My goal when buying food is to save money on groceries while buying the best food for my family that I can afford. I do this by carefully planning my grocery lists, using coupons and coupon apps, stalking the organic meat section for manager discounts*, and checking my receipt to make sure I wasn’t overcharged.

Whole Foods stores in New York City are under fire right now for alleged overcharging. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) says the stores overcharged for packaged, fresh foods. According to The Washington Post, the DCA tested 80 kinds of prepackaged foods like meat, dairy and baked goods. Eight-nine percent of them were priced higher than then they should have been.

The overcharges ranged from $0.80 for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp, according to the DCA report. Among the other examples:

  • Vegetables platters, which were $20 a package, were overpriced by an average of $2.50 each. One was overpriced by $6.15.
  • Chicken tenders were overpriced, on average, by $4.13 a package.
  • Packages of berries were overpriced by an average of $1.15. One package was overpriced by $1.84.

The overcharges that happened at Whole Foods aren’t the easiest ones to spot. It’s difficult to tell if the 1 1/2-pound package of fresh, ground beef you’re buying weighs exactly that. It’s easier to make sure the items you buy ring up for the correct advertised shelf or sales circular price.

If you can, keep an eye on the register as your groceries are rung up to make sure there are no mistakes. When you get your receipt, check it carefully before you leave the store. If there is a discrepancy, go to the customer service desk for a refund on the overcharge(s). Some stores have a policy to give you more back than the overcharged amount, but those policies vary from store to store.

I’m an optimist, and I choose to believe that grocery stores aren’t overcharging knowingly. I’ll give the stores the benefit of the doubt and assume the overcharges are because of error, not dishonesty, but that doesn’t mean I’ll accept them. I spend about an hour planning my weekly grocery shopping so I can save money on the best foods I can afford. I’m not going to let those savings get negated by overcharges.

* If you’re unfamiliar with manager discounts, they are discounts on food that’s about to meet its sell-by date. I check the organic meat case every time I go into the grocery store, even if I’m just popping in to get one item. The store where I shop reduces the price of meat by half. It’s still perfectly safe to eat, and if I put it in the freezer, it can last for months. I often plan this week’s dinner menus based on last week’s manager-discounted chicken or beef.

Related on MNN:


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

​Do you check your grocery bills for mistakes?
NYC Whole Foods is overcharging for prepackaged foods. Grocery shoppers need to check receipts.