Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Queen of Food and Money

Hello, blog!

I am writing this post solely out of the overflowing glee I experienced today after scoring some outrageously good deals grocery shopping, and the desire to share some discoveries I've made -- especially in the world of shopping at Meijer and Aldi. (I have a deep-seated hatred of Kroger, so I'm sorry, but I will be of no assistance there.)

I know, really thrilling stuff, right?

But meal planning, bargain hunting, grocery shopping, and recipe testing are all things I like that hold hands and become part of my foodie life. I LOVE food. I love cooking and baking. And, I love saving money so I can buy more sweaters and handbags save it up for the future like a responsible adult.

Anyway, if you ever struggle to know where to start with saving money at the grocery store (extreme couponing is too stressful), here's what I do. You might like it and find it's not so horrible and time-consuming!

1. Check Ibotta, Checkout 51, and Shopmium.

Okay, first you might need to download them. These apps are all available for the iPhone; I believe they're all available for Android, too. The awesome things about them:

  • They're FREE!!!!!!!
  • They give you FREE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!
  • They're easy!
I know that it sounds too good to be true, but I believe they make their money through the advertising that brands and companies get by offering rebates on them. Ibotta gives you stores that you can shop from to obtain the rebates while Checkout 51 will give you a rebate no matter where you shop, which is BALLIN' if you go to Aldi, because it's already cheap and they don't take any coupons anyway.

Each app has a bunch of rebate offers that change periodically, some products just generic (like a jug of any brand of milk or apples) and some that are brand specific (like Doritos). The app gives you instructions, but you essentially take pictures of your receipt with the phone camera in the app and select which rebates you are claiming that are on the receipt and send it. That's it! They'll let you know when it goes through, and your money will be in the account! Checkout 51 sends you a check when you reach $20 and Ibotta & Shopmium can either put it into Paypal for you or send you a giftcard.

So when I start planning meals and shopping for the week, I look at these apps first to see if there's anything I would use on there and plan around those things.

2. Check mPerks and see what rewards and coupons there are.

If you haven't heard of mPerks at Meijer, you will go nuts when you find out how easy it is to use and help you save. It's basically an account where you can clip online coupons and also put purchases towards rewards for even more savings (such as getting $5 off your next trip if you spend $30 on deli products one month). 

The awesome part about it is that they have MOST coupons that you'd find on coupons.com, but instead of having to print them out, you just punch in your phone number at the Meijer cash register and your PIN that you make up, and it automatically applies all the coupons you've clipped! Woop woop, run on, sistah!

ESPECIALLY clip coupons for things like salads, or other produce/deli perishables. Meijer almost always has some things like salad mix, potato salad, and cheese in that whole area of the store marked down because they will expire sooner than the others. There will be a huge orange sticker that tells you 20% or 40% off because it needs to be used soon! I got a really fancy Asian chopped salad today for about a dollar because of a $1.00 mPerks coupon and 40% off because it needs to be eaten by tomorrow. And it will. Mwahaha.

3. Check the ad circulars super fast.

It seems like a pain to do this, but I just go on both Meijer & Aldi's websites and look at the deals that week. If any line up with coupons or rebates that I have saved -- and are also things that we will actually use -- then I put that on my shopping list and high five myself! And then if there are any other crazy deals that I want to take advantage of, I make note of that, too, so I don't forget to go down those aisles when I get to the store. (I'm notorious for forgetting to look at any frozen food unless I write it down because it's just darn cold over there.) 

If you aren't far away from each store you want to go to, it's also handy to see where to get certain things. This week, Meijer had no deals on avocados -- they were about $1.50 each! Ugh! But Aldi had them for $0.60 each, so I decided not to impulse buy them at Meijer just because they sounded good. Cheap guacamole for all!

4. Make your list.

I just use the notes app on my phone. I write down everything I plan on getting and how much they should cost, if I know what that is, to get an idea of how much I am spending. Then you know what your wiggle room is when you spy some of those Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate candies that you compulsively grab when you see them. (Duh, they are the best.)

OPTIONAL -- I also take screenshots from the apps where my rebates and coupons are, just in case my phone reception is awful in a store and I want to check if there's a certain size of coffee creamer or tub of cottage cheese I have to buy to meet the requirements for the deal.

5. Get your reusable shopping bags and a quarter ready.

If you haven't shopped at Aldi before, first of all...

...get thee to an Aldi immediately. 

Your brain will probably explode from all the awesome stuff they have in their own store brands for ridiculously cheap prices. Their produce has been hit or miss sometimes but they are improving a lot. However, you need a quarter to stick in the shopping cart -- which you do get back when you hook it back up to the other carts -- and your own bags save you money since you have to pay for bags at the store. I have a few of those thermal bags as well to keep cold foods cold, which is super nice when you go to a few stores in one trip and don't want all your refrigerated and frozen goods to be all melted and sweaty when you come home at the end.

6. Hit the store.

Don't forget to punch in your mPerks info on the little screen at Meijer when you check out, and don't forget to hang onto your receipts for when you get home and redeem all your sweet app rebates!

7. Dance because you are the queen/king of food and money.

It goes without saying!

For about $50 this week, I got bratwurst, stew meat, pitted dates, tomatoes, bananas, green beans, broccoli, strawberries, two salad mixes, pumpkin beer, organic veggie chips, goat cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, natural coffee creamer, the list goes on and on... I am probably a little too pleased with myself, but we are eating really good this week for crazy cheap without spending hours clipping coupons and checking out at the store with four separate transactions.

Speaking of which, I ALWAYS END UP BEHIND THOSE PEOPLE AT THE STORE. It's some kind of curse. No offense if you do that, I just have bad luck and always find you. 

Anywho, planning to write more interesting things again besides boring ol' groceries, but in the mean time, I hope you at least try Ibotta or those other apps! They are a lot of fun and you can't beat even more money in your wallet!

Love, Lara