Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saving on Your Groceries

Today, I went on Whole Foods value tour and gathered information for my reader Erica who has three hungry, carnivorous men in her family to feed.

My intention was to find out if Erica could shop at Whole Foods for her family and not spend more than she's already spending on groceries at the big box stores.

On the value tour, I learned that like the big-box stores such as Costco, you can purchase WFs meat, fish, bulk items, tinned, bottled and frozen goods as well as fresh produce at a 10% discount when you buy large quantities.

In fact, you can buy just about anything at WFs for a discount if you buy in quantity:

1) Note the picture above of brightly-packaged frozen tuna, salmon and halibut -- a 10% discount applies on cases of frozen fish. In one case there are 12 packets of 12 ounces of fish, so a case contains 24 pieces of top-quality frozen fish. Cost that out, and you'll find you're paying a mere $3.50 per piece of fish. Ask your fish-counter team leader for help.

2) At the meat counter, ground beef is always .50c off each pound over purchases of 3lbs. The pre-packaged family packs of chicken and steak are also .50c off each pound over 3lbs. Cryovac packs of NY steaks are available with the 10% discount as are 40lb cases of meat. Ask your meat-counter team leader about the "beef in the bag" program. With the 10% discount, WFs prices on their fresh meats are comparable (within a few dollars) to Costco prices.

3) In the bulk section (pic above) note the sacks under the self-help containers. The 10% discount applies when you buy sacks of commodities like flour, sugar, salt, oats, rice and beans. Dried fruits and nuts come in boxes rather than sacks. The weight of the box is indicated below the PLU number on the self-help containers. For instance, cranberries are 9.99 per lb and they're available in 25lb boxes. When you buy a box, the 10% discount applies.

4) Over in the frozen foods department, the 10% case-discount applies on all frozen goods. Check the yellow price label; it will indicate how many packets are in a case. For instance, the 365-brand sliced okra comes in cases of 12 packets.

5) Then over in the fresh produce department, everything can be bought in a case and the 10% case-discount applies.

If you're grocery shopping for a family on a budget, and you have a good freezer and a pantry with room to store dry goods, consider buying your groceries in bulk and making use of WFs 10% discount program.

Obviously the thing to do would be to stagger your bulk purchases so that you're not spending an enormous amount all at once. One week buy a case of fish. The next week buy a sack of rice. The next week buy a case of acorn squash. And so on.

I hope this has been helpful for readers like Erica, who have hungry carnivores at home, and who need and want to be mindful of saving dollars.

1 comment:

Erika Kerekes said...

Louise - thank you so much for investigating on my behalf. I will have to go to my local Whole Foods (at 225 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291) to make some comparisons. I like the fact that they give discounts for buying meat in bulk, and I generally do buy more than 3lbs at a time.

A couple of clarifications:

1) I don't know if it's true at every Costco (I hear there are different grades of stores), but at my Costco they have fresh, not frozen, choice and prime meat. For example, they generally have fresh PRIME ribeye steaks for $9.99/lb, and choice ribeye for $8.99/lb. That is at least $8/lb less than I've ever seen it at any other store. I grant you that it probably does not meet quite the same sustainability requirements as the Whole Foods meats, but the price is unbeatable and the quality is quite good.

2) Ditto on fish. I only buy fresh. At my Costco they generally have wild sockeye salmon, farmed Atlantic salmon, halibut in season, farmed tilapia, cod, Dover sole, and ahi tuna, as well as various shellfish. The quality is excellent. The prices are excellent.

I'm sorry, I am not meaning to knock Whole Foods. I love Whole Foods and am delighted that one has opened so close to my house (it's four blocks, a five-minute walk). There are things at WF I can't get anywhere else, for sure.

I will go to our local WF to do some price comparisons within the next few days and will report back.