This week I posted deals for Hamburger Helper, ice cream and canadian bacon. These “HOT” deals are at stock-up prices, but today I went to the store and didn’t buy any of it. I think non-couponers or even new couponers get DISCOURAGED because they think that the super-duper “Coupon Queens” of the world, never pay for anything and they can’t figure out how to feed their families real food with coupons. Shows like Extreme Couponing feed this stereotype. So this post is for you – to reassure you that to live a healthy, balanced life, you probably have to spend some money at the grocery store. You can still shop bargains and use coupons to save big, but you don’t have to live off boxed or packaged food. I talk about this in my coupon classes – think meals, not just deals.
Today I spent $75 at Fred Meyer. Price before coupons was $133, so I did save a whopping $58 with coupons, but I certainly didn’t walk out of the store for nothing. I don’t shop like this every time I go to the store, but I just returned from a 10-day vacation and our fridge was empty – so we needed a lot of non-perishables. I was still practically giddy at some of the deals I scored, even if they weren’t free.
Here are some tips to saving on REAL food ::
The coupons – I gathered up all my FREE coupons that I’ve received in the mail recently and brought those with me on my trip. I like to use my “FREE” coupons at Fred Meyers because you rack up your Rewards points on the pre-coupon price. I also brought with me the AWESOME Associate discount coupon, which saved me a bunch of money.
Know the promotions, shop the sales – I shopped at Fred Meyer today primarily because of the Associate discount coupon. I knew it would save me an extra 10% off health foods (from Nutrition Center/Healthy food section of store) and also on Kroger brand items – like cheese, yogurt, etc. All the produce that I bought was on sale. I bought A LOT of produce – but got some amazing prices.
Shop dairy, produce or meat markdowns – If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (really that much love) manager markdowns on dairy, produce and meat. We needed milk. This gallon of milk had a sell-by date of August 15 – so it has a good week left in it and it was $2.79 (half price!) plus I got an extra 10% off with the Associate discount coupon – so only $2.50 for a $5 gallon of organic milk. I love these markdowns so much I’ve written about them a couple times:
Save big with manager markdowns on meat, dairy
Last minute shopping – dairy, meat and produce markdowns are your friend
Avoid the “it sounds good” purchases – Apples sounded good and I even filled up a bag with Gala apples for $1.49 a pound. But after I thought about it, I put them back. Why? Because organic nectarines and peaches were on sale for $1.48 a pound and I thought that was a much better use of my money (my son thought so too – and had one for dessert tonight!). I was thinking fajitas sounded like a good meal this week and peppers were only $1.25 each, but I couldn’t find tortillas for under $2.50, so I passed on fajitas for this week. Read a recent post I wrote about:
Wanna save the most? Do without.
Do you really need it? This is related to the topic above, but today at Fred Meyer there were clearance items EVERYWHERE. Super duper deals on shoes, clothes, accessories. Items 60-75% off everywhere after coupons, but I passed. It helped that I had went to a garage sale this morning and scored 16 clothing items for my kids for only $4 (a quarter a piece), so the little dresses that would have been $4-5 today at Fred Meyer didn’t seem like that good of a deal anymore. BUT, we desperately needed socks for my son and I found a pack on clearance (the striped ones) for $3.19 and the athletic socks for $4.24.
My daughter needs some tights for this fall and I found some on clearance – and paid only $1.60 a package, instead of the regular price of $6. I passed on all the other things that would have been nice to have, but just weren’t really necessary at this time.
Have a plan for your produce – Produce isn’t cheap. There is nothing worse than forking over $4 for lettuce and then finding it go bad in the fridge. Not frugal and certainly not fun to clean up. So when you buy things like produce, dairy or meat (all perishable items) have a plan and watch it closely so it doesn’t go bad. Incorporate it into your meal planning. Like I mentioned early, we had nectarines for dessert tonight.
Know there is a place for those stockpile deals – Ice cream for 50 cents a tub probably won’t make you a meal but it can be great to have when you having birthday cake – and it’s better to get it when it’s 50 cents than $3.99! Or canadian bacon by itself isn’t going to keep you nourished, but if you like Hawaiian pizza, I’d be picking it up when it’s $0.23 cents versus $1.70! Those kinds of deals don’t have to rule your menu planning, but if you eat them, stock up on them when they are so inexpensive! And . . .this leads me to my last point. . .
Don’t judge, don’t compare your shopping with others – I do get emails from people that say, “Can’t believe you feed your family that crap!” or “All trash food.” As you can see from my shopping trip today, I don’t feed my family only Hamburger Helper and ice cream. In fact, I’ve never even made Hamburger Helper, but some people do. I don’t make the deals, I just report them. Buy the foods your family likes and try to do it frugally, but don’t judge others for their choices at the check stand. And don’t compare your shopping trips to the reality couponing shows or even to coupon blogs – because you usually only see the very best deals and not the deals that = meals.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE ITEMS I PURCHASED TODAY ::
Ore-Ida Sweet Potatoes Fries – FREE, with coupon requested from Facebook
Healthy Choice Frozen Meal – FREE, with coupon that came in the mail (don’t remember where I requested it?)
Fresh Express Spinach – FREE, with coupon from Vocal Point
Jif Peanut Butter, 8 pack – FREE with coupon that I requested from Target sample spot
Pantene Pro V Conditioner – FREE with coupon that came in the mail.
So don’t forget to request those FREE coupons! The savings can really add up.
Glue sticks – $0.39 cents – 10% from Associate discount = $0.33 cents
Spiral notebooks – $0.10 cents each – 10% from Associate discount = $0.09 cents each
Fred Meyer canned veggies – $0.50 cents, with in-ad coupon – 10% from Associate discount $0.45 cents each
Simply Asia soups – $1 each- $1/2 peelie coupons = $0.50 cents each
EnviroKids cereal – $2.50 – $1 manufacturer coupon from Chinook Book = $1.50 – 10% from Associate discount = $1.25 a box
If you don’t have a Chinook Book, you can print a $1.50/2 coupon here.
Fred Meyer hamburger buns – $1.25 – 10% from Associate discount = $1.12 each
The majority of my order was produce, here’s what I paid and my tentative plans for it:
Broccoli – $0.88 cents a pound (broccoli stir fry)
Zucchini/squash – $0.79 cents a pound (grilling side)
Leaf lettuce = $1 each (salads)
Onions – $0.59 cents a pound (broccoli stir fry)
Bananas – $0.64 cents a pound (breakfasts)
Organic cabbage – $0.69 cents a pound (eggrolls)
Radishes – $0.44 cents (salads)
Tomatoes on vine – $1.28 a pound (Tomato Feta Relish and also condiments on burgers)
Organic nectarines/peaches – $1.48 a pound (snacks)
Cucumbers – $0.50 cents each (salads)
See all the clearance items I spotted at my local Fred Meyer today.
What are your thoughts about this? Do you feel like your shopping trips are inadequate? Do you sometimes wonder how people only survive on FREE stuff? I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment below. . .
Yes, I do have a stockpile of Helper boxed meal. However, I also have whole wheat pasta and cereals. I have family who doesn’t seem to manage money very well and tend to be in need often, as well as friends who may be going through hard times during this economy. I love that I am able to pull off of my shelves to help. One of the biggest values I find are the Catalinas for dollar amounts off on your next purchase or free items, such as milk. I am able to give these with items from my stock pile to others to purchase the fresh items. So hopefully they get a balanced supply of groceries.
I have found having a good stockpile of paper products and toiletries has opened up my grocery budget so I’m able to afford healthy/organic products. It’s the nonfood products that really burn through my grocery budget. For me coupons are for the products I stock up on. If I come across produce coupons or other non stock up deals I just use them at Winco to bring down the cost of my “big” shopping trip.
Bill In Seattle says
Bananas at Fred Meyer at their regular price of 64 cents per pound are not that great a value. They jacked up the price when that banana shortage thing happened during the winter, and haven’t bothered to return to the pre-crisis prices.
I wholeheartedly recommend the 19 cents each bananas at Trader Joe’s. They don’t short you at all on size, and calculating out the price when you get home (and put them on the little mini-kitchen scale) results in bananas for around 45 cents per pound every day.
Looking at my food budget over the last year (as I charge all food purchases on my credit card and get cash back…yay Discover Card), Fred Meyer is my number one store at 45% of budget spent there, followed by Trader Joe’s at 36%, and a collection of stores in distant third.
My Fred Meyer in Ballard does all sorts of in-store discounts of still-good products with their little re-tags (as you posted in the article’s picture of milk).
The folks from the Senior Centers around here all come in their little mini-buses on the specific mid-morning days when the Ballard store manager really lets his shelving people go wild with the re-pricing. I follow the smart senior shoppers’ lead, and constantly bump into them during the mid-mornings when Fred Meyer is uncrowded and tranquil. We have our little inside jokes about today being the “used meat” day when they discount salmon to half price if you ask, or the “it’s time for salad” day when the helpful product stocker gets out his little relable-er and marks down the normally crazy-expensive exotic versions of bagged veggies to 99 cents or so.
It’s also all kinds of fun to feel like a king for a day when you can purchase an item that you normally could not possibly afford on us retired folk’s limited budgets. It really opens up the food eating again to allow some creativity in the menu, rather than having to assume that Top Ramen and canned tuna are the new “go to” meals in these difficult economic times.
–Bill In Seattle
I love this post! Many of my non-couponing friends watch Extreme Couponing and assume all I get is junk. I’ve started posting my purchases so they see that while some of it is junk (ice cream, chips) we save money on toiletries, crackers, cat food, etc. which affords us more produce and dairy (organic when possible!) Thanks so much for this well written post that really resonates with me!
Between the great produce prices and the extra online coupon, I spent very little for many bags of groceries with just a few regular coupons–I do try to buy the kroger brand foods and nutrition center foods on the first tuesday of the month because I get the 10% extra off for being 55 or older–same deal as the online coupon this weekend
Very well written article!!
Brooke Kingston says
Awesome, encouraging post! Welcome back from vacation…looks like you are going to have delicious , healthy and frugal meals this week! 🙂
Anna R says
I LOVE this post!
You and I definitely think alike on shopping!
I so loved the point of not judging…I’m sure that often my carts seem wholey unbalanced nutrition wise.
What the person behind me doesn’t know is that I get all of my produce (and we eat LOTS) from a co-op I belong to.
LOL My family is NOT living off of cold cereal and milk, but those are often the ONLY things I need to buy from a traditional “grocery store”.
And I LOVE Fred Meyer mark-downs…I’m only disappointed that other have discovered that scret gold-mine. : )
Thanks for all your hard work in sharing the deals!!
I noticed you used your free Jif coupon for Target at Fred Meyer. I thought that was a specific Target coupon. Can you explain this one? Thanks for all you do!
It has a Target logo on it and I did request it from Target. But it was a manufacturer coupon. It didn’t specify on the coupon that you had to redeem it at a specific location. It had redemption information so the store you chose to redeem it at, could send it in. If a coupon says “manufacturer coupon” usually you can redeem it at ANY retailer, as long as it doesn’t say “Redeemable only at Target” or “Redeemable only at Safeway.” Even if a coupon says “Redeem at Safeway” you can still use it elsewhere because it doesn’t say “Redeem ONLY at Safeway” – it’s usually just a suggestion. Does this help?
Bill In Seattle says
Your mileage may vary on using Target coupons at Fred Meyer.
My local store in Ballard doesn’t allow it at all.
I’ve tried at least three or four times over the last couple of years with different people in place at the self-checkout area, and it’s been a universally pleasant and courteous “no”.
Bill In Seattle says
I’d also mention the use of external-to-Fred-Meyer catalinas.
While Kroger’s published policy is to allow outside of the company catalinas, the local implimentation of corporate policy often doesn’t follow.
The folks who man the check-out counters are at the mercy of whomever programs the check-out therminals.
Often-times, published official guidelines do not seem to reach the back-office technologists running the programming for the terminals.
If a Target manufacturers’ coupon gets rejected, you can certainly trudge down to the service desk, stand in line behind the other 12 people, while your ice cream melts, and then make your point to someone who really doesn’t particularly have specific authority to over-ride and make correct what you know is the proper action.
Similarly, you can take the catalina down there with the print-out of corporate policy, present all evidence, and basically be shut-down when the assistant manager comes to the help desk, and pretty much goes “first I’ve ever heard of this”.
Again, Fred Meyer generally rocks in several areas, but be aware that often times, you’ll be shopping in a store on the fringes of contact with the mother-ship, and odd things can (and often do) occur in seemingly random ways that are extremely frustrating to deal with.
–Bill In Seattle
Thank you so much for this post, it really helps