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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finding Deals at Grocery Stores

The manager special section at your local grocery store is the best kept secret in there. I recommend finding out where the manager special section is located at the grocery stores you shop at, and visit it every time you go there. Even if you are just popping in for a couple of things, take 5 min to run by the section. You never know what you are going to find.
If you look, you are likely to find this wonderful place at the back of the store or sometimes at the side hiding near a back room entrance. It's usually a shelving unit or a couple of long tables. In the manager's special, you will find mostly items with a long shelf life, like cans, jars, and boxes. These items will be items that did not sell well in the store, items that are slightly damaged (but still perfectly fine!), or just items that are being retired. Additionally, there is a manager special section located within the meat section and sometimes within the frozen foods and wine isles too. Learn where those are and peruse them as well.
I know, I know... most people will say something like, this actually makes you spend more because you are spending money that you never intended to spend. I must disagree. You see, I operate by a system that I have named "Shoppertunistic". I basically eat based on deals. It's a double whammy when I get something super cheap from manager special and also have a coupon! But, I'll save that for another post. So, I stock up on things when they are on sale (like from the managers special or store sales, combined with coupons). I stock up my pantry (or my freezer, if its meat) and I replenish fresh items weekly like fruits, veggies, milk, yogurt, cheese, bread and eggs as needed. Using this method, I rarely purchase items from the inner isles of the grocery store without getting a sale or using a coupon. And to all you haters, I manage to eat very well.
Now for a show and tell on manager special finds:

Superb Tomato Sauce -
Organic sauce made with fresh tomatoes (not Tomato Puree as many other brands)
Regular price is over $10 a jar at Kroger... similarly priced at Walmart
My price was $5.29

Yes folks, that's like a 50% discount

Who doesn't keep a can or 2 of chicken noodle soup around for when you're sick?
Mine was 59 cents... and it's 25% less sodium. Who says you can't be budget and diet friendly?
Oh yeah, there's a dent in the can. So what?
I like to give to my local school's food pantry.
At 50 cents a jar for organic peanut butter, it's really quite affordable.
Here is my best score EVER. I was high on this for days.
Amy's frozen meals for 99 CENTS! 99 CENTS!! Man, I'm still excited about it.
These are usually at least 3 bucks, even at Walmart.

Organic, gluten free goodness.
 In addition to all of these wonderful finds, here is a list of some other gems:
Wine discounted 75% off. The catch? The label was on upside down!
Salon brand hairspray 90% off. Perfectly fine hairspray.
Organic vanilla bean extract for baking. The catch? The box was dented... Once I take the bottle out of the box, it goes in the trash anyways!

So folks, get out there and shop those manager specials! Let me know what you find!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deals Deals Deals

People often ask me how do I find so many deals. Well the truth is this:

1. I shop A LOT. By this time, when I have a need (or a want), I know exactly where to go to find a deal. I can pretty much tell you who has what kind of sales and when, where to look for coupons, and where to go to find the highest quality items at the best prices.

2. I have learned some very important lessons from my mom. One of her favorite sayings is "The wheel that squeaks gets the grease". You will see this demonstrated below, however I would like to caveat with stating I never try to "cheat they system". However, I have learned the system, and I will take advantage of it. Also, I take good care of my possessions. If something breaks or is damaged, I take responsibility. And I never try to return used items (unless they are faulty of course).
  • I ensure I am getting charged the correct price on the items I purchase. I will ask cashiers to correct the prices on items that are charged at an incorrect price. Yes, this means that I must memorize the prices as I shop. This is a very easy thing to do when you actually pay attention to how much things cost as you shop.... interesting huh? I also review receipts as I leave the store to ensure the prices are accurate.
  • I take items back (including fruit) that are faulty or do not hold up to their advertised quality. If I have an issue with a product, simply calling the manufacturer directly can go far. I have received replacements for items that have simply not held up.
  • I know the return and coupon policies at the stores I shop. For example, Target sends out 'Target only coupons', and I clip 'manufacturer coupons' from the Sunday paper. You are allowed to use both coupons in combination when purchasing one item at Target.
  • I provide feedback to the merchants I shop with. When service is good, I will seek out the store manager to encourage them or highlight a particular employee. Certain merchants in stores and online encourage communication by giving out additional coupons for taking part in surveys or providing feedback. Stores such as Starbucks and PetSmart will give coupons for completing over the phone surveys about a shopping experience. Conversely, I will provide negative feedback when I receive less than desirable service. Doing so usually results in some kind of gift or coupon to keep me coming back. Either positive or negative experiences deserve feedback, so I give it often.
  • I am a loyal consumer. I give my business to places that treat me well and reward me for shopping with them. For example: Kroger tracks my spending and sends me coupons based on my purchases. Remember the store coupon vs. manufacturer coupon tip? Yeah... I cash in on that.
  • Lastly, ask for what you want. Sometimes, simply asking for a coupon for discounts on your purchases that day will go a long way. Also, asking for a break on the price works too. What's the worst thing that can happen? They'll say no... ???
3. I do not skimp on certain things that are important to me. One being groceries. I don't eat out alot. I find ways to save by bringing my lunch or ordering water instead of sodas when I do go out (nice on the wallet and on the hips). So when it comes to groceries, I want to purchase the highest quality items that I feel good about putting into my body.

Which leads me to my show and tell for my next post. How to save on groceries. I bet you can't wait.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Ran a 5K and I Didn't Die!

This weekend, I conquered a fear.... Running. That's right folks, I hate running. HATE - IT. However, with Lola's (and let's be honest, mine) growing hips, something needed to be done. So, I started running the dogs a couple weeks ago. We're not talking about long distances or anything, let's not get out of control here. Basically our walks are more frequent and consist of little bursts of running mixed in with the walking. The dogs seem happier, Lola's a little skinnier, and my thighs are a little smoother.
So when Chris mentioned the Galveston Island Shrimp Festival 5K at Moody Gardens (benefiting UTMB), I have to say I was a tiny bit scurred (that's scared for the rest of you). Actually, I was downright terrified. But my BFF Hillary was going to run/walk it with me, so that helped ease my fears. I followed her advise and took a couple of ibuprofen, ate a banana, and drank water before the run started. And surprisingly we ran the entire first mile! In total, we ran about 2/3 of the race and walked about 1/3. I finished in 41 minutes, which definitely surprised me. I'm definitely looking forward to running a bit more, now that I have proven to myself that running will not kill me.
Now on to more fun things... Our registration in the 5K included a tasting cup for that afternoon's Gumbo Festival on The Strand. What is more fun than stuffing your face with delicious gumbo and not feeling guilty because you ran 3 miles that morning? SO MUCH FUN! We enjoyed walking around The Strand trying all the different restaurants' gumbos (the group consensus was that Yaga's was the best). After, we visited LaKing's Confectionery, which is the cutest soda fountain, ice cream, and candy store ever. I had a milkshake made with mocha chip ice cream. Enjoy the pics!

Just like an old fashioned counter

How adorable is this place?

Have you ever seen such a site? Seriously?

Sandeep surprised to see the powder straws. Brings back memories.

Rock Candy!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spooktastic Decorations

I think it's because it's the official start of fall. Plus it's the holiday that kicks off the season of holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Years, followed by Valentine's Day).

I love decorating. I love costumes. I love handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I love baking spooky treats. I love Halloween parties. Halloween is the best.

So I have decided that if I was going to put all time time and energy into putting up decorations, it made the most sense to put them up early, in order to enjoy them as long as possible. Makes sense right? So I started this weekend. Take a look inside my spooktacular home.
It started with these mercury glass candle sticks from the new 'Elle home decor' collection at Kohl's. They were 30% off, and just by sweetly asking, the guy at the register gave me an additional 15% off coupon toward them. SWEET!

 I found black glitter spiders at Walmart (8 for $2)!!
And see the cutest pumpkin candle I picked up a few weeks ago at Bath and Body Works

Next we have pics of the dining room. I snatched a bag of mini pumpkins at Walmart for $2.50! Actually they rang up for $2.98, but you know I had the cashier correct it... What! I'm not about to lose out on 48 cents! I just swapped out the candles from my regular table decor with the pumpkins.

I just used decorator moss for under the pumpkins to fill it in a bit

Enjoy your Halloween everyone!