The total cheapskate’s guide to lunch at Whole Foods

Sometimes I wonder if the other people I see at whole foods have budgets, or even jobs. Working by the store is both a blessing and a curse. For me, it is the most convenient place in town to get lunch but I always spend more money than I intend too (it is way too easy!) and buy things I probably shouldn’t (Big John cookies!).  I am also not a fan of the vegan/raw bar there and often end up getting a premade salad or wrap in an attempt to not break the bank. If I am really hungry or indecisive then I lose all willpower and I end up at the super bar (like most people seem to at lunch) and I spend at least 10 dollars, usually a lot more. Which is way too much for me. Also, since I’m a total cheapskate and it is priced by the pound it takes me forever to decide what is worth the weight.

This biryani, steamed kale & sesame tofu with peanut sauce, samosa & fruit cost about 9 dollars and was considered a victory

Usually, when I don’t have a lot of money I get rice and beans in a cup from the taco bar for a dollar (grab a little free cup of salsa, if you ask them add salsa it will be considered a “taco in a cup” and double the price). If I am really hungry I get a double layer of beans and rice for 2 dollars, or dump it on top of some mixed greens to up the healthiness factor and eat fairly cheap. I also always cruise through the produce aisle since they have fresh fruit samples and enjoy those as well. If you are going to get fruit it is cheaper to get it here in the prepared cups then to add it in at the salad bar too where everything is the same price.

When making a plate at the salad bar I used to always put a layer of spinach at the bottom since it is so light and healthy, but it’s still 7.99 a pound for anything on the bar so it always adds up more than I think it will. The other day, I was talking to someone who gave me this awesome tip; after you are done filling up on fruit samples, get your mixed greens for your lunch from the produce aisle where they are only 5.99 a pound. Put it in a produce bag and add it to your plate after you pay. It is the exact same greens for 2 dollars less!There is actually a whole wall now of precut and washed salad ready food right behind the vegan bar and it is even less at 4.99 a pound. It is all the same stuff from the big super bar and on a recent trip they had kale and asparagus and other expensive vegetables that weren’t on the salad bar. What a great deal! If you mix the precut vegetables with the rice and beans from the taco bar you can have an amazingly healthy lunch for less then 5 dollars. And if you are reading this whole foods, don’t worry I still spend plenty of money at your dang store on açaí smoothies, coffee, food for lover’s queso, delicious beer, and vegan ice cream.

What do you get at Whole Foods?

10 thoughts on “The total cheapskate’s guide to lunch at Whole Foods

  1. windycityvegan

    Awesome post! I totally do the same things: Fill up on fruit samples (it’s even more super easy if I have my kid with me, my Free Sample Wingman, so to speak), convince myself that spending less than $10-15 is a ‘victory’, and spend my entire lunch hour deliberating over what is actually worth going in that brown take-out box.

    Sort of like the Spongeworthy episode of Seinfeld, no?

    Things I go to Whole Foods specifically for: buying sprouted tofu by the case for the 10% discount; stocking up on the staggering poundage of raw cashews my family chomps on and I make alt milk from; local kombucha by the gallon (I really need to start making it myself); and until recently, the Dandies that I could only find at Whole Foods. I’ve now seen my daughter reduced to tears one too many times (she’s a bit of a diva) over no more Dandies, so I’m making my own vegan/gf marshmallows at home. Which is fun, but reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaalllly messy.

  2. natalamc

    In the green section they have a daily greens/beans/grain and sauce for 1.99🙂 one is pretty hefty – but even if you went with getting 2 you’d only be at 4 bucks for a pretty decent meal🙂

    the bulk prices I find are really good – I get all my grains/beans and nutritional yeast from bulk.
    (and I have a pressure cooker so things cook SUPER fast!)

  3. lazysmurf Post author

    Whoa! I have never seen the daily greens/beans/grain and sauce for 1.99 , thanks for the tip!!!

  4. Kathryn

    I love the Indian food at Whole Foods. I get so paranoid about spending too much money, though, that always underestimate the amount of food that I need to get full. Usually I make up for that by splurging on candy– the bulk aisle there is insane!

  5. Jes

    I’ve never been able to get away cheap at Whole Foods, but the one thing I miss the most is the pizza dough. $3 for fresh, ready to bake pizza dough?! Made my Fridays super awesome when I lived in Atlanta!!

  6. lazysmurf Post author

    Wow! I got the crust once but it was more than 3 dollars, I never thought of just getting the dough! Great tip!

  7. Michal

    Thats actually an awesome tip. I used to fill up on veggies and pay about $14 (here it costs more than $7.99/lb).
    Thanks!

  8. Alice

    Wow! You are one smart smurf. Thanks for the tips about getting greens in the produce aisle rather than the salad bar.

  9. Johanna W.

    You know what is also awesome: skip the rice and get one of those fat rolls over in the bakery and make a sandwich with all the stuff. An employee watched me doing that one day at the Hadley, Massachusetts store and thought that it was a great idea.

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