Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tips for Saving on Produce

I just read a great tip over at The Krazy Coupon Lady about how to save money on produce, that was something I never would have thought about.  The gist of the tip is to weigh your produce even if it's produce that isn't priced by weight (ie. pre-bagged fruit, items that are priced per item), as the items typically do vary in size and weight and by weighing the items you can make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

In a way, I do this by "eye" with things like peppers that are usually priced by item, I always try to find the biggest one. But, I never thought about weighing them and I never had a clue that bagged fruit that says "xlbs" just means that's the minimum weight.  What a great tip!

Do you have any great tips to save money on produce?

The Value of a CSA

CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are sprouting up all over the country. I first heard of them last year when a friend of mine told me about the wonderful vegetables and fruit that she and her husband were getting from one of the local CSA's.

With a CSA you not only get LOCALLY grown vegetables and fruit at a great price, but in some cases you can event get them delivered.  My husband and I have made a renewed effort in the last few weeks to incorporate more fruits and vegatables into our diet and have quickly realized that there's a high price to pay for eating healthy, and there's rarely any coupons available for this type of food.  However, there are ways to save some money and CSAs may (or may not) be one way to do it.

Here in North AL, I've found two different CSA possibilities.  The first is Doe Run Farms out of TN. This is the CSA that my friend, Amanda, is a member of and having seen pictures of the quality of the produce that she gets each week, it's quite amazing.  Not only that but the amounts of produce that she gets for the price is quite good as well.  A mini-share with Doe Run Farms will run you $495 for 18 weeks (they run the shares by season and to get in on the Spring/Summer share we have to sign up by next weekend - that's if there's even any room left).  $495 over 18 weeks averages out to $27.50/wk.  From what I've seen of my friend's shares, I think this is probably equavalent to Grow Alabama's Silver (mid-level) share.  So probably a better price per unit, however you do take the risk of getting items your household may not eat.  Doe Run Farms added a few different add-on packages this year, to allow those who want to get more tomatoes, cheese or fruit than what comes in their normal share.  Of course, these extra packages do cost extra in addition to your normal share price.

The second CSA which I just came across today, is Grow Alabama.  This is an organization of farmers from across AL, with drop-off points in various locations (their website says they even do home and office delivery).  They have 3 different levels, the smallest (the Bronze share) is $24.75/wk.  The share that I believe is most equivalent to the small share at Doe Run Farms, is the Silver share at $31.25/wk (which gives you 6 different items, with 4-5 servings of each).  There's no set time you have to stay in the program but they do require a 30-day cancellation notice (during which time you will continue to receive - and pay for- your share).  The biggest upside I see to this program is that you can customize your share box by logging in each week and choosing from what is currently available, or you can select to permanently substitute and item that you know your household will NEVER eat.  Their website also provides a chart as to which items are available during which months, to allow you to easily see what you might be getting.  Another plus I see is that since this is a co-op of farmers, there ideally would be more variety than if you were getting everything from just one farm.  From their website and from the lady at one of their drop-off points that I talked to today, they also offer add-ons of a variety of items from fresh eggs to chickens and various meats.

We actually spent about the same amount last week at Kroger, and if we continue on these healthy eating habits will likely be spending this much every week..  However, at Kroger we got to pick out exactly what we wanted, and chances are that with doing a CSA we'd still be at the grocery store filling in some of the items that may not be in season.  Actually, we spent about $28 at Kroger and then another $10 between CostCo (for salad mix) and a local vegetable stand (tomatoes & onions).  I like the flexibility of the Grow Alabama program, however there's still the fear of waste.  Granted, there could just as easily be waste when we buy from the grocery store or the roadside stand, if we don't eat it.  Knowing that we will be getting more each week should encourage us to eat it.

What are your thoughts? Would this save you money? Have you ever joined a CSA? Did you find it worthwhile?

How to do a Code Hunt on Swagbucks

There is currently a Swag Code Hunt going on on Swagbucks.  These are like little scavenger hunts for codes. For some folks they just aren't worth the time that you have to invest, for others they are a really fun way to earn a few Swagbucks.  Many who haven't done them before (and many who have) just get frustrated with them, myself included at times.  But, it helps if you understand how they work.

How Swag Code Hunts Work:

1. Swagbucks will give you a clue (often on either their Facebook page, Twitter or in their blog) for where to go for the next clue.  For instance they may tell you to search for a particular word in the Swag Store (as they did today).  If they do this, then you want to go to Swagbucks and choose the Swag Store from the options on the left side of the page.  At the top you will see a search bar, there you will type in the word that they told you to search for.

2. Open each of the items that are returned and look for the next clue.  Usually, it will be pretty obvious, but no matter how obvious it is sometimes it will be so obvious that you will miss is anyway.  I've had to go back through the results a couple of times to look again because I've missed it.  Once you find the next clue, do what it says to find the following clue and so on.  For instance, if the next clue tells you to go find a particular word in the Swagstakes, then go to the Swagstakes section of Swagbucks and enter the word it tells you in the search bar and repeat the directions as given for finding the next clue in the Swag Store.

If you aren't very familiar with the Swagbucks store, these code hunts will get you familiar quickly.  But, the best way to find your way around is to go back to the main Swagbucks homepage and then choose the section the directions are telling you to search from the menu on the left side of the page.

Sometimes a Code Hunt may send you to Swagbucks TV and tell you to find a hint or a code there. This can be the most frustrating area to search because you don't know at first if the hint is actually IN a video or in a description.  It will usually be in a description BUT you will most likely need to watch the video to get the full clue.  IE. it might ask you a question about something you see in the video, then tell you to do something with the answer (like search in another area of the site for the answer you found in the video).

Eventually, you will find an actual Swagcode somewhere.  They look something like ThIsisASwaGCod3 (that is not a real swagcode).

So what do you do when you finally find the Swagcode?  Head back to the Swagbucks homepage and enter it on the right side of the page where it says "Enter Your Swagcode".

ALWAYS copy and paste your swagcode because as you can see in my example above they are a mixture of upper and lower case and numbers that can sometimes be hard to read correctly.  If for some reason, you copy and paste you get a message that you entered an invalid Swagcode, go back to the page where you found the code and reload the page. Then copy and paste it again.  They will often change the Swagcode to keep people from sharing it with friends.

Help Japan PLUS 50 Bonus Swagbucks for New Signups!

Swagbucks isn't just about helping yourself get free stuff, they are also about helping others and right now you can help out by donating your Swagbucks to Help Japan. Swagbucks is asking that you donate some of your Swagbucks (as little as 5, as many as you'd like) to go directly to All Hands Volunteers, a 501(c)3 organization.  If you'd like to donate some (or all) of your Swagbucks, just click here and select the amount you'd like to donate. Swagbucks will be collected and then converted into a cash donation (you can view the conversion chart on the donation page).  This is an easy way to help out without even feeling it.

And in the spirit of giving back, for those who are new to Swagbucks, if you sign up now they are offering you a bonus 50 Swagbucks (this is on top of the usual 30 bonus Swagbucks that they typically give, for a total of 80).  When you sign up just enter the code: HelpJapan during registration.  This offer is valid until 11am PDT on April 8, 2011.  If you are new to Swagbucks, you may be wondering what it's all about.  Swagbucks is an easy way to earn FREE stuff online and by FREE stuff I mean anything from Amazon gift cards to electronics.  You earn points (called Swagbucks) by doing things you normally do online (like searching the web using their search engine), or by entering special codes that they make available from time to time, or even by trading in your old video games, books and cell phones.  Then you take those Swagbucks you earn and trade them in for real tangible stuff.  To give you an example, I've already traded in for $70 in Amazon gift cards so far this year (that's about a $5gc each week).  Give it a try and with this bonus you are already more than 20% of thew way towards your first Amazon gift card (that's if you don't decide to just donate all your points to Help Japan).

$1 Deals at Staples Next Week

I was so bummed when I missed the great deals on envelopes a couple of weeks ago at Staples, but all good deals really do come back around.  Next week Staples is running a bunch of $1 Deals and included on that will be 25 packs of envelopes, among other things.  There are actually envelope deals in the $1, $3 and $5 category.

Thanks Frugal Living and Having Fun for the heads up on these deals.

$1 Deals (Limit 2)
  • Bic Matic Grip 0.7 mm Mechanical Pencils 5/Pack
  • Staples Small memo Book, Top or Side-Bound Assorted Designs
  • #10 Envelopes, Pull & Seal 25/Pack
  • Staples Business Card Holder
  • Scotch Magic Tape With Dispenser 3/4″ x 300
  • Staples ClipBoard – Brown (9″x12.5)
  • Staples Journal With Pen (80Sheets) Assorted Colors
  • Westcott Preferred 7″ Scissors

There are also quite a few great $2 deals and some great Easy Rebate offers, as well.  For the full ad check out (click on the link for their weekly ad, then you'll be able to view the ad for the "upcoming week" as well).

FREE Book From Read It Forward

Read it Forward has another free book offering on their Facebook page. This time it's for Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts" and it looks to be another excellent offering from RIF.

The last book I got from them was "Radio ShangRi-La", by Lisa Napoli and it was an excellent read.  If you enjoy a book with some hope and happiness then this is one to read. If you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love then this is a book you will enjoy as well. While her journey isn't quite as deep or intense, the destination is just as good.

FREE Suave!

There are two ways to get up to 3 full size bottles of Suave Professionals product today.  First off, go to their Facebook page and like them then click the "giveaway" tab.

Then go to their website and play the "Can You Tell" game.  In the game you will be asked to pick which model was styled with Suave Professionals vs which one was styled with salon brands.  They have a salon professional come in and give their "expert" opinion and you can go with that or go out on your own.  If you get 4 out of the 8 right you will get coupons for 2 full size products.  There are other prizes as well depending on how many you get right and you can choose which prize you want to receive.

Have fun!