can do to increase your overall savings. Here are a few of them.
1. Shop Store Brands
There is a common misconception that store brand means lower quality. This is not true. In fact, many store brands are the exact same name-brand product, just with a different label on the front.
2. Look High & Low
When you shop, the most expensive products are usually placed at eye level. You will often find less expensive items on the very top or lower shelves.
3. Avoid the End Caps
People are drawn here, and when they see items, they often assume that because they are on display, it must mean they are a good deal. Check the original and competitor prices to make sure you’re really getting a bargain.
4. Don’t Fall for Gimmicks
There are some common gimmicks stores use to help trick you into spending more. Here are two you will want to watch for:
Buy quantities at a set price. For example, if you see something priced at 2 for $5, you do not have to purchase two items, you can buy one. Be sure to check any details.
Purchase limits. When you see terms like “limit three” next to a display, it makes you think that if there is a limit, it is a must-have item.
5. Redefine Dinner
There is no rule that says you have to make a huge three-course meal every night of the week. It is OK to have soup, sandwiches or even salads for dinner. By making simpler meals, you can save on the food you need to purchase, thereby dropping your grocery bill.
6. Shop the Right Day
Many grocery stores offer “short-sales” which are one-, two- or three-day sales. If you shop on one of these days, you will not only get those additional discounts, you will also get the regular weekly deals. Doing this will put you in the store just one day a week, which can absolutely help you save money.
7. Change Things Up
If you have more than one store near you, why not try a different one? If you can split your trip and shop the sales at each of them, you can save on your overall grocery bill. Of course, if they are not close, take into account the time and fuel you’ll spend on making two trips.
8. Make a Menu & Shopping List
By planning a menu and a shopping list, you not only know what you will need to purchase at the store, you’ll feel more organized when you get home from work and need to prepare dinner. You might check out my menu plan and shopping list forms.
9. Shop on a Full Stomach (& Alone if You Can)
If you have ever shopped when you are hungry, you usually find that you toss in additional items you normally would not purchase. If you shop when you are full, you will be more likely to stick to your list.
It is also easier to not purchase additional items when you shop alone. I realize this may not be an option for a lot of families, so just make sure that you shop once everyone has already eaten. You can also ask your kids to help you find certain items, which will keep their minds on what you need.
10. Shop in Season
When you shop produce, only purchase the in-season items. For example, black grapes are in season during the summer months. Sure, you might find them during the winter months, but you will pay a premium, as they are more difficult to get into your store.
If you’ve ever tracked how much money you’re spending each month, you’ll know that one of the biggest categories you can overspend on is food. In this day and age, we love our modern conveniences. But things like pre-packaged convenience foods, going out to eat and just not planning ahead when you go to the grocery store can wreak havoc on your monthly spending.
I’m the mother of 7 kids, and I have been a stay-at-home mom for the past 17 years. One of the ways that we have been able to afford to do this is by cutting corners in the kitchen. Here are some of our favorite tricks.
1. Don’t Wash Produce Until You’re Ready to Use It
Did you know that if you wash your produce it won’t last as long? There’s nothing worse than opening the produce drawer to find the strawberries you were going to use slimy and moldy. Instead of washing it when you get home, just stick it in the refrigerator in the packaging that it came in. This will prevent bacteria from growing prematurely, and will help you to not waste that food that you spent your hard-earned money on.
2. Ditch the Paper Products
Why use paper products when you can use the real deal? Instead of using paper towels and paper napkins, we use cloth napkins, dish rags and dish towels. We just throw them in the laundry and reuse them as needed. We rarely use paper plates either, unless we have a large gathering of friends come over for a meal.
3. Shop at the Less Expensive Grocery Store
In our area, we find that Aldi has the lowest prices on most everything. But in other areas, you may find that it’s a different store. Take some time to compare prices on the products you use the most. For an easy way to do this, make a list of your most-used grocery items, and then visit each of the stores and write down the prices at those stores. You’ll find the grocery store where you should be doing most of your business quite easily.
4. Eat Leftovers
If you don’t get into the habit of eating your leftovers, you’re leaving money on the table. You could take them to work for lunch, serve them to the kids, freeze them as TV dinners or recycle them into a whole different meal (like a roast into beef stew). Whatever you do, don’t waste that food! For me, I like to make a Crockpot Freezer Meal and get my husband a portion out for tomorrow before I feed everyone else. That way, we’re guaranteed to have a little bit left over.
5. Re-use Foil, Baggies & Old Food Containers
If you regularly use these items, you may want to try this little trick to save money in the kitchen. I grew up watching my mom do this, and know that if I need to cut corners, these conveniences are one of the first to go.
6. Make Your Own Dishwasher Detergent
Have you ever tried making your own dishwasher detergent? You can make it using ingredients you can find at the grocery store. Making your own is like paying pennies on the dollar for dishwasher detergent.
Try this recipe:
1/2 c citric acid OR LemiShine
1/2 c non-iodized salt
1 c borax
1 c washing soda
Mix together well, and use 3 tbsp per load. Be sure to use vinegar in the rinse compartment.
7. Buy Store Brands
Store brands are typically canned, boxed or jarred in the same factories as the more expensive name brands. They typically taste the same, too. Try switching out some of your nonessential name brands for the much cheaper store brands and see if you notice a difference.
8. Meal Plan
If you go into a store without a plan, you’ll come out spending a whole lot more money than you were planning. Be sure to make your meal plan at least a week at a time so you’re not making several trips to the grocery store throughout the week. If you think you don’t have time, I already have a One Week Freezer to Slow Cooker Menu that you can try out for free, so no excuses allowed! When you plan your meals regularly, you save yourself a lot of money. It means you eat out less and eat less boxed and convenience foods, which in turn saves you money.
9. Buy Food in Bulk
There’s certain foods that it pays to buy in bulk. You can find food at drastically reduced prices by watching the sales circulars, shopping the big box stores (like Sam’s Club and Costco) and by using coupons strategically. For our family, we buy our ground beef from a local farmer, our produce and canned goods from Aldi, and our cheese, peanut butter and other dairy products at Sam’s Club. We save $1.50 to $2 a pound by buying our cheese in this way. It really does pay to watch the prices at more than one store and to continually check back for sales.
If you’re lucky enough to have space for a vegetable garden, not to mention the time and inclination to do the gardening, you’ll want to be sure to get the most out of your efforts. That’s because gardening isn’t necessarily the most cost effective way to get your veggies.
It turns out some vegetables are actually cheaper to buy at the grocery store, particularly when bought in season. So, if you want to grow your own vegetables to save money, you’ll need to be selective in what you grow. Here are five vegetables that are cost effective for growing in your own garden.
1. Bell Peppers
Green bell peppers can cost $1.50 or more each at the grocery store, and yellow, red or orange peppers can be even more expensive. Pepper starter plants at your local gardening center, however, typically average about $1 each. Given that bell peppers also are reasonably hardy and easy to grow, they can end up saving you plenty of money, even when you consider costs for water, fertilizer and any necessary pesticides.
Lettuce can be really expensive at the grocery store, particularly if you’re buying it pre-washed in a bag or plastic container. But if you grow your own lettuce from a package of seed, typically costing $2 or less, you’ll easily recoup the expense within just a few weeks of your plants maturing. Leaf lettuces are particularly good because you can harvest the amount you need while still allowing the plant to grow, meaning you can have lettuce from just a handful of plants throughout the growing season.
Summer squash, zucchini and winter squash are all hardy and easy to grow, and the plants tend to be very productive, meaning you’ll have an abundance of them in no time. The initial cost for starter plants is more than for peppers or lettuce — typically about $2 each — but well worth the investment.
If you love garlic, this is a no-brainer. Depending on whether you’re buying conventional or organic garlic, prices range from $2 to $4 a pound. You can easily grow your own for a fraction of the cost. It’s also very easy to grow, but you’ll need to properly cure the bulbs so they will keep for a longer period of time.
Tomatoes come in so many varieties that it can be hard to decide which kind to plant. And because of that variety, it’s also hard to accurately estimate just how much you may save by growing your own. But because tomato plants typically yield a large number of fruit, you’ll likely have plenty for eating now plus enough left over for canning or freezing.