Stocking a Healthier Pantry From Whole Foods for $99: Can It Be Done?

(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

My dreams of wealth aren’t about diamonds or fancy cars. My fantasy is this: I do all my shopping at Whole Foods and I’m never shocked when the cashier tells me the total. As it is, I only occasionally shop at Whole Foods because I’m often shocked by the total, so when I saw a promotion from the chain claiming “For about $99 you can stock a healthier pantry!” I was skeptical — but also curious. Could I purchase everything on their long list of items at my local Whole Foods for under $100? I grabbed my shopping bags and headed to the store to find out.

The Approach

It’s no secret that the key to saving money at Whole Foods is ignoring the fancy name brand items and filling your basket with items from the bulk bins and the store’s private label 365 Everyday Value brand. This is the strategy the store recommends for its pantry list and it paid off; nearly all the items I purchased were in the $2-$3 range. I couldn’t find the 365 brand tahini at my store and at $8.99, the cheapest alternative ended up being the most expensive item on my shopping list. I also couldn’t find an inexpensive option for the arame seaweed, only a 1.75-ounce bag for $10.99, so that was the one item on the list I skipped. (I’m hoping Whole Foods has a less expensive option that my store doesn’t carry.)

The List

Here are the 38 items that were on my list:
• 4 lbs dried beans (pinto, white, black & lentils)
• 4 15-oz cans no-salt-added beans (kidney, pinto, black, garbanzo)
• 4 lbs whole grains (1 quinoa, 1 pearled barley, 2 long-grain brown rice)
• 2 lbs whole-wheat pasta of your choice
• 2 lbs rolled and/or steel-cut oats
• 1 6-oz can tomato paste
• 2 14.5-oz cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes
• 1 32-oz box low-sodium organic vegetable broth
• 1 32-oz box organic unsweetened soymilk
• 1 32-oz box organic unsweetened almondmilk
• 1 14-oz can organic lite coconut milk
• 1 8-oz pkg organic mellow white miso
• 1 2-oz pkg arame sea vegetable
• 1 16-oz jar tahini (ground sesame seed butter)
• 1 18-oz jar organic no-salt-added peanut or almond butter
• 8 oz each organic raw almonds, walnuts and sunflower seeds
• 8 oz each organic unsulfured apricots, dates and raisins
• 1 8-oz squeeze bottle organic Dijon mustard
• 1 32-oz bottle organic apple cider vinegar
• 1 6-oz bottle Bragg Liquid Aminos
• 1 10-oz bottle reduced-sodium tamari soy sauce

The Total

I’ll admit I was nervous as the cashier was scanning my items. I was at a store just outside of Los Angeles, where I assume the prices are on the higher end of what Whole Foods offers. But when the total came in, I was shocked — in a good way, for once! It was
$93.52, well under the $99 total Whole Foods promised. (If I had purchased the arame, the total would have been $104.51, but I suspect that I still could have gotten in under the $99 mark if my store stocked the 365 brand tahini.)
(Image credit: Anjali Prasertong)

The Verdict

I’m always pleased with the quality of the bulk goods and 365 Everyday Value products at Whole Foods, and I would have a hard time finding another store in my area with an extensive selection of organic pantry goods at comparable prices. If you’re looking to stock a healthier pantry with plenty of whole grains, legumes, nuts, dried fruits, and flavor-boosting seasonings, this list is a simple and affordable way to start.
See the list: Stock a Healthier Pantry at Whole Foods

Do these results surprise you? What pantry staples do you shop for at Whole Foods?