Whole Foods Hot Bar Pizza

Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

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It’s a classic story. An unassuming shopper goes to the Whole Foods hot bar, fills their container with a modest amount of food, and then recoils in horror when they see the price tag. It turns out that paying $11.99 per pound for ready-to-eat mac and cheese isn’t exactly economical.

However, there is another way to enjoy prepared meals at Whole Foods Market, one that skirts the hot bar’s inflated food-per-pound pricing model. No, we’re not advocating you manipulate the scale at self-checkout or steal. Instead, we suggest ordering from the chef’s counter.

@munchwithmojo Replying to @Marla Monnette hope this helped with the confusion!! Not the hot bar, the chefs counter and chefs plate🫶🏼 #wholefoodsmarket #wholefoodsdeals #wholefoodshaul #trythismeal #easylunchideas ♬ original sound - MOJO

At the chef’s counter (located near the hot bar), you can order a main and two sides for $12 to $14, the foodie and TikTokker Molly Jones explains in a popular video. Just ask for a “chef’s plate.” Although you won’t have access to all of the prepared foods at the chef's counter, there’s a good smattering of salads and proteins, such as honey-roasted salmon and tzimmes (a Jewish stew)

Compared to the $11.99-per-pound hot bar — or, even worse, Erehwon — that’s a steal. And unlike Costco’s food court, the king of pre-prepared food,  a Whole Foods chef’s plate won’t send you to your cardiologist.

Other ways you can save money on prepared meals at Whole Foods include:

  1. Don’t waste your money on heavy, cheap foods like mac and cheese. Dense, watery vegetables and bone-in meats will also run up your bill. Instead, shop for light, premium entrees (salad and fish, for example) to get the best bang for your buck.

  2. Weigh your meals as you go so you aren’t surprised at the register.

  3. Don’t use the largest container. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.

  4. Use Whole Foods’ soup cups at the hot bar. The small soup cups sell for around $4.50, regardless of weight.

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Whole Foods Hot Bar BBQPhoto credit: Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

The Bottom Line

Navigating the world of prepared meals at Whole Foods can be a bit like walking through a minefield, with the risk of an unexpectedly hefty bill. However, as we've discovered, there are clever ways to enjoy the retailer’s offerings without breaking the bank. Ordering from the chef's counter, as Molly Jones suggests, allows you to savor a balanced meal without the sticker shock of the hot bar's per-pound pricing.

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