This post is by blog team member, Kiran. Check out our team page to learn more about her!
If you’ve read some of my past posts, you may already know I actually love grocery shopping. I know, I know. Some may think it’s strange, but as long as I have a plan and know what I need, I really enjoy it. My kids do, too, but perhaps that’s because of the snacks they get along the way.
I wrote a post last year about saving money at one of my favorite stores: Whole Foods Market. And in case you haven’t read that one, let me reiterate. I love Whole Foods Market. In a weird way. Bear with me, ya’ll; I promise I’m not too wacko. Let me also state that this post is in no way sponsored (i.e., paid for) by Whole Foods Market.
So here’s the deal with the store. You walk in and are immediately entranced with the environment. Colorful produce is so prettily displayed, and aisles and aisles of products are begging for a second glance. One could get lost in thought and walk out with grocery carts full. But alas, I don’t want you to give away your whole paycheck, as the saying goes, so I created a list of some do’s and don’ts and some of my personal faves in this Whole Foods shopping list. There’s even a printable version at the end of this post if you want to take it with you.
A Few Tips
1. I don’t advise doing your entire shopping at Whole Foods Market. I realize it’s annoying to have to shop multiple stores, so if your budget permits doing all of your shopping here, more power to ya. Otherwise, read on for key items that you’ll want to buy.
2. Don’t assume that just because Whole Foods Market offers a product that it is “real food approved.” Always, always, always look at labels. Should I say it again? Look at your labels.
3. Don’t assume that all of their produce is organic. It’s not! And that’s fine if you are ok with some conventional. Just be sure to follow the dirty dozen list.
4. This is one store where it’s okay to shop hungry, because they generally have lots of snacks along the way (remember my kids’ love of shopping here?). :)
5. If you have questions, ask! They are fully staffed with individuals who have always been helpful, at least with me. So go for it.
6. Get inspired. I often pick up their recipe cards within the store for inspiration. They also have a cool app that offers recipes that I like to try. Again, be sure to look for ingredients, etc. before completely buying in.
And now, lets get on with what I buy in the produce and pantry items categories. My list was so long that I had to split it into two parts, so look for Part II coming up within the next few weeks. Please note that offerings and prices may vary by store.
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The produce section is pretty, but be forewarned, for sure. As mentioned above, seek out your organics, or at least seek the dirty dozen. Shop the sales. They have oodles of pre-cut produce with steep price tags to accompany them (in my opinion).
I always shop the sales in the produce department. If you have time to frequent a few stores, I’d suggest doing the same. You can definitely pay an arm and a leg just in this department if you do all of your produce shopping here. But again, if money is not an issue, have at it.
|365 Organic Carrots|
One of our favorite snacking foods.
|365 Organic Peeled Baby Carrots|
For those who prefer baby carrots, the 365 brand is a good option.
|Bulk Organic Beets|
Great for buying just one or two beets for roasting, because more than a few in my family is too much at one time.
|Organic Sweet Potatoes|
Ditto on above. Buy as many or as few as you want.
|City Roots Local Organic Microgreens|
I love topping salads with these or sticking them in wraps. I also love that they are local.
Actually, they have a few brands that I like – Earthbound Farms, Super Girl Greens, and the 365 brand. Varieties include the norm such as baby spinach, 50/50 mix, spring mix, etc.
I love Whole Foods Market’s 365 brand. It’s a generic, of sorts, but somehow it doesn’t feel generic, and many of their options actually are solid and somewhat economical. As always, read your labels. Here are some of my favorites:
|365 Organic Whole Wheat Pasta|
Elbows, penne, or spirals – oh my! I always stock up on these when I’m in the store.
|365 Organic Tomato Basil (or other) Sauce|
A great pantry staple.
|365 Black, Garbanzo, Great Northern and other Beans||per can|
|365 Black Beans|
For those who fear the bulk bins, snag a pre-packaged bag of dried beans.
|365 Cocktail Sauce|
This one definitely won’t pass all of the real food rules, but for special occasions when my kids are asking for it, I prefer an organic version.
|365 Organic Indian Brown Basmati Rice|
I grew up eating basmati rice (my father is Indian), so this one’s a no-brainer for me. Also available in the bulk section.
|365 Organic Chicken Broth|
Though we suggest making your own, having a box of this on hand is never a bad thing, in my opinion.
In case you are not seeking out organic and/or raw nuts, these are a bulk option that is more cost-effective. The almonds are whole. The cashews are roasted and unsalted.
|1 lb. almonds|
Either the 365 brand (organic) or Spicely are my go-to’s. Prices vary per spice.
This does not pass the rule test either, and this is a very occasional purchase for me. But I do like a kombucha here and there for probiotics, and frankly, the taste. It’s organic and raw and pricey to boot, making it, again, an occasional splurge.
|365 Wheat Squares|
Similar to the ol’ Frosted Mini Wheats but without the sugar, these contain whole wheat and mixed tocopherols only. They also are non-GMO verified.
|Garden of Life Raw D3|
One year ago a blood test showed I have dangerously low levels of Vitamin D, so much so that I had to take a prescription strength of 50,000 IU’s/week for two months. Now I supplement with this (I take one/day). And while I’m sure you can find it cheaper online, I still like to support my local stores.
|Whole Foods Market Organic Whole Wheat Bread|
My first choice is always Great Harvest for their Honey Whole Wheat, but this bread will do in a pinch.
|Roots Brand Hummus|
It’s not organic, but it’s made locally (Asheville), and they have some of the coolest flavors (Thai Coconut, Spinach, Black Bean, Extra Hot Chipotle, and more).
|Engine 2 Organic Crispbread|
With just 5 ingredients, this “cracker” passes the test and is great with assorted toppings (pesto/cheese/nut butters).
|Traditional Medicinals Tea|
Throat Coat and Green Tea (various varieties).
So those are some of my favorite finds at Whole Foods Market. Part II will include bulk items, meat/seafood, dairy/frozen, and prepared foods. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about products that you are sure to buy when you shop the store, too!
52 thoughts on “My Go-To Whole Foods Shopping List (Part 1)”
whole foods 3x the cost of trader joes can not afford to shop there much
I love GT’s, too! Trader Joe’s now sells it for $2.99. Can’t beat that price.
If you have a Kroger nearby the traditional medicines teas are on sale for $3 from time to time they are selling their holiday teas now and I got the throat coat for 3$
Have you thought about using lard to help your vitamin D levels? It’s usually better to obtain vitamins from food sources than supplements. Lard obtained from free-range pigs is supposed to have the hugest content of vitamin D and in theory you should only need a tablespoon or two a day to fulfill your vitamin D needs. I’ve read suggestions to cook eggs in it for breakfast. I believe vitamin D is also fat soluble, so will be taken better into your body when taken through a fat source.
I too love Whole Foods Market & shop there every week since they opened in 2005. My daughter and I have so much fun there. It truly is a fun shopping experience! I live alone and am retired, yet I shop all the sales & use their coupons. The organic lettuce is only 2.49. It is 4.00 at regular stores. In the long run, I save money shopping there!
Me too Toni. :D
Thanks. It wasn’t showing up on Internet Explorer so I had to open it up in Firefox and then I saw the button.
You mentioned that there was a printable version of the foods you buy at Whole Foods at the end of the blog but I didn’t see it.
It’s a big orange button above – it says “Click for Printable List.” Let us know if you have any issues with it!
Where is part two? I tried searching, but maybe I missed it or I am looking in the wrong spot?
Hi Wendy. Part 2 is still in the works. :)
Hello! Can you please explain why GT’s Kombucha does not pass the “rules test” ??
Also, are your thoughts restricted mainly to store-bought varieties of kombucha, or to home-made as well?
I’d have to see the ingredients – to be honest kombucha was not a big thing when we developed our real food pledge so it wasn’t really considered for the rules (it doesn’t mean it’s bad or anything).
It’s possible because reading the label, it looks like added sugar. However, the sugar is eaten during the fermentation process by the scoby, and essential to the process! GT’s is one of my favs, you’ll notice how low the sugar count is, so you know it’s just from the fruit verse other brands that have as much sugar as juice!
You mentioned loving Great Harvest honey whole wheat bread, but the last time I bought that it contained corn syrup. GM corn. Maybe the franchise in your area is different?
Well that is interesting! I wonder – but definitely worth checking in at all franchises (including my own!)
Thx for the list. Costco has organic carrot for about 50 cents per lbs, and organic sweet potatoes for less than $2 per lbs. costco carries more and more organic items now, doesn’t hurt to shop around.
So true! I was actually at Costco last week (I don’t normally shop there) and saw them. The only thing is that the bags that I saw were 10 lb. bags. Now we go through a lot of carrots, but for some that may be too many at one time. I was impressed with all of the organics, though!
You should try making your own cocktail sauce – so easy!
The thing I love most about shopping at Whole Foods is their quality standards– every single item sold in the store has to follow these guidelines:
1. No hydrogenated fats.
2. No artificial colors.
3. No artificial flavors.
4. No artificial sweeteners.
5. No artificial preservatives.
It comforts me to know that the food I buy is safe! I try to shop for things like crackers at other big grocery stores and it takes me 30 minutes just to find one option without artificial ingredients.
Go here for more info: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/quality-standards/food-ingredient
Thank you for the Whole Foods tips. Hands down my favorite buy there is the Norwegian Salmon. After the volcano eruptions in Iceland, the Norwegian was no longer available. But it’s back! Even though it’s a farmed fish, the environment is so similar to the salmon’s natural environment that no color is added. The texture of the Norwegian is similar to King salmon. It’s a decadent delight. My other Whole Foods rule of thumb: stick to Whole Foods brands. These brands are competitive with other grocery stores.
For whole wheat bread, look what I found at my local health food store / bakery! It is really good!
“Whole Wheat Applesauce
Most of our breads are made with local raw wildflower honey and oil. To make this bread we leave out the honey and oil and use unsweetened applesauce instead. The only flour is whole wheat. The result is a whole wheat bread with no added sugar and very low fat that can be used in place of other whole wheat breads on sandwiches because it doesn’t taste sweet or have an apple flavor.
While anyone may enjoy this bread it is especially useful for those wanting to eliminate added sugars and use only whole grain.”
Thanks for sharing this! I live in Seattle and have been so pleasantly surprised with the competitive pricing Whole Foods has been offering lately. One trick that keeps me on budget is using InstaCart – I don’t think it’s available everywhere, but it allows you to order your groceries online and have someone else do the shopping for you! While I love going into beautiful Whole Foods stores it sure saves me money to not be tempted by the inviting displays.
My go-to’s at Whole foods are oats in the bulk bins, Bragg’s: liquid aminos, apple cider vinegar and healthy vinaigrette. I also get a vegan butter substitute in sticks; one of the few processed items I use as a short cut. I also get Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in various flavors/scents from the whole body section as well as kiss my face aloe toothpaste and Tom’s of Maine kid’s toothpaste both without fluoride.
My kid’s love the Pirate’s Booty corn sticks that I used to get from WF but I guess they no longer make it. I can’t find it anywhere. My girls used to call then ‘cheetos’.
My mom makes her own dressings and they are unbelievable. She gave me a book of them for Christmas. I can’t wait to mix them up. :) This was such an eye opener, thank you for this post.
LOL I meant to comment on the https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2015/01/12/misleading-product-roundup-iv-fooled/ post, but I also love this one, I’m trying to get up to Whole Foods (30 mins away from us) because the Shaws has slim pickins. This will be a great guide.
great list! would love to see a Trader Joe’s list! We primarily shop there :)
She did one!
We don’t have a Whole Foods near us (sadly) but I was a bit shocked to read the prices you posted. They are nowhere near as bad as I had feared – they aren’t THAT different from what you will find in my regular grocery store. Now I really wish we had one close by! Luckily though my grocery store does carry a lot of organic produce, baking supplies, and peanut butter (I’m sure other things but that’s what I mostly buy). Plus I’ve learned a lot from this website about what to look for!
Don’t forget the Whole Foods case discount. For the 365 pasta sauce a case is 12 boxes and you get 10% off. Just look on the shelf tag and it will tell you the number in a case for other products. Plan ahead and you can save.
Full circle is a great organic and economical brand they sell at many chains too!
I also buy the 365 brand Baked Woven Wheats crackers at Whole Foods. They are their version of Triscuits. They aren’t organic but they only have 2 ingredients- whole wheat & salt, with no icky processed oils. And they’re very affordable.
Another great one to check out … thanks, Krista!
I am so inspired by your blog! I recently started my own blog to document a 30 day challenge I am doing with Barre3 that is based on whole, real, foods, and Barre3’s gentle, energizing workouts! Check it out @ eatwithalex.blogspot.com
Hi there! Your philosophy sounds very similar to the way I prefer to shop for my family…as much unprocessed food as possible. I so wish we had a Whole Foods close to us…we do have a Trader Joe’s, and I grab a lot of my staples there, but, like you mentioned above, one cannot assume that just because it is at a “healthier” food store that it is good for you! I always make sure to read the ingredients! Thanks for your tips, and I look forward to reading more on your blog!
Love Whole Foods! 365 is what I go for first, then I look around to see what else I can find. Brown cow is a great dairy product and grab the coupon mag they offer you might be able to save a little more. Working there would be one of my dream jobs!
Thanks for the tip on Brown Cow! I will check it out next time:).
interesting info. I always wait for your latest updates. thank
this is fantastic info. i always buy Paleo Wraps. they’re really good. i have recipes posted at http://www.urbanpl8.com
What a great post, thank you for sharing! I was reading thru the newest issue of Clean Eating and it inspired me to clean out my cabinets and pantry of items that were expired, etc. I have so much room now and your post on Whole Foods items is perfect. I frequent there on my lunch hour. The norm for me is their awesome salad bar/hot bar and their prepared fruit. Whole Foods fruit is hands down the best ever, in my opinion. I’ve tried other stores prepared fruit, but it’s not the same. I’m looking forward to part II, thanks again!
LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this list!!!!!!!! :D
Whole Foods has coupons on their website that are worth checking out before you go shopping too. Great list. Thanks!
For spices, buy in bulk-especially if its something you don’t use a lot of or use very often, its way cheaper than buying pre packaged spices. Also, ask the staff how to cut unfamiliar items-they’ll be happy to show you
Thanks, Kiran! I always enjoy and learn from your posts. Can’t wait for the new Whole Foods in this end of town!
These may break the rules but at Whole Foods I’ll grab a bag of
Snakaroons in the cookie aisle! :) just one of those will satisfy my sweet craving!
I started buying almost all of my food there, if you shop the perimeter you really can leave there with about 150 bill. I shop for a family of 4 5 diners, 7 breakfasts and 4 or 5 lunches for one adult and one kid. my pantry is full of their 365 brand and sometimes they have sales so i buy more. we eat pretty healthy but our meals are meat heavy with lots of vegetables, fruits, grains and chocolate. one side note their meat has an amazing flavor compare to traditional meat and most of the meat i buy is about 4.50 lb to 6.99 lb, so is not expensive. one more thing, you pay for what you get, you get high quality, nutritions food for example, regular “juice” pouches at regular store are 2.49 for a package of 6or 8 but you are paying for sugar, water and additives that your children don’t need. high quality juice at WFM about 3.89 but you are serving juice and nothing else.
I’m looking forward to Part 2 since I mainly go to Whole Foods for the Bulk Bins. We store dry goods in large jars and replenish our stock a few times a year. Our newer WF has such a large prepared food section it feels more like a mall food court and its easy to get sucked in. I find the best deals in the bulk aisle and with the 365 Organic items you mentioned here.
Part 2 is full of bulk info … I agree – this is a hotspot for me, too!
Great list, Kiran! A new Whole Foods Market just opened here in Boston today, so the timing is perfect. I always buy non-GMO tapioca flour and potato starch for my gluten-free flour mix at Whole Foods. They used to carry real food flour tortillas (refrigerated) at a great price, but sadly my store stopped carrying them recently. Side note about the beautiful environment – Did you know that each Whole Foods has a store artist who masters the special Whole Foods font? All the signage in each store is done by hand by the resident artist. :)
I did not know that they have their own artist! That is pretty cool – thanks for sharing!
Great list, thanks! Why doesn’t GT’s Kombucha pass the real test?
Thanks for this list Lisa. Part 4 of my New Year’s Resolution (http://www.gulfcoastgal.com/?p=50) is to work towards buying and making real food a more integrated part of our lives. I also plan on shopping around at various markets in my area to figure out the best cost for the best products. I love grocery shopping and Whole Foods as well, but I do tend to wind up in the “whole paycheck” category when I go there. This post and your one about saving there will really help me out.