I love the grocery store. Big ones, little ones, international inspired, health food chains, meat markets, bakeries and specialty delicatessens …pretty much any store that sells some sort of food product is something I want to check out. It’s my zen place. Full of possibilities and potential – I could walk around for hours and buy just a few items or target in on one product and instantly be motivated to race home and cook something. However, while buying the ingredients and cooking at home is WAY friendlier than eating out at restaurants, it still can be pretty pricey. How does one feel less guilty about trying something new? May I suggest Hyvee’s Fuel Saver program.
Here is my current tally from the last 14 days:
Got your attention, didn’t I?
I will admit my dedication to making this program payoff is a little
crazy obnoxious. Yet it’s pretty simple to bank points. Here are some of my tips so that you too can earn your inexpensive gas…
1. Plan your meals: Knowing what you want and how much you need before you leave home.
This idea is hard for most of us who work full-time, and nearly impossible for anyone with kids or both. That said, if you want to minimize your food budget and maximize your diet, this is a valuable time investment to accomplish both goals. Also, the ability to pull a meal together in a quick fashion for your household is a priceless skill which is often undervalued and the contrary contributes negatively to an already chaotic time of day. Give yourself a break and invest in some calm!
To accomplish this task, it is essential to have the right ingredients. A stocked pantry is helpful, keeping things you use often and in large quantities on-hand at all times. I always add items I am running low on to the bottom of my list so that if it’s on sale or fuel perks I can safely buy it at the most beneficial time. This is helpful when I don’t have time to hit the grocery store to replace staples or have to make something last minute. Full disclosure: my pantry is only 3 shelves, so when considering a great deal, I will not buy unless there are holes to fill. Stocking up does not mean you should tie up your money in food stores, it means having a reasonable of items you regularly use at your disposal.
Similarly being able to utilize seasonal produce that is readily available and bountiful is a smart and strategic asset to this task. I often select several impulse vegetables based on promotions and quality, and buy what I can use ASAP (that night, the next day) and a few that have a longer shelf life like squash or cauliflower. Potatoes, apples, green beans and other classic go-to produce items often have fuel perks for buying a lb or more – look for stickerd and signs in the produce department. With the heavier stuff it is easy to get 2 to 7 cents in perks only selecting exactly what you need in a week. (Do not over buy perishables; throwing them out due to spoilage negates the deal/perks you scored.) Another example of savvy produce shopping – buying berries or tomatoes during the summer as not only are they fresh and delicious, but often local and inexpensive. For added value, pick up extra and freeze or can for later use! But that’s another day’s topic…
If you want to go one step further and reduce your grocery totals even more, create a menu that uses similar items (primarily proteins) during the week allows you to limit your time in the kitchen and stretch what is typically the most expensive component into 2 or more meals. If you buy a larger cut of meat the price per pound is often cheaper, which gives you the option of dividing from the get go; or if you cook all of it straight out of the gate, the extra can be used for quick fix meals. I also cheat and buy prepared foods like rotisserie chicken: it’s delicious and can be broken down to tossed into other meals in no time at all.
I try to keep 1-2 tried and true recipes in the rotation every week, and add in 1-3 new. (Remember I like to cook and find trying new cuisine enjoyable. Do not feel compelled to try new recipes every week unless you want to.) With my weird retail schedule I am rarely home 7 nights a week, so for the most part I plan 3-5 dinners and utilize the leftovers the rest of the time for lunches and other dinners.
2. Make your list, but don’t forget to check the grocery store advertisements first!
Most of us get inundated with retail advertising in our mailboxes, but neglect to actually look at it. BIG mistake! Not only do they flag items that are really inexpensive (think pantry stocking and budget friendly) to entice you in to buy more – they include many big ticket promotions to expose you to new products. Hyvee does this via email, facebook, mailed postcards, digital ads and in-store flyers. Each option has different perks and benefits. Some are actual coupons…others are purchase-with purchase deals…many are just great prices…and lastly, there are those extra special products that provide fuel perks. This is how you will rake in the nearly free gas!
Every location has store specific deals – as well as weekly or monthly events that award even more points. As you page through the flyer grab some paper to write down notes. Target items that you need to complete your list, and record perk points next to them on the list. While there are several things that I like a particular brand or need an exact item, in many cases other manufacturers are just as tasty, so purchasing the product that fills your need and is either low cost or fuel perks (or ideally BOTH) is genius. The best is when your item is low priced, fuel perks AND your favorite brand. We stock up on things like condiments, pasta, canned vegetables, lunchbox items and crackers several times a year based on this model. When pasta is 10 packages for $10, 1 cent in perks per box and 25 cents fuel perks for purchasing 10 products in that brand – how can you say no? Don’t forget to check email and Facebook for deals of the day! Periodically Hyvee awards perks for grocery totals : 25 cents or 50 cent or even $1 for merely hitting a certain dollar amount. Combine offers like these with your list, and you’ll be swimming in points.
Several weeks ago there were some manufacturer promos that combined multiple products, that purchased in combination yielded bonus perks. For buying 1 bottled flavor creamer, 1 small butter, 1 pack of granola bars, 1 pack of fruit cups and 1 loaf of bread (all items on my list), I spent less than $10 due to promotional pricing, earned 5 cents in fuel perks for product specific perks, and was awarded 50 more for the 5 products bought from the combo promotion. Can you see why this project is such a valuable time investment yet?
Here’s a store specific example:
Thursday’s at the Westgate location are “Thirsty Thursdays” and awards 40 cents in fuel perks just for buying $40 of products from the meat and seafood counters. The best part is that this is in addition to whatever promotions and perk offers exist off of individual items. Oh, and the meat case also has vegetables and a wide variety of accompaniments (such as fresh garlic herb butter) that pair well with meals. This week I picked up 2 12 oz steaks, 1 lb of ground sirloin, 1/2 lb of ground turkey, 1 lb of pork sausage, 2 salmon filets, 1 lb of bacon, 3 sticks of flavored butter, 4 stuffed mushrooms, 1 parmesan basil chicken breast and 2 1/2 lbs of a beef pot roast. With careful preparation, this will keep us in meals for almost 3 weeks.
Westgate also does a “Super Tuesday” the first Tuesday of the month between 430 pm and 630 pm. The list is posted on Facebook, or available during the event at front of store. Other cool features besides from outstanding prices and perks – sampling of new and promotional products, deals flagged with balloons, and free perks to the first 100 to 200 people to arrive via raffle (number depends on the month).
Okay, now that you are equipped with a list, head to the store and…
3. Shop with your eyes open! Unless you want to miss awesome in-store specials…
Remember when I mentioned store specific offers? Here are five examples of unadvertised promotions that reward you for trying new offerings:
$3.99 Fresh Baked Artisan bread – 50 cents in perks
[Great opportunity to try a new flavor or variety. And there are many inspiring ways to use bread in everyday meals.]
$7.99 Cherry Almond Topped Brie – 50 cents in perks
[Need a last minute starter? How about one that is made fresh and $10 CHEAPER than buying the ingredients yourself. This is a no brainer.]
$1.99 Specialty Tomato Sauce – 15 cents in perks
[Useful for many last minute meals, and a fun enticement to steer away from your regular brand. ]
$2.99 Fresh Made Tortilla Chips – 10 cents in perks
[Way better. Easy grab for parties, work potlucks, or a DIY nacho bar.]
$2.99 Specialty Local Pasta – 20 cents in perks
[Great time to try something new! And a fast weeknight meal option. Extra bonus.]
There are numerous more ways to make Fuel Perks add up quickly and not break the bank. It is easy to pay practically nothing at the gas pump WITHOUT clipping coupons and only buying items I actually need, and hopefully I have encouraged a few of you to attempt this too. If you have any tips, share them!