With “$1.99 Happy Meal” type deals bombarding us everywhere, we often associate ‘good for you food’ with ‘bad for your wallet’ prices. Think you have to pay high prices for organic and natural foods? Think again. Recently, I had the great pleasure of joining Molly Kushner (a friendly face at my local Whole Foods store!) for a budget tour of the Mt. Washington store. Molly shared money saving food shopping strategies that allow families to purchase fresh, wholesome, safe-to-eat foods that are yuck free (no preservatives, no artificial colors, etc.) without requiring you to take on a third job to pay for it. And you all know this mom has just a touch of crunch in her — so I was all ears.

Where do you begin shopping Whole Foods on a budget? Right when you walk in. Whole Foods runs special weekday deal specials (they change each Wednesday), weekly deals in prepared foods, Friday deals and coupons in their bi-monthly Whole Deal newsletter. You’ll find mentions of ALL of these as you walk in the store. If you’re in the Mt. Washington area, you can check out their facebook page for deals, too!

I don’t know about you, but I never really had a problem spotting the value brand on the shelves in Whole Foods… but I had a lot of trouble finding cheeses when I didn’t want to splurge. Turns out I wasn’t looking on the right shelf. I should have been looking right smack dab in the middle (not on the bottom).

The Whole Foods store brand is 365. More than 2000 products in the store carry the 365 label. Remember that all Whole Foods products are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats — including their value brand. {{Yes, even their hot dogs are healthier.}} We had a chance to try out their chocolate sandwich cookies. I couldn’t taste any difference between those and the beloved Oreos.

{{We also had a chance to taste the exclusive Sirius Icelandic Dark Chocolate that Whole Foods carry. Swoon. Now. I might become a dark chocolate convert…}}

While there are definitely pricier brands on the Whole Foods Shelf (I just can’t bring myself to pay $8.99 for a small jar of tomato sauce), the 365 Macaroni and Cheese is just 99 cents. Want the organic version? You’ll pay just $1.00 or so more. Everyone on the tour received a box of mac to try — and I know you’re shocked, but it was definitely ‘Bug Approved.’

Here are some other quick “on a budge” tips for your next Whole Foods excursion:

  • Shop bulk whenever possible. You’ll pay $2.99 for steel cut oatmeal that’s packaged, or $1.39/lb for the same oatmeal from the bulk bin.
  • Not planning on eating a whole loaf of bread in a week? As for half of a freshly baked loaf at the bakery. They’ll even slice it for you (so yes, it comes out to be about $1.50). Tip: try out the Black Russian Bread. It’s divine).
  • Maybe not a cost saver, but you can grind your own peanut butter in the back. Fresh and delicious.
  • When thinking meat, look for drumstick or wing cuts. They’re always the cheapest! You’ll save if you buy in packages of 3 lbs or more. You can always divide up those chicken breasts at home and even toss ’em in marinade before you freeze. That way, when you’re ready to eat in a few weeks, the meat marinades as it dethaws. Time saver…
  • All sandwiches are $2 off on Wednesdays. Come in after 8:00 PM any day and sandwiches are buy-one-get-one-free.
  • The Farmer’s Market starts on June 8th at the Mt. Washington Whole Foods. Shop local produce from 3:30 – 6:30 next to Starbucks.
  • BYOB. Bring your own bag. You’ll get a nickel off your order for each bag you bring {{and use!!}}.
  • Look for yellow. A yellow tag means sale, special or some kind of savings.

Many thanks to Molly for the fabulous tour! Check out the Mt. Washington Whole Foods Facebook Page for more upcoming tours and classes. There is even a free baby food making class on Friday from 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM. All classes are free (registration required) — and come with samples.