Archive for the ‘Saving Money’ Category

I have a problem with frugality. I just can’t handle paying more for a good or service of exactly the same quantity/quality that is cheaper elsewhere. For instance, Jewel, I love ya, but if I walked out of your doors with 3 giant bags of produce, it’s going to cost at least $50 and wipe out a huge portion of my grocery budget. Seeing that one of the things I truly excel at is buying produce, letting it sit around until it starts to turn bad and then throwing it all away, I should be buying the cheapest produce I can find. I can’t spend $50 on this process – I need to spend $11.

Stanley's Produce Chicago, IL

$11-$12 is about the average I spend at Stanley’s Fruits and Vegetables, conveniently located at North Avenue and Elston, within walking distance of my apartment. In case you can’t visualize what 3 packages of tomatoes, 2 large packages of raspberries, packaged sliced watermelon, a cantaloupe, a giant pack of grape tomatoes, an avocado and a large bag of grapes looks like for $11, let me show you:

Stanley's Fruits and Vegetables ChicagoSometimes I actually feel bad, like I should be giving them more money. “I mean, are you SURE all of this only costs $11?”

If you’ve never been to Stanley’s, let me tell you a few things. First of all, people LOVE it. Check out the Yelp reviews. Secondly, their products are ripe – this is not the kind of produce you’ll have a lot of time to let sit out on the counter before you throw it away – Stanley’s cuts down on this process by offering the type of produce that needs to be eaten within a very short days of purchase. Also, it’s going to be crowded (remember, people love it)…unless you go at 6 a.m. when they open. I highly recommend going around this time, or prepare yourself for a vulture-esque $#!t show in the parking lot, the good people of Chicago who’ve been whipped into a frenzy by the promise of 10 for $1 pluots and 5 for $1 avocados, eager to cut you off from the parking spot you’ve been eyeing, the same way they’ll cut up the 6 pounds of onions they buy for 10 cents. Seriously, beware, that parking lots gets nuts.

The variety of fruits and veggies is sizable, many items rotating seasonally. Now, if you’re into organic produce, they’ve got that too, also at great prices. The organic portion of the store is located by the deli – yes, they’ve got a deli, too. The staff is really friendly and the cashiers are extremely fast at bagging the cartfuls of produce people buy. Besides produce, they carry eggs, milk, some pastas, rice, salsa, breads and canned goods. The prices are dirt cheap, making Stanley’s one of my absolute Chicago favorites. I’ve even been trying to stretch my $11 further lately by actually washing and cutting everything up as soon as I get home – cutting down on the throwing away process tremendously. After I’ve cut everything up, it’s ready to go for the week, meaning healthy fruits and veggies at my fingertips at work and home:

Stanley's Fruit & Veggies

 

Sigh…the only bad part of healthy fruits and veggies is that on Weight Watchers, all of that would be 0 points. I’m currently counting calories using MyFitnessPal, and I’d have to track it all.

…I think…I might go back to WeightWatchers. After all, even though I haven’t been on program for over a year, I still pay for WW Online. Why is that not surprising?

 

 

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All of this...for 47 cents

For all of you kiddies that live close to a Jewel, I suggest you scamper over there before October 14. You see, they’re having a “Buy $25 worth of select Con-Agra products, get a $10 coupon at the register sale” and it goes through October 14. In the crazy world of couponers, this is code for “get a ton of free/cheap food, and where are we on filling out that application to be on an episode of Hoarders?” Let’s break this down.

At Jewel, the “buy $25” is based on the SALE price of the item (NOT shelf price, not PREFERRED CARD price – SALE price…check at the self-scanner what the sale price may be). For instance, the sale price of a can of Healthy Choice soup is currently $2.89. So…you’d need 9 to hit the magic $25 mark. Now, here comes the exciting part…although the $25 is based on the SALE price, when you scan your Jewel-Osco Preferred Card, all of a sudden the prices you actually pay become much, much lower. This is the Preferred Card price. For instance, remember that Healthy Choice soup that was $2.89/can sale price? Well, after you’ve scanned your Preferred card, it’s suddenly only 88 cents. $2.89 x 9 = $26.01, scanning your Preferred card will then give you $2.01 off every can (88 cents/each), so suddenly you’re down to $7.92 WITH a $10 coupon off your next order printing out after you pay (coupon is called a Catalina). In essence, ConAgra just paid you to eat their soup. Note, the $25 must be hit BEFORE taxes. So if you’re at $25.50 and taxes are .60 of that, you’re .10 short an NO coupon would print.

Now, if you’re smart (and trust me, couponers are v. smart), you’ll look at that $10 coupon that printed and say, “hey, if I repeat that transaction, and use this $10 coupon to pay, I’ll get another $10 coupon!” And you’d be absolutely right. If you’re doing just soup ($7.92), you’d need to add a couple more items to be able to use that $10 coupon to pay, so why not throw in at least $2.08 worth of regular groceries and get those for free? That’s how I bought that plastic silverware, bread and hot dog buns for free above.

The play-by-play goes something like this:

  1. Go to the self-checkout lane. DO NOT SCAN YOUR PREFERRED CARD YET!
  2. Scan $25 worth of ConAgra products (must hit $25 before taxes). Stop as soon as you’ve got over $25 (or just over).
  3. NOW scan your Preferred card. Watch total price go down!
  4. Pay. Collect $10 coupon.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4. Remember, you CAN use manufacturer coupons to further your profits. Just be sure to have at least $10 in your order so that you can use the $10 coupon that prints at the register.
  6. Enjoy your very cheap or free groceries.

For examples, in total, I paid $10.47 out of pocket (this total amount was broken up into 6 different transactions) for the groceries above. Of course, a $10 coupon still printed on my last transaction, so I really only paid 47 cents for all the groceries above. I bought 31 cans of soup, 2 eight-roll packs of paper towels, 10 frozen meals, Crunch n’ Munch, napkins, bread, buns, cake mix & frosting, plastic silverware and ketchup for 47 cents! Now you see why couponing can be addicting – it’s like a game where you can absolutely “get paid” to shop.

If you’re new to couponing, I highly suggest you visit Mashup Mom for a more thorough breakdown of Catalina couponing at Jewel. Additionally, find out what products are included in the Buy $25, get $10 sale and some scenarios of how to maximize your efforts at Mashup Mom’s site.

Happy Couponing!

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I know you know that I have other hobbies besides dieting. For example, I love to watch TV. Plop me down with some dinner/dessert, and I’ll watch any reality show Bravo can dream up. Flipping Out, Real Housewives (all of ’em), Kathy Griffin, Thintervention, Top Chef (p.s. thought Ed should have won) – it doesn’t really matter, I’ll watch it. Ok, dieting and TV – pretty exciting. Well, take a look at this:

That's a lot of groceries for $19

No, my other super exciting hobby isn’t grocery shopping- it’s saving money, and it goes so well with sitting at home watching TV because you’re on a diet and can’t afford to drink your Points, problems and $$ away. Besides all the cash I’m saving not going out (Chicago’s expensive), I save money on groceries by being a crazy coupon lady. That’s right, the kind that shows up with fist fulls of coupons, hogs the self checkout lanes and will return an entire cartful of groceries if my deals go south.

Let’s examine the merchandise above. This grocery haul included:

  • 2 Lean Cuisines
  • 2 Michelina’s Lean Gourmet meals
  • 2 boxes 90 cal Fiber One Bars
  • 2 Pillsbury Sweet Moments (O….M….G these are good)
  • 9 boxes Green Giant boxed vegetables
  • 3 cans Green Giant veggies
  • 9 Chex Mix bags
  • 1 Bisquick Shake n’ Pour
  • 2 boxes Fiber One yogurt
  • 1 box Yoplait Delights yogurt
  • 1 box Golden Grahams Treats granola bars

That’s 34 items, and I paid $19.19 for it all. What’s even better is that this particular batch of groceries spit out a $3 off my next purchase coupon, PLUS 3 coupons for FREE 12 packs of pop up to $3/each. So, if we add that loot into the equation, the above grocery trip really only cost $7.19.

I know what you’re thinking – who the hell eats THAT much Chex Mix? And what’s up with those Pillsbury Sweet Moments, fatty? Aren’t you supposed to be on a diet? Well, yes, that is QUITE a bit of Chex Mix, but I’ve already donated 2 bags to my roommate, and plan to distribute the rest at our super classy wine and cheese Friday parties at work (b/c nothing is classier than Labatt’s Max Ice in a paper cup) and as emergency snacks to feed a crowd of 41 at my grandparent’s 65th anniversary party this weekend (congrats, Grandma & Grandpa!!). As for the Sweet Moments, lay off – I can eat 2 miniature brownies for 3 points.

So, how did I pull this off? I shopped at Jewel and read my favorite couponing blog, Mashup Mom (I’ve got a lot more, but Mashup Mom is the best). By reading Mashup Mom I found out that 1) for every 10 General Mills items purchased, a $5 discount would be activated at the register and 2) for every 3 Chex Mixes purchased a coupon for a free 12 pack of pop would print (these are called catalina coupons, and print at the register). Mashup Mom also tells you where you can print a bunch of coupons (usually Coupons.com, Smartsource, RedPlum and from manufacturer websites). Additionally, I subscribe to the Chicago Tribune on Sundays and save the coupon inserts. I had 3 $5 General Mills instant discounts triggered ($15 savings), plus I handed over $20.70 in coupons. That’s $35 in real savings alone, and Jewel claims I saved $68.28 all together.

The thing about couponing is that you have to be ready to stock up, because for any given sale, buying A LOT of items will probably be how you save the most money. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve saved a TON of money the past few years I’ve been extreme couponing. Plus, I’m able to buy things I actually eat on a regular basis. The Green Giant veggies, Fiber One bars and Fiber One yogurts are all staples when I’m watching my Points.

Couponing doesn’t stop at the grocery store. Walgreens and CVS both offer types of cash back programs that add up to lots of free stuff. Razors, toothpaste, tampons, body wash, shampoo and deodorant – all stuff that you dread putting in your cart because it adds up so quickly – you can easily get for free if you watch the sales and know how to use Walgreen’s Register Rewards and CVS’s Extra Bucks programs. For more information on Walgreens and CVS, visit I Heart Wags and I Heart CVS. Also, if you have any questions, leave me a comment and I’ll answer!

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