Friday, August 23, 2013

Whole Foods: Twilight Zone?

In Madison, Whole Foods is relatively new (read: it could have been here for 10 years but wasn't around from birth SO I consider it new haha).  There is only one location and I have always heard two different things about it.  Half of what I have heard is that the food is high quality and the other half is it is too expensive! 

I had been browsing the Krazy Coupon Lady and Organic Deals match ups for a while.  Every once in a while, a few items would be free or nearly free.  It was never enough really good deals to warrant a special trip. 

My initial push to check it out were the deals on the Ibotta app.  They had organic chicken nuggets and fish sticks (not organic obviously but wild caught I believe) from the Ian's brand which were eligible to earn $1.50 for purchasing!  Unfortunately, they only had the jumbo $10 bags of each so I passed. 

Then I saw some coupons for Applegate meats.  If you don't know, this is a line of meats, some organic, some "natural."  They are pretty reasonably price.  Stacking a $1 Whole Foods coupon and a $0.75 manufacturer coupon, I paid $4.24 per family pack of ham and $4.64 per family pack of smoked turkey.  I chose the "naturals" version because the budget has been a bit tight lately.  The organic pack has about half the meat for the same price so still a good deal!

From my brief searching, only one item potentially beat the price of Woodman's.  The 365 Whole Foods organic whole peeled 28 ounce can of tomatoes was $1.99.  According to my spreadsheet, Muir Glen organic 14 ounce whole peeled tomatoes are $1.79.  Not bad. 

I think I will be back every once in a while when there is a really good deal.  The price of everything else was really high.  On the plus side, the produce was excellent.  There was organic corn for $0.80 an ear and made a lovely Mexican esquites dish (I hope I didn't totally fumble that!).  Roast or boil four ears of corn, cut off the kernels.  Add a little mayo, butter, lime juice, cheese (I used cheddar but they recommend cotija), and chili powder!  Salt and pepper to taste, too, of course.  And the secret weapon - a little chopped jalapeno.  WOW - delicious!  The fresh, organic corn made such a difference. 

Okay, you may be wondering why I would have said Whole Foods was like the Twilight Zone!  First of all, there were no carts inside!  I had to wander around like an imbecile trying to figure out something as simple as the cart location.  Luckily I found an empty one in the middle of the store.  On my way out, I saw they were by the door OUTSIDE.  Hm... makes sense but seems a little inconvenient if it's raining or snowing. 

If I looked at a shelf for more than 1.5 seconds, which I did a lot of doing mental price comparisons, someone asked if I needed help.  Wow.  This happened about 4 times in 30 minutes.  When I asked which item a price tag referred to, the butcher ran right over to help and insisted upon looking in the back to see if any more were in stock.  This is a FAR cry from Woodman's or Copp's where you have to hunt an employee down.  If you are lucky enough to find one, chances are they are busy or don't know the answer to your question.  I have had some good customer service at both of the other stores, but Whole Foods immediately set the bar very high. 

Twilight Zone or good corporate policy?  I'm not sure but it was strange to have employees that were actually nice! And helpful!  Without arm twisting!  They have a great selection of high quality foods and I will be back every once in a while to take advantage of sales, and enjoy the great customer service while I'm there. 

What are your thoughts?  What do you love from Whole Foods?  Or why don't you shop there? 

Enjoy the end of summer!

Back with a Change of Direction!

Hello everyone!  I took an, unannounced, hiatus as being a full-time student and mother got a little overwhelming!

I created this blog at the beginning of my couponing journey.  Boy, things have changed in such a short amount of time!!! I now understand much more and learn everyday.  I frequent Krazy Coupon Lady and Pocket Your Dollars a little more than I care to admit.  But!  I do believe that all the time spent is giving me the skills to figure out deals on my own.

While saving organically is still my goal, I have been buying a lot of personal care items.  Realizing how many things are FREE, I saw an amazing opportunity: Couponing for Charity.  I have a stockpile of items to donate.  Reflecting on all these free items that people in need could really use, I have decided to create a group who coupons for charity. I am still building my knowledge before I feel confident leading a group of people BUT I am looking into the logistics of who may be interested, where we could meet, et cetera. 

If you happen to live in the Madison area and are interested, please post a comment!  Since I have been gone, I notice I had a lot of page views, especially from Pocket Your Dollars.  Thanks for checking my out my humble little blog!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My 7/19-7/20 Weekend Scores (Target, CVS, Copp's)

Thanks to the wonderful guides that are the Krazy Coupon Lady and Pocket Your Dollars, along with some of my own finds, I scored some great deals this weekend!

I started off at Target.  There are still some great deals going on so be sure to check out your local store!  I started with the Van's Waffles, on sale for $2.50.  There is a $1 printable coupon as well as a $3 one after taking a survey.  With the $3 coupon, the waffles are free. Even better, with the Ibotta app (an app that allows you to scan a purchased product and receipt for cash deposited into your PayPal account), you can earn $1.00!  Getting paid to try some new waffles?  Love it!

Besides the waffles, I found some Earth's Best Tots Organic Juice Boxes on clearance for $1.86.  When I contacted the manufacturer with a request for coupons, I received three $0.55/1 coupons.  Do the same and these juice boxes could be as low as $1.31.

I have a $1/1 L'oreal Cosmetic manufacturer coupon as well as a $1/1 L'oreal Eye Cosmetic Target coupon so I decided to browse the clearance in hopes of finding a freebie.  I was disappointed, not finding ANY make up on sale (only a few lotions and spray tans).  I did spy one little Burt's Bees revitalizing lip balm on clearance for $1.48.  Paired with the $1.50/1 Burt's Bees Lip Color product (there was a printable version that expired but also one that I clipped from the Copp's weekly ad last week), the tube was free!

My final Target deal was the Up & Up 100 count cotton rounds.  They were regularly priced at $2.04 and paired with a Target  $0.75/1 Up & Up cotton product coupon for a total of $1.29.

Van's 8 Grain Waffles $2.50
-$3/1 coupon 
+$1 Ibotta Offer
= -$1.00

Burt's Bees Revitalizing Lip Balm $1.48
-$1.50/1 coupon

Up & Up 100 count cotton rounds $2.04
-$0.75/1 coupon
= $1.29

Later on Friday, I went to CVS.  Last month, I took advantage of a wonderful diaper deal that rewarded me with $12 Extra Bucks (basically like a CVS gift certificate that must be used in one transaction, meaning if you spend $10, they take the whole Extra Bucks reward).  This was my first time shopping at CVS as they are new to Madison within the last few years.  Before I went, I signed up for their Extra Care card which offers special coupons through email, snail mail, an app, and even their in store coupon center.

I was happy to receive a 20% off coupon this week.  That was enough motivation for me to go ahead and redeem my Extra Bucks.  There was a great deal on Playtex Gentle Glide tampons.  The 36 count box was on sale for $6.49, combined with a $3/1 printable coupon and my 20% off made it only $2.19!  Even better, there was a $3 Extra Bucks reward for making this purchase.

My original plan was to purchase the Huggies Wipes Refill deal, 2 refills with two $1/1 coupons for $9.98 plus a $4 Extra Bucks reward.  They were sold out and although I could have gotten a rain check but I had calculated almost an exactly $12 purchase and needed to find something else.  I browsed the store and decided to go with the Maybelline offer, buy $10 of products for $3 EB.  I needed mascara and nail polish and that totaled $9.98.  As long as the purchase is within 2% of the required price, you still receive the ExtraBucks.

I was also planning on buying the U by Kotex 18 count liners.  They were at their regular price of $1.49 plus I have a $1/1 coupon.  After the 20% off coupon, they would have only been $0.39.  However, I left the coupon at home!  I picked up the final item on my list which were the Tena liners for FREE!  There was a $5 coupon in the paper and the 26 count box was only $3.99.  I plan to donate these.

Playtex Gentle Glide 36 ct. tampons $6.49
-$3/1 coupon
-20% off purchase
 +$3 EB
= -$0.81

Maybelline Mascara $5.99
Maybelline Nail Polish $3.99
-20% off purchase
+$3 EB
= $6.98

Tena Sporty Liners $3.99
-$5/1 coupon SS 7/14 (exp 8/31)

Unfortunately, I have not found a website that specifies when Copp's has the Double Double Daze, not even their own.  It used to be every Saturday but it has seen some variation.  Sometimes they are on Wednesdays, too.  I asked someone at customer service and even they did not know.  The only place that reliably gives the information is the weekly circular, it seems.

First, I took advantage of the Reynold's paper cups freebie that has been available for the past few weeks.  They are regularly priced at $0.99, combined with a doubled $0.55/1 coupon makes them free.

Next, I had a printable $1/1 Kikkoman's product coupon that I used on the $2.29 box of panko breadcrumbs, making them only $0.29.

On my last trip to Copp's, I noticed how many products the Roundy Organics line has gained.  I decided to do some browsing and it paid off.  I normally purchase the Full Circle Organic instant granola (8 packs) for $2.99 at Woodman's.  Roundy's offered their version for $3.59 but it was on sale for only $2.50!

Another great deal I hadn't planned on was the Cascadian Farms cereal.  Normally $4.39 at Copps, they were also on sale for $2.50.  I recently purchased Full Circle Organic raisin bran for $3.49 at Woodman's.  There was also a Copp's coupon for the cereal taking an extra $0.52 off of my two boxes.  I paid $4.48.  However, if I was prepared I would have brought two $0. 75/1 Cascadian Farms products.  When doubled, I would have only paid $0.74 a box!

I will stop here to note that today was NOT double double daze.  I could have made separate transactions but I didn't realize it until some of my coupons did not double.  My cashier was new and needed the manager to help.  She said that this time they would double my coupons but in the future I need to do separate transactions.  It worked out well because I was about to take my coupons back and use them later but the staff so nicely assisted me.

Anyways, I also purchased the S Rosen Whole Wheat bread, normally $2.49-$2.89 at Woodman's and $3.29 at Copp's.  It was on sale for $2.49 and I had two $0.50/1 manufacturer coupons.  When doubled, I paid $1.49 per loaf. 

The Gerber organic infant pouches were on sale for $1.50 each when purchasing two or more.  I used the $1/2 Gerber organic product coupon, doubled for a total of $0.50 each.

The last two deals I scored were on toothpaste.  The Colgate Sparkling White 4 oz toothpaste was on sale for $1.  There was a Copp's coupon taking the price down to $0.88.  I also had a $0.50/1 coupon from last Sunday's paper which made it FREE after the doubled coupon!  I also picked up some Tom's Fluoride Free toothpaste, on sale for $4.29 from the original $5.49.  I had a $1/1 coupon from the paper several weeks ago, making it only $2.29! 

Reynold's Paper Liners $0.99
-$0.55/1 x 2

Kikkoman Panko Breadcrumbs $2.29
-$1/1 x 2
= $0.29

Gerber Organic Infant Pouches $1.50 (when buying 2 or more)
-$1/2 x 2
= $0.50 each

Colgate Sparkling White 4 oz. toothpaste $1.00
-$0.22 Copp's coupon
-$0.50/1 x 2 SS 7/14 (exp 7/27)

Tom's Fluoride Free Toothpaste $4.29
-$1/1 x 2 SS 6/23 (exp 8/10)
= $2.29

Sunday, June 23, 2013

6/23 Deals and Savings

Before I get into my philosophical discussion of "natural" and my thoughts on healthy food,  I thought I would share which deals and coupons I am loving this week!

I just got the SmartSource and Plum coupon inserts in today's Sunday paper.  I recommend holding onto the inserts, even if you don't normally buy the items with coupons that week.  I check Krazy Coupon Lady and Pocket Your Dollars a few times a week to see if there are any free items or moneymakers (Walmart will give you cash back if your coupon is worth more than the product).  Now, in a past post I said I am not particularly interested in items I wouldn't normally buy.  The exception is when I am already making a trip OR the items would be enjoyed by someone else, as a gift to a friend or donation to the needy.

Save money & help others on this wonderful site!
Also, although organic is my goal,  I do not buy 100% organic products or clip coupons exclusively for organic products.  This blog is dedicated to shining more light on organic products, not excluding all non-organic items.  Sometimes the organic option is too expensive.  Sometimes, it is because my husband likes products that are not organic.  Sometimes, it is to donate.  Sometime, it is because I think the product is still healthy or tasty.  On that note, they should really make more organic ice cream! NOTE: I will underline all organic options.  I will also use it to denote products, such as Tom's, that are the closest thing to organic, in my opinion.  I have never seen organic toothpaste, although I am sure it exists.

As you become more aware of pricing either through spreadsheets or experience, you can remember normal prices of products and be aware when coupons are especially worth it! 

Coupons I clipped from the inserts:
$1.50/1 Hellman's Real Whipped Tangy Dressing Expires 7/21/13
$1/1 Tom's of Maine Toothpaste or Mouthwash Expires 8/10/13 (On sale for $2.99 at Copp's, double coupon for $0.99 per tube!)
$2/1 Schick Quattro for Women Razor, Bikini Trimmer, or Refill Expires 8/04/13
$1/1 Reynolds Baking Cups Expires 9/30/13 (I just doubled a $0.55/1 of these coupons at Copp's yesterday for free baking cups, now you can get the fancy aluminum foil kind for free!)
$0.50/1 Wonderful Pistachios 5oz+ Expires 8/23/13

Coupons I printed:
$1/1 6+ rolls of Scott Bath Tissue expires 7/21/13 (Join their site and share the membership with 3+ email contacts to increase your coupon from $0.70 to $1.00, you can print out both!  Sadly, they do not double.)
$1/1 Fantastic World Foods product Expires 6/30/2013 (From Common Kindness. Also does not double)
$0.75/1 Cascadian Farm product expires 7/23/13 (From
$0.85/1 Cascadian Farm product expires 7/23/13 (From Box Tops 4 Education, cereal and bars currently on sale for 2/$6 at Copp's, double 2 coupons for a total of $1.30 each! I prefer their frozen fruit/veggies at Woodman's)

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spreadsheets: Not Just For Accountants

If you are like me, the very word "spreadsheet" brings visions of number crunching and Using 'sheets for couponing seemed like a waste of time as I foolishly presumed that it MIGHT save me a few pennies each trip.
complicated formulas.  I always thought of them as reserved for the type A personality that is more than a little anal retentive about organization. 

WRONG!  Spreadsheeting is something that you can spend as little as 5 minutes on per week and see immediate savings.  This is not exclusive to couponing.  You could save a lot of money without coupons just by seeing exactly where your money is going.  I am new to the idea of premeditated grocery shopping and I know I am not alone!  I used to go in the store with an idea in my head of what I needed, end up buying doubles, forget half of what I needed, and pick whatever brand caught my eye.  Taking some time out of the overstimulating visual environment of the grocery store to make calculations and observations can you save you not only money, but that flustered questioning ("Do I have this?" "Which is the best deal?" etc.) that often makes a grocery trip stressful. 

The first step is to save your receipts.  Whether you plan to start your spreadsheet today, next week, or whenever you find the time, you will need something to work off of!  I often save up several receipts before I sit down and enter all the information in.  There will be many duplicate items and eventually, you will only need to enter a few new items per receipt.

Next, find a good spreadsheet application.  There are many free ones that work great.  I love Open Office for my PC and Kingsoft Office for my tablet.  Any basic program will work.  If you are not technologically-inclined and prefer not to use a spreadsheet at all, you can use a table on a word processor.  If you are more technologically inclined, I recommend using a database such as Microsoft Access or Open Office's version.  This will give you more customization options.

Decide what product information is most important to you.  I have a column for brand, product name, product type, price, servings, price per serving, and comments.  The most important columns are a product description (as long as you know what you mean when you refer to the chart is all that matters), price, servings, and price per serving.  The rest are optional but useful for sorting and quickly finding an item.

For servings, I estimate how much use I normally get out of the product.  Sometimes it is a very rough estimate, sometimes I can be exact.  The process of evaluating the product is more important than precision.  For example, a pound of ground beef I estimate at 2 servings for my family of 3. This breaks down to $2.99 a serving (I normally pay $5.99/pound). 

Fill out the spreadsheet.  Compare like products you have purchased.  There is a common misconception that a lower priced product is a better deal.  You need to consider the weight or size and price per serving. Price per serving is my bottom line.  If you are running really short on funds, it sometimes makes sense to buy a smaller sized product, despite higher cost per serving.  Figure out what makes sense for you.  If you can afford to stock up (consider your cupboard, refrigerator, freezer, and pantry space before you go crazy!) to save overall, it is worth it.

 Hopefully, like me, your time will be well spent.  I had many revelations on products I buy.  Many were minor realizations on buying choices, such as that a smaller size was a better value or that one brand was cheaper than the other.   Others were more significant and represented use.  I realized that I was very wasteful with meat.  I often used an entire pound of ground beef for spaghetti and meatballs.  I accomplished the same with half or less of what I normally use, just less leftovers.

If you are feeling ambitious, make a spreadsheet for each store you frequent.  Make one just for sale prices and track sales cycles.  Figure out how to use the information at your hands to save some money and time!

Thanks for reading.  Coming up next, I will discuss the concept of "healthy" and my views on healthy eating.  As always, I'd love your feedback.  Feel free to link to your blog and I will be sure to take a peek!

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

End of the Introductory Saga: Couponing in Wisconsin

Wisconsin.  Us city folk often forget that there is an entire state of people outside of Madison and Milwaukee.  I apologize in advance for my blanketing use of "Wisconsin" when I really mean my Madison-centric experience.  Still, we do not have most of the stores that coupon bloggers provide savings guides for.  This unites us! Forward!

I shop exclusively at three grocery stores: Woodman's, Copp's, and Willy Street Co-Op.  I do 80% of my shopping at Woodman's.  I shop at Copp's when I need to pick up a few items near by and price is no object (I would love to find out the price difference - I'd estimate it is about 30% higher).  Willy Street Co-Op is my go to for specific bulk products and a marvelous selection of meat and seafood.  I go there about once a month to stock up on those items.

For non-grocery items, I often pick them up at the grocery store.  However, I go to Target, Walmart, and Walgreen's from time to time to pick up other items or take advantage of a particular great deal.  Walgreen's/CVS is the go to place if you are looking for extreme couponing type savings in your neighborhood.  They are the number one place to find freebies or extremely good deals.  They often base sales around circulating coupons and even offer their own coupons which allow you to stack both.  I highly recommend finding a good couponing blog (I am partial to Krazy Coupon Lady because of her awesome printables list).  They do the work for you - no need to pour over coupons and circulars in an attempt to find the best deals.  A few minutes once a week, scan for products you need, save some money.

For example, I just found these awesome $2/1 Organix Shampoo or Conditioner coupons.  I was about to pick them up at Woodman's when something told me to wait as I am not completely out.  I checked out KCL's blog and voila! Walgreen's has a BOGO sale on Organix through today, dropping the total price to a mere $2.25/bottle! That is $6.24 off of the regular price.  If only we had a Rite Aid, as you'd end up paying only $1.99 after their register reward!

Couponing.  Copp's is one of the only stores in the area (Sentry's and Pick N Save do, too) that doubles coupons.  It is only once a week and 5 coupons.  Once a month, you can double up to 10 coupons on their Double Double Daze.  The trick you will see on "Extreme Couponing" is multiple transactions.  In each transaction, you can use 5 or 10 coupons.  Therefore, you can make multiple transactions to use more coupons.  This takes some chutzpah because you are officially trekking into crazy couponer territory.  Your cashier may say it's not allowed or give you grief.  People may look at you crazy.  Depending on your personality, you will either feel empowered or embarrassed.  A way around this is getting a few friends or family members to come with you and go to separate cashiers. Be assured that Copp's allows multiple transactions but be sure to check other stores' policies. 

Walmart offers cash back on overage but beware, many employees are not versed on this and you may need to speak with a manager.  Be sure to bring a copy of the coupon policy to back you up.  Their low prices mean many freebies and moneymakers.  The hassle with the workers deters me from going there unless necessary, but maybe your local location is better.

I generally find Target to have the highest price point of the three but they do have great deals (sometimes) and offer Target specific coupons.   They often have deals on their store brand, Up and Up.  Check out "coupon match ups" for any of the stores and you can find out where to get the best deal!  I usually check Pocket Your Dollars or Krazy Coupon Lady.

My ambition is to offer Woodman's price match ups based on what I find on my trips.  They do not post their sales or a comprehensive circular so it must all be figured out on location.  Still, they have the lowest prices on just about everything with the best selection.  Their organic selection is quite superb and offers much better prices.  Definitely check their website as the do have a "circular" with a few coupons you can obtain in stores.  Once I found Woodman's specific printable coupons on there, too.  I recently printed out two Stonyfield Organic Yogurt $0.50/1 coupons and stacked (using a manufacturer coupon and store coupon on the same product) them with a $1/2 Stonyfield Organic Yogurts (32 oz.).  Great deal on a healthy snack!

Stay tuned for my next entry on how to use a spreadsheet to figure out any potential money draining buys! 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Part II: Organic Couponing - Oxymoron?

Now that I have given a little background on the concept of organic and my thoughts on the subject, let us discuss the unicorn in the room: organic couponing.  Time and time again I hear and read that it is impossible to save on fresh produce, the bulk of many healthy diets.  To that I say I hear you loud and clear but you are wrong.  It is just quite difficult to save on organic, or any, produce.

Without knowing the resources and putting in the effort, it is impossible.  Pick up your local circular or look at the coupons in the newspaper, and you will find not-a-one.  Turn on that wonderful information machine (computer, non-dorks) and you will find a wealth of blogs, coupon sites, and more.

So your first investment, newbies, is a printer, some change for printing at your local library, bribing a friend to use theirs once a week, or finding some other way to print for free/cheap.  Your printer will become your friend even if you are one of the few receiving your Sunday paper.  As I mentioned, you will not find the organic deals (give or take a few) there.  The hum of that printer will become your whistle while you work rhythm.  It has become equivalent to the cha-ching of a cash register in my mind.

Next, subscribe to every newsletter known to man.  You may want to create a side email account for this.  All of your local stores, all of the brands you buy or that you would consider buying, coupon blogs, coupon sites, you name it.  After a while, you will figure out if any are not useful to you or that you never find yourself reading.  Unsubscribe.  With the rest, you will find coupons that are exclusively for subscribers.  Earthbound Farms is famous for this and they offer a new coupon weekly.  Others will offer a one time coupon upon sign up, but it is better than nothing!

Another tip is to contact the manufacturers.  Let them know how big of a fan you are and that you would just LOVE some coupons.  They generally oblige as a happy customer is money in their pocket.  I have seen and received some amazing coupons obtained this way.  They are generally significantly higher savings than their normal coupons so don't be shy!!!

I also frequently check my local stores websites and actual store.  They often have special coupons only available through that outlet.  For example, Woodman's had $1 off produce, $1 off meat, and $1 off organic foods exclusively on their website a few months back.

Enough yammering, onto the juicy stuff.  Below you will find my revered list of links.

Krazy Coupon Lady's Printable Coupon List - This is the most comprehensive list of printable coupons I have found.  It is only partially organic but it is a great resource for coupons that I have not found elsewhere.

THE Organic Coupon Blog: Organic Deals - Although not as easy to search as KCL, it is devoted to organic items and in addition to coupon lists, it gives great tips on store specific deals.

Common Kindness - Print coupons and they donate to charities of your choice.  Does it get better than that?  Why, yes, it does.  Most of their coupons are organic and exclusive to their site.

Mambo Sprouts - Okay, I am undecided on this one, to be honest.  I had to include it, though, because soooo many bloggers/couponers rave about it.  Most of the brands are not carried in Woodman's or Copp's, so they are not of use to me.  However, I don't frequent Willy Street, Whole Foods, or other stores so perhaps they are carried there.  Maybe there are not carried locally.  Let me know if you know!

Faithful Provisions' Printable Sites List - This is a fairly comprehensive list of coupon sites and manufacturers although I have not checked out most of them.

Finally, a quick Google search can lead to other printables you may have missed.  Happy searching!  Check out my article on Wisconsin Woes, coming up next!

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