Whether or not you regularly shop at Whole Foods, you’ve likely heard it referred to as “Whole Paycheck.” The grocery store has a reputation for being rather pricey. And yes, there are most definitely plenty of tempting items to splurge on. But, as a regular Whole Foods customer, I’ve yet to break my budget — and I keep a pretty tight budget.
If you know where to look, you’ll find there are a number of groceries that are as cheap, if not cheaper than they are at other stores. These five items are always on my list because not just because they’re affordable. They are also the foundation for healthy dinners that are quick and easy to pull together on any given weeknight.
1. Frozen Vegetables
Whole Foods’ frozen vegetable situation is pretty great. It’s larger and has more variety than what you’ll find at many other grocery stores. In particular, there’s a great stir-fry blend of broccoli, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and green beans that can easily become a feel-good dinner: Just add some cubed chicken breast cooked in a skillet with a bit of garlic, olive oil, and soy sauce or coconut aminos.
I also love turning frozen artichokes into a fast and fancy pasta dinner. Or try this mix of cooked quinoa and vegetables. It takes about 5 minutes to prepare in the microwave or on the stovetop. To make it more substantial, top with leftover cooked chicken or a fried egg, or stir some chickpeas or black beans into it.
2. Canned Beans
Speaking of beans, canned beans from Whole Foods are just as inexpensive as they are elsewhere. In fact, they’re actually cheaper at Whole Foods than at a few other stores I frequent, so it’s worth stocking up when you’re shopping.
3. Quick-Cooking Whole Grains
I love cooking up big batches of whole grains like brown rice and farro to use for healthy grain bowls, but they usually takes a solid 45 minutes to prepare. When I don’t have that kind of time, I reach for Whole Food’s quick-cooking grains. The outer bran has been removed — a process that’s called pearling — so the grains cook in just 10 minutes.
4. Frozen Shrimp
If you don’t already have a bag or two of frozen shrimp in your freezer, pick some up the next time you’re at Whole Foods. Unless there’s a sale at the fish counter, it’s cheaper than buying fresh and usually the “fresh” is previously-frozen anyway.
5. Salad Kits
Salad kits aren’t always cheaper than buying all the components yourself but if you’re in need of something quick, they’re definitely an affordable option. One kit feeds about two people as a main and has everything you need except a little protein to enjoy as a complete meal.
Add a jammy egg, beans, cooked chicken, or cubes of baked tofu to round it out.