How to Save at Trader Joe’s, ALDI, & Whole Foods

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It’s no secret that everything from healthy weekly basics to specialty ingredients are more expensive than usual. But with some planning and a little insider knowledge, you can be kind to your body and your budget! Here are some money-saving tips to keep in mind when shopping at three of the most popular niche grocery stores in the US.

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is already known for its low prices. “‘Sale’ is a four-letter word to us. We have low prices, every day,” they write on their website. That being said, there are still some clever ways to save on top of the baseline deals.

Keep up with the Fearless Flyer – Trader Joe’s dedicated newsletter. 

  • It’s not intended for discounts or coupons, but Trader Joe’s will highlight deals on some items. At the time of this writing, the holiday edition of the Fearless Flyer is spotlighting a seasonal coffee blend that’s being offered at the same price it was in 2005 of $7.99! 
  • The Fearless Flyer can help you plan your shopping list so you don’t get off track in the store. You can even create your shopping list on their website.

When it comes to wine, TJ’s brand is a steal

  • Thrifty wine drinkers will love Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” aka Trader Joe’s exclusive Charles Shaw label wine. It’s closer to $4 these days, but it’s still a great deal if you’re fortunate enough to live near a Trader Joe’s that carries wine (I am not, unfortunately!).

Clip the right coupons

  • You won’t find coupons for Trader Joe’s branded products, but they’ll accept coupons for the select few products they carry that are made by other manufacturers.

BYOB – Bring Your Own Bags

  • Many locations will enter you into a raffle to win a $25 Trader Joe’s gift card if you bring your own bags and also spend at least $25. Not all locations do this, so bring your bag and ask at checkout if you can enter. 

Return any private label product for a full refund

  • Trader Joe’s believes in the products that carry their name, so if you don’t love what you’ve bought, don’t let your money go to waste. You can return the item for a full refund or exchange it for something else. 

ALDI

Like Trader Joe’s, ALDI is known for its already low prices. “Everything we do is purposefully designed to save people money,” they write. “When it comes to value, ALDI low prices are hard to beat.” So sure, you can save money just by shopping there instead of another mainstream grocery store, but who isn’t happy to shave even more off the grocery bill? Here’s how:

Let the ALDI Finds newsletter guide your shopping list

  • Each week, ALDI releases their ALDI Finds guide full of the best available deals that week. Be sure to check it out when meal planning to see how you can save that week.

Download the ALDI app

  • Stay in the loop on ALDI’s best deals and updates when you download the app. The ALDI Finds deals are right there at your fingertips. 
  • Plan ahead and avoid unnecessary impulse purchases when you create a shopping list through the app. 
  • Be the first to know about new items to hit your local stores.

Bring your reusable bags

  • Some stores, like Trader Joe’s, might incentivize you to bring your own bags with a fun reward. ALDI, on the other hand, will charge you if you don’t. Show up without your own bags, and they’ll tag fees onto your bill. 
    • Their website states, “Given our simple approach to retailing, one of the ways we help our customers save money is by encouraging them to bring their own shopping bags or to purchase a reusable, long-lasting ALDI bag. The end result is that we not only save our customers money – by avoiding adding the cost of the bag to our prices – but also precious resources.”

Use their return policy if needed

  • ALDI guarantees quality on their private-label products. With their Twice as Nice Guarantee, if you’re not happy with an ALDI-exclusive product, take it back. They’ll return your money and replace the product.

Whole Foods

They don’t call it “Whole Paycheck” for nothing! Whole Foods is certainly on the pricier end of the food stores chain. However, with over 450 locations across the US, Whole Foods is often the most accessible of the niche, health-focused grocery stores available, and they have a broad selection of high-quality packaged items and ingredients. If Whole Foods is your go-to, here’s how you can save:

Get exactly what you need 

  • With some departments, you can ask for the portion size you need:
    • You don’t have to buy that entire pre-weighed wedge of cheese on display! 
      • Most locations have a basket of smaller chunks of cheese than the standard sizes on display. If you don’t see the size you want, ask for a smaller cut of your cheese of choice and the cheesemonger will oblige. 
    • You can also ask for smaller sections in the meat and seafood department. 
      • Need a smaller filet of fish? Don’t want to buy the whole bag of mussels or clams? Only need a steak half the size of what’s available? The kind folks behind the counter will provide the portion you want. 
    • Head over to the bulk section.
      • Most Whole Foods have a section with bulk pasta, grains, beans, spices, and other ingredients. Instead of buying a whole box or bag of these products, take advantage of this section to get exactly what you need. The prices are often lower than buying something pre-packaged.

Get smart…

  • By using your smartphone that is! The Whole Foods app is a great resource for reviewing the weekly sales and deals available at your local store.
  • The best way to save money at any grocery store, besides not shopping while you’re hungry, is to plan your purchases. You can create your shopping list directly within the app.
  • The app will alert you to coupons available at your local stores. 

Buy Whole Foods’ name brand products

  • 365 is Whole Foods’ generic brand, and items with this label are high quality, yet sold at a lower price than other available brands.

Leverage Amazon’s ownership of Whole Foods 

  • If you have an Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card or if you’re willing to snag a new credit card, this card will give you 5 percent cash back on all Whole Foods purchases if you’re an Amazon Prime member or 3 percent cash back if you’re not.
  • Prime members will also get exclusive discounts at Whole Foods like 10 percent off sale items. The Whole Foods app will highlight “Prime Member Deals,” so you can plan your savings in advance. 

Don’t feel pressured to buy organic

  • Sure, Whole Foods is known for their organic selection, but they offer non-organic counterparts at better prices. If you’re not sure what you should buy organic, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, which tells you which produce items are most likely to absorb toxins. Buy these items organic and save your pennies on the other stuff.

Keep it light at the hot bar and salad bar

  • Whole Foods has a tasty selection of pre-made foods. With prices based on weight, it might be best to skip the eggs, broccoli, and other heavier items when you’re building your salad for lunch. Keep this in mind at the hot bar too with heavier items like bone-in meats and potatoes.

Use a cash-back app

  • Take a picture of your receipt with a cash-back app like Ibotta to find deals on items like bread, fruit, or milk that aren’t name-brand.
  • Or, use a cashback app, like CouponCabin, which has lots of Whole Foods offers. At the time of this writing, Amazon Prime Members can save 25 percent off ready-to-serve entrees! 

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Smart Shopping Expert

Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist, TV presenter, spokesperson, and educator, specializing in beauty, tech, apps, toys, gift guides, and smart shopping. She has appeared as an expert on dozens of TV shows and radio networks, including Today, Rachael Ray Show, Inside Edition, CNN, Reuters, CNBC.com, Sirius Radio, and numerous FOX, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. Trae has been featured as a beauty tastemaker in Elle, Redbook, InStyle, and Essence, and her work has appeared on Yahoo Finance, Marketwatch, USNews.com, Credit.com, CBSNews.com, Time.com.