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  • 2014: New Year, New Budget

    Happy New Year! It's refreshing to start a new year with a clean slate. While many new year resolutions may include trimming the waistline, we'd like to help folks trim their grocery spending. In fact, in 2013 we saved our customers $9,222,760.32. Here are some simple, money-saving tips for grocery shopping in 2014.

     

    2014 Budget

    Eat first. Never shop on an empty stomach. Most of us stop at the grocery store after work and before dinner when we are hungry. We've all made this mistake and it is a costly one. So try to plan grocery shopping on the weekends when you can go after a satisfying meal.

    Plan your meals. Meal planning will help you save time and money and avoid those unhealthy drive-thru dinners. Ask your family members to vote on their favorite meals and then take inventory of your cupboards so you don't end up with duplicate groceries.

    Shop in season. Out-of-season produce is more expensive, so find recipes for seasonal fruits and vegetables. It will also be the freshest and tastiest pick in the produce aisle.

    Think bulk. Buy yogurt, sour cream and soup in large containers. The individual servings are more expensive and not environmentally-friendly.

    Resist the ready-made. Pre-made, pre-cut or pre-washed groceries are convenient, but costly. If you're willing to put in the time to cut, wash and prepare your food, you'll reap the rewards and your wallet will thank you.

    Save the savings. Quick! Stash your savings so it doesn't run away. Some people like to make a game out of it and try to beat their savings each month.

    Wishing you all the best in the New Year! 

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  • Back to School Savings

    Back-to-School season can cost you both time and money. Being of the frugal-minded, we want to help you alleviate some of the cost. Below, are a few easy-to-do suggestions on how to save money on school supplies.

    Think simple and plan. Make a list of the bare essentials for school and plan a budget. Knowing what you can spend in advance will help prevent surprise purchases and added stress. Stick to the bare minimum, like paper and pencils, and expand from there. Keep in mind, they’re going to class, not combat.

    Practice patience. During the first week of classes, teachers will usually send home a list of required items and materials for the school year. Holding off on a shopping spree and waiting for an “official” school list will prevent you from buying unnecessary items and help save on costs.

    Scavenge your space. Start your shopping at home. You’ll be surprised to find that a lot of the items on your list are probably right under your nose. Gather barely-used pens and pencils from your “junk” drawer, or borrow scotch tape and glue from your craft box. Better yet, help your children clean out their rooms, while keeping an eye out for lost rulers or erasers.

     

    Back to School

    Recover and recreate. Be creative with your old findings. You can spruce up used notebooks and binders with collages, using recycled paper, old magazines and stickers. If you’re sew-savvy, you can use loose fabric and a spare button to make a one-of-a-kind pencil case. Making it a family activity will help ensure your kids are happy with their refurbished supplies, while lessening your shopping load.

    Stay Organized. Encourage your family to keep all school essentials in one place. This will save time when a last-minute school project comes up and emergency report covers or construction paper is needed. But most importantly, staying organized will help you avoid unnecessary expenses during the school year, when things tend to get misplaced.

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  • Go Green Bag!

    We're excited to announce our Go Green Bag Contest on Instagram!  You see, we think the Earth is pretty fantastic and we bet you do too.  In honor of Earth Month, we're inviting you to submit your designs for the front of the bag on Instagram using the hash tag #GoGreenBag.  Every entry will be entered to win a $100 Grocery Outlet Gift Card.

    Please read below for the official rules.  We can't wait to see your designs!


    Contest Rules!

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  • Lesson 10: Frugal and DIY Halloween Costumes


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    When I grew up, Halloween costumes were made from "scratch" around the house.  Today, however, costumes can cost upwards of $50 each just for the kids!  This is just silly.  They're worn for a couple of hours then tossed in a bin to donate next year when they've been outgrown.  Now, I realize there are those kiddos that wear their costumes night and day for months—we have had a couple of those around here, however, I still cannot justify the $50 price tag.  So with this in mind, I thought I'd share a few DIY costume ideas from around the web.  I hope you find something here that will save you a few bucks.

    Tip Junkie has a slew of great Halloween DIY ideas, everything from food, to decor, to costumes.

    Real Simple has a photo slide show with 16 DIY Costumes for Kids.  They're really cute too!  I especially love these because most of the costumes are from your kiddos' gear that they already have at home!

     

     Safari Costume
    Photo Credit: Real Simple

     

    Of course we can't forget Pinterest, especially when DIY is in mind.  Check out this Halloween Costume board over on Pinterest for some great costume ideas for all ages.

    I'd love to hear from you.  What are some of your frugal, tried-and-true costumes?  Has your child ever won a "Best Costume" award and you were grinning from ear-to-ear because you knew it cost you practically nothing?  Leave a comment on our Facebook post and let us know what your best costume was!


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  • Lesson 8: Save Money by Freezing Your Food


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    We talked very briefly last month about freezing your food as a method to saving money each month. Well I want to elaborate because in my opinion this is one of the MAIN ways you can save BIG each month. The key is stocking up when the prices are low, but if your food goes to waste so does your money. So you need to be prepared to freeze your goods. For quite some time I used the affordable over the counter Ziploc Vacuum Starter and Bags to freeze various food. However recently we upgraded to a FoodSaver from Costco, we bought the lower end model for $64 (after an instant $20 rebate). I’m so happy we did this, it’s made the process so much quicker and easier! However the Ziploc Vacuum works very well too!

     

    Frozen Food

     

    Here is a list of many food staples that freeze well. Of course, this isn't an extensive end-all list, but it's a great place to start!

    Milk and Cheese - Cheese is simple, just toss it in the freezer that includes shredded cheese too! However with your milk, you'll need to take the cap off and pour out about a 1/2 cup to leave room for the jug to expand. Often times you can find milk on clearance but if it expires in just a few days, you may not consider buying 4 gallons, unless of course you freeze them! When you thaw out your milk (in the fridge) you may need to give it a good shake before serving, but that's it.

    Eggs - Yes, surprisingly eggs freeze very well! You'll just need to take them out of their shells first and scramble them (you don't have to, but I find it's much easier this way). Place the scrambled eggs in ice cube trays to freeze them initially, then I combine them in a Ziploc bag to save space. You could also just place 6 scrambled eggs directly into a ziploc bag if you plan to use them all at once.

    Asparagus

    Veggies, Herbs, and Fruit - These are one of my favorites to freeze because it means that even when produce isn't in season I can still enjoy it. Recently I stocked up on asparagus. Here’s a tip when freezing asparagus (and brussels sprouts), the key is to blanch them first. Drop them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes then immediately place them into a cold water ice bath. Blanching stops enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavor, color and texture. Until vegetables are harvested, the enzymes cause them to grow and develop their color and flavor. By blanching them you stop that process, keeping them as fresh as possible.

    Bread, Cake, Pies, Dough - All forms of pastries freeze well, you just need to make sure that you prep it well using wax paper and a good freezer bag (or freezing system). Bread goes on sale from time to time and if I can find a good hearty whole wheat loaf for $1.00, that's when I buy 8-10 loaves and stick them in the freezer. We have 4 kids and we easily go through a loaf every 2-3 days so stocking up is essential for us.

    Fully Prepared or Fully Cooked Meals - This won't just save you money it will save you a lot of time too! If you can cook a meal or two in bulk and then freeze the rest you'll be very thankful when a busy day rolls around. Just grab that extra pan of enchiladas out of the freezer and stick in the oven! Maybe you'd like to organize a group of friends and create a Freezer Meal Exchange Group on Facebook!

    You may also be interested in using this Free Printable Freezer Inventory Form to keep track of what you have in the freezer. After all, you've gone through all the effort to score a deal and prep it for the freezer you wouldn't want it to go to waste because you forgot you had it!


    Frozen Food

     

     

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  • Lesson 5: Garage Sale Tips and Tricks


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    It’s that time of year again: it’s Garage Sale Season!  Yes it's a season, look... Fall, Winter, Spring, Garage-Saling, and Summer.  See?  I told you!

    I absolutely LOVE to go out on a Saturday morning and hit multiple garage sales.  It’s a fun hobby, but it’s also a frugal way that I provide for my family.  If there is something that we need, say clothes for the kids, a griddle, a printer, a patio table, etc., it goes on my Garage Sale Hunting List.  We have envelopes for these expenses already budgeted, so I figure out the funds and plan my trip.

    Garage Sale

    Here are a just a few tips to make the experience worthwhile…

    1.  Have a plan.  I use the iGarageSale app on my iPhone to help me along the way, but beforehand I search Craigslist and the newspaper for ads that look like they may have a few of the items I’m looking for.  I gather the address and add them to my GPS, optimizing them so that I’m not driving back and forth across town.

    2.  Have a budget.  Bring a certain amount of cash and leave the rest at home.  You’re much less likely to overspend if you simply don’t have a way to do so.

    3.  Show up on time, but not early.  I like to get to a garage that I know has something I want on-time, but if you're there early you risk being annoying.  If you annoy the seller, they're less likely to want to bargain with you.  Plus it's just rude, they had to roll out of bed much earlier than usual on a Saturday morning and they're probably feeling a bit stressed as it is.

    4.  Practice negotiating.  People that are selling the items you’re shopping for consider much of it “junk” and that works to your advantage.  Many times I’ve been blown away by what people consider junk because to me it’s a treasure!  With that said, always ask if they’ll take less.  More times than not they will.  Now don’t undercut them to the point of insulting them, but it is a garage sale and bargaining is the game.

    5.  Be prepared.  Pack a snack, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lots of water – but not too much because you’ll have to find a restroom!

    What are some of your best Garage Sale tips?  Let's talk selling and shopping!

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  • Lesson 4: Tax Refunds Are Not a Good Savings Plan


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    April 15th is just around the corner and it’s time to tackle the topic of taxes.  Every year around this time, Americans look forward to a large chunk of change coming their way in the form of a tax return.  Now if this was free money, I could understand why everyone gets so excited.  However this isn't free money at all—it's money you've earned in your hourly wage all year long that you've essentially loaned to the government.  The numbers below should be proof enough.  This isn’t a new concept, but it’s one that many Americans don’t understand or choose not to adapt into their lives.

    In 2010, the average Tax Refund was $2,869.  So if you work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks a year you're basically taking a $1.34 per hour pay cut.  You know what that means don’t you?  It means that the average American loaned the government (interest free) close to $3,000 each last year.  

     

    Tax Refund

    Maybe you didn’t know that you could keep that money in your pocket each month instead.  Would you turn down an extra $240 per month?  Personally, for our family we’ve NEVER received a Tax Refund instead we’ve always had the extra cash in our bank each month—and trust me we needed it and found a way to use it.  All you have to do is claim the correct number of deductions on your W4 form.  Just ask your employer to change it based on the calculations you’ve made here or have figured out with your tax consultant based on your family's situation.

    Maybe in your case you’re financially stable and you don’t need that $240 per month (likely not the case for the average American) but if that IS you, have you considered investing that money?

    Here are 3 different things you could do with your a $240 per month income:

    1.  If you continued to loan the government $2,869 per month for 10 years at the end of 10 years (if you didn’t spend a penny of your tax return) you’d have $28,690.  If you’ve been doing this since you were 30 until you retired at age 65, you’d have $100,415.00.

    2.  If you invested the $240 per month for 10 years in a slow growth mutual fund with a 10% return at the end of the 10 years you’d have $50,296.92 – a much prettier number than the interest free loan you’ve been giving the government.  If you’re 30 years old today and you did this until retirement at age 65 you would have $855,325.80 in your account.  You can run the numbers using a Compound Interest Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Loan the Gov’t - $2,869 X 35 years = $100,415.00
    Invest the $$$ - $2,869 X 35 years = $855,325.80

    Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t get anywhere near that amount”. Let’s say you get $480 at the end of the year – if you invested that $40 per month ($480 per year) at the end of 35 years you’d have $153,131.07 or $18,200 if you continued to loan it to the government.

    3.  If you have ANY amount of debt (and this is a no brainer), that $240 should go to pay down your debt.  Let’s say you’re sitting on $15,000 worth of car loans or credit card debt at an interest rate of 16.86% (average American credit card interest rate).  Just guessing here, but I’d venture to say this person is already paying $300/month towards the debt on the low end.  At this rate they would have their debt payed off in 6 1/2 years and paid $10,000.00 in interest!   INSTEAD, if they put the extra $240 towards debt along with the $300 they’re already paying they’d have their debt payed off in just under 3 years and paid only $4,100 in interest. You can run the numbers using an Amortization Calculator.

    Let’s put the numbers side by side here…
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.89% = 80 months (6.5 years) + $10,092.22 in interest paid
    Debt of $15,000 @ 16.895 = 35 months (3 years) + $4,100 in interest paid

    I know this can be a bit overwhelming, but this simple fact is that it is YOUR money, you’re working every day to earn each and every one of those dollars.  Take charge of your finances and put the ball back into your court!

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  • Cooking with Wine

    With our wine sale earlier this month, you probably have a bunch of bottles stocked up.  Inevitably, there’s half a bottle lying around after dinner that you cork back up and then forget about, and before you realize it, it’s turned to vinegar.  Such a waste!

    The great news is that there’s a simple way to use up leftover wine—cooking! You can up the Wow Factor of any dish by adding a little bit of wine to the recipe, which saves you money and cuts down on waste.


    Cooking with Wine


    Here are some ideas on how to add wine to your cooking:
    • Add wine to your marinade.  The acid in the marinade will help the meat absorb the flavor of the wine.
    • Replace some of the water, vinegar, broth, or fruit juice in a recipe with wine for a richer, fuller flavor.
    • Use a little bit to add flavor to soups, stews, gravy, and hearty dishes.
    • Make sangria!  Add chopped fruit and a little sugar and you have the perfect summer beverage.
    • Mix with oil and spices to baste turkey, roasts, or braise vegetables.
    • Make a pan sauce using the juices from the meat, some wine, and some spices.  Perfect for sautéed or browned meats.
    • Create a classic French dish like Coq au Vin.  Julia Child’s classic recipe is worth a try: Coq au Vin Recipe

    The rule of thumb is to pair red wine with heartier fare, and white wine with lighter dishes.  But we say experiment!  Your palate is what’s most important.  Try a bunch of things and find out what works best for you.  Always consult the recipe if you’re cooking with wine—the author may have had a specific flavor profile in mind and has done the legwork ahead of time.

    What do you like to drink with different foods?  


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  • Lesson 3: Dumping Debt By Doing it Yourself


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    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find

    One of the #1 ways to save money is to become debt-free. I know that isn't a common way of thinking for most Americans, but I believe it's 100% doable. I'm speaking mainly of consumer debt, student loans, car loans, etc. I understand that in most areas of the country dropping a few hundred thousand dollars to buy a house outright isn't feasible. If, however, you'd like to pay down debt, you may want to follow my new series over on The Frugal Find called Debt Free in 52.

    Here are just a few tips that will help you to dump debt this year...

    Can it be MADE from scratch for less?

    Paying retail is already out of the question for those of you who are dumping debt, but even with coupons there are some household necessities that can be made cheaper from basic ingredients. I wanted to revisit the various posts we’ve written in the past about DIY household products and Cooking from Scratch recipes such as…
    1. Homemade Dog Food Recipe
    2. Frugal DIY: Turn Your Magazines into Christmas Bows!
    3. Homemade PB&J and Grilled Cheese Uncrustables
    4. Homemade Liquid Fabric Softener
    5. Homemade Granola Bars
    6. Freezer ‘BRC’ Beans, Rice, and Cheese Burritos
    7. Homemade All Purpose Cleaner
    8. Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
    9. Homemade Laundry Detergent
    10. Homemade Strawberry Jam

    As you can see many of the things we buy can be made for just pennies on the dollar, especially when you find a deal on your ingredients at Grocery Outlet!


    Money Tree

    Can you FIX it yourself?

    Chances are there is something in your life that needs to be fixed, tangibly speaking. I could start a pretty good list myself from the back hatch of our Sequoia that doesn’t open any longer, the 2 small holes in our walls, the small tear on our couch, and on and on. I’m sure several things will quickly come to mind for you as well. When you’re on a budget and paying down debt the last thing you want to do is hire out help for things you could do yourself. I say this within reason—if your husband is working 10+ hour days making a decent wage and the lawn needs to be mowed, paying a local teenager $10 every couple of weeks to get the job done can be a worthy investment.

    However, there are very likely tasks that you’ve been putting off for one reason or another. Maybe it’s too technical for you, such as a computer issue or a check engine light in your car? YouTube, Google, and your neighbors are a good place to start when you haven’t a clue where to begin. It’s very likely someone, somewhere, has had the same issue you’re having. In most situations, labor is the most costly expense there is: parts are minimal and elbow grease is free. So the next time you have a broken this or that, consider repairing it yourself – you might find it wasn’t all you thought it would be.

    Here’s what I have learned from just doing it ourselves:
    1. It’s never as hard as we imagined.
    2. It’s never quite as time consuming as we thought.
    3. It’s never as costly as we expected.
    4. The gratification that comes from a job done with our own hands – priceless!

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  • Lesson 2: The Cash Only Diet


    Frugal Find 

    A 12-Month Series by Guest Blogger Julia Wessels, from The Frugal Find


    I'd like to talk today about the "Envelope Budget" or the cash-only method.   I'd like to suggest that you'll actually save money every month by using cash.  Seems like a contradiction right?  I’m suggesting that by spending CASH (note – not debit, credit cards, or checks) but hard cold CASH, you’ll actually SAVE money!  We are a cash-only family – simply put if you can pay cash for it, you should.  I know at first it might sound crazy, you might think if I have cash I will just blow it!  However, I think quickly you will see just the opposite happen. You will begin to ask yourself, do we really need this?  You will find yourself meal planning.  You will find yourself with money at the end of the month.

    “When you pay cash, you can “feel” the money leaving you. This is not true with credit cards. Flipping a credit card up on a counter registers nothing emotionally. A study of credit card use at McDonald’s found that people spent 47% more when using credit instead of cash. This is money you could have saved!” – Dave Ramsey


    We do not pay cash for any bill that can be paid through our online bill pay, and I highly suggest online bill pay – it’s free and you’ll never incur a late payment again.  We get our cash out each week and divide it up between our envelopes, some of them accrue while other are spent each week.

    For example, our Car Registration envelope accumulates while our Grocery Envelope is spent in full each week.  The difference is that you do not want or need for your Grocery Envelope to have excess, it is not a “savings account”—if you have extra money in there every week, I’d bet that there's another category that could use a little bump up or, if you’re working on paying down debt, it should absolutely go there first.

    Hopefully these steps will help you to understand the process...
    Step 1Define your categories.  What can you possibly pay for cash with? One key here is to only include categories for things that you can’t pay online or through an invoice or bill. Anything that doesn’t come as a bill in the mail is probably a good candidate for cash.

    Here's a list of our envelopes.  You may notice that we do not have an envelope for gas. It’s not that we don’t have it budgeted; it’s because I don’t want to leave the kids in the car while I go into the gas station to pay the attendant. We use our debit card for this expense. You’ll need to figure out what best fits your family's needs.

    ENVELOPES
    1. Groceries
    2. Toiletries
    3. Clothes
    4. Gifts (Birthdays, Christmas, etc)
    5. Date Night
    6. Eating Out
    7. Spending Money
    8. Car Maintenance
    9. Kid’s Date
    10. Kid’s Allowance
    11. Trip Money
    12. Car Maintenance
    13. Car Registration
    14. Hair Cuts
    15. School Supplies/Events

    Step 2 – Determine how much you spend in several categories per month, ie. groceries, toiletries, clothing, etc. Not while on a budget, but what you have spent on a regular basis. This make take some time, and you may have no idea because you haven’t kept any track at all so you may have to start this process now for the next 30 days. Now hold on to your seat, you’re going to be shocked.

    Step 3 – Figure out how much you THINK you will NEED in each category.  The key here is to be flexible, because it will change. It will change more than once, twice, and possibly even three times. Life is always changing and so will your budget. Another baby? Up goes the toiletry budget! Or maybe you just potty trained your 2 year old, well that saves $30 a month!

    Step 4 – Get the cash! We go every week  to withdraw our cash, it is easiest if you can keep it to an even $20 amount so you can go to the ATM machine at your bank, saves you a trip inside the bank. This has got to be the best part, it’s like playing a game of monopoly. Divide your cash, you may need to go into the bank every once in a while to get $5’s, $10’s, etc depending on your envelope amounts.

    Step 5 - Start saving money! When the envelope is empty, that’s it, your money is gone and you CANNOT purchase anything in that category until the next envelope payday. But remember, the first couple of months you need to be flexible. Also, please remember to make your budget realistic, if you undercut yourself too much, you will give up. So that is why my family has an eating out budget, because the reality is, while we shouldn’t eat out, we do. We put $15 a week into our eating out budget, if we save it up we can go out to a sit down dinner, otherwise it gets us a pizza night once a week.

    “Hey I just wanted to share with you that after starting the envelope system 3 months ago we have finally met budget AND we were able to UP-IT! Also my husband told me the other day that for the first time he doesn’t feel like we are living paycheck to paycheck. We are buying things dirt cheap before the real need for them hits. It has been a hard but wonderful journey. One I really didn’t think we could do! Thanks so much.” – Cassandra

    That is just one of hundred’s of  reader’s experiences.  I’d LOVE to hear about yours in the comment section below.  Do you use cash or an envelope budget system?  What does it look like for your family?


    See the first post in Julia's series here: Saving Money by Meal Planning.

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  • Cut Back on Food Waste

    This weekend I finally cleaned out my fridge.  It was scary.

    In December we had the holidays, followed by the mad rush to get back into the normal swing of everyday life, and as a result, my refrigerator hadn't had a good going-over in quite some time. I lost a lot of food due to my negligence, and I'm sure I lost quite a bit of money to boot.

    Food waste is a serious problem.  As of 2011, it's estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food (about 1/3 of total worldwide food production) were lost.  In developed countries like ours, most of that waste happens at the consumption stage, when the food has already reached the consumer.

    Food and Dirt

    I was pretty shocked at how much I had to throw in the compost bin and trash can, and it made me wonder how I might cut back on food waste in 2012.

    My plan:

    1. Plan my meals.  It always feels like a hassle, but I just do better when I have a plan.  It cuts down on shopping time, helps me eat healthier, and I know what's in my pantry and fridge so that fewer products go to waste.

    2. Shop my kitchen first.  Look at what you have around you before you spend.   You might have the kitchen staple you've just put on your list, so check your fridge and your pantry before you head to the store.

    3. Store produce properly.  Tired of finding a drawer of wilted, slimy vegetables?  Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables.  It's important to store foods that give off ethylene gas separately from those that are sensitive to it.  Check out this guide for tips on how to store produce and when to eat it.

     4. Use less-than-perfect produce to make stock.  If you've never done this before, it's pretty easy and uses up any discarded vegetable bits you've got in your fridge. This website has several different stocks to make with instructions: Reluctant Gourmet.

     5. Eat leftovers.  When I put mine away now, I put them at the very front of the fridge at eye level.  Sometimes I even write the date on the top of the box, so I know how long I have.

    If I follow these rules, I should have a much more pleasant fridge, and less of my money and my food will end up in the scrap heap.

    What about you?  How do you reduce food waste?  Share your ideas with us.

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  • Stocking Stuffer Savings

    With all the festivities and shopping lists, we're all strapped for time and money during the holidays, and stockings are often overlooked until the last minute.  Often, this means paying premium for those sock-sized items, and the stuffed stocking can end up costing more than the big gift.  The Bargainistas at Grocery Outlet have some simple suggestions to help you save time and money and deliver stocking bliss.

    • Be Convenient. You don't need to make a special trip to a special store.  Look for stocking stuffers at the places you normally frequent, like Grocery Outlet.
    • Be Sneaky.  Sneak in some practical items like a toothbrush, socks, band-aids and school supplies.  These are things you'll need to buy anyways, so you'll be stuffing two socks with one dollar.  And, one less trip to the store when your kid needs new socks.
    • Be Consumable.  If you're one of those parents that feels like all the little toys are overtaking your home, stuff those socks with consumable items, like their favorite candy, gum, fruit snacks and granola bars.
    • Be Thematic.  Follow a theme for all the items.  Have an art enthusiast?  Fill the stocking with art supplies – markers, crayons, glue, and butcher paper rolled up.  It will give you back a fridge door full of artwork to display.
    • Be Silly.  Throw in a couple things that will make them laugh.  Maybe a whoopie cushion or a pet rock.
    Happy sock stuffing and Happy Holidays from everyone at Grocery Outlet!

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  • All Wrapped Up

    Bargain TV's Christopher explains how you can save big on your holiday wrapping paper and gets a little out of control with his wrapping enjoyment!




    So you tell us, turkey or tofurkey?

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  • Getting your Home Ready for Fall

    It's nearly October and chillier weather is on the way, even in the west.  Before the leaves fall, the wind blows, and the rain comes down, make sure your home is ready for fall and winter weather with these maintenance ideas:

     

     Fall Leaves

     

    1. Get your furnace inspected.  A quick appointment with a professional on an annual basis is much less expensive than a full-blown repair. Regular maintenance of your AC/Heat system can save you quite a bit of cash. 

    2. Check your filters.  Make sure your airways, furnace and air conditioning filters are in tip-top shape.  Your appliances will run more efficiently, plus there are big health benefits—pollen, dust mites, dirt and other allergens can often mean the air inside your home is more dangerous than the air outside!  So get that filter switched out.

    3. Clean out your gutters & check your chimney for debris.  Keep those systems working efficiently to funnel water and smoke away from your home.  Catching places where water can leak & repairing basic wear, can save you from a rainy day disaster.

    4. Garden and Curb Appeal. Cut back any shrubbery or invasive tree branches, and get ahead of raking leaves. This is the time to make any minor sidewalk/driveway repairs before any rains come along.  Check your sprinkler system and make any necessary adjustments & repairs.

    5. Window & Doors. Check your windows and doors. Are they well sealed? You’ve probably had your windows open a lot this summer. Make sure that when they are closed, there is no air leaking in. Making these simple repairs in the seal now will save you a lot toward energy efficiency.

    6. Give it a good scrub.  It may seem counter-intuitive with rain (and sometimes snow!) on the way, but removing dirt and debris from your windows, walkways, and porches now will mean less accumulation later.

    7. Decorate.  Bring the outdoors in with vibrant foliage, acorns, branches, and pumpkins—autumn is one of nature's prettiest seasons and all of that color is absolutely free.

    Most of all, use this change of seasons to reflect.  What is making you feel most vibrant, alive, and grateful this season?

    We know we're thankful for all of you. 

     

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  • Back to School Savings

    Has buying all those new school supplies put a cramp in your wallet? With fuel and food costs rising and the economy slumping, it's a good idea to figure out how to cut back on back-to-school purchases this year.

    School Bus


    Check out these 10 tips for back to school saving, from this article via MSN Money:

    1) Begin by shopping at home. Avoid buying everything new. Take a look around the house and see what your family already owns. I bet you have more extra pens, pencils, folders and rulers than you think.
    2) Start searching for bargains early! Now is a great time to keep an eye out for clearance sales in your area. Keep an eye out for coupons and make a special box to store them in. When you find a good deal, stock up for the entire year. Also, be aware that most of the great sales come in late September after school has already started, so we advise you wait to shop.
    3) Hit the dollar store! You’d be surprised at the large selections of paper, markers, and other school supplies you’re likely to find. Dollar stores are great places to find everyday craft items!  (Grocery Outlet also stocks basic school supplies like paper, pens, notebooks, binders, and crayons, all at great prices.)
    4) Scour garage sales, thrift stores, & consignment shops. This might require some get out and go motivation, but the deals are better than ever. Why not give it a try? (This is great for clothes, backpacks and sports equipment.)
    5) Remember eBay & Craigslist. Great deals and steals are usually found on these websites. Savings could be substantial on back-to-school clothes, and this internet process is always less time consuming than bargain hunting at thrift stores or yard sales.
    6) Set ground rules for clothes shopping. Make sure to buy clothes that will give your children room to grow. Pick up extra pairs of shoes in larger sizes when you find a great sale. Classic styles and solid colors are always good buys because they are easy to mix & match and less likely to look dated over time.
    7) Buy the right backpack. Kids shouldn’t carry more than 20 percent of their own weight on their backs. If you know that your child is likely to stuff his or her backpack, opt for a smaller one.
    8) Don’t overspend on technology. In today’s world, homework can be almost impossible to do these days without a computer and access to the Internet. If you are looking to buy a computer this summer, be sure to look for deals. Again, check out eBay and Craigslist and remember that refurbished computers are another option.
    9) Track down the right calculator. If your child needs that fancy calculator for Trigonometry, bite the bullet and invest in a good one because it will last for years to come!
    10) Teach important money lessons. Back-to-school season allows you as a parent to have discussions with your children about money, budgeting, and needs vs. wants. You can negotiate back-to-school budgets with your kids and allow them to manage those budgets. If they want anything above and beyond the dollar amount that you’ve agreed on, let them use their allowance money to pay for it by themselves.

    Learning doesn't always have to be expensive.  You can prepare your kids for school while staying on your budget, and teach them the value of a dollar while you're at it.  Good luck!

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  • Summer Fun & 7/6 Ad Preview

    Chris shows how easy it is to save money on all of summer's best! Plus, you can see him assemble our popular Bond Canopy in seconds!  Check out the latest episode of our Bargain TV now:

     



    What's your best summer bargain? How do you stay cool?

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  • Spare your Savings this Summer

    So maybe the sun hasn't come out reliably this summer, but you can still save on summer fun by bringing summer indoors!  Team Bargainista has come up with some fantastic activities to do with your kids both inside & out of the house this month.

    Start the day with a craft—create some “Fancy Dinnerware” by following these craft instructions. This is a fun activity that keeps active hands busy inside if the weather is gloomy.

    Hungry for lunch?  A sandwich is  standard, but if you're out of fun ideas, try one of these 442 sandwich recipes!  Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, sandwiches are easy. Help your kids pick their favorite fixings at Grocery Outlet and set up a sandwich bar.

    Movie theaters are always a fun place to take the kids. See a matinee showing one of the newest kid flicks and save money—matinees will be less expensive and the theater will be less crowded during the day.  Or get a movie delivery service like Netflix, and rent your favorite flicks to keep the kids occupied.

    Try to get the kids to read more books! Have you been to your local public library recently? If you haven’t, head over there this week and bring your children. You local branch has many great things going on all summer long. Summer reading clubs are a great place for resources and research, and they usually have air conditioning on hot summer days. Check out books on foreign places and take a trip with your imagination. Research foreign customs and meals and recreate at home for lots less than a plane ticket.

    Stay cool, save money, and enjoy the sun or the shade.

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  • Organics Vlog

    Christopher's latest vlog is all about organics at Grocery Outlet.  Did you know you can get your favorite organic brands at Grocery Outlet for up to 50-60% off?  Check it out!



    What's the best organic deal you've found at Grocery Outlet? We'd love to know.

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  • Bargain TV - Health and Fitness

    Here's our latest Bargain TV vlog: The Healthy-Fit Show.  We're focusing on how to stay healthy without spending a lot of money.


    Do you have any ideas? How do you stay healthy on a budget?

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  • Earth Day 2011

    Grocery Outlet's greatest passion is to save you money.  Something else we like to do, however, is help save our planet.  In a previous post, we counted the ways that Grocery Outlet HQ has become more eco-friendly.  In honor of Earth Day, which is coming up April 22nd, we'd like to focus on how we've taken on sustainability, environmental responsibility and cost-saving measures in our stores.

     

    Earth Day 2011

     

    1. In our newest stores, we meet the EPA 2012 standards for energy efficiency in all installed appliances. 

    2. We have state-of-the-art hand dryers in our newer stores' restrooms to cut down on paper waste.

    3. When we remodel older stores, we will be implementing these measures there too, and swapping out older, less efficient appliances with energy efficient appliances.

    4. Swapping out older bulbs for CFLs and LEDs where we can.

    5. Splitting distribution loads, which cuts down on gas consumption. This saves fossil fuels and maximizes efficiency.

    6. We recycle glass, metal, plastics and paper.

    7. We sell eco-friendly bags made out of recycled materials to bag your groceries.  We give them away for free at grand openings for new stores.

    8. We source as many eco-friendly and organic products we can, all at tremendous savings.

    We want to help save the earth—and your wallet.

    Tell us: what eco-friendly products have you found at Grocery Outlet?  What would you like to see more of? 

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