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Danny Seo's 5 Tips for Saving Money at the Organic Grocery

Written by Abby Stone, The Kitchn
Published: September 15, 2011


While we love organic grocery stores, it can be very pricey to shop at such places (we have friends who jokingly refer to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck). So we were very intrigued when Danny Seo — who has become such a popular, helpful resource for economical, eco-friendly, and stylish living — hinted to us that he'd found ways we hadn't even considered to save at these stores.

And, in a surprisingly related side note, he also shares his secret for organizing his holiday ornaments! Come read his tips for saving money — have you tried any of these?


Here are Danny's thoughtful tips for saving a buck or two at the organic grocery — specifically Whole Foods (although these can be applied to most organic grocery stores).


1. You can, and should, use coupons at the organic grocery and Whole Foods.
The biggest misconception about the store is that they don't take coupons.  But, although they function differently than the average big-box grocer, they take the same coupons.  Whether you find them right on Whole Foods own website or in their newsletter (which also offers budget-friendly recipes and tips on what's on sale and in season), in your Sunday paper or through the websites of individual brands, these coupons work just as well here as anywhere.  Brands like Morningstar Farms, Kashi Cereal, and Method, among others, have both websites and pages on Facebook. Sign up for the brand newsletter or "Like" them on Facebook to start receiving their coupons.  

• Whole Foods Market coupons


2. Join Reyclebank.
Recyclebank is a new, free online community that rewards eco-conscious behavior with coupons.  Sign up to learn their helpful and simple tips on making your life greener. Each time you pledge to implement a tip, your account is awarded points. Use your points to get coupons for significant savings on your favorite products from Kiss My Face to Earthbound Farm organic salad mixes.  Not only do they offer coupons with big savings, you can target the brands you actually buy.  During his last Whole Foods trip, Recyclebank coupons saved Danny about $20 off his bill!  The average Reyclebank user saves close to $150 a year.

• Visit Recyclebank: Recyclebank


3. Buy generic or house brand cereals, olive oils, frozen fruits and vegetables.
Just like your regular supermarket, Whole Foods and other big chains of organic groceries usually have their own versions of generic branded food.  Whole Foods 365 brands are indistinguishable from the national brands...and just as good.

The best choices are the ones certified USDA organic.  Since all brands have to follow the same guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture to earn the organic mark, it's a guarantee that it's healthy. And house brands are often significantly cheaper!

• Find the USDA guidelines: USDA organic guidelines


4. Buy local and seasonal — and upcycle a box while you're at it!
If you're jonesing for organic strawberries in January, you'll pay a premium for them because it's January, not because they're organic.  If you shop Whole Foods regularly, you'll discover that they often have sales of produce in season when the supplies are high. Buy it on sale and freeze it for the winter. Berries are especially easy to freeze: spread them out on a baking sheet so they're not touching and stick the tray in the freezer, bag them when frozen.  

• Here's a list of state-specific seasonal produce guides to help you out!.

And, while you're in the produce section, ask if you can have some of those cardboard boxes with the plastic inserts that often hold fragile produce like peaches and tomatoes. They make great organizers for your holiday ornaments!


5. Don't lie about organic produce.
This last is less a tip for immediate savings than for keeping the price of organic produce down in the long run, whether at Whole Foods or your local supermarket. Unfortunately, Danny has seen a lot of people who will look at the prices of organic and conventionally grown produce and immediately see the price difference.  To "beat the system" they fill their bag with the organic produce, weigh it at one of those machines that print out a price sticker and use the conventional produce code to get a cheaper price.  

The problem is that supermarkets keep track of sales of products throughout their stores and if they see that the organic produce isn't selling, they'll stop stocking it.  Or, if they do stock it, the price will be higher because the supermarket can't make a good deal with the supplier.  

So, if you like buying organic produce, be honest when you weigh it. 


You can also check out this fantastic article here.

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