I’ve always been fascinated by people’s grocery buying habits. I know people who love grocery shopping, and others who loathe it. I know people who go to three or four different grocery stores to get everything they need, and I know others who use a subscription or delivery service to grocery shop for them, streamlining everything as much as possible.
Since settling into our condo in Providence two years ago, our weekly grocery routine has been pretty consistent. We drive down to the closest Trader Joe’s (20-25 minutes away, depending on traffic) for the majority of our supplies, and then supplement with the (much closer) Whole Foods for specialty items and things Trader Joe’s might not have had in stock. For us – just shopping at Whole Foods would be way more convenient. But we make the effort to go down to Trader Joe’s because we can get so much more food for the same dollar amount there. Grocery shopping for us is a process, and it takes us a good couple hours on a Sunday. Time that I sometimes wish I could be spending doing other things!
This weekend I decided to give myself a personal challenge – If I was really careful and strategic, could I do a one-stop grocery shop at Whole Foods, and still come in close to what we’d spend at Trader Joe’s and other supermarkets? I decided to do a little research beforehand, and I promised I’d put together all my findings in a blog post to help others who might be in the same predicament.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen me share on my stories Sunday – I was SO excited by the results of my challenge! Just tracking what we typically spend on a week of groceries (all stores included), I know that our baseline is somewhere around $200 – plus or minus a little, depending on whether it’s a restock week, and/or how carried away I get with the specialty items. Going into this challenge, I set a goal of getting a FULL 7 days worth of groceries, only shopping at Whole Foods, and for $150-175. I ended up getting us SO much food, and spending a total of $167.65!!
- I totally get that everyone’s food budget is different, and I realize that for some people this might be a lot to spend on a week of groceries. For us, investing in good food is such a huge piece of our health and happiness, so we make it a priority and would rather cut corners on other things, if needed. We also are both very active people and eat a LOT of food. And lastly – we don’t buy a lot of processed food, so the majority of our grocery bill is coming from meats, fish, fresh produce, etc., which are definitely the most expensive things in the supermarket.
- I wanted to make this a realistic challenge and didn’t want us to have to sacrifice all our favorite specialty items ($7 granola, some dairy-free cheeses and yogurts, etc.). I definitely could have cut costs even further by eliminating some of these items, but instead I tried to just pick and choose a few specialty items I knew we would really enjoy.
- We do have a pretty well-stocked pantry, and this wasn’t a restock week for us. So things like brown rice, bread (which we keep in the freezer), chickpeas, and pasta are things we already had on hand. (We pretty much have a Banza shrine – 6-8 boxes of pasta – in our pantry at all times. That’s how much we love pasta.)
- We did have one lunch planned with friends on Friday, and we wanted to try a new brunch place together Sunday morning – so this isn’t all all-encompassing of our weekly food budget (technically). But it is close.
Here is everything I bought with our grocery budget for the week – feeding 2 people over 7 days:
Here is our weekly dinner menu, plus our lunches and snacks for the week:
We pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast every morning – eggs and avocado toast, with a cup of coffee. Sometimes we’ll do oatmeal.
How I made it happen – My top Whole Foods shopping tips
- Shop first, write the menu later. If you go in with a specific agenda of what you want to make for the week, you’re going to end up spending a lot more than if you went in with an open mind. There are definitely pluses and minuses to both ways, but if your #1 goal is to save money, I recommend shopping first, then meal planning after.
- Build your meals around weekly sale items. I start shopping in the meat and produce sections, since I know that’s where the bulk of our meals are going to come from. I start with seeing what is either on sale this week in both departments – or what I can get at a really good price. For example, this week they had a great price on grass-fed ground sirloin… which normally is NOT cheap! I like to (roughly) think of each dinner as having 1 veggie component, 1 starch, and 1 protein – so once I have one of those components, I’ll build the rest of the meal around that.
- Skip pre-chopped veggies. Buy loose veggies (instead of packaged) whenever possible. It’s amazing how much $$ is added to produce when they chop the veggies for you, or even when they add some basic packaging. For example, I noticed I could buy a full pound of loose mushrooms for the exact same cost of half a pound of packaged mushrooms. You’re going to have to wash and chop them anyway – why not just buy them loose? Make an exception for things that are going to make a massive difference in your life. For example, peeling and chopping a whole butternut squash can be a pain in the a**. For this, I chose to buy pre-cut and packaged.
- Choose Whole Foods (365) brand products over name brand whenever possible. Whole Foods’ in-house brand (called ‘365’) is actually really, really good stuff! We get their oatmeal, hummuses, and nut butters and spend WAY less than name brand/specialty counterparts. All non meat or produce products on my grocery list are 365 brand, unless otherwise noted.
- Pick and choose which specialty items are most worth it to you. Like I said before, we like being able to buy our $7 fancy granola and $7 cashew cheeses, etc., and this week’s grocery haul included both of those things. Things like plant-based yogurt, cheeses, fancy dark chocolate bars, artisanal chips and crackers, and baking mixes are all going to add massive $$$ to your grocery bill if you don’t keep yourself in check. You don’t need to eliminate all of those things, but try to just pick a few to enjoy each week. Next week you can always choose some different ones.
Are you someone who shops at (or avoids) Whole Foods regularly? I hope this post is helpful! Please feel free to share with anyone you think could benefit from it, and leave a comment below with any tips you use or that I might have missed!