Shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on a Budget
So you want to eat healthy, wholesome foods, but are put off by the “stiff” prices? Step into a couple of stores to see for yourself if they're as cost-prohibitive as you think.
There’s a school of thought that says eating healthy can be crazy expensive. And if you’re adding gold flakes to your smoothies, then yes, it can be. But if you’re looking to affordably eat a steady diet of healthy fruits and vegetables and hormone-free chicken, then look no further than your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s — two similar stores that approach their products a bit differently.
One of the best developments for the frugal healthy eater is the explosive growth of health-food grocery stores. In my town of Denver we have Sprouts, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Trader Joe’s, and Alfalfa’s, just to name a few.
Local natural food grocers are growing, and national chains are paying attention to the healthy eating trend.
Consumers stand to benefit from this increased competition. Whole Foods has made a number of changes to its business model as they noticed this growth (and as a response to the negative publicity that occurred during the “asparagus water” debacle a few years ago). In fact, the chain recently announced that they will be closing a number of stores across the U.S. as competition increases.
Shopping at Whole Foods has become a lot more affordable in the past couple of years. As a healthy-but-frugal eater, I would become a bit frustrated with how expensive groceries were while shopping at Whole Foods. When people jokingly called the store “Whole Paycheck,” they were telling the truth.
What I discovered, though, was that if I stayed away from purchasing grass-fed lamb every week and focused on saving while grocery shopping at Whole Foods, I could actually get affordable healthy food.
How to Save While Shopping at Whole Foods
First, Whole Foods has an amazing bulk food and bulk spices aisle. I typically purchase pantry items such as nuts, dried fruits, and spices when they’re on sale in the bulk section. I’m obsessed! It’s much more affordable, and I can purchase exactly what I need.
Whole Foods also developed a grocery savings app that you can use in addition to any other money-saving apps that you currently love. Want to save more on veggies? During the week that I wrote this post, there was a “five for $5” deal on avocados at my local store.
In addition to saving on the store’s app, customers can also use coupons when shopping at Whole Foods. Some surprisingly affordable items? Fruits and vegetables! Just look for the yellow and red signs — those items are on sale.
Do you love chicken? Look for the pre-packaged chicken wings or thighs for the best deals. Whole Foods also has whole-bean coffee available in a can for $4.99, and it’s delicious.
How to Save Money While Shopping at Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is another great store for the more health-focused consumer. They offer a range of creative food and recipe ideas that save you a lot of time. And their “Fearless Flyer” newsletter shares seasonal recipes, weekly sales, and more so that customers can walk in and save on affordable food more easily.
Like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s consistently stocks some affordable healthy items. For example, their cans of coffee are also $4.99. Shelf-stable nut milks (usually around $1.99) are much more affordable than what you get at a traditional grocer, and their chicken is cheap, too. I usually spend less than $3 for a packet of chicken drumsticks or thighs.
Every time I go shopping at Trader Joe’s, I’m amazed at how competitive their fruit and vegetable pricing is. I bought a bag of mini yams for $1.50 the other week. Nice!
Finally, if you’re lucky enough to live near a Trader Joe’s with a liquor section, you can pick up ridiculously inexpensive bottles of wine.
Affordable Healthy Food
Every time I hear that there is a new organic or health-food store opening in my area, I cheer. I love to eat high-quality food, but I want it to be affordable. For the frugal health nut, it’s completely possible to eat well. Create a grocery list, download savings apps, and adopt wallet-conscious food habits.
I rarely buy anything too out of the ordinary when I go shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Instead, I stick with staples and avoid buying processed foods. My grocery budget is usually around $200 a month, and I love everything I’m eating.