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Man Vs. Whole Foods: Is a Budget Impossible?
Lifestyle

Man Vs. Whole Foods: Is a Budget Impossible?

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I thought a professor lied when he said the only way he survived graduate school without falling into debt was by eating canned beans for every meal.

Yet 5 months into grad school, I can see where desperation hit. While beans are a healthy, vegetarian protein, I was not so devoid of hope. It has to be possible as a student to eat at Whole Foods on a budget, right?

Testing and proving this theory brought me into foreign territory, one teeming with hormone-free meat and overpriced produce.

The foreign lands of Whole Foods.

My mission: To claw my way out with a bill less than or equal to $54.90, which is the U.S Department of Agriculture’s low-cost one-week food plan for a 19-50 aged man.

Known Success Rate: Unreported, but there have been many a credit card casualty.

Wildlife to Avoid: Twenty-something year-old vegans. Although a pleasure to view in their natural habitat, this species is hungry and their movements can be unpredictable.

Important Note: Nutritional health is a subject in which everyone has an opinion, and this writer is not an expert but a survivor in this task.

Strategic Tips for Staying Under Budget at Whole Foods:

  1.  Bring Coupons: Although I’ve never been a spy, it seems to be standard protocol to stock up on weapons before entering a hostile environment. Following that logic, it made sense to enter Whole Foods with a fistful of coupons. My takeaway bargain: $.75 off Stoneyfield Greek yogurt.
  2. Determination is Vital: You can’t let Whole Foods prices change you. Pick a price point in which you are comfortable and buy accordingly. I wanted to stay under $20 dollars on produce and managed it without making concessions. I even found apples less than $2 per lb. In total, I spent $12.23 on produce.
  3. Buy the Whole Food Brand: Although I grew up as a Tropicana kid, I settled for Whole Foods’s 365 brand of orange juice. The half-gallon was cheapest and it tasted great! Plus, the carton promised that it was pasteurized and not from concentrate.  Orange Juice: $2.99
  4. Check the Bargain Bins: I stumbled across a 12-pack of garlic herb drumsticks with no-added hormones that I threw in a pan with chopped onion, tomato, and green pepper. I had a savory meal for three days. Now that is a bargain!  Chicken: $8.55
  5. If Grandma would like it, it is probably tasty, healthy, and cheap. Instead of my usual potato buns for sandwiches on-the-go, I bought budget-friendly Oatmeal Sandwich Bread, which sounded bland. But, it was actually delicious, and healthy: Cholesterol-Free and No Trans Fats. Oatmeal Bread: $3.79

The Test: Whole Foods Check Out Time

According to my calculations, I was under my goal price by 32 cents at $54.58. But Whole Foods threw me a curve ball with a damn tax.

My final outcome: $55.48. Over by 58 cents! So, close, yet unsuccessful.

For those curious about what I purchased:

My Complete Grocery List

  • ½ gallon of 365 brand Orange Juice: $2.99
  • Nature’s Path Maple Pecan Crunch Cereal $2.99
  • Whole Foods Market Oatmeal Bread $3.79
  • Whole Food Market Chicken Drumsticks $8.55
  • De Boles Whole Wheat Angel Hair Pasta $2.50
  • 2 Stoneyfield Greek Yogurts $2
  • Grannysmith Apples $2.69
  • Tomatoes $3.91
  • Cucumber $2.99
  • 365 Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce $1.99
  • Red Onion $1.77
  • Self-serve Unsalted Cashews $2.79
  • Bananas $0.87
  • Whole Foods Eggs   $2.69
  • ½ lb. Turkey Breast lunchmeat $5.28
  • ½ lb. American Cheese $4.79
  • 365 brand ½ gallon of Milk $1.99

Total (without tax): $54.58

 

Readers, tell me in the comments: What are your tips for shopping green without breaking the bank? Is it possible to leave Whole Foods under budget? Or is cost-conscious shopping at Whole Foods like licking your elbow: something that everybody tries, but no one succeeds?

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8 thoughts on “Man Vs. Whole Foods: Is a Budget Impossible?

  1. Love this post! 🙂 I have yet to master the art of buying natural/organic without blowing my budget out of the water!

  2. Thanks Caitlin! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I know buying natural and inexpensive isn’t easy!

  3. At least in my state, you get a 5 cent reusable bag credit. For the amount off stuff you got that could be another 25 cents off.

  4. Bulk bins save my life. Plus, you get $.05 cents off each container – just weigh them at the calendar and add the tare on the bottle. I bring in mason jars and a sharpie. My favs from WF are the granola (so stereotypical…), rolled oats, dried cherries, nuts & more. It’s a pretty sweet deal!

  5. That’s awesome! We STILL don’t have a Whole Foods, and our other grocery stores are pretty lacking in bulk bins, but I will have to look into what they do offer!

  6. The best bargain at whole foods is the bulk bin spice bin. I needed bay leaves, basil and tumeric. I brought my own spice containers, which I had weighed at the courtesy desk. I has 1oz, 2oz and 4 oz containers. The bay leaves were $0.33, basil $0.27 and tumeric $0.37. Less than a $1.00 for all three. This will last for a year. Never purchase spices at grocery store again. Spices are fresher and you only have to buy what you need.

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