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Just Started Using Checkout 51 – The Grocery App for Everybody! Really!

I’m not an avid coupon clipper.  In fact, I sort of suck at maximizing store specials, buying seasonally, or any of the other methods that truly help keep grocery shopping cheap.  My regular readers know that I’m not a classic “frugal blogger”.  But I do like easy money.

My friend, Anne, told me about this phone app about a week ago, Checkout 51, and I’ve already earned $3.00 of free money.  Really.  The links in this post are my affiliate links, but I only signed up to be an affiliate after I’d been using this app and then noticed that I told 5 friends about it in 2 days, lol.  This is a grocery store application that everybody can use.  Let me explain…

How It Works

1.  Download the app and sign up.
2.  Shop like normal (all grocery stores or even places like Wal-Mart or Target) and keep your receipt.
3.  Check the app’s current, weekly list for qualifying items after you have that receipt in hand.
4.  Claim free money if something you buy is on their list by submitting a picture of your receipt (super easy).
5.  Get sent money after you hit $20.

Checkout 51

Like I said, I am already at $3.00 in about a week.  And you don’t need to buy anything extra, just claim what matches anyway.  No need to change your spending habits or anything like that.  Oh, and if you use coupons to buy whatever it is that you are claiming, that’s fine.  They only care about what items make it to your receipts that are also on their weekly list.

Sample List

Here’s a sample list of qualifying items that are valid until 11:59 PM on Wednesday, July 9 2014.  Their lists change every week.

Pepsi
20 fl oz or more. Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Burger patties
Any frozen or fresh variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Hamburger buns
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Bell peppers
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Amy’s Organic Soups
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Earth Balance natural buttery spreads
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Wyman’s of Maine frozen fruit
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.25

Select Ken’s Vinaigrette Dressings
Valid on Blue Cheese Vinaigrette, Lite Strawberry Vinaigrette, or Lite Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
Cash back: $0.60

McCormick® Grill Mates® Steak Sauce
Any variety.
Cash back: $1.00

Carmex Lip Balm
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.30

World Peas
Any variety.
Cash back: $1.00

Buy 2: Nongshim Noodle Soups
Any variety. Excludes Bowl Noodles. Items must appear on the same receipt.
Cash back: $0.50

Buy 2: Blue Dragon Products
Any variety. Items must appear on the same receipt.
Cash back: $1.50

HALLS Drops Bags
Bags 17 count or higher, any variety.
Cash back: $0.50

Glade® PlugIns® Scented Oil Customizables™ Starter Kit
Any Glade® Customizables™ Starter Kit.
Cash back: $2.00

Glade Jar® Candle
Any variety.
Cash back: $0.50

Glade® Wax Melts
Any variety. Excludes Glade® Wax Melt Warmer.
Cash back: $1.00

Try It Out

Overall, it’s just a simple extra way to save a few bucks overall.  I think it’s ingenious!  Let me know what you think!

Almost Made it to that $500 Mark!

Mr. BFS and I need to cut down our spending, so we are bringing our total food expenditure down to $500 or less a month.  Then we’ll start aiming for $450.  Here are the results for May-June 2014!

Food Spending from May 13, 2014 – June 12, 2014

In order to track our spending without logging into our credit card account every day, we keep a running tally on a sheet of paper stuck to our refrigerator.  The weird “month” from the 13th through the 12th is because that is our main credit card statement term.  It’s not the prettiest method ever, but it usually works great to keep our eyes on the prize. We stayed on top of it pretty well this past month. I had some blanks to fill in.

Here’s how we did:

Food May-June 2014

Eating Out – $362.17

Groceries – $140.73

That comes to $502.90 total.  Yay!

So we didn’t hit the target on the head, but we also didn’t start cracking down on ourselves until mid-month.  Our friends meet up with my husband 2-3 times a week at restaurants like Jason’s Deli and Steak and Shake for board game play testing (testing out unpublished board games).  We’re pushing the eating-at-home-for-fun thing way more now.

What We’ve Been Eating

Mr. BFS and I have been eating all kinds of stuff this month…

  • Spaghetti
  • Restaurants like Mexican, Jason’s Deli, and Black Eyed Pea
  • LOTS of cereal
  • Frozen pizza
  • Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
  • Milk

Knowing that we need to start cutting back long-term is very motivating.  We’ll see if we beat the $500 mark for June-July.  :-)

Did you hit any specific goals lately? How is your food budget coming along?

Bad Customer Service is the #1 Way to Lose Your Business!!!

Mr. BFS and I were craving Chinese last night, but our favorite place is closed on Sundays.  So we called our 2nd favorite and ordered our norm – General Tso’s Chicken and Chicken and Broccoli for pickup.  And now, I doubt I will go back.

Picking Up the Order

This part wasn’t so bad.  I walked in, waited for the person in front of me to finish paying, and asked for my order.  I handed them my credit card to pay and saw him bring out one of those old, mechanical, credit card copy machines.  He explained that the normal machine was down.  I didn’t mind, but took back my credit card, and handed him the last of my cash.  That covered our meal and a nice tip even though I was picking up my own order.

The Main Issues

When I drove back home and handed over the food, Mr. BFS had his General Tso’s Chicken, but I had Beef and Broccoli.  I really do not enjoy their beef – it’s spongy.  :-(  So I called at 5:50pm and explained that I received Beef and Broccoli instead of chicken like I ordered.  I then asked if they could just make a note so I could order it for free a different day since I did not want to drive back out again.

Bad Customer Service

No, they wouldn’t make a note.  I had to drive back out to pick up the correct order.  So, my first question:

Why didn’t they offer to deliver my corrected order? 

I didn’t think about this until later, but that would have been the appropriate way to handle this.

So I waited the time they quoted and drove back over.  It’s now 6:15pm.  The woman in front of me pays by credit, so that process with the old card copier takes 7 minutes.  It’s now 6:22pm.  Then I get to the counter and ask for my corrected order.  The guy acts surprised that there was a wrong order, but I handed him back the Beef and Broccoli minus the few bites I took to make sure that I couldn’t just suck it up and eat it.

He sends his younger coworker to the back to have my corrected order made.  What?!  I had called 30 minutes earlier!

I ask the younger guy why my order wasn’t remade when I called 30 minutes ago and he says that he wasn’t working the phones.  So I look to the older man, and he just gives me a blank stare.  No explanation and no apology.  So I wait for my new order and finally make it out of the place by 6:40pm.  Still no apologies.

I seriously wanted to ask for my earlier tip back.  These shenanigans make me an hour later than I wanted to be to pet sitting.  Luckily, Pendek and Zim, my current awesome pet sitting pup and kitty, are fine when I get there.  No accidents.

Not Going Back

Now I don’t want to go back for two reasons:

1.  Yesterday
2.  It happened 2 visits ago too!  My friend and I were eating in the restaurant and I ordered Mongolian Chicken with steamed rice.  I received Mongolian Beef with fried rice.  First I noticed the rice, and they brought out steamed.  Then I noticed it was beef, and they asked if it would be okay.  I tried to eat it, but the beef was spongy as usual and the Mongolian seasoning made it worse.  So I asked for Chicken and Broccoli instead.  I blew off this experience since I did end up happy, but along with yesterday, I know that this Chinese place doesn’t care enough to read what they write down or to follow through well when they make mistakes.

I’m a little sad because their seasonings and sauces are good, plus they are much closer than our favorite place.  But they cost 50% more and their customer service stinks.  So, their loss.

Do you have any bad customer service experiences to share?  Come on, vent away!

It’s Roasted Turkey Time Again!

My husband knows how much I love his roasted turkey at Thanksgiving.  He bastes it every 20 minutes for 4 hours at 300-350 degrees, so it turns out picture perfect.  So when it was time to buy the turkey in November 2013, he took advantage of the prices and bought three of the suckers… at 16+ pounds each.

The first one only lasted about 3 days since we had 10 people over for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration, and we didn’t have many leftovers. Well, the second one was cooked up for 4 of us yesterday and I have pounds and pounds of leftovers.  Yay!

Turkey

I forgot to take a picture, but this looks nearly identical. Golden brown on the outside and amazingly delicious.

Benefits

1.  We enjoyed the ability to have a mini-Thanksgiving with a couple of friends on Tuesday night.  It had been a rough week or two for all of us, so it was nice to chat, laugh, and vent over a delicious, nostalgic meal.

2.  Mr. BFS and I think turkey is yummy.  That’s an important point.

3.  Not only do I think roast turkey is delicious, but it is also one of the low point options with Weight Watchers.  One ounce of roasted turkey equals 1 point.  So I can have 3-4 ounces of turkey, a helping of mashed potatoes, carrots, and green beans for just 7 or 8 of my 26 total daily points.  That’s an amazing dinner.

4.  It’s cost effective.  At less than $10 per turkey, we couldn’t beat the deal.  We already have the deep freezer, so it’s not like it gets in the way. Plus, we get a week or more of protein for about $1 a day.  We usually pair it with carrots, green beans, or potatoes – which are all cheap right now here in Texas.  For lunches, we make simple sandwiches, so those are less than $1 each.  I also make turkey tacos and quesadillas that cost less than $1 each.  Money-wise, this one turkey makes me a happy camper for 7-10 days.

Only Downside

So far, the only downside is that I appreciate leftovers more than Mr. BFS.  He’ll eat it for lunch or dinner in different ways, but he won’t have it for both.  That generally means that I need to either freeze a little or eat turkey for lunch and dinner everyday until it’s gone.  It’s Friday and I am still happy with it, so I’ll see how I feel over the weekend before I make up my mind on that one.

Do you do something like this with holiday foods?  Do you buy an extra turkey or ham to have a few months later?

The Great Food Fight of 2013 – Back Into Battle

Mr. BFS and I have instigated the Great Food Fight of 2013 early this year to stay on track since we tend to go a little food crazy. We were aiming to spend $500 or less every month.  Yeah, that sounds really high for 2 people (because we could probably live on $250 or less if we just kept it very basic), but we enjoy eating out with friends and cooking for them at home. So it is what it is.

But we kept choosing to lose the good fight and stopped tracking from mid-June through mid-September except through our budget.  I didn’t post here because I had no actual record - no sheet on our fridge.  We just saw totals on Discover.

That all changed when we finished paying off the $11,000 of dental bills that hit within a 35 day period about 2 months ago.  We’re back on the tracking wagon.

Food Expenditures from September 13, 2013 – October 12, 2013

In order to track our spending without logging into our credit card account every day, we try to keep a running tally on a sheet of paper stuck to our refrigerator. Between the two of us (and by double checking ourselves by logging in to our credit cards), we write down every food expense throughout the month.  The weird “month” from the 13th through the 12th is because that is our main credit card statement period.  It’s not the prettiest method ever, but it usually works great to keep our eyes on the prize. We stayed on top of it like hawks this past month. I had some blanks to fill in.

Here’s how we did:

September - October 2013 Food Budget

We actually stayed under $500 for the first time in months!!!

Eating Out – $321.54

Groceries – $158.29

That comes to $479.83 total.  Yay!

We ate out a lot like usual, but made cheaper choices. Our friends meet up with us 1-2 times a week at restaurants like Jason’s Deli so we can all test out board game prototypes.  We also tend to eat out on weekends while we hang out at each other’s homes.  We’ve discovered Papa Murphy’s and have been enjoying their take-n-bake pizzas a bunch.

On the more positive side, we have successfully eaten all breakfasts and lunches at home during the week.  We also are cooking 2-3 week nights too.  We’re keeping those meals pretty cheap as well – spaghetti, hot dogs, stir fry’s, and eating out of our deep freezer.

What We’ve Been Eating

Mr. BFS and I have been eating all kinds of stuff this month…

  • Hamburgers off our grill
  • Restaurants like Jason’s Deli, Greek, and Papa Murphy’s
  • TONS of fruit
  • Spaghetti
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Sides like green beans and baked beans
  • Peanut butter and jam sandwiches
  • Eggs
  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Milk

Overall, this is only the 3rd time this year that we successfully stayed under $500 for the month, but we are going for the 4th this coming month.  We’re still eating pretty healthily for us and we are having fun with friends.  I am good with that.  Knowing that we need to rebuild our emergency fund AND that we want to take a $1500 7 day cruise in January does help to motivate us to stick to the plan.  ;-)

Did you hit any specific goals lately? How is your food budget coming along?

Deal or No Deal? The Stripes Refillable Cup

So we live right next to a Stripes gas station.  Like 7 minutes if you walk slow.  That said, we do visit it occasionally for treats.  We enjoy their breakfast tacos, hubby likes their shakes, and I love their large selection of fountain sodas.  Even though I now drink soda maybe once every 2 weeks, it is nice to be able to have a great Coke Zero with a vanilla shot in less than 15 minutes.

The Available Deal

This all leads me up to explaining my question for you.  Our Stripes sells a 32 oz refillable cup for $4.99 that gives you one free fill, and each refill will then cost you 99 cents from there on out.  Here’s the problem as I saw it this week:

$4.99 Stripes Refillable Cup

Here is their $4.99 refillable cup.

Regular 32 Oz Stripes Fountain Drink

This is the price for a normal 32 oz Stripes fountain drink currently.

32 Oz Stripes Refills

This is the price to refill their 32 oz cup.

So, the 32 oz drink is 99 cents.  And the refills for a container up to 44 ounces is 99 cents.  So you save nothing, right?

Other Data Points

Well, apparently not.  According to the manager I approached, the current deal for 99 cent 32 oz regular cups is just a summer special.  Normally, a 32 oz drink is $1.29.  So long-term, you can technically save 30 cents per refill.  He also made sure to point out that he bought a refillable cup himself simply since it keeps drinks colder longer than the Styrofoam cups.  Okay, so 30 cents of savings means that if you fill up 14 times or more, it was worth it.

Normal Stripes 32 Oz Price

They normally charge $1.29 for a regular 32 oz drink.

Honestly, I don’t drink enough soda for that to be worth it to me.  Yet, I had already bought the stupid cup in a silly moment of Vanilla Coke Zero happiness about a week ago.  So if I just wait for the summer special to be over, I should be able to make back my purchase and then some by simply buying as I regularly would in about 8 months…just in time for the next summer special to start…yeah, yeah, I know…

Anyway, do you drink enough soda to make this worth it?  Deal or no deal?

Even Meat is Negotiable

Yep, everything is truly negotiable.  Even frozen meat.

My First Meat Truck Experience

Have you ever bought anything off of a frozen meat truck?  I hadn’t either until last November.  But one those went cruising around our neighborhood on Black Friday and made me a deal I couldn’t resist.

They were having a half-off sale, so their beef box was $185 instead of $375.  I hesitated and asked if they could do any better, and they came down to $150.  It may be lazy, but I jumped on it since I would have paid at least $115 at our Kroger for the same cuts and these were all individually freezer packed for us, which is priceless since I hate using our vacuum sealer.  Plus, we each can have whatever cut we crave on any given night.

November 2012 Meat Truck Beef Box

This is what the beef box case looked like on paper last November. We only had a few left of a few boxes. All of the hamburgers and peppercorn strips were devoured by January.

But we have eaten more than half of all of that, so I was thinking about calling again.  I think this other company somehow read my mind…

Meat Haggling Again

Yesterday, the main competitor of the guys I bought from last November knocked on my door.  They handed me their brochure and they really had nearly identical options.  But their “special” was to buy a beef box and get a box of chicken, pork, or seafood free.  I didn’t want any of those.  And their beef box was $349!

June 2013 Meat Truck Beef Box

Here was the beef box case special for yesterday’s meat truck. He opened all of the boxes for me and it looks like the same stuff as before. His filets are a tiny bit smaller, but leaner. The strips looks a little bigger. Overall, I’m happy again. :-)

I said that I loved beef but I couldn’t pay more than I did last time and explained my last experience.  I also asked if they would wait for a second while I grabbed my receipt and brochure from November (I am actually finally organized enough to know where I put it!).  So I grabbed that proof and handed it over.

The more experienced of the two sales guys made a big deal of “matching their competitor’s prices” and offered me the beef box for $150 while mumbling to the new guy that they usually should stick to around $180.  I don’t know if I was supposed to hear that last part or not, but it did make me feel good.  So well played, sir!

Final Thoughts

Spending $150 on individually packaged beef cuts may seem crazy to a lot of you, but that is not the overall point I am aiming for.  Please keep in mind that everything is negotiable – even frozen meat.  And not just a little negotiable – A LOT NEGOTIABLE.  They probably list $350 and aim to get at least 50%-75% of that ($175-$250).  It paid to keep my receipt from my last purchase.  It also paid to simply let them know what I needed in order to work out a deal.

Have you haggled lately?  Buy anything off of frozen meat trucks?