Whole Foods Hack: Salad Bar

Many in the blogosphere refer to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck because of their higher prices. And, their food is so exciting that you end up spending a fortune if you don’t control yourself.

So, I am creating a new segment in my blog where I will talk about how I budget when I go to Whole Foods, and leave without spending a fortune.

Whole Foods Salad Bar Hack

I am becoming an expert at walking out the door with a $5 Whole Foods salad, and avoiding a $20 salad like I hear others complain of.

Looks like a mess, but I will explain…

  • Start with a bed of spinach or baby greens. This adds bulk to your salad without adding much weight! Skip the romaine which is a little heavier and slightly less nutritious.
  • Avoid heavy vegetables and fruits such as tomato, fresh fruit, cucumbers, and baby carrots. High water content equals high cost.
  • Choose light-weight veggies or shredded/thinly sliced vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, and cabbage.
  • Add other light-weight toppings such as sunflower seeds and dried fruit.
  • Choose your protein source wisely. I tend to choose boiled eggs (don’t weight that much), a small scoop of tuna, a few beans, and/or 2 small pieces of tofu.
  • Avoid oily foods since heavy fat sources tend to weight more.
  • Limit your dressing. Try to add a simple splash of vinegar or a tiny teaspoon of a vinegar-based dressing. Or skip dressing all together.
  • Enough is enough. Know when to stop adding toppings. As soon as you start to think, is this enough? Stop adding toppings and put a lid on it!

Other tricks:

  • Bring your own salad dressing and sides.
  • DO NOT buy fruits from the salad bar. Buy 1 apple or other piece of fruit from somewhere else, and bring it with you for your day. One apple may cost about $1, but from the salad bar could cost $4!
  • Try not to buy beverages from Whole Paycheck–there is free filtered water in the cafe eating area.

Do you have any tricks to getting a cheaper salad bar at Whole Foods?

I just hope they don’t figure out how we are getting the most of the bar, and start raising the prices!


  1. says

    I used to work for Whole Foods. One more tip for the salad bar… Use the sample cups! If you just want a taste of something, you don’t have to pay for it. You can sample anything in the store. Those bites add up (in more ways than one) too. If you don’t absolutely love one of the prepared items, you can walk away from it before you pay for (and probably begrudgingly eat) a larger portion. The cups run out fast during peak hours, so if you don’t see any, just ask the nearest employee. They’re stashed absolutely everywhere.

  2. says

    LOL This is bad but… I typically eat 1/2 my salad before buying it LOL!!!! That’s one way to make it weigh less. (I also ask for samples of everything, sometimes I can get away with eating lunch through samples) LOL. I actually don’t get salads from WF anymore really. I just get little portions of things from the bar like the grilled chicken and then I get some asparagus or some other funky dish from the prepared food section… I love to mix and match and it has actually cut down in the cost a bit. But… WHEN I AM HUNGRY, I don’t care about cost and go nuts, LOL! Another tip – if your WF does this… NEVER buy the pregrilled fish in the prepared food section, go to the seafood counter and ask them to grill it there, you will save $5 – $10!!!! Plus, the fish is so much tasiter!

  3. says

    Gigi that is a great tip about grilling the fish, would have never thought of that. I think a great thing would be to bring your own salad dressing and protein – or whatever you can bring for heavier stuff, but the allure is the convenience of no prep right, I guess sometimes a treat is a treat

    • says

      I know!! I was just there yesterday and managed to get a $6 salad. The key was to only take 1 small scoop of the various proteins that I got. The rest was mostly spinach. Oh, and I bought some clean crackers for $2 to go with it for a few carbs. :)

  4. Stephanie says

    I fill up but leave out the lettuce and protein. Then I enjoy at home over several days by adding part of it on a bed of lettuce from home and adding my own chicken and hard boiled egg on top.

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