Sunday, February 15, 2009

How I Shop at CVS

Many of my friends have asked me how I get the deals that I do while shopping. I typically shop at CVS, Walgreens and Kroger for all of my sale items. Every once in awhile I will go to Food Lion if something is super cheap. Usually they aren't the cheapest though. Chasing sales, cutting coupons and watching ads has become a big hobby for me. I guess that is a good thing since it does ultimately save money. I spend about 2-3 hours a week between cutting coupons and preparing my shopping lists based upon the ads. I usually do this while watching TV at night because I am so ADD that I can't sit and just watch TV. :-)

I figured that I would give an example of a shopping trip to CVS that I had this week to give an idea of how to play the game. I do want to make note that the reason that I get such a large quantity of everything that I buy is because I get at least 6 papers (for coupons) per week and up to 10 if that weeks coupons are really good. You can still get the same percentage of savings though if you just get a couple papers.

Most stores that you shop at now have a rewards card or program. CVS's program is called the Extra Care Card. This is the first step to shopping at CVS. You will not get the sale prices or Extra Care Bucks (described below) if you do not use this. The program is one card per household so you have to stick to that. (I don't know how they enforce that though)

Each week CVS has different items in their ad that if you buy, you will get Extra Care Bucks printed on your receipt. Extra Care Bucks are like gift certificates/coupons that can be used at the store during your next visit like cash. The rewards usually expire 30 days from your purchase so make sure that you use them before they expire or the sale wasn't really that good of a deal. I have seen Extra Care Bucks done two different ways. The first is if you buy a certain quantity of items they will give you money back. For example, if you guy 2 Colgate Toothpastes they will give you $3 Extra Care Bucks. The second way is if you purchase a certain dollar amount of items. For example, if you buy $10 of Suave Haircare products they will give you $4 back in Extra Care Bucks.

CVS also accepts manufacturers coupons that come in the paper each week. You can also get coupons other places like the internet and All You Magazine. If you want to purchase coupons there are websites that sell coupons for a very reasonable price. I have done this in the past if I know that a really good sale is coming up somewhere that I need the coupons for. As with most places that accept coupons, you can only use one manufacturers coupon per item. The nice thing though is if there is a Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale, you can use a coupon on each item even though one of them is free. This means that you are getting the item that you pay for even cheaper.

The way to get the best deals at CVS is to combine the Extra Care Bucks rewards with coupons and sale prices. So if you are able to get Extra Care Bucks (ECB's) back for an item that you also have a coupon for, you are getting the best deal. For example, if an item is on sale for $4.99 and you have $2 coupon for it and you can get $3 ECB's back then you have made a $.01 profit on that item. I love it when a store pays you to take something off of their shelves. :-)

The idea for saving money with ECB's is to roll ECB's over to the next visit and you will significantly lower your cash output for the items. You have to make the initial investment to get the ECB's, but once you have them then you roll them over from week to week and don't pay much out of pocket.

When you go to check out it is important that you have yourself organized before you get up there. Always give the cashier the CVS card first. After everything has rung up then you give the cashier any manufacturers coupons that you have. Make sure that you do not give the cashier your ECB's from the previous visit before the coupons. If you do this you risk that your total will get down too low where they won't let you use the coupons. Always save the ECB's for last because if there's money left over then you can always use it the next visit.

It's also a good thing to note that if you have a $10 ECB to use and your total is $8.50, then you need to get something that will get your total (before tax) to at least $10. You won't be able to use the ECB if not because they will not give you cash back.

Please also remember that even though something is on sale, doesn't mean that it is the cheapest that you can get it. I have seen things at CVS be free one week and then $5 the next. It is important to understand the prices in your store (and not just CVS...comparing with places like Wal-Mart) because it is pointless to pay $3 for something at CVS when you can get it at Wally World for $2.25.

I figured that I would give you the breakdown of what I did to receive the deals today in the picture above. That may help you understand how to do this.

Herbal Essence
- On sale for $2.99
- $1 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $3.00 off 2
- I bought 4 for 11.96. Used 2 - $3.00 coupons and that took it down to 5.96. The ECB's for 4 take it down to $1.96 for 4. This is $.49 per item.

Crest Pro-Health Mouthwash
- On sale for $3.99
- $1 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $.75 off 1
- So that's, $3.99 less $.75 for the coupon = 3.24. Then less the ECB that is $2.24. This item is usually 6.89 a bottle.

Gillette Men's Shampoo
- On sale for $4.99 each
- $3 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $2 off 1
- I used 5 coupons and purchased 5 bottles. This means it was $4.99 less the $2 coupon = 2.99. Then you take off the $3 ECB and you end up making a profit of $.01 per bottle.

Suave Body Wash
- On sale for $2 each
- $2 ECB when you buy $6 worth of the products
- I had a coupon for $2 off 3
- I bought 3 bottles for $6. Subtract the $2 coupon that is $4.00. Less the $2 ECB's and it is $2 for the three bottles.

Colgate Advanced Toothpaste
- On sale for $2.99
- $2.99 ECB for each purchased
- I had a coupon for $1 off 1
- I purchased 2 at $5.98. Minus the coupons and it is $3.98. After you take the ECB's off you end up making a profit of $2.

As I have told everyone, please do not hesitate to ask me any questions about this stuff. It takes awhile to get the hang of it but once you learn it then it is easy to save money.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shopping Trip 2/7/09

This week I got a ton of stuff. The total was around $165.00 and I got everything for around $50.00. Here is the breakdown of what I got.
6 bottles of Ocean Spray Juice - $.98/ea
2 Yo-Plus Yogurt 4 pks - $1.00/ea
2 Tostinos Pizza Rolls - $.25/ea
6 jars Ragu - $.87/ea
9 cans Chef Boyardee - $.33/ea
3 Colgate Toothbrushes - $.70/ea
1 Therma Care heat pad - Free
2 8 roll Sparkle Paper Towels - $4.69/ea
2 Kids Yoplait Yogurt - $1.00/ea
2 Quaker Quick Cooking Oats - $.90/ea
6 Grands Biscuits - $.43/ea
2 Gatorades - $.58/ea
2 Triaminic Kids Cough & Cold - $1/ea
4 NyQuil/DayQuil -$1.50/ea
2 Reeses Whipps - Free

So so so so so much fun!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

I am part of a baking club on a forum that I am a member of and our February baking challange is to bake items with chocolate in them. I am sure that this months chocolate theme has something to do with that lovey dovey holiday that is tomorrow on the 14th. :-) I stepped up to make 3 different chocolate desserts for the month. I have had this recipe tucked away in my "i want to try this" folder for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. I love both chocolate chip cookie dough and cheesecake and to put both together was a definite match. I got the recipe off of Bake or Break and I thought that it turned out pretty good. My only complaint is that the cookie dough got really hard after it had been in the fridge. The bars were definitely the best right after they had cooled before I put them in the fridge.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 TBL unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup minature semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 9 inch square pan and line with parchment paper and butter parchment paper.
- Combine cracker crumbs and butter. Stir in chocolate chips
- Press into baking pan and 1 inch up sides. Bake for 6 minutes and let cool

Cookie Dough
5 TBL unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TBL granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Combine all ingredients except for flour and chocolate chips. Mix well. Add flour until combined and stir in chocolate chips. Set aside

Cheesecake Filling
10 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
- Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Pour over crust.
- Drop cookie dough in teaspoonfuls on top of cheesecake mixture.
- Bake about 30 minutes until the cheesecake is set.
- Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I'm On Team Edward!

Okay so I have been sucked into the madness that is the Twilight Saga. My curiosity honestly came out of the uproar that the movie caused when it came out late last year. I hadn't heard anything about the series before then. I went out after Christmas and bought the first book, Twilight. I didn't read it immediately but I sure do wish that I had.

The Twilight Saga is about a teenager named Bella Swan that falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. Edward and his family are different than other vampires in that they restrain themselves from eating humans. They only eat animals so in essence they can be called vampire vegetarians. Edward also falls madly in love with Bella and the story follows them as they try to make a human/vampire relationship work. It becomes very clear early on that they were meant and made for each other.

I have made it through the first three books at this point. I am reading the fourth right now. They are soooo good and I highly recommend them!