Friday, June 20, 2008

Frugal Gourmets: Fresh & Easy's 50% Off Discounts Make it Into LA Times Piece on Eating Well Without Spending Like Crazy in These Tough Times

Frugal shopping and cooking in frugal times: Christine Jory has written the 99-Cents Only Stores Cookbook. She wrote it with the cooperation of the retailer but the book isn't a product of the 99-Cent Store Only chain.

Marketing consultant Shauna Dawson has learned well about Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's 50% discount or mark-down policy on fresh foods that are near their package out-of-code date it appears, based on a feature story by staff writer Jerry Hirsch in today's Los Angeles Times' Business Section.

Below is the opening paragraph of the helpful piece about how consumers can eat well--and even gourmet--without taking out loans in this current inflationary, and in California and numerous other states, darn right recessionary, U.S. economy:

Gourmet eating for less
Despite raging inflation, it's possible to eat well without spending like crazy, chefs and other food gurus say. You just need a strategy. ¶ Here are some of their secrets.

By Jerry Hirsch, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 20, 2008

Marketing consultant Shauna Dawson likes good food and good deals, and that has turned her into a bold shopper. ¶ The 34-year-old Carthay Circle resident will troll a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, checking to see if the "sell by" date on a product is that very day. It's almost like food bingo. When Dawson finds something she wants, she asks a clerk for 50% off. ¶ "I bought a package of fresh cream puffs this way -- just the other day," she said. ¶ It can be tough these days to be a gourmet. With food prices rising at the fastest pace in 18 years, Dawson and other shoppers must look harder and shop smarter to get the special items they want. But they say they have figured out ways they can still afford some of those premium goodies such as a double-cream brie, perhaps a juicy rib-eye steak or even a small bottle of truffle oil. ¶ Despite raging inflation, it's possible to eat well without spending like crazy, Dawson and other food gurus say. You just need a strategy. ¶ Here are some of the secrets to eating well for less.

Read the entire Los Angeles Times feature article, "Gourmet eating for less," here.

Five Quick frugal gourmet and everyday shopping and eating for less tips from Fresh & Easy Buzz:

>Shop the 99-cent and dollar stores. They currently have lots of specialty, gourmet and natural foods items because many suppliers are having cash-flow and high inventory problems and thus are selling more shelf-stable specialty and gourmet grocery products to these format
stores than ever before.

You can buy gourmet oils, vinigars, condiments and other items for example for 50% -to- 75 less in the 99-cent stores than the items regularly sell for in supermarkets. You have to take what the 99-cent stores have though. They work on an in-and-out basis. What's there today might not be next week. But it can be fun shopping as well. They sometimes even have huge discounts on wines.

>Always shop the supermarket weekly advertising circulars. Supermarkets are running hotter and better promotions in their weekly advertising circulars currently than any time in the past 15 years. Value is in, and the retailers are hammering their suppliers for better deals and promotions to pass on to consumers in order to remain competitive and maintain sales and market share.

>Don't pass up store brands. Today's store brand items are in the main close to or as good as nearly all nationally branded products in terms of quality. There are exceptions of course. Fresh & Easy Buzz has never found a store brand liquid bleach as good as Clorox, for example--but we often purchase the store brand anyway.

The same is true with Mayonaise. It's hardto beat the taste of Best Foods brand, if you like or use mayo. But with store brands as much as 25% -to- 30% cheaper than Best Foods', we often buy them as well. Here's all you need to do, depending on the use of the mayo of course. Add a little crushed garlic and a squeeze of fresh lemon to the store brand mayo, especially if using it as a dressing and such. Not only does it give even Best Foods mayonaise a better, gourmet taste, it makes most store brands and Best Foods brand iindistinguisable in terms of taste.

>Use coupons, but only for those items you regularly buy. The majority of "cents-off" coupons distributed in newspaper free-standing-inserts or mailed to your home weekly are for items you likely wouldn't buy anyway. That's why many manufacturer's use the coupons; to generate consumer trial. However, many manufacturers--Proctor & Gamble which makes Tide, Crest Toothpaste, Downey Fabric Softner and numerous other top brands is a good example--of items you do buy regularly also issue coupons. Use the coupons you get for the items you regularly buy, but avoid using the coupons for the impulse items you don't regularly buy, and you will save lots of money.

>Coupons 2.0: Leverage store promotions with coupons. A great strategy with coupons is to combine them with items promoted in a retailer's weekly advertising circular. In other words, you get a double discount; the discount the retailer is giving on the promoted item, and the added discount from using the coupon.

For example, last week Safeway Stores had a mega-pack of Scott brand paper towels on sale for 30% less than its everyday price. The weekly newspaper FSI also had a $1.00-off coupon for that size package of paper towels. By combining the $1.00 coupon with the 30% discount, the total savings would be 40%. That's what we call shoppers' leverage. Also, if you are in an area where retailers use "double coupons," take advantage of it. But again only for those items you regularly purchase.

Vox Populi: Use the comments box below to share your frugal--gourmet or non-gourmet or both--shopping and cooking tips with your fellow Fresh & Easy Buzz readers. Fresh & Easy Buzz has many readers who are food and grocery industry experts, as well as having many smart and savvy readers from all walks of life. Share the wealth--and your knowledge.


Anonymous said...

$ave money by:

shopping outlet stores and discount stores (i.e. TJ Maxx, Marshalls): Most of the clothes are just over runs or sometimes last seasons designs. Oh, and always go to the back of the stores first because that's where the sale racks are.

Paper Goods: Shop clubstores and buy bulk (since toilet paper doesn't going out of code you have no worries)

Gas: Buy gas at Costco, it's a lot less than anyplace else and if you use your American Express card you also get an extra 5% discount!

Investigate and compare prices online: Especially on larger ticket items (such as electronics, tv's, washer/dryers). If you would rather buy the product in a store, then take the lowest price quote you find online to the competitor store (i.e Best Buy instead of Circuit City) and they will usually at the worst match the price or you should be able to negotiate the prices even lower. Try and have them throw in free delivery too!

Buy on E-bay: Sometimes you can buy brand new items for a lot less than department stores.

You don't have to wait for the coupons to come to you: Web sites like list discount codes for a number of online retailers from Amazon to Zappos. If you find a code to an online store you're shopping at, just copy it and paste it into the "promotional code" box in the checkout area of the retailer's Web site.

Printable coupons, which can be used in stores, are also readily found online at various Web sites and blogs like and

Happy Shopping!

Anonymous said...

Avoid prepared foods like ready to heat refrigerated and frozen entrees. You pay an automatic 40% premium over buying the stuff and preparing it yourself.

Buy your household cleaning supplies at dollar stores for a buck a pop. The stuff is all the same. In fact, the best household cleaning supplies are liquid bleach for toilets, showers, sinks, ect. and vinegar for windows. That's all you really need, and it works better than the fancy, expensive brands.

Buy a dozen cheap kitchen towels and stop buying and using paper towels except when absolutely needed.

For gourmets, plant a herb garden. You can get basil, rosemary, oregano plants for about a buck each at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, ect. Will same you all kind of money as fresh herbs cost big $$$ at the supermarket.

Buy cheaper cuts of meat like flank steak rather than more expensive. You can get choice flank steak for $2.99 LB on sale. Marinate with olive oil, fresh lime juice, fresh garlic and a little balsamic vinegar and grill. Tastes as good as a $7.99 T-bone.

Stop buying bottled water and drink tap water. I saved $30 a month or so doing this. Plus good for the enviro. Tap water, ice, a slice of fresh lemon or lime in a glass. Sublime.

Karen M. said...

I'm a nutritionist for a large medical center. I am telling our clients, many who are stuggling in the economy and with their health, the upside of the rising food prices is they can eat better and healthier for less money if they want to.

The most expensive foods at the supermarket also tend to be the least healthy. Prepared foods, fatty meats, deserts, all the most expensive and least healthy. The average American eats meat about twice a day. If you just cut this down to once a day or once every other day, can save lots of many at the store. Also, buy and eat more beans, whole grains. They are cheap and healthy. If you have a farmers market in your community shop at it. I've led tours at out farmers market showing people how for $30 a week they can get enough fruits and vegetables to have 3-4 servings a day for an entire week.

I also worked for 5 years as a home economist for a supermarket chain in the Midwest. At the store, remember the more ready to eat the item is, the more expensive it will be. Dry beans much cheaper than canned, for example. Canned vegetables can be cheaper than fresh many times though. And they still are nutritious. Don't pass them up when the deals are good. Learning to cook is probably the best investment a consumer can make right now. The more you can buy products less processed, the more you will save.

Anonymous said...

If there's a Costco where you live, buy your meat there. It sell choice grade for less than supermarkets sell select grade beef for. The packages are bigger but freeze them.

If there are ethnic markets in your city like Hispanic and Asian stores, check them out for fresh produce. Usually are far cheaper than supermarkets.

Ask for the $5 coupons at Fresh & Easy stores always. You buy $20 worth of groceries get it for $15.

Avoid Target for household supplies unless on sale. Much higher than Wal-mart and others everyday.

For gourmet groceries check online like Lot's cheaper. They ship free anywhere on minimum orders that aren't that much.

Buy in season fresh fruits and veggies. They are more local and much cheaper. Strawberries out-of season are from Mexico and cost $$$$ compared to in season which cost $.