Tag Archives: grocery

What Are The Best Things To Buy In September?

6 Sep

Image

Attention shoppers, it’s time once again for the best deals of the month. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE to receive the best tips daily. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too. Just a quick review before I list this months best buys…

Most bargains follow a predictable pattern:

  • End of the model year (varies depending on product)
  • End of the retail season (ends sooner than calendar season)
  • Holiday sale (usually new, but sometimes older models)
  • Directly after a holiday
  • Off season
  • In season (fresh produce)

The downside includes:

  • Lack of inventory/choices
  • Open box/damage/refurbished
  • Older model/style
  • Unable to use/test until season changes, long past refund date

Remember that a retailer’s season ends much sooner than a calendar season; that’s why you’ll find great deals on winter apparel in January & February, but you will hard pressed to find a winter coat in March when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. Don’t forget to check out my post 15 Super Tips For Shopping Success to learn how to save even more on online purchases.

So here’s where you can save the most in September:

  • Broadway theater tickets
  • Dishwasher
  • Dehumidifier
  • Electric fans
  • Furnace
  • Ipod/mp3
  • Patio furniture
  • Swimsuits
  • School supplies
  • School uniform
  • Shrubs, trees & bulbs
  • Stoves
  • Swing set/ jungle gym
  • Wine

Since retailers are keen to clear the shelves to make way for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas merchandise, anything related to summer or back to school will be greatly reduced & disappear quickly, so don’t wait or you will lose out.

When it comes to food, the best deals are to buy in season since there is a greater supply. Obviously holiday themed food bargains are best directly following the holiday, but do not overlook the perishables; starting January 2nd stores practically give away huge pork roasts that never made it to the New Year’s Day dinner table. One disclaimer on the produce; because there is some controversy regarding what is truly “in season” as the USA has very diverse growing patterns and hothouses are often used, I have placed and asterisk next to the items that are generally agreed upon. Here are the best food deals in September:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Curly Kale
  • Eggplant*
  • Grapes*
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins*
  • Raspberries
  • Red Onions
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes*
  • Zucchini

Often times you can get first rate products for a bargain prices, it just takes a little planning & patience; but don’t wait too long or you may miss out altogether. Want more posts like this? Let me know!

What Are The Best Things To Buy In May?

5 May

ImageAttention shoppers, it’s time once again for the best deals of the month. Don’t forget to  follow me on Facebook, simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE to receive the best tips daily. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too. Just a quick review before I list this months best buys…

Most bargains follow a predictable pattern:
End of the model year (varies depending on product)
End of the retail season (ends sooner than calendar season)
Holiday sale (usually new, but sometimes older models)
Directly after a holiday
Off season
In season (fresh produce)

The downside includes:
Lack of inventory/choices
Open box/damage/refurbished
Older model/style
Unable to use/test until season changes, long past refund date

Brick and mortar stores clear out first since retail space is at a premium, but many online stores will offer competitive pricing even though their inventory will linger longer. The longer you wait, the lower the price, but you could miss out on finding what you need. Remember that a retailer’s season ends much sooner than a calendar season; that’s why you’ll find great deals on winter apparel in January & February, but you will hard pressed to find a winter coat in March when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. Don’t forget to check out my post 15 Super Tips For Shopping Success  to learn how to save even more on online purchases.

So here’s where you can save the most in May:
Refrigerator
Clothing
Vacuum cleaner
Picnic/bbq supplies (additional savings with coupons from newspapers & websites)
Condiments (additional savings with coupons from newspapers & websites)
Cookware
Antiperspirant (additional savings with coupons from newspapers & websites)
Mattress & box springs

When it comes to food, the best deals are to buy in season since there is a greater supply. Obviously holiday themed food bargains are best directly following the holiday, but do not overlook the perishables; starting January 2nd stores practically give away huge pork roasts that never made it to the New Year’s Day dinner table. One disclaimer on the produce; because there is some controversy regarding what is truly “in season” as the USA has very diverse growing patterns and hothouses are often used, I have placed and asterisk next to the items that are generally agreed upon.

Here are the best food deals in May:
Apricots*
Artichokes
Asparagus
Blueberries
Broccoli*
Cherries
Collard greens
Cucumber
Leeks
Lettuce
Melon
Nectarines
Okra*
Peas*
Peaches
Pineapples
Plums
Potatoes
Rhubarb
Spinach
Strawberries
Zucchini

Often times you can get first rate products for a bargain prices, it just takes a little planning & patience; but don’t wait too long or you may miss out altogether. Want more posts like this? Let me know!

Reasons & Recipes To Make The Lowly Legume Your New BFF

18 Feb

ImageFunny sounding name, don’t you think? It always got more than a few snickers in grade school as our teacher robotically recited the food groups as part of the state mandated curriculum. We never really knew what it meant; in fact if you ask most adults, they are equally ignorant. Turns out one of every kids favorite dishes, baked beans, is actually the mysterious legume.

Fast forward to the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when the power-grid went down plunging several states and Canadian provinces into darkness for days, taking other utilities and gas stations down with it. Like many, I was sent home early from work and soon found myself at the local supermarket. Anything refrigerated or frozen had been sealed off from the panicked shoppers; a 30ish woman was running up and down the aisles wailing repeatedly “what will I feed my children?” At first I though she was a total idiot but then it occurred to me, she was of a generation that was raised on prepackaged processed microwavable food and she had no clue about nutrition, meal preparation or real food. Truth be told, other than canned tuna or peanut butter, I was at a bit of loss on how I would get protein in the uncertain days or weeks ahead. That’s when I rediscovered legumes.

Turns out legumes are a major component of everything from the hummus in your pita to the refried beans in your burrito, but there is a whole world of legumes out there. For those of you who wish to get your protein from places other than the fatty toxic mix of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics infused meat of stressed-out diseased animals from factory farms; legumes provide a wonderful alternative. Legumes are also a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, cholesterol lowering fiber and slowly digestible carbohydrates, which are especially important if you are diabetic or at risk. See nutritional chart.

While legumes are available fresh, most people use the canned or dried form for convenience. Canned legumes have a shelf life of about 5 years & are packed in liquid, which make them the preferred staple for an emergency pantry when fresh water may not be available due to extreme weather conditions. Dried legumes are the least expensive, and are best for storage since they are less bulky and have a 10 year shelf life, while lacking the sodium, preservatives & chemicals used in the packaging of the canned variety. The best prices on dried legumes are usually found at Indian grocers. Dried legumes need to soak overnight and usually cooked for an hour; see cooking chart.

RECIPES

If you or your family is new to legumes, you may want to start out slowly. Here are some easy tasty recipes, one for each legume, that include something for everyone: dip, salad, crunchy snack, soup, side dish and main dish. Enjoy!

Make legumes your new BFF, and you will be trilled at how much it trims from your grocery bill as well as your waistline.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Does Size Really Matter? Understanding Product Downsizing & Unit Pricing

29 Dec

ImageDoes size really matter? Yes, yes it does. Rather than raise prices, or raise them too much, manufactures have been downsizing products. I never remember this being so obvious as it has been since the economic downturn began in 2008. The most clumsy example is toilet paper. Manufacturers claim it is now thicker, and true the girth has increased, but did they not think we would notice the 2 inches they lopped off the width now exposing our unattractive toilet paper spindle for the world to see? Here’s a link to more of the most commonly downsized products.

Remember back in the 1970’s when the US government tried to switch us over from English Standard Measure to the Metric System like the rest of the world, citizens were up in arms fearing they would get cheated in their purchases and it would in turn decrease sales? The only ones who embraced it were the gun manufactures and drug dealers (including the pharmaceutical industry), yeah, really put them out of business, didn’t it?

So how do you spot a downsized product?

  • New & improved. New size for sure, improved profit for them, but any benefit to the consumer is negligible. Remember the “thicker” (but shorter) toilet paper example?
  • New package design. On the surface it just may seem they just want to update their image, au contraire mon frere! It is just a way to camouflage the size change by distracting you with shiny new toys. You can get great deals on products in the older packaging at deep discount stores because not only are they priced less, you get the larger size.
  • Sold at a dollar store. Believe it or not, manufactures create different size packages for different stores, the dollar store is just the most obvious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you understand you are being charged less for less. Empty nesters, students, and anyone who has limit space or needs a small amount, welcome the idea of smaller sizes that save space and limit waste of unused portions.
  • Snack size. If you buy a box of individually bagged Cheetos, guess what? You are paying for your own laziness and extra packaging. If you can’t take the time to portion out food, whether it’s for kids lunches or your new diet, you are going to pay for the privilege of someone doing it for you and giving you less in the process.

More stealthy tactics to beware.

  • Unit price. While unit price info available at the store is a good place to start, it is better if YOU choose the unit you want to measure. Why? Not all states have mandate unit price, only grocery stores are required to post not other stores that sell food, the unit chosen for a product varies depending on the store. Depending on the store or the items, the same product may be priced by liquid measure, dry measure, English Standard, Metric, or the number of individual items in package. The size of the unit used for comparison is arbitrary as well. I find it easiest to convert to the smallest size available, usually an ounce, and let that be my unit price for comparison. Click this link to learn more about unit pricing.
  • Size shaving. It used to be that we used standardized containers, many of them reused continuously, now we have disposable packaging. Remember how the milkman used to deliver and pick up the glass milk bottles? Now imagine if the dairy was constantly changing the sizes of their containers, it would cost them a small fortune, that’s why they had the standard gallon, quart, and pint. Disposable packaging makes it very easy to deceive the consumer. Without standard one-pound containers, consumers don’t notice when they downsize from 15oz to 14oz or 10.9oz, because there was no real point of reference to begin with.
  • Same size package, less content. This one irked me the most. The package size is the same, but there’s less stuff: same size package of plastic wrap, but less on the roll; same size box of cereal, but more air and less cereal. Sometimes they add more packaging as filler like increasing the girth of the toilet paper tube to make it look like its still the same thickness, or stick deodorant that decreased the size product chamber inside the tube.
  • Changing package shape. If you lop off the corners, you’re going to get less, that’s just a fact. And while some of these new slick packages may be pretty, getting cheated out of your hard earned cash is not. Another way they do this is to keep the size of “the face” and decrease what lies beneath. You see this a lot with box products; the front of the package has the same width so it seems the same when you see it on the grocery store shelf, but when you grab the box you notice it’s skinnier.

So what did we learn today class? Disposable packaging makes it easier to cheat consumers, the Metric System would make it easier to comparison shop, only pre-packaged food is affected, and some tips to use to protect you as a consumer since the first two issues are not changing any time soon.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Aside

15 Super Tips For Shopping Savings Success

20 Oct

ImageManaging the household budget is a career in itself, so reducing expenses while supplying groceries, health & beauty supplies, cleaning products and other household consumables takes a degree of skill and planning. Fear not, stalwart reader! The good news is that we are creatures of habit with predictable buying preferences, so with a bit of guidance and minor behavior modification you will be shocked at how much you can save.

  1. Take inventory. Know what you have in stock in order to prepare the shopping list and avoid unnecessary purchases. Keep your cupboards organized so you can see your inventory at a glance.
  2. Always use a shopping list. Even though we are creatures of habit, you still need to write it down and take it with you. Get your family into the habit of adding items to the list as items run low or run out. Keep the list posted in a central location, like the refrigerator. Plan your family menu and base your list on it. If your kid complains about dinner, show them how to add suggestions to the menu and the shopping list; make them part of the process. Be sure to double check your cupboard inventory and update the list as needed.
  3. Shop the season & the supply. If you want cherries in February you will pay more since they are usually shipped from South America. If there is a drought that dives up the price of beef, you need to look at other forms of protein that are not affected, like wild caught fish. Much depends on the law of supply and demand, transportation costs, and short shelf life.
  4. Buy from the source, or as close as possible. Packaging, transportation and storage figure largely into prices, so buying directly cuts down greatly on these costs. Farmer’s markets have great deals on produce. I usually make my purchases about a half hour before closing to get the best deals. Buying from a butcher will get you the best deal on the best quality meat. When purchasing perishables especially, you need to determine what is best for your situation based on family size, storage capacity, and the amount of income your can commit to a single purchase.
  5. Know the price. For items you buy often, you usually know when the price goes up and which store sells for less. It is important that you understand cost per unit, since packaging for the exact same item can vary depending on the store. Pay close attention to items labeled “new & improved” which usually means that the packaging was changed and you are actually getting less for the same price. For items purchased less frequently or don’t go on sale, I document item, price, size and store in the same mini spiral notepad I use for my shopping list that I keep in my coupon wallet. Shop Savvy is a great free smartphone app that lets you compare prices from various stores.
  6. Buy store brands. Store brands and lesser brands can save money, but there are some things you will need to consider. You will have to do some trial and error to see if the product will perform as well as the brand you currently use; if it doesn’t do the job or your family doesn’t like it, you are just wasting your money. You also need to factor in sale price and coupons, which may make your favorite brand as cheap or cheaper than the generic version.
  7. Buy in bulk. This is not the best strategy for everyone, but if you have a large family it may benefit you to tie up your money in inventory so you do not have to run to the store as often spending more time and gas. I have rarely seen a lower price per unit by buying in bulk than you can get for the same item on sale at your local store, especially when you factor in store reward programs and being able to use multiple coupons on multiple packages. You can see greatest bulk buying savings at the butcher if you have the capacity to buy and store the various cuts of a half or an entire animal.
  8. Shop the ads. Buy when the items on you list go on sale at the store, and in the amount you will need until the next sale. Stores usually run the best deals on an item every 3mos, lesser discounts can occur monthly; meaning an item might be $1 off every 3 mos. but $.50 off in the interim. Grocery and discount stores usually have the same items on sale at the same time, rather than staggered. Coupons from stores and manufactures are often issued at the same time to coincide with the sales. Sign up for free updates and previews on your store’s website and Facebook page.
  9. Use coupons. While coupons from the newspaper and junk mail are helpful, you can save time and get the exact coupons you need by using online resources. Coupon Sherpa is a great free smartphone app that lets you search for general grocery coupons or a specific store. Coupons.com , SmartSource.com and RedPlum.com are great websites for printable coupons. Don’t forget to “like” your favorite products on Facebook to receive coupons and other promotions. Be sure to use both store and manufacturer’s coupons for the same item when available. Many grocery stores will double the face value of your coupons, check they store website for restrictions such as amount or days.
  10. Use credit card rewards. Chose a credit card that offers a high percentage of cash back on grocery purchases. Of course, this is only helpful if you pay off your bill each month.
  11. Use store rewards. By using store rewards, you can often save not only on the purchase but accumulate additional discounts. My favorite is Giant Eagle Fuel Perks which offers $.10 off per gallon of gas for every $50 spent, but also offers additional points on certain sale items each week, allowing the savings to add up quickly.
  12. Buy gift cards. Gift cards bought at the grocery store will qualify for credit card grocery cash back and grocery store reward points, and can be used at the store or online. Buy gift cards for shopping you would have to do anyway and don’t qualify for credit card cash back or the percentage is lower than that is offered for groceries.
  13. Leave the kids (and the guilt) at home. You are less likely to stray from your list if you don’t have those cute little faces pleading for treats or taking the time away from completing your mission quickly.
  14. Don’t take a cart if you only need a basket. Your stuff expands to fill your space, whether it’s a home, car or shopping cart; take the smallest container possible for the items on your list.
  15. Bundle your errands. Time is money (especially if you are paying a sitter) and gas is not cheap. Since you will probably go to more than one type of store to do your entire household shopping due to price, preference or availability, you do not want to waste time or travel resources making separate trips. Take your coupon wallet and list with you when you leave they house, like your do your keys and phone, and work your shopping into your other errands based on location, time, and items. Perishables, chemicals or bulky items that do not fit in the trunk are best purchased on the way home.

Don’t be reluctant to delegate some of these tasks to your spouse and children; they consume products and need to own part of the process. They need to understand that if they prefer certain items, they need to find a way to make it happen and your job is to show them. Don’t whine about “having to do it all” if you are not willing to delegate. If your child wants a special cereal or shampoo, have them add it to the list and show them how to find the ads and coupons; otherwise you buy whatever is on sale that week and they can use their allowance money for special preference purchases. You are teaching them about setting priorities and taking responsibility, and fostering healthy attitudes toward money that will serve them well in life.

Got a great money saving shopping tip? Tell us about it!

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Fun & Yummy Recipes For Farmer’s Market Finds

16 Aug

ImageFarmer’s Markets are a great way to support the local economy while incorporating the freshest produce into your summer menus. But you might be reluctant to take advantage of some of the greatest bargains because you can’t quite visualize what form they would take on your dinner plate. Well, wonder no more; here are some fun and yummy recipes at the ready!

Carrots: Don’t try to tell your kids carrot fries are the same as French Fries or it will be an epic fail. Instead just let them enjoy it as a tasty and fun way to eat carrots.

Turnips: Ditto. Don’t even tell them these fries are turnips.

Beets: Mmm, crunchy chips!

Loose leaf lettuce: Crunchy and light alternative to flour wraps.

Yellow squash: Everything is tastier off the grill!

Zucchini: Great as bread or muffin for breakfast, snacks or dessert.

Cabbage: Crispy and refreshing salad.

Tomatoes: These are great paired with broiled fish!

For 45 million Americans who rely on food stamps to make ends meet, most Farmers Markets now accept EBT/SNAP cards (which only makes sense since food stamps is a USDA program designed to help subsidize farmers by making food surplus available to the poor). So, in the words of the late great Julia Child, “bon appetite”!

10 BEST Re-Uses For Plastic Shopping Bags You Probably Never Heard Of

6 Jul

ImageWe all know they are great as wastepaper basket liners, pet poop/litter disposal, shopping, wet swimsuits, blah, blah, blah. So here’s some ideas you may not be so familiar with:

  1. Public transportation seat covers. To avoid an unwelcome surprise, simple lay it down on the seat before you rest your seat.
  2. Fishing items out of the toilet. If you have kids you understand that they like to give everything from toys to keys a burial at sea. Simply put it over your hand like you would for picking up dog poop.
  3. Rainy day bike seat protector; just slip over the seat and tie. Keeps seat dry while bike is parked.
  4. Disabled car warning flag. Why people leave their hood up for people to steal the battery or whatever is a mystery to me. White bags flapping around on the traffic side of the car tied to the antennae, door, hanging out of a rolled up window or attached to the rear wiper is going to attract much more attention without welcoming vandalism.
  5. Soiled baby clothes. No matter which end it came out of, keep these in your diaper bag to minimize the mess and smell until you can get home and wash.
  6. Cast and dressing bathing cover; just make sure you use medical tape, not duct tape, when securing the bag over the affected limb.
  7. Action figure parachute; just make sure you little darlings don’t get any ideas when it comes to the pets.
  8. Boot liners for kids and adults. Helps keep stocking-feet dry, and shoes slide in easier in shoe-boots.
  9. Keep paint/varnish applicators from drying out or getting tacky between coats. If you are refinishing floors, you know how expensive those applicator pads are and how they can ruin a smooth finish if they start to gunk up.
  10. Cover plants during a frost. Make sure you secure the bag by staking, tying, or tucking it.
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