Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Correction: Or why lately I avoid Fry's markets

59c/lb for Jenni-O turkey is an amazing price. With great pride, Fry's advertised this price in the upper left corner of this week's ad in Great Big Print and declaring:
SAVE on Your Thanksgiving Turkey Count on Fry's Famous Low Prices for your Thanksgiving Day feast. From now through Thanksgiving, Jennie-O grade A frozen turkeys are only 59c per pound. That means you can plan a mouthwatering holiday meal that's easier on your budget.
Then in even bigger type (and bolded), Fry's prints:

Jennie-O Grade A Frozen Turkeys 10-20 lb Average 59c lb with Card.

Okay, so you see this with a picture of a beautifully roasted turkey on the front of Fry's ad, how much do you think this turkey costs?

You'd be wrong.

This turkey is actually $1.39/lb. There is no discount because underneath all of that in fine print even finer than the fine print at the bottom of the ad informing us that Fry's reserves the right to correct all printed errors, Fry's states 'Limit 1 per customer with additional $25.00 purchase.'

Go ahead. Look. Bring a magnifying glass.

I found out this morning. I zipped into Fry's on my way to Pro's Ranch Market to pick up a single turkey which I hoped to defrost and make for dinner tonight. There was nothing on the turkey display case indicating special pricing on the turkey, so I asked the guy in the meat shop. He pointed to the Jennie-O's and told me those were the sale turkeys. The discount did not come off at the register. The cashier couldn't figure it out, it was her first turkey of the day.

Was it the wrong turkey? No.
 Was it the wrong-sized turkey? No.
 Had I swiped my shopper's card? Yes.

She called the meat guy down and together they checked the ad, checked the turkey, checked the ad, checked the turkey...until the cashier spotted the 'Limit 1' fine print nonsense.

Yeah, the disclaimer is there, albeit in the micro-print, but this situation illustrates the reason I haven't purchased anything at Fry's in months. They tell me a price in Really Big Print, then tell me in much smaller print I can't get that price unless I buy six things I don't want, turn two cartwheels down the cereal aisle, then serenade the customers in Starbucks with 'America the Beautiful' in falsetto.

It may not be false advertising exactly, but it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

My deepest apologies. My eyes are not what they used to be, but even now, knowing that micro-print is there, I can barely see it.

I'll get a turkey tomorrow, when the honeycrisps are 88c/lb. I'll purchase enough to get the turkey and shake the dust from my sandals as I exit their doorway.

And I suppose I should change the title of the previous post from 'How to Read a Grocery Ad' to 'How to Read Every Grocery Ad EXCEPT Fry's'.

This is why I like Food City and Basha's and Pro's Ranch Market. when their ad says 59c/lb, they actually mean that I'm paying 59c/lb.

How to Read a Grocery Ad

Grocery ads are not like really good novels. You don’t have to read the whole thing. A glance at the first and last pages is enough to get the goods on the best real food deals a store has to offer. For the inner pages, there are plenty of websites such as Pinching Your Pennies that detail the really good coupon matchups (as well as the not-so-good ones. Be discriminating.), usually in the day or two before the ad actually comes out.

Grocery store owners want you to come into their store. They know you are busy and they know you have choices, so, like a headline in a newspaper, they lead with their best story. They want to grab your attention, lure you into the store even though those First Page Items represent a financial loss to them. That is why those front page items are referred to as ‘Loss Leaders’.

Loss Leaders are the hook, the items you find on the perimeter of a store in the fresh food areas.  Once the store hooks you, they’ll lure you into the inner pages of the ad, or the inner aisles of the store, promising you cheap, processed calories at prices that often aren’t all that much lower than the regular price for the item.

Resist. Be savvy. Don’t be embarrassed to walk into every one of those stores, purchase only their loss leaders and depart. Getting a good deal on one item does not require you purchase all your groceries there. There’s  no law that states you have to purchase one item more than the absolute very best deals when you do your weekly shopping.

That’s the essence of stockpiling. Buy low and in bulk, enjoy the savings for months to come.

Fry's turkeys at 59c/lb is the best loss leader in all this weeks ads. (EDITED TO ADD: Grrrr...see correction post above re: this price at Fry's.) Best part about this loss leader is that the price is good until Thanksgiving. That means, if you want to hedge your bets that turkey will go lower somewhere before the holiday, you have time to make your decisions. Or, if you’re like me and you find yourself with an unexpected free day and a little bit of freezer room, you may want to head to Fry’s and get all your turkeys now. That's my plan. I find that it’s easier to find turkeys in the early part of a sale. Here’s my reasoning:

1.       Smaller turkeys are usually more tender and have better flavor
2.       Smaller turkeys are more likely to be cooked like big chickens, rather than reserved for once a year holidays
3.       Smaller turkeys are easier to freeze and take much less time to defrost.
4.       I can debone and process a smaller turkey more easily than I can a larger turkey

Here’s a fun tidbit I learned least year. The store butcher will saw a frozen turkey in half for you. Take advantage of this service. It makes cooking, deboning, processing and freezing that much easier. Remember the blog post I did on DeboningChicken? The process for a turkey is much the same, but instead of yielding small filets, will yield entire boneless turkey roasts, such as demonstrated in this video:

and in this series of videos:

The bones, of course, will yield gallons and gallons of turkey stock. At 59c/lb, a 15 pound turkey costs $8.85 and, with a little ingenuity, will feed your family for days. Fill your freezer.

And for those of you who just aren’t all that ‘into’ turkey. Your dogs and cats are. Boil them whole, pull the meat from the bone, give the stock to your neighbor and freeze the meat  in reasonably sized portions.

Other items worth purchasing this week:

Pro’s Ranch Wednesday Produce deals:
Oranges 5 lbs – 99c. Think cheap, fresh juice, and lots of good snacking. Or maybe even Turkey l’orange.
Limes 4 lbs – 99c. These would be great cooking with turkey also.
Bananas 25c/lb – always a staple. Banana/orange smoothie anyone?

The produce ad for the Glendale Ave store is here. Note the cheap apples and watermelon.

Food City Wednesday/and week produce deals:

4 lbs tomatoes 99c. – Think cheap and fresh tomato gravy, which is a no effort item to make yourself. Here's how: Cut up the tomatoes and cook in a pot with a little bit of water. Add herbs to taste. Stir on occasion. Ladle over pasta.

Cucumbers are 11c/each. Along with the tomatoes, sounds like chopped salad to me. Today only, zucchini is 20c/lb.

Apples and Onions are also cheap cheap today. Celery is Cheap all week. This all sounds delicious chopped into a roast turkey salad.

Of note: Fry’s has their Halloween Deals tomorrow evening (10/27) from 3pm to 9pm. The only item which sent my heart a-flutter were the Honeycrisp apples at 88c/lb. Honeycrisp are scrumptious and make amazing applesauce. I’ll be in the produce aisle at 3 pm bagging up and carting out pounds and  pounds of them with a big smile on my face.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What $50 looks like at The Stockpile

Food City had a good-looking ad this week. I pick up the super-specials:

8 avocados, $1.98
6 lbs Bartlett pears $1.98 (Wednesday only)
6 lbs dried pinto beans $2.94 

Total Food City: $7

at Pro's Ranch, I purchased

15 lbs bananas
1 lb lunchmeat ham
1.25 lbs guava candy - this is a jellied guava. I don't know if they add sugar or not. It's pretty sweet and a refreshing dessert. I like it with a glass of milk.
3 lbs regular-sized limes
3 paks 40ct yellow corn tortillas still warm from the press
1 lb fresh crema con sal
3 pumpkins - small, but not tiny. I'm hoping they're meaty for cooking.
1.25 lbs monterrey jack cheese
2-24 rolls of toilet paper

 Total at Pro's Ranch - $33

Total grocery today - $40

Aside from the lunchmeat ham, there's no meat in this order. I have plenty in the deep freeze and no place to store more. To take this to $50, I'd buy two 10 lb bags of chicken legs at Food City for $5.90 each.

I'm annoyed at myself because I meant to purchase yams for 33c/lb at Pro's Ranch and I forgot. How good would mashed yams be this week? If I'm near a Pro's Ranch on another day, I'll duck in and pick some up.

Looking at that list, tortillas piled high with pintos, avocado and crema or monterrey jack and avocado is a no-brainer. But how about fried banana and a thinly sliced pear on a tortilla? The beans are the stock up item. They're 49c/lb at Food City this week, limit 6 lbs. If you pass by a Food City in your travels, it is worth ducking in a few times to purchase your limit. One pound of dried beans provides 10 regular servings and five really big servings. With the added chicken, there's plenty of food here to feed a family of good eaters for a week. If you don't think there's enough produce, switch out on of the packs of toilet paper - $3.99, for an equivalent amount in fruit and veggies at either grocery store.

Happy eating!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Instant Breakfast

My very first Extreme Couponing score was about 4 years ago, in my early weeks of couponing. Fry's was running a sale that made cereal $1.00/box when you purchased four. After purchase, a coupon spit out of the catalina machine offering $4 off 4 boxes of cereal. Not sure the details are exact, but that's pretty close. The store limited me to one transaction per shopping trip. I had coupons clipped from the paper which made the first four boxes about $2 total. After that, the cereal was free.

I passed a lot of Fry's stores in my daily commutes, and I ducked into every single one of them every single time I passed them. I did that all week, squirreling the boxes in my pantry, certain every time I walked out of the store, buzzers would sound, lights would flash and I'd find Phoenix's Finest waiting in the parking lot with handcuffs and a copy of my Miranda rights. They didn't. It was legal and legit and it yielded me something close to 200 boxes of cereal.

I was hooked. Sometimes, in the years that followed, boxed cereal would end up free, but never as free as it was in those heady weeks when I first discovered the power of coupon clipping. I got lots of other stuff free over those years - Toaster Strudels and granola bars, sweet rolls in a tube and Pop Tarts.

Fast forward to present day. Those 200 boxes of cereal are long-ago eaten or donated, and cereal hasn't been free with coupons for a very long time. Weird thing about clipping coupons, having purchased an item for free, I find it difficult to shell out cold hard cash for it in the future. The kids ate their way through the Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles and Cap'n Crunch, their expressions becoming more forlorn as they worked their way down through the Honey Bunches of Oats and Frosted Mini-Wheats until all that remained were Plain Cheerios, Shredded Wheat and Grape-Nuts.

The kids turned up their noses and ate leftovers for breakfast. They grabbed bananas, ate the occasional poached egg, begged off their friends and complained they were HUNGRY.

I didn't care. I'd read the ingredients list on all those boxes of free cereal, those free rolls of sweet biscuits, those free sugared fruit-filled pies and came to a conclusion: I'd overpaid. The kids weren't hungry, they were jonesing. In my desire to take the grocery receipt to zero, I was feeding my kids a daily sugar fix sprinkled with rice powder.

Time to go all old-fashioned on their backsides. I broke out the oatmeal. I jazzed it with fruit and nuts and plenty of honey. Most days, my husband and I were the only ones eating it, but in time, the kids came around. The Battle of Breakfast was over.

Today, I  buy our oat groats in bulk at the Honeyville Grain store in Chandler. The non-sale price on a 50 pound bag is $32.39. Given a 1-oz serving, the bag provides 800 servings, or enough for 200 days of breakfast for my family of four.

I cook the groats once a week in my slow cooker. I use my slap-chop to cut the apples and walnuts and almonds into bite-sized pieces. I add raisins and cranberries, sometimes a dollop of vanilla. Non-fat powdered milk powder provides additional protein, as well as a rich creaminess and enough natural sweetness, when coupled with the fruit, that added honey or agave nectar isn't always necessary. Prep time is about five minutes.

I store the concoction in mason jars in the fridge and every morning the kids scoop what they want into a bowl, add a little regular milk and eat happy.

Aside from the money, here's what I save by doing breakfast the old-fashioned way:

1) Hours spent clipping coupons and analyzing store ads to find the deals.
2) Time and gas expended ducking in and out of stores to purchase the deals.
3) Guilt over feeding my kids bowls of sugar instead of bowls of nutrition.
4) Pounds of cardboard cereal boxes clogging my recycling bin - the groats come in a single recyclable paper bag.
5) Acres of shelf space in my pantry on which I can store more nutritious options for my family.

Honeyville Grains sells online, but the prices in their retail locations are far cheaper. Retail stores are located in Utah and California. The Arizona location is in Chandler, an easy trip from both Phoenix and Tucson, and one well-worth making. Honeyville in Chandler does sales twice a month. Get on their mailing list. You won't regret it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Yes - I Can

In the United States of America, those who home can use either Ball or Kerr jars. Those jars are sold by the dozen. They come in standard imperial sizes, quart, pint and 1/2 pint. Aside from a few decorative options, the jars are either regular-mouth or wide-mouth. Most of us store the filled jars in the same carton they are shipped in. When we empty the jar, we store the cleaned jars in those same cartons until needed again.

Given those facts - why does my standard, no frills Presto pressure canner only do 7 quarts or 22 pints at a time? I'd like to can 12 quarts or 24 pints at a time.

Meats require 75 minutes to 90 minutes processing time. Add the time it takes to get the canner to pressure and another 20 minutes or more minimum for the pressure canner to cool down so I can switch out the batches...the bizarre capacity of my pressure canner means I'm expending a lot of extra time and fuel energy to do the odd-sized lots required.

I see an entrepreneurial opportunity here.

But not for me, for some other entrepreneur. I just want to can my Zaycon chicken. All 2 boxes or 80 pounds of it.

And can it, I have, 7 quarts at a time. Another batch is processing now.

This is first time I've used my pressure canner. I've owned it a year, but I was scared of it. The idea of putting food-filled glass in a metal pressurized bucket made me nervous. It didn't matter home canners have been doing that since 1910 without too much incidence. I was certain that when MY food-filled glass entered it's metal chamber, the whole shebang would implode, like a steel-framed souffle.

It didn't. And it won't happen to you, either. So long as you follow the instructions.

Prep time for the chicken was minimal. I used scissors to slice strips off the breasts so they'd slide easily into the jar. I added garlic, lime, onion, sometimes nothing, to the jars. Since I couldn't bring the canner to pressure and walk away - adjustments are needed during the process - I used the processing time to rearrange my pantry, check my email, catch up on back episodes of The Colbert Report and write this blog post.

Eighty pounds of these beautiful chicken breasts yielded 28 quarts and 24 pints of Already Cooked Goodness for my pantry. That's enough to use 1 jar a week for the next 52 weeks, a reasonable rate of use for my family. It took me one day of work.

Yeah. I'm proud of myself.

The Zaycon chicken deal is still available. Zaycon is taking orders in Arizona until Oct 12. This company is doing the chicken event nationwide, so readers outside of Arizona should check the site to search for a convenient pickup location.

At $1.49/lb, boneless, skinless chicken breast is a steal. As breasts go, these are about the most beautiful I've seen (sorry - couldn't resist). They are fresh, never frozen, all-natural, and taste delicious, so plan your time and schedule accordingly if you plan to can.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Delayed Gratification

Been away a few days in a place without internet. Did manage to hit the produce sales at Pro's Ranch Market and Food City before I left though. I spent $38 total and came away with an overflowing milk crate of oranges, and another of gala apples. the oranges are going into smoothies, or will be juiced. I'll probably can the apples, which come out like very chunky applesauce and don't need added sugar.

I don't deal in food mills and I don't peel my fruit. I use one of those push down contraptions that core the apple and divide it into 8 wedges. Then I toss the wedges into the pot, add some cinnamon and allspice and nutmeg and cook them down a little before doing a hot pack water bath processing.

At least, I think that's what I'm doing. These apples are really sweet. The family has been chowing down on them and I may not get a chance to can them.

I also picked up onions and a couple of Sanderson Farms whole chickens (67c./lb). I roasted the chickens with limes, ginger and garlic, and packed them up to take with us on our trip.

There were other items in the cart, such as bananas and roma tomatoes and garlic and cantaloupe and three pinapples, but I can't remember what all I purchased! Here's what I do know. We came home from our trip to a refrigerator bursting with avocados and tomato, which we chopped into guacamole with chips (remember the yellow corn tortillas I purchased?). There's still plenty of the french onion soup as well as chicken stock I made last week.

I'm thinking a banana/orange/kale/lime smoothie for breakfast in the morning, and the soup for lunch. Then I'll be looking up canning directions for chicken breasts because I'm purchasing from the Zaycon Foods chicken event. The boxes are 40 pounds each. Today (10/3) is the last day to order and the pickup place in Arizona is Mesa. At $1.49/lb, these boneless, skinless breasts are an excellent buy. Word on the street is that they are truly delicious. Zaycon claims they are fresh and never frozen. I ordered two boxes, which should make 40 quart cans (2 lbs in each can), which is about 1 can/week over the next year to be used for several meals. I'll let you know how the canning goes or if I chicken out and simply pack it all into the freezer.

The gals at Food Storage Made Easy have me inspired, and I'm thinking meal preparation would be so much faster and easier with chicken in a can.

Wish me cluck.