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“Oh my damn! That moment at Whole Foods when the cashier says the total. And you imagine yourself making a break for it, just sprinting and never looking back.”

Has this happened to you before? When I posted this on Facebook several months ago, my friends responded with:

“The struggle is so real.”
“Blehhh how about a trust fund instead…???”
“Every. Time.”

I had imagined the look on the cashier’s face if I truly had sprinted out the door, leaving the groceries and the $250 balance hanging there. I pictured the look on my husband’s face if I didn’t, all bulging eyes and “what is wrong with you?” But I was shopping in a wealthy area. I pulled out my credit card like I meant it.

I wonder if anyone has ever run before?

I railed about this disastrous trip to my friend Jessica Guerrieri, who is certified by the T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell, and she shared with me the tip that has finally made it safe for me to return to Whole Foods, even on the tightest grocery budget of my life.

The first time I followed this advice, I victoriously posted on Facebook about how I went on a shopping spree at Whole Foods for less than $100:

“It’s a new dawn! I stayed in my budget at WHOLE FOODS! (Said no one ever. Until now. I DID!)”

The responses:

“Was your budget $500?”
“Well, are you going to share with us HOW you did that!!!”
“What?! How?”

Just a few days ago, my hubby came along for “just five minutes” and “just a few things I can only get there.”

He was skeptical. He was afraid.

Despite the fact that it did take a bit over five minutes due to the dazzling effect of all those beautiful, organic items when I stopped and gawked, imagining myself living in Whole Foods, forever, we did go on a bit of a spree for under $35.

After checking out, he gaped at me, “How did you do that?”

Here it is, my friends. This is how:

1)    THE BULK SECTION. (This is the tip from Jessica that changed everything.)
Because you aren’t paying for the packaging, you save ridiculously on organic food.
Dried beans of all varieties! Exotic rice! You can grind your own fresh peanut butter right there in the store! (I noticed that the price of almonds was the same as in the grocery store, but if you need smaller amounts, this is the way.)

My favorite part: The spices! Oh, the fresh, organic spices! The spice that I’m obsessed with lately is Tandoori. I was paying over $8 for a tiny jar of it that would last me a month or less (plus it’s hard to find in Ohio.) In the bulk section, I cautiously filled my plastic bag with at least 6 weeks’ worth: $2. What??? I even got a fresh vanilla strand, which would normally be over $8 in regular packaging: 80 cents. For realsies.

Spicy tip: Do save your container when you run out of a spice. They don’t stay as fresh in plastic bags, plus setting aside the glass container is a great reminder to restock. (I use a little funnel to pour from bag to glass.) Plus, you already paid dearly for that glass spice home.

Whole Foods even has a guide on shopping bulk.


2)    THE PRODUCE SECTION (but LOOK at the prices.)
Jessica commented that most produce at Whole Foods is priced similarly, if not better than, regular grocery store prices. You just need to pay attention to what’s in season and actually look at the prices because some rare items are a bit higher.

When I excitedly declared that I’d stayed under budget, the cashier described shocked people at the checkout when buying five pounds of Honeycrisp apples in summer at $5 a pound. If you really need five pounds, perhaps a different type is in season?

Also, it’s generally safer to avoid the pre-cut items (as much as I love the convenience. This saves a great deal of money.)
3)    Really LOOK if you must venture to the inner aisles.
Perhaps you do this already. I didn’t.

For instance, when on a budget you probably want to avoid the $8 bacon candy bar. Yes, it’s a novelty; it’s delicious. There was a time when I proudly bought two so generously for the hubs. Then I nearly passed out at the checkout. If you look at the other organic chocolates available, there are delicious ones for less than $4 (less than I pay at my regular grocery store!)

I do like to buy the diced tomatoes in a glass jar to avoid all the dangers of the can, but this was the only item I purchased over $4. And I only got one jar, not four (or 27) like I may have in the past.

I used to get so excited by all the products that catered to my lifestyle that I grabbed at least two of each and then claimed temporary insanity. Note: this only works once, if you are lucky. Then, you may want to stick to a budget and actually LOOK at the prices…

Good luck and happy shopping! Please let me know how it goes and if this has helped!