We have a small Whole Foods somewhat close by, nothing like the giant one in New York pictured here. I signed up for a free guided tour that offers ideas for keeping the grocery store from being called "Whole Paycheck." Free samples included Ugly Fruit, Comte Cheese (which I'm gonna have to find space for in my budget), 365 Brand Organic Milk Chocolate Bar, 365 Brand cereal Bar, Smart Puffs, and lip balm.
Here's what I learned:
- There are three Whole Foods brands that offer lower prices--365, Whole Foods and Whole Catch or Whole Pet or Whole Treats. I believe the last type will be phased out soon.
- There is a 100% money-back guarantee. See the back of your receipt for details.
- You are allowed to request a sample of anything off the shelf except for a bottle of wine. One big money-saving idea they have is to make sure you don't go home with food you don't like that will go to waste. However, recognize that with higher prices, it's this service that you pay for.
- All organic produce is on the top shelves. Organic and "conventional" produce is always clearly labeled and must be kept separated from the back of the store to the front. Organic and conventional products can't even touch each other. So when water comes down and sprays the veggies, the water can drip off of the organic onto the conventional, but not vice versa.
- Whole Foods sets very high standards for its produce. Trucks have been sent back before with unacceptable goods.
- For Whole Foods, Winter Park, "local" means goods come from the state of Florida. However, they try to support Central Florida as much as possible. Local items are also labeled clearly.
- If a price says 2 for $2, it means the price is $1 each. You don't have to buy two to get the deal.
- Weekly Specials run from Thursday to Wednesday. Sales run while supplies last. Good Buys are regular prices that are supposed to be rock bottom.
- The large bulk selection allows you to acquire items in the amount you need without paying for the package and label.
- Stocking up by case on any product gets you a 10% discount.
- The bakery uses no artificial colors.
- Most stores now have pizza, whole and by-the-slice.
- The self-serve section offers a mix and match of any two pre-made salads or sandwiches for $5. By the time we got there, there were no vegetarian selections left.
- All eggs are cage free.
- 365 Brand milk for the same price as Publix, their biggest competitor in Orlando. However, they didn't have the 1%. Only 2%, Vitamin D, and Skim.
- The cheese department has a binder of recipes. After the tour, I went back and asked for a recommendation, and the girl behind the counter pulled out the binder and gave me a recipe.
- Whole Foods stacks store and manufacturer coupons.
- If you bring your own bag, you get $0.10 discount, and you don't have to remind the cashier like I do at Target for the $0.05!
For meat-eaters, I can't evaluate the price, but I can share the facts:
- Whole Foods' claim to fame is Southern-raised, grass-fed beef that is supposed to be leaner and taste better.
- Fish can be steamed in house. Whole Foods has three of its own fish farms.
- Meat can be cut to your specifications and marinated as you choose.
- In the bottom of the freezer is vacuum-sealed packs of meats without fancy labels. These are apparently very cheap.
Here are a few deals I found:
- Champagne Mangos $1 each.
- Method All Purpose Wipes BOGO + $1 off coupon in "Whole Deal" Mag + printable = $2.69 for two tubs of wipes
- Blue Diamond Gluten Free Crackers 2 for $5 + $1 coupon in "Whole Deal" Mag = $1.50 for 1
- Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal (My Blueberry!) about $1.37 after $1.50 manufacturer and $1 "Whole Deal" Mag coupons.
- Imagine Broth on sale $3--cheaper than Publix and Essential Health.
- Nasoya Tofu $1.50 off 2 coupon in "Whole Deal" Mag and sale price $2 each = $2.50 for 2. Cheapest price anywhere!
- I finally found frozen shelled edamame at $1.79 a bag.
- I finally found Bulgar Wheat in the bulk bins at $2.69/lb. Look for it in upcoming recipes!
Next time, think we'll make the one-hour trip to the new BIG Whole Foods.
What do you think about Whole Foods? Do you find great deals there? Let us know with your comments below.