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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 9:48 EDT

Reader Shares Sizzling Cookout Savings

June 26, 2008

By Stephanie Nelson

This is a great time of year to save on all kinds of grilling ingredients, including ground beef, hot dogs, ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce. Oren Spiegler, a loyal reader of this column from Upper St. Clair, shares his shopping success over the Memorial Day weekend. Because these kinds of items will be bargains all summer, you can watch for similar promotions at your own grocery stores.

Dear Stephanie: A friend of mine was complaining recently about the high cost of hot dogs, voicing his unwillingness to pay $4 or $5 for something so simple and ordinary. Naturally, I agreed with him. However, I recently whipped inflation with a deal at Giant Eagle, just in time for Memorial Day. Hebrew National franks, which I consider to be the kings of hot dogs, are regularly $4.99 per package. The item, including the 97 percent fat-free variety I buy, was on sale that week for $3. There is a promotion that provides a $3 Giant Eagle checkout coupon with a $10 purchase of a lineup of products, which includes the hot dogs. There is also a 75-cent face- value coupon for Hebrew National hot dogs from my Sunday newspaper. Thus, I enjoyed the following deal:

Three $4.99 packages hot dogs at $3 on sale and one package of Gulden’s spicy brown mustard, on sale for $1.67. This brought the order to $10.67, which is just enough for the $3 checkout coupon to be generated. Then deduct the doubled 75-cent coupons from the three Sunday newspapers that totaled $4.50 off the order. The bottom line: Three packages of top-notch hot dogs and a bottle of good quality mustard for less than the regular price of one package of ordinary hot dogs — a grand total of $3.17! As a popular TV commercial currently states, ‘It’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.’ Why more people do not do it is a mystery to me.”

Dear Oren: I certainly agree with you on that.

Saving tips for anonymous

An anonymous reader from Kent, Ohio, recently e-mailed me asking for my help to reduce his weekly grocery bill, which he estimated to be $150 to $175 per week for one person. He had seen a news story with me demonstrating my Strategic Shopping strategies, getting $71 worth of groceries for $5 after sale and coupon savings. Because his rent is going up soon, he said he is trying to find ways to save in other areas.

Of course, I was interested to learn more about why his grocery bill was this high for one person. Currently, my family is sticking to a weekly grocery budget of $75 to $100 for a family of four and we are eating quite well. As I reviewed the list of grocery items that he purchases each week, I could see that he would need to change his grocery shopping habits drastically to be able to cut it in half. Although I think a grocery budget of $75 per week for one person should be plenty, he was very clear about his specific brand and food preferences, as well as his aversion to putting any time at all into food preparation.

His preferences included lamb, fish, steaks, premium orange juice, organic canned soup, canned fruit, canned vegetables, bottled water and specific brands of condiments. If it were my grocery budget that I was revising, my first step would be to choose main- dish fish, chicken and meat ingredients that were on sale that week. I would also choose less expensive cuts of meat and tenderize them by marinating and/or cooking them slowly at a low heat. Rather than purchasing canned soup, I would make a large batch of homemade soup with a few simple ingredients like beans or other legumes, vegetables, and a small amount of meat or chicken. As a single person, it would make sense to divide the soup into smaller freezer containers to have the convenience of canned soup without the expense. I would choose the least-expensive fresh fruit rather than canned and consider frozen vegetables or the least expensive fresh vegetables each week. I would skip the bottled water entirely. Finally, I would be much more flexible regarding brand preferences, purchasing the most comparable sale-priced brand of any item I needed. Even without using coupons, these strategies would make a major dent in his current grocery spending.

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