Thursday, October 02, 2008

On saving money (or not, as the case might be)

I've long been a fan of Walgreens. I get all my prescriptions filled there. They often have some good sale prices on odds and ends... and they often have store coupons in addition to sale prices.

A few years back, I discovered the trick of "making" money - not much, but a little bit at Walgreens. Not sure why I've never shared it. I suppose because the only people I thought that might be interested were my family - and they never read my blog.

The disadvantage is that 1) it's Walgreens which isn't nation-wide. and 2) it takes about six weeks to get money back when you first start out. However, they do appear to have fixed a previous issue with the program, that means that once you start working with them - it only takes a couple of weeks (depending on time of months) post submitting the information.

What I don't get to do is try this out at CVS. CVS is not in Iowa - however, maybe, just maybe Phil can try it out as I assume it's in the NY area... as it does have a lot of geography.

Both stores take regular manufacturer coupons in addition to their coupons and sale offers. As a result, you can often get things free or nearly free.

IN ADDITION - they both offer rebates and rewards. These are equivalent to cash back. Walgreens has two - both Register Rewards (new program, still has kinks)... but those are instantaneous. They print out with your receipt - and are $2 to $5 to $10 off of your next purchase. They do tend to have a fairly short time line they are good for. But since I'm in there almost weekly, it works well for me. In addition they have a rebate program which provides you either a check or a gift card with no expiration date. These are the ones you have to fill out a form (although now you can either mail it in or fill it out online). Now that they aren't automatically sending you a gift card every month - and are refilling it... you get these faster than you used to. Benefit to getting it on the gift card is that you get 10% bonus (making money).

CVS has similar programs - but they have the added benefit that they have more "deals" or options typically than Walgreens.

So, for example - last month I got free with rebate (actually earning 10% of the cost in the bonus) - $5 bottle of mens brand name shampoo, $5 Oral B toothbrush, $5 Crest Mouthwash. In addition - I got 10 boxes of Poptarts (admittedly, a LOT) - but I spent $5 after coupons on all 10 boxes AND I got $10 in RR rewards (earning $5) AND I was able to mail the receipt & proofs of purchases off to Kelloggs who was running a buy 10 products, get $10 rebate by mail. Don't have it yet, but when I do - they basically paid me $15 to take 10 boxes of Poptarts home. And, lets face it - it's not like they'll go bad... they've got enough preservatives in them to last 10 years. Not that they will with two boys at home...

Most recently, my deals haven't all worked out in my favor - so I'm not saving as much as I would like.

1) Buy 3 12-pks of Mid-Continent Soda (7up, Root Beer, the like) for $11 earn $4 in Register Rewards - still $2.33 per 12-pk, but considering how fast we drink this stuff, it's good.

2) One Oral B toothbrush free with RR (I got confused, the RR didn't print out, and I didn't catch it) - so I spent $4.50 on a toothbrush that should have been free, but wasn't - and we didn't need it... I was just stocking up while the freebee lasted.

3) Special K cereal bars (to which I'm virtually addicted too)... usually $3.50 or more a box. I bought 6 boxes... they were 2 for $5 (which is an awesome price); only they had a $3 RR -- so I ended up paying $6 for 6 boxes.

But, here's the rub - I spent almost $20 on things that while we will certainly use them - we didn't "NEED" them. Am I really saving money? To me, I am. But, in reality? We could probably drink Kool-aid instead of the soda - but then I have to mix it up in a pitcher, wash the pitcher each time it's emptied - wash the glasses we have to pour it into - and grabbing a pop & popping the top is easier. by much!

Anyway - my other "options" for saving include HyVee - a midwest institution grocery store. They have AWESOME weekly specials. A couple of recent examples:

- 12 pk Pepsi $.99 (sooo cheap, normally $4.89)
- Dozen eggs $.15 (seriously???)
- 5 lb bag of sugar ($1.10)
- 10 for $10 Lipton Rice or Noodle mix pack (we inhale these) -- normally $1.90 each
- Buy 4 products of a given product line - get a free pack of hotdogs (worth up to $3.99) - Kool Aide counted - so 4 packs of koolaide ($.40) netted me free hotdogs
- Buy 4 products of a given product line - get a free package of Kraft Cheese slices - Koolaid still counted so got a $2.50 pack of cheese slices for $.40 plus four packs of koolaid mix.
- Buy 4 products of a given product line (again koolaid counted) - get a box of Wheat Thins free - again, only spent $.40.

And lastly? Angel Food Ministries.... for $30 you get a large box of food. I did this for the first time last week. You can only pick up once a month. And, until I get used to it, I'm only going to buy the "basic" box and only one. Though they do have "add-ons" and people buying multiple packs. But we got 4 6oz Sirloin Steaks; a large pork loin, ground turkey, Chicken Breasts, 2 lbs chicken nuggets (which funny enough - if Chickens had "nuggets" these look a lot like that as they are tiny pieces and round of all things), plus pasta, beans, frozen veggies, a frozen pizza, canned veggies, frozen french fries - cookies, milk, eggs, etc, etc. All in all? A very good price. I've heard the quantity of meat isn't the greatest. However, so far? Yummm.... The pork loin was a little fatty - but "A" LOVES shredded pork with BBQ anyway - so that's how I fixed it and it was far better then when I bought the pork loin at full price and picked it out myself... of course, it could be because it was fattier??? LOL I've never been overly fond of ground turkey - but I mixed it half and half with hamburger and made a meat loaf - that was to die for. I figure there isn't much they could do to screw up the Chicken Breasts... Now the nuggets? Those I'm hesitant with.... they really do look like slightly smaller than marble-sized balls. A little "too" odd... but we'll fry some up this weekend and give them a try. The steaks, those too I'm a little nervous. A little too much of my past life growing up where we butchered our own cows means I'm a bit of a meat snob... so I have high expectations. I figure though that if I do a good job marinating them, that they'll be good anyway - and maybe during the marinating process - they'll age enough to be really yummy. We'll see. But, quite honestly? So far, very good, very good deal indeed. It appears it's just shy of enough food for two weeks (including leftovers for lunch)... which for $30? Is incredible pricing. Next month the menu changes...

-Chick Breasts
-Heat & Eat Meatloaf
- Chicken Fajita Strips
- hot dogs
- Center cut pork chops
- Ready to heat Meatballs

Plus pasta, veggies, eggs, milk, juice, and even tortillas (I assume for the fajitas).

If the meat this month is good all the way through - I'm tempted to add the "meat add-on box" next time around....

For $21 - October's "grill" box includes:
2 lb Top Sirloin Strips (4 x 8 oz.)

2 lb Baby Back Ribs

1.5 lb Hamburger Patties (4 x 6 oz.)

1.5 lb Pork Chops (4 x 6 oz.)

I didn't do it - as I hadn't really had any of their meat yet, and had heard some not-so-kind reviews of it. And honestly? its still $3 a pound... BUT, for $21 it would count as the main courses for up to 7 meals for the three of us... and $3/pound for hamburger is about what I'm paying now - and it's an upgrade to include Sirloin Strips; more Pork Chops, etc.... so I think it's worth it... as long as the quality holds. Of course, next month will have different items... but September had fairly similar options for about the same price for the box. So, I think it's reasonable.

The hard part is that you have to pay for this stuff three weeks in advance. They order it. They receive it. There's one day a month to go pick it up... and then you bring home all of this food. But, if you plan well enough in advance (and don't forget to pick it up - no refunds if you do)... you can have the freezer pretty empty before it's time to pick this stuff up. I was so happy with my "box" when I picked it up this Saturday, I had no hesitation to order the following months (Oct) box before I even left the premises. Saved me a little in postage... but I was pretty impressed with the "volume". I didn't even look at the menu. Now that I have, I'm even more happy that I ordered it as I can now plan for our meals based on what I know is coming... and know what NOT to buy. So, for example - I bought some frozen potatoes just the other week, forgetting that I was getting frozen French fries in my box. Oh, well... I only bought hash browns - so it's fine... it's just that I wouldn't have bothered if I'd remembered.

1 comment:

jare-a-më said...

Hi... I'm glad to hear you were pleased with your Angel Food order. My wife & I (Rebecca) currently live in Des Moines & have worked for Angel Food Ministries for a little over 7 years. We are always interested in learning how people respond to the ministry & food boxes. I am curious to know which location you ordered from?

Again, it is great to hear of your favorable experience with Angel Food Ministries.

Have a great week!

Jeremy (thiele.jeremy@gmail)