The Queen of Coupons Reigns......


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Christmas Sticker Shock...or Savings?

I read an article on yahoo today that sent fireworks off in my head. Happy firework displays and little, but alarming ones. Wal-Mart has a new holiday strategy to lure you away from the competition. They are taking their price matching policy to the extreme! They are going to match the lowest price of any competitor store (including deals from Black Friday and Doorbusters) and they are going to price-match from from November 1-December 25. the customer will get the difference back in the form of a in-store gift card.

That seems pretty cool in a multitude of ways. For example, what if Barbie's dream car is normally $249. Hypothetically speaking, for Black Friday, it goes on sale for $149 at Target. If Wal-Mart has the product, you buy it there for $149, show them the competitor ad, and they'll give you a $100 gift card. That's like handing you an additional $100 for other Christmas shopping or groceries! They are definitely trying to drag the customer base back home to Mama!

In a practical sense, that is going to be hard to compete with for the stores that have most of the same non-food items as the big W! Many customers are loyal to Target, Fred Meyer, Shopko, Walgreens', Rite-Aid, and others, because they seem to have a different clientele and volumes more people on the aisles. But fiscal crunches are making even the snobbiest consumer reconsider the costs of much wanted Christmas trivialities or gifts for the fam!

And the large retailer is making it as simple as possible for the fiscally smart shopper! "... With the latest incentive, Wal-Mart is offering an even more hassle-free way of guaranteeing shoppers they'll get the best price and giving shoppers more of a reason to go to Wal-Mart first for their holiday needs.

Shoppers don't have to bring back purchases to Wal-Mart in order to take advantage of better prices elsewhere. They just need to bring in the receipt and the local printed ad to the customer service desk."

Wal-Mart brought back their layaway program for the holiday season as well. For many that don't want to go into debt for gifts but don't have the cash to buy everything they want before the shelves are cleared--this is an awesome way to "pay as you go" with your holiday buys. [Beware of "fees" that go along with this kind of deal and the money down that is required for start-ups.] But Wal-Mart is doing another smooth deal for the layaway customers with their extreme price-matching program.

"Furthermore, even items placed on layaway will be eligible for the company's "Christmas Price Guarantee" program. Wal-Mart is also hoping to tap into another stream of revenue — by giving shoppers the price difference in the gift cards, it's hoping customers will come back and spend more than the value of the card."

So any way you cut it--I think you know that Wal-Mart wants your business. Watch for other great deals coming your way this holiday season. It's not like stores not to offer the public some friendly competition. Now you have multiple places that you can ascertain your hauln before G-day!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Give Life the Bird!

I definitely have another OCD issue to work on...Pinterest. Yep. It's a real word and it's a real problem. But like most addictive personalities...I'm not complaining, but rather just admitting that I am easily obsessed and overwhelmed with the incredible amounts of inspiration and possibilities.

I've always credited myself with knowing how to save a buck, how to maximize my time, and how to satisfy the pickiest palette. So that's why I'm totally bemused that I haven't been aware of what some of you have been doing with those tasty Rotisserie chickens from Costco! WHY am I just now finding out the 101 uses of the bird besides using it as a quick meal in a fix or for dressing up leftovers???

Not too long ago, I asked a friend of mine what she was making for dinner. She described a delicious chicken tortilla soup that was boiling. I said that it must have taken quite some time to simmer and cook. Oh No!! She was boiling a rotisserie chicken that she had picked up at Costco a couple of days before with a few vegetables she just chopped. Whoa. You can boil a rotisserie chicken??? I had no idea! I never thought you could do that. I haven't thought to cook what was already cooked. But why not? No reason--and it's already seasoned. Boiling just loosens the meat from the bone and creates a flavored broth from the juices and vegetables.

I am such a visual learner and obviously that is not something that I've seen done or have heard of before. I mention this here because the Costco bird is guaranteed to be 3lbs after cooking. It's only $4.99 [in comparison to other stores that have their rotisserie chicken between $5.99-7.99!] It's fully cooked and ready to go. In the container is lots of juices from the roasted meat that has since rested and the meat is always tender and perfect. Doing the math--that's $1.67 per pound. In contrast, if I were to buy a raw, unprepared whole would cost anywhere between 99cents-$1.99 per pound. Then I would need ample time to clean, season, and cook the chicken before consumption or meal preparation.

So, dear reader, the question is--what is my time worth, or yours--for a fully cooked bird at $1.67 a pound versus a rough mid-price range of $1.50 a pound for raw flesh? This penny-pincher has had her eyes opened and I've decided that I'm going to give a lot more attention to those juicy birds on the spit in the back of the store!

Now back to pinterest...I came across a website that the author must have known I would find eventually, because it was right up my alley! It caters to the recipes that freeze well (which I love!) and uses the rotisserie chicken to save time! So if I put two and two together--she is saving time and money by making the best and multiple uses of her rotisserie chickens! I feel like doing whooping yell of "Why NOT!" So in my fridge is sitting a rotisserie bird that I picked up today. The kids were begging to just eat the chicken--but I'm holding out! I'm going to boil it Sunday for dinner...and I can't wait!!

I'm thrilled. That's the best use of time and money in domesticity that I've come across in a long time! I feel revitalized in my love of fowl! And just in time for the seasonal time-crunch! I'm going to get started on my plans to give my life the bird since I need to stock the freezer with quick, ready-made meals; reacquaint myself with recipes that I rarely make because there's too many steps from preparation to gracing the dinner table; and I'm going to try a few new recipes to add to my meal repertoire. That is my Ode to the Rotisserie Chicken!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poor, Poor Peanut Crops.......

It's an interesting thought, when you think of how many of the major crops that produce staples in the American diet, have failed in recent years. We've heard about the price of corn soaring, the blight in wheat fields, the decreased availability of rice...and now peanuts. The droughts and low yield of peanuts this year has recently been reported going to lead to a major increase in the cost of peanut butter and other peanut-based products.

It's just one more tidbit to ponder over when you start your shopping adventures and notice the shocking increases in the costs of food. I'm totally convinced and dedicated to the principle of short-term and long-term food storage. I can weather this peanut crisis better than most. But for the average consumer--what will your spread of choice be when you are choosing between $5 a jar peanut butter and 33cent cans of tuna? It's not like we eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday--but when the prices soar and you run low in the pantry reserves, you always seem to crave it more then before. Know what I mean? So with the elements and crop failures out of our control...those few bottles of peanut butter, that are stacked somewhere between the diced tomatoes and the elbow macaroni, seem like my personal nuggets of gold right now.,0,438043.story?track=rss

Organizations and families that rely on these staples obviously are going to feel the price increases the most. But like corn products and by-products that we take for granted--we don't always see the number of brands that include peanuts, peanut oil, or make peanut-based products. We'll see increased prices in numerous candies, sauces, oil, and oil by-products.

It just makes me want to go NUTS!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Layering the Deal...

I've talked a lot about all the different ways to score a great deal. The potential is as endless as people are creative (and honest ;) But one of the best ways to save the most amount of "actual cash" output--is to "layer the deal". I don't know if that's a real "couponer" term...but I have my own definition about what it entails. I'll illustrate with a few scenarios coming up in actual store ads.

For example, a multitude of stores have Cover Girl make-up products on sale right now. You can buy them at the grocery store for 25% off. But grocery stores usually charge higher prices to begin with, so maybe, not the best place to stock up, if you know what I mean. Then the drug/combo stores--like Target, Fred Meyer, Shopko...they'll put them on-sale for 25-40% off. A lot of the traditional drug stores, like Walgreen's, Rite-Aid, CVS...get a bit more creative with the numbers and make you think about the percentage off with "Buy one, Get one 50% off"...which can generally mean 25% off both items--but requires a purchase of a minimum of two items. Wal-Mart likes to boast that they don't do weekly sales because they are already beating everyone else's prices...but not necessarily TrUe, if you shop the sales, like I do.

So which sale do you use the coupons on? Depends. The principle of using the coupon never changes. The key is to place the coupon on the lowest priced item. Wal-Mart boasts their prices are the lowest. But it's a numbers game. Sure they might have an exact item at Target for $3.99, and it's $3.97 at Wal-Mart. There is no lie in their claim because it is a whole 2 cents cheaper. But say our hypothetical item is Cover Girl Blush for $3.99--the same price at Walgreen's. But at Walgreen's it's included in the "Buy one, Get one 50% off" deal. The verbiage indicates that I must buy two to get the deal; thus making the price of one item $3.99 and the second $1.98, for a total of $5.97. So the decision on which store is really the best place to buy the items becomes contingent on the coupon itself. Is it for one item or two?

If the coupon's usability is determined by a purchase of multiple items--the items at the traditional drug store are then the lowest price. For example, a coupon that is for "Save $1 on 1 item" makes every store the same price, within pennies. You only have to buy one item to use the coupon. [But also--if you buy 2 items and use the coupons anyway--you are still paying more then if you had used the coupons on the exact same products at Walgreens'.] If the coupon states that it is for two items, you still want to hold true to the principle of placing the coupon on the lowest prices--making the drug store the better deal in the end.

So, ultimately--it's your call. But!!! Many of the drug stores, and sometimes the grocery chains, offer additional savings on top of weekly ad reductions, that will sweeten the deal and increase the savings substantially. My case in point is that next week Rite Aid has Cover Girl products on sale for "Buy one, Get one 50% off"--just like this week, but they also have an Up Reward that will generate for $10 with a $30 purchase of the products. Now the $10 is like saving another 33% off the already reduced sales' prices...before coupons are taken at the register.

So while Cover Girl is on sale at Walgreens' and Rite Aid this week for the exact same prices...the deal becomes a no-brainer next week with the additional $10 back for the same prices. There is a limit of 1 $10 per household (or Wellness card users), but the $10 Up Reward can be used on any items in the store. I like to use the register rewards to purchase items that will generate additional rewards, so that I ensure that the savings cycle continues. I call this "layering the deal"--because not only am I taking advantage of a traditional "sale", I'm capitalizing on the store's savings programs for increased savings, and then I'm using coupons in conjunction with the lowest prices for the ultimate savings! That's a total of three discounts on each item, for a "layered" savings.

I think that I already highlighted the coupons that came in last week's ad pack for Cover Girl's face products--Save $8 on 2 items. SteLLaR CoUpOn!! But combine that with the BOGO deals--and even it's greater. And combine it with an additional $10 to spend on anything--and it's StuPeNdOuS!!!!

So when you are looking through your weekly deals, make sure to peruse the store ads to compare the sales to each other. Comparing and contrasting highlight the savings you can have if you are patient. There are mega deals to be had. (HELP!! The epinephrine is starting to flow and the sale doesn't even start till next week!!)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Deals of the Day...

Deals tend to run in highs and lows. Some weeks are like bumper crops of retail greatness and other weeks are just plain drought-worthy. But I'm a firm believer in plugging along. But it does seem somewhat out of my routine not to be heading to my favorite drug store every morning this week--while just last week, I became personally acquainted with at least 20 "beauty advisers" in my extreme shopping escapades in the greater Spokane area. I'm taking a well-deserved break from the big W--until, maybe, tomorrow...

Case in point--you know it's a "great deal" when the man of the house isn't complaining about how long I'm gone or that it's the sixth store in one day or that I've been to Walgreen's six days in a row. Last week I stocked up on costly razors for pennies on the dollar, loads of toothpaste and toothbrushes, granola bars, Kettle chips (yum!), OxyClean tablets, maxi pads, and Carmex body lotions...just to name a few. After using the 12 cent Halloween cups as my "filler item" on every transactions--let's just say, I have enough cups for half of the kids that go to our local elementary. (CrAzY!! I know...but it was the cheapest item in the store last week to use for the blessed little transactions that needed just one more item to let me use all of the coupons in conjunction with the register rewards as well). After accumulating the stockpiles I planned for, and then some--I still had over $60 in Register Rewards that don't expire till 10/15.

Most weeks work great when you can just roll the previous register rewards onto the next week's deals. But this week is kind of dry. I usually like to place my register rewards on items so that it will also generate a new reward and still be able to use a manufacturer's coupon. There aren't a lot of those kind of deals going on at the big W this I'm going to hold back a few to use on the next week's ad. That's the beauty of the register reward--while they have a shelf-life--it's usually a couple of weeks that you can cross them over onto new and different ads.
I did stock up on Act II popcorn tonight while I was waiting for one of my kidlets' dance lessons to get over. The individual packages are on an in-store coupon for 4 for $1. I purchased 36--using $8-worth of register rewards--and only had to chip in $1 for the difference!! Since there is no sales' tax on food items in our state--it was a clean transaction with only one greenback being handed over. That was worth it too! Most boxes of popcorn go for $2-3 a box, with only 3-4 bags per box. Register rewards paid the bulk of the price and left me paying around 2.5 cents per package. For that price...let them eat popcorn--instead of cake, right?

It's only the beginning of October, but now is the time to start watching for deals on Halloween candy. Walgreen's has their Mars candy bags on sale 2/$5 with a $1 off coupon in their monthly coupon booklet. Most of the coupons from that book expire on 10/22--so consumer, beware, lest you miss the chance to buy the candy on sale with multiple coupons allowed! If you can get your hands on some of the manufacturer's coupons that are in circulation, you are allowed to use a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon--and combining those towards the sale price, you can get the bags as low as $1 each! That's tremendous, especially if you get as many trick-or-treaters as we do!!

One other great deal I noticed that doesn't have a register reward--but may just be too good to pass up--is the deal on Cover Girl Cosmetics at the big W. They are on sale for Buy 1, Get one 50% off. Not too shabby, as sales go. But there was the most amazing coupon in the Sunday paper that will have this one flying off the shelves. The coupon was Save $8/2 on Cover Girl face products. Uh. Yep. That's noteworthy because a pressed powder is around $5.99. The second one would be $3...add the coupon and you are paying 50 cents a piece (plus sales' tax). I love that kind of deal ;) I just may have to use a couple of my register rewards to make up the difference and call this one the "extreme deal of the day"!!

Remember to look at everything as a potential deal to be made. Just because it's not set up the way you thought would be best or most savings--maybe a strategically placed coupon will make it a better deal in the long run. You never know what's out there. The best shopping is done on-line (comparing ads with available coupons) or with the newspaper before you even get to the store. Have fun--and happy shopping!