Organic and Green Savings: In-Store Expired Coupons?

December 21st, 2008

Despite planning purchases ahead of time, you may find yourself, like I did, stuck in a store with a kid begging for a new toy from the “holiday shop.” As you can see from the pic above, Big Boy fell in love with the stuffed penguin at Whole Foods. Normally I would say no and move on, but I acquiesced when he found a coupon for 20% off in the Whole Foods holiday shop and calculated that he had just enough allowance money to cover the purchase.

Imagine my surprise when we hit the register only to hear the check-out clerk tell us that the coupon had expired the day prior. Sure enough, there it was printed clearly enough for all to see—except this harried Mom with two kids in tow.

When I asked him why the coupons were on display in the shop, he apologized but said the coupon would not ring through his register because it was expired. By this point, Big Boy’s smile had disappeared and he was sobbing. A happy occasion was ruined.

Never one to give up, I explained to Big Boy that this was an opportunity to learn about customer service and consumer rights. One of the many reasons I shop at Whole Foods is because their customer service is uniformly excellent. When I explained the situation to the customer service rep, she put the coupon through the register, and gladly offered Big Boy more than $5.00 off the purchase price.

Take our experience to heart, and remember this:
1) If a store is promoting in-store coupons next to a display, they owe you the reduction – even if the expiration date is past. It is their responsibility to end the promotion when it expires.
2) If a clerk cannot resolve your problem, take it to customer service, where the workers are typically more empowered to help frustrated shoppers. Yes, it will take a few minutes of your time, but you’ll be saving money and passing along important lessons in money management to your children.

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Last Day to Use the Whole Foods $5 off Coupon!

October 22nd, 2008

Don’t fret if you missed the great organic food bargains I blogged about at Target this weekend. There are always more organic food savings to be found – like this $5 off coupon deal at Whole Foods. But act quickly today, or you will miss the opportunity to use the Whole Foods $5 off coupon.

This is an e-coupon worth $5 off a purchase of $25 or more. I’ve not seen a coupon like this from Whole Foods previously. Hopefully it’s the start of a regular coupon promotion. Apparently the redemption rate has been quite high – at least at my local Whole Foods!

Tip: You’ll save even more if you remember to set your printer to “black and white only” before printing!

Happy Shopping!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings: Tweeting at Trader Joes, Whole Foods & Giant

August 10th, 2008

Note: The post below was written before the launch of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming. I almost didn’t post this because frankly, my thoughts are not on organic finds right now. But I thought I owed it to everyone who does come here looking for organic savings tips. So stay tuned for my next post, which will cover the aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming – how do you go from vision to reality?

——

You’d think I had a family of eight, not four, with three trips to the market last week. I should be eating less, not more, with the great Tweet-2-Fit weight loss challenge underway this week!

But getting out to three different markets does give one a good perspective on pricing. It’s really tough to say which market has the best deals – it all depends on your family’s buying patterns. And of course, it makes no sense to drive around in search of great deals. Not only is it bad for the environment, but with gas prices hovering around $4 anyway, it’s unlikely you’ll save enough money to merit another trip. But, with some advance planning, you can take advantage of the bargain specialties of each store when you happen to be nearby. I live in an urban area – there are four Whole Foods close to my regular haunts, plus Trader Joes, Balduccis, Giant, Safeway, and numerous CSAs, co-ops and farmers markets.

If you haven’t signed up for Twitter yet, you can sign up here. I’m finding it so useful to send out live Twitter updates on my organic finds that I’m loathe to write-up everything again on OrganicMania, especially on a busy week like last week when I was working on the launch of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming (and closing new business for my consulting practice!)

C’mon, join in…you’ll learn where I found organic apples at 3 pounds for $5 (incredible deal when they’re usually more than $2.50 per pound), which “great deal” on bananas was really not a great deal and why, and even be on hand when Baby Boo says fish (or feesh!) for the first time. Plus, did you know you can give time-outs in Whole Foods?

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Organic & Green Savings: “Green” Household Cleaners

July 26th, 2008

A reader comment from a “surprised Mama” has been weighing on my mind. “Surprised Mama” wrote in regarding this post about using green cleaners (or spider webs!) as a way to get kids involved in housework.

“I just found this article today while looking for ways to get my kids involved in helping me clean the house. I did not know that there were organic cleaners and not
having a lot of money to start with I normally buy the cheaper cleaners on the market. The toxic ones. I just went and read the bottles and was just thrown.
I need to ask though. Are organic cleaners comparatively priced to the cheap ‘dollar store’ variety? I’d love to be green but I don’t have a lot of money. I technically live below the poverty line and I am a full time college student, single mom of two.”

I responded to Surprised Mama’s comment and emailed her as well, but decided that this question was important enough to warrant a post. After all, if Surprised Mama wondered about how to afford “green cleaners,” no doubt there are other Moms out there wondering the same thing.

The good news is, you can actually make non-toxic cleaning supplies for less than you’d pay for those nasty toxic ones as the Dollar Store!

All you need is some baking soda, white vinegar, a spray bottle and some rags. Here are some great “recipes” for cleaning solutions for just about anything you can think of: tubs, floors, toilet bowl, windows, drains, countertops, oven, even copper.

And if looking at a link and printing it out is too complicated, check the back of the baking soda boxes. Some, like the 365 brand from Whole Foods, even carry easy “cleaning recipes” on the label. What could be easier, cheaper, or greener?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Organic Food Savings: How That Bag of Grapes Became More Expensive

July 20th, 2008

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It happened to me so many times, I almost thought I was losing my mind. I’d see a large bag of grapes priced reasonably, and decide to buy some. But when I went through the check-out, invariably I would notice that my “good deal” didn’t seem so good. Sometimes I’d ask to verify the price and hesitate when I heard the reply. Yet when the clerk asked if I wanted to keep them, I’d invariably feel a bit embarrassed and say yes.

Those were back in the days before the stock market meltdown, rise in energy costs, and deflating of the housing bubble. With food prices among our largest recurring purchases, it pays to look a little more closely at what gets put in the shopping cart.

And as my alter ego – OrganicMania – I feel newly emboldened to do so.

So when I saw a bag of organic grapes labeled $3.99 per pound, I almost nabbed them, but then I decided to look more closely to see how much the bag actually weighed. Well, surprise, surprise – no weight label on the bag of grapes. It wasn’t until I put them on the scale that I saw the grapes weighed more than 3 pounds, meaning the bag wasn’t $3.99 – it was more than $12!

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Since grapes are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with the highest pesticide residue, they should be eaten in their organic form whenever possible. But for many families, that’s just impractical due to the high cost. So what can you eat instead of organic grapes? Well, as we’ve discussed here, at $2.99 per pound, organic strawberries are a good deal – even if they’re no longer cheaper than conventional strawberries, as they were until recently.

Organic plums are another good value. The Tenleytown DC Whole Foods has organic black plums on sale for $1.99 per pound, a savings of $1.00 per pound. Just how many plums do you get for a pound? As I live-tweeted here, depending on size, you’re looking at four to five organic plums for $1.99. A much better deal than those organic grapes!

Other deals this week? I live blogged about them from my mobile phone via Twitter. Check out my tweets here, here and here. And sign up here to follow OrganicMania on Twitter!

What did you see in the stores this week? Did you find these tips helpful? Please leave a comment and share! You’ll make my day!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings: Are “Two-fers” A Good Deal? And More on those “Late Night” Specials at Whole Foods

July 12th, 2008

We’ve all been there: cruising the store aisles when suddenly, a great sale catches our eyes. Two for $1.50, Regularly $2 each, the sign reads. Sounds like a good deal! But is it?

Well, it’s a good deal if you are a huge fan of the canned organic beans or mustard or cereal or whatever it is that’s on sale. But what if you just want to try a new item, and figure a sale is a good time to try? Buying two may be overkill.

Did you know that many stores’ registers ring up each item at the “two-fer” sale price? So you really don’t need to buy two of the sale items…it’s just a suggestion. That’s what some of OrganicMania’s field research turned up this week as I prowled the store aisles.

The only time when the two-fer or three-fers really mean what they say? On flowers and live plants, you almost always need to buy the two or three items together to get the discounted savings. Or at least that’s what some of my anonymous grocery store sources told OrganicMania!

And those late night sandwich specials at Whole Foods that I blogged about here? If you were following OrganicMania live tweets this week, you already know that Whole Foods starts reducing those prepared food-case sandwiches a bit earlier now. So starting at around 9 p.m., you can pick up sandwiches at $2 off. Then, closer to closing, come the real deals – two for one.

While we’ve been talking about the great berries on sale – organic strawberries as cheap as conventional – unfortunately not all organic berries are great deals right now. Organic local New Jersey blueberries are still quite expensive compared to conventional, as I tweeted here.

And finally, yes rocks are organic, but not something I recommend. See this tweet. All’s well that ends well.

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Looking for more Organic Food Savings Tips? Check out OrganicMania’s extensive archive of organic and green savings tips posts here.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings: Buying in Bulk and Watch those Price Labels!

June 30th, 2008

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The notion of bulk purchases often conjures up images of huge warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. While the savings there are great, the huge quantities you’re normally required to purchase and the far-flung suburban and exurban locations are turn-offs for many people.

Too often in our rush to pick up the weekly groceries we forget that bulk options exist in conventional grocery stores and organic markets alike. Back in April, OrganicMania posted 10 Tips for Saving Money on Organic Food from one of DC’s top organic grocers, Scott Nash. Despite my near-weekly trips to My Organic Market, until that interview with Scott, I never realized that MOM’s offers 10% case discounts on foods including 3 pound wheels of cheese, nuts, grains, granolas, beans, and more. Those discounts can really help you to save money on organic food.

Similarly, sometimes we forget the old rule of thumb to buy in bulk when our favorite foods are on sale. And frankly, the signage in some stores doesn’t help get the message across very clearly either. Take this sign for a sale on Horizon organic cheese. (Horizon cheese is not my personal favorite, but when it comes to kiddie lunches and snacks – particularly on those long car trips when it’s A Dilemma to be Organic & On the Road – those little individually wrapped cheese slices are a godsend.)
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A quick first look at this sign had me thinking that it was a decent sale, 2 for $5.00, a savings of $1.49 off the regular price. After all, that’s what the sign says, as you can see. But that sign doesn’t clearly illustrate the savings. Think about it. The $1.49 savings is on each package of cheese, now on sale 2 for $5. So when you buy 2, you’re actually saving $2.98, not $1.49. A better way to think about it? Horizon organic cheese: 40% off. You don’t normally think of Whole Foods as a bulk purchase store, but we certainly stocked up on this incredible savings at DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods. But hurry – this sale ends tomorrow, July 1.

Other great deals? There are some terrific non-organic savings from Whole Foods private label Whole Pantry collection, on sale at $3 per package, a savings of .99 per package. These easy-to-prepare couscous and veggies and other entrée frozen vegetable meals are great as compliments to simple salads. While they’re not organic, they’re imported from France, so they’re non-GMO, which is one key reason many people buy organic foods. And they’re delicious. Try the goat cheese and eggplant dish. Too big a carbon footprint? Well, some of the 365 Brand frozen organic vegetables are imported from China! That’s even further from this East Coast store. But ya gotta love Whole Foods – organic, conventional, local, domestic, imported, and any combination of those – there’s something for everyone.

And yes, it’s still a great time to buy organic strawberries. The incredible sale we discussed last week is still on – and so these delicious organic strawberries are still cheaper than conventional strawberries. And now the organic raspberries are finally on sale too, at $2.99 per pint, a reduction of $1.00 per package.

And finally, given that it’s summer time, what a great excuse to try some organic iced tea, now on sale. Can’t wait to try the new Rishi Organic Artisan Iced Tea I picked up on sale. Remember, as Seth Goldman of Honest Tea told us in this OrganicMania interview, those nasty pesticides aren’t washed off conventional tea leaves until they hit your hot water!

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share! And if you want to hear about these deals – and more – live, sign up here to follow me on Twitter. It’s micro-blogging about organics, green living, kids and more. It’s fun!

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings Friday: Look Up, Look Down & Strawberries All Around!

June 20th, 2008

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Funny headline? Well, think about this: finding the signs that display pricing in an organic market can require as much flexibility as a yoga routine. You have to look up high above the veggies bins, then you have to squat to look at knee-height to read prices, then you have to bend over a veggie counter to read tiny price stickers. Yikes. But you know what? It can really be worth the extra effort.

Take just one example: organic romaine lettuce. This is a staple item for many. Most often, people just push the cart up, reach in and grab whatever it is they’ve been grabbing for years. I had been doing that too, picking up my 9 oz. box of EarthBound Farms pre-washed romaine lettuce, while trying to ignore the $4.99 price tag. But this week, I happened to overhear a woman asking the Whole Foods produce manager where to find the local organic romaine lettuce on sale for $1.49. That sounded good to me, so I followed her over to the other side of the produce aisle and craned my neck up to see the sign announcing the sale – $1.00 off the regular price. Then I put the romaine on the scale and saw that each bag contained 21 ounces, so this romaine was just 7 cents per ounce, as compared to 55 cents per ounce for the EarthBound Farms box!

And even more exciting this week was the most fantastic deal on organic strawberries! Less than conventional! Can you believe it? DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods has 2 pound packages of Driscoll’s organic strawberries on sale for $5.99 each, as compared to conventional 1 pound boxes of Driscoll’s for $3.49 each. That means that each 2 pounds of organic strawberries are $1.50 cheaper than the conventional equivalent. Amazing! And really, really delicious. Baby Boo was digging his fingers into the air holes in the container to try to get into the strawberries. I had to run upstairs and wash a few off before we left the store!

Last week, we discussed the great deals available at Target on organic milk. Well, as if $3.44 per gallon wasn’t good enough, Target slashed the price even further and through Saturday, you can buy Archer Farms organic milk at $3 per half gallon (actually, 2 1/2s for $6).

And still more good deals on organic milk at Target! Those handy little Horizon organic milk packages, perfect for summer camp lunch? On sale at $5.48 from $5.98 for two packages of three 8 ounce containers. This sale is on through July 21st.

Did you see any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share! Happy shopping!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Savings on the Fly: Organic Milk & Organic Berries

June 8th, 2008

OrganicMania normally labors over these posts…sorry to be late, but with three new clients this week and a kindergartner out of school – I’m just way behind. Plus, gotta confess, I’m a Twitter addict now. Have you checked out Twitter? You can follow me here. And then there’s another microblogging platform where I really need more friends: Plurk. Anyway, the cool thing is I can Tweet or Plurk from my cell – sending out organic and green savings updates – and more green thoughts – while on the go. Come join in on the fun here and here!

Back to organic savings basics: I think I’ve found the Holy Grail for cheap organic milk by the half gallon. Target. Yes, Target. Their house brand, Archer Farms, is $3.44 for a half gallon of organic milk. That’s a huge savings compared to the $4.19 a half gallon some supermarkets command, as we discussed here. (When you consider that post was written back in January, the price now is surely above $4.19 in that grocery store!)

Why is this organic milk so cheap? Well, although the source of Archer Farms milk is not visible on the carton, press reports such as this one indicate that the private dairy Aurora Farms supplies Target with its Archer Farms organic milk. The organic industry watchdog group The Cornucopia Institute rates organic dairies and gives Aurora a low ranking, claiming that the milk is from factory farmed cows. However, despite some controversy, the USDA kept Aurora’s USDA Organic certification in place. The Institute’s concerns had to do with the cows’ access to pasture. So if you are concerned about cow grazing issues, you may prefer to choose milk from another source. If your primary concerns are lack of growth hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, you should be fine with Archer Farms.

Again, this is one of those touchy areas where some have very strong feelings about the “green-ness” of “Big Organic,” and a few may even claim to be “Greener than Thou” by buying raw organic milk or organic milk for a local dairy. OrganicMania views this blog as a forum to throw out all the crazy issues in organics and green living and to discuss them – without an agenda.

And while I normally never think of Target for groceries, they have expanded their organics selection, so check it out. It’s still not a place where you could do all your organic shopping, but the convenience of being able to pick up some organic milk at Target may save you from having to make a special trip somewhere else just for organic milk. Most important to me, I saved time, money, and gas (carbon footprint) by combining my purchases at Target.

But if you’re looking to pick up a gallon of organic milk – or like many families – several gallons – you still can’t beat Whole Foods for organic milk at $5.69 per gallon. I suspect Whole Foods keeps the milk prices low to entice people to shop there for other items. But as I’ve posted before, you can find many great deals on organics at Whole Foods. It makes sense – as the largest organic grocer, they’ve got enormous purchasing power, and they can pass their savings on to their consumers.

Just last week, we talked here about organic strawberries at $4.99 per pound. Well, that was nothing! At mid-week, they were down to $3.49 per pound at Whole Foods stores in DC. Strawberries are a very important organic purchase, because they carry a high pesticide load and rank in the Environmental Working Group’s list of “The Dirty Dozen” most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables – the ones you should always buy organic. You can download a wallet card of the Dirty Dozen here, and carry it with you to the market.

And there is a definite taste difference as compared to conventional strawberries. As my toddler would say, Yum-may!

Happy shopping!

Did you find any good organic or green deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Looking to Save on Organic Food? Ten Tips: The DON’TS!

May 29th, 2008

As we all know, we learn the most from our mistakes. So before I regale you this Friday with more great bargains, let me fess up. I normally keep the weekly grocery bill for a family of four to between $140 to $170, and that’s for mostly organic, fresh local food. This week I gasped when the check-out clerk chirped, “That will be $247.06.”

Why the difference in cost this week? I violated some cardinal “don’ts.” We all know the famous don’t – don’t shop when you’re hungry. But here are some others you may not have thought much about.

1. Don’t Shop When You’re in a Celebratory Mood – Too Happy

If you like to “reward” yourself when things are going well, you may succumb to rewarding yourself with some expensive treats you normally pass by. That was the case with me today. I wish I had simply found a more appropriate way to celebrate my good fortune instead of shelling out extra bucks at the store!

2. Don’t Shop When You’re Feeling Anxious

DH is going out of town for a few nights, so in anticipation, I stocked up on some expensive convenience foods we don’t normally buy, but that I figured would make my job of preparing meals a bit easier. (Yes, DH cooks all the meals!) Did I really need to buy the expensive, refrigerated pasta for $8.48 when a less expensive box of pasta would do the job just fine? To make matters worse, I sprang for pesto as well, at $4.99.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Influence What You Buy

Big Boy loves to shop with Mama, because he knows I’m “a softie.” Daddy has been saying no to certain organic cereals for months now, but today I finally caved, shelling out $4.69 for a box of “Organic Kid Marketing Clifford Crunch, when I know I can buy “no name brand” organic cereal in large bags or in bulk for a much lower cost.

4. Don’t Violate Rules That Work – ie, Don’t Buy More than One “Treat” per Trip

A few months back, when DH and I realized that our grocery bills were over the top, we decided to pare back on snacks and non-essential foods. Actually, DH decided this a long time ago. He was an advocate of “no processed foods” before anyone had heard of Michael Pollan! Of course, Big Boy likes to take a bag of snack foods to the soccer field to share with the other boys, and I prefer “organic junk food” to hydrogenated oil and GMO junk food, so I normally allow Big Boy to choose one or two items per week. Today we bought six bags and boxes – to the tune of $13.80 instead of the usual $5 or $6. That’s stuff we really don’t need. Plus, I sprang for some organic ice cream (Green & Black’s – yum!) for $4.29.

5. Don’t Buy an Expensive New Item That You Haven’t Researched Ahead of Time

I shelled out $18 on new Natures Gate sun creams that I hadn’t researched. I normally run everything through the Environmental Working Group’s excellent SkinDeep cosmetics safety database, but today, I didn’t. Unfortunately, in very few cases does a brand score consistently well in all product categories – and Natures Gate was no exception. One of the products is ranked as a “high hazard” with a score of 7, whereas the other sun cream is a low moderate hazard of 3. That means wasted time and money for me – I’ll be returning at least one bottle, and perhaps two.

6. Don’t Stock Up on Non-Sale Items

DH asked me to pick up some of that great Whole Catch frozen fish I’ve blogged about here. One or two packages would have been fine – we still have one in the freezer. Did I need to buy four packages? No? If I had purchased only two, I would have saved $15.08.

7. Don’t Buy Bulk Items You Can Order Online More Cheaply

Finding a well rated sunscreen that my kids will use – and even apply themselves – was a challenge. You guessed it- it’s one of the more expensive brands out there. The California Baby SPF30+ Sunblock Stick is a great product, but at $12.99 it’s pricey. Did I need to buy two? No, especially not when you can stock up online at sites like this one for just $10.14, with free shipping on orders over $75. So let’s subtract one tube plus the $2.85 price differential I would have saved if I had ordered online.

8. Don’t Continue “Treats” from One Week to the Next

Last week, as a special treat for the holiday weekend, I purchased bagels and cream cheese, then promptly left the cream cheese at home and let the bagels get moldy. Did I really need to buy more bagels at $3.69? No. We could have put cream cheese on our home made bread and it would have been just as delicious!

9. Don’t Buy More Perishables than Your Fridge or Counters Can Handle

All of those fresh fruit and veggies look so good. There’s a reason I call Whole Foods the Nordstrom of grocery stores! But did I really need watermelon and organic apples and bananas and organic pears and organic raspberries and organic grapes? Not to mention organic carrots, of which we had plenty at home. Perhaps the same assortment but in smaller quantities – I could have easily saved $10 and still brought home a fine assortment of fruit.

10. Don’t Buy Things You Really Don’t Need

It sounds so simple, and yet my receipt shows $8.99 for “The Naked Bird.” I have no idea what this is! I can’t even find it, and a Google search didn’t even turn up a likely match.

And as for that $250 bill? I asked the cashier if most families spent that much on groceries. She smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, that’s typical.” You’d never know it from some of the online discussions I’ve seen about organic food. I think people understate how much they actually spend!

My tally on the “don’ts” – I’m embarassed to fess up, but these ten mistakes added up to $94.05 in excess spending. Subtract that from the $247.06, and my bill should have been $153.01 — right in my normal range.

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008