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Teri's Blog
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Say YES to Dessert!

Looka Patisserie Small

I get emails to review products, and have always declined, but…

When Looka Patisserie asked if they could send me some desserts, my first thought was I sure don’t need any dessert! But before I declined, I made the mistake of looking at the photos on the Looka Patisserie website.  I also have to throw my sister, Karen Sohl, the General Manager of www.TheGroceryGame.com, under the bus. The email first went to her, and instead of declining on my behalf (which is protocol, BTW), she forwarded it to me with the subject: “Get it!” We went back and forth, “But then I have to do a blog… yada yada yada… ” You can see how that worked!

All’s well that ends well in love and dessert. They came right before I was heading out to Karen’s house for a pre-Labor Day party, so we decided to do a little impromptu dessert wine pairing party! ;)

I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry… In the photo, you see ice crystals. The package clearly said to plate them and let them thaw for an hour, but… the natives were restless to sink their “sweet tooths” into these gorgeous desserts. I could only fight them off for about a half hour, before I relented, shot the photo and we gleefully tasted these decadent delectables!

So here’s how the dessert wine pairing went with the consensus of nine very happy tasters:

The Chocolate & Pistachio Macaroons – The chocolate was surprisingly rich in chocolate flavor, despite the light color of the meringue cookie, and the filling was the real deal! I’m a pistachio aficionado, and that Pistachio Macaroon is something I plan to be buried with. The tiniest bite of  either one of these “Macaroons”, as they call them, holds its own with a Tawny Port. Mmmm…

The Vanilla Macaroon – I didn’t look at the ingredients, because I didn’t want to spoil it, but there’s nothing like real vanilla flavor, and this has it. I thought this paired best with the 1992 Gewurztraminer, which was a gift from a friend long ago, just waiting for the opportunity to be enjoyed with the perfect compliment. And we’re glad we opened it for the Vanilla Macaroon!

The Raspberry Macaroon – I can taste fake fruit flavors in anything, and I’m picky about fruit anyway. So with that said, this filling was real raspberry, I swear, and with the perfect little light meringue cookie… We all agreed it was a match made in heaven with the Moscato D’Asti.

I HATE Cheescake because it’s so heavy, so I was glad these were mousse cakes…

And…

I HATE Fruit with Chocolate… (yes, even chocolate covered strawberries), so thankfully they didn’t send any desserts with fruit and chocolate together. All that to say, I’m a purist when it comes to chocolate, and I consider myself  a chocolate connoisseur. So without further ado… Permettez moi de vous presenter…

The Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake – Dark chocolate shavings atop white, milk, and chocolate mousse layers, under-girded by a moist chocolate cake. How did they do that!?? So light, yet so satisfyingly chocolate! Needless to say, we finished off the tawny port with this powerful petit gateau!

Last but not least…

The Key Lime Mousse was the perfect balance of tart and sweet, bursting with fresh key lime, and the mousse was light, fluffy, all in all, the perfect light full flavored dessert. We tried it with all but the port, and our favorite was with the Moscato D’Asti.

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these in restaurants. I also hear they are sold at Walmart, and if so, don’t be afraid to pick them up for your next fancy dinner party. Wherever you find them and whatever you drink with them, I have one word of advice… Say YES to dessert!

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Father’s Day Nationwide Steak Report

Every holiday has grocery sales events that feature dramatic savings on traditional holiday fare.

Summer holidays like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, feature deals on corn on the cob, strawberries, salads, condiments, meat (typically best deals on ground beef, hot dogs), buns, and paper goods. Fathers Day Steak small

Father’s Day will feature the same types of summer BBQ fare and side dishes, but the best meat deals are usually upgraded to steak, steak, and more steak.

This year, these supermarkets show the highest savings percentages on steak through Father’s Day*:

  • Kroger (Midwest areas):

SAVE 60% Bone-In Beef Ribeye Steak Super Value Pack
ORIG 9.99 lb SALE 3.99 lb Limit 2 w/$10 add’l purchase

  • Fry’s:

SAVE 58% USDA Choice Bone-In Ribeye Steaks family pack
ORIG 13.99 lb SALE 5.88 lb

  • Ralphs:

SAVE 54% USDA Choice Bone-In Rib Eye or New York Steak
ORIG 12.49 lb SALE 5.77 lb

  • Randalls/Tom Thumb:

SAVE 50% Rancher’s Reserve Loin New York Strip Steak Bone-In
ORIG 9.99 lb SALE 4.99 lb

SAVE 45% Rancher’s Reserve Beef Ribeye Steak
ORIG 10.99 lb SALE 5.99 lb

  • Safeway (almost all banners nationwide):

SAVE 50% Boneless Beef Loin Top Sirloin Steak
ORIG 7.99 lb SALE 3.99 lb

  • Stater Bros:

SAVE 46% Boneless Top Sirloin Steak
ORIG 6.99 lb SALE 3.77 lb

  • Albertsons (So Cal):

SAVE 46% USDA Choice Beef Bone-In Ribeye Steak
ORIG 10.99 lb SALE 5.98 lb

  • HEB:

SAVE 45% Beef T-Bone Steaks, value pack
ORIG 8.97 lb SALE 4.97 lb

In addition to these top savings listed, there are steak deals all over the map, as well as lots of grocery deals to fill out Dad’s special day.

If you’re cooking a steak for dad, be sure to avoid these 8 Common Mistakes People Make When Cooking Steak.

Hope you have a very Happy Father’s Day!

* As per www.TheGroceryGame.com databases. No guarantee for actual prices. Stock may be limited.

 

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Double Coupons End in Kroger Michigan

Kroger Cinci Small

As of today, May 14th, Kroger is ending their policy of double coupons in their Michigan marketing division.

There are a number of key reasons for the phasing out of double coupons: 

  • Rising food costs  – Supermarkets nationwide are looking for ways to forego passing on all cost increases to consumers. Kroger has promised to lower prices. We have seen this to be true in other Kroger marketing divisions where double coupons have been eliminated.
  • Competition – When all was just supermarkets, double coupons were a viable marketing strategy, like gas wars. Since that time, big discount stores like Walmart and Kmart got into the grocery game, putting a dent in the double coupons strategy for traditional supermarkets. Over the past few years, double coupons were no longer capturing the market. In response, Safeway, Kroger, Meijer and many others have begun to pull the double coupons policies from their various marketing divisions.
  • Electronic Coupons – The president of Kroger’s Michigan division, Jayne Homco, claims that less than 1% of Kroger customers use paper coupons. The remaining  99% don’t use coupons or have switched to electronic coupons or other ways to save.

We still have to eat, and thankfully, in all areas where double coupons have ceased…

*We’re saving $523 a month for a family of four in a number of ways:

  • Invest in sales – This simple tip can cut most of your costs by half. Stop shopping week to week for only what you’ll use that week. Yesterday, I bought two bottles of cooking oil, three jars of pasta sauce, two seven bone roasts, coffee creamer, and four value packs of chicken. I don’t need all of that cooking oil for this week, but it was a great deal on the store brand. We won’t eat all that roast and chicken this week, but the sale prompted me to buy one package of each for this week and the rest for the freezer for weeks to come. This week, we will also have ground turkey and pork ribs from our freezer, all investments from past shopping trips.
  • Stack the deals – We won’t eat pasta three times this week, but with sales and coupons, the name brand sauce came to a buck a jar. They’re in my pantry next to four unopened jars of peanut butter bought for more than half off with deal stacking.
  • Utilize instant rebates – Bold print is intentional, because this where we find most of the savings we used to see with double coupons.  Those mix and match deals where you get $2-$5 off your shopping bill are hugely important to your bottom line. For example, if you buy five different items from a specified group, you may get another $5 off at the register. These items are also on sale, and don’t have to be identical items or even from the same aisle. They do have to be from the same grouping of offers, and there can be several different groupings. Yes, it can be tricky, so at www.TheGroceryGame.com we developed a special tool to specifically track these offers, and make it easy for consumers to adjust numbers and selections to be sure to get these instant savings. Sometimes that last item or two are basically free, and if you miss one item, you just inadvertently overpaid. Most of the time, these mix and match deals are used along with manufacturer coupons, which make for huge savings, often times, even as good as with double coupons.

Much of the savings are still there, if you know how to get them. At www.TheGroceryGame.com Gamers are still cutting their food costs by as much as half or better without double coupons.

*Nationwide, while most supermarkets no longer doubled coupons, average savings for a family of four is now $523 a month.

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Kroger Ditches Double Coupons for Lower Prices

kroger grocery cart

On May 1st, Kroger’s Columbus marketing division, which operates in the Great Lakes and surrounding areas, will discontinue double coupons.

Kroger is not alone in this departure from double coupons. Safeway banners and numerous others have all but stopped double coupons. This move is largely due to the struggle to maintain market share in the face of ever increasing competition. While competition was once just Walmart, those days are long gone. For the past few years, traditional full service supermarket chains have changed their footprint and price points to compete with smaller version grocery alternatives such as Family Dollar, Dollar General, Aldi, Dollar Tree, and more. Add in some of the greatest increases in food costs for 2014, and you’ve got a boiling pot for trouble.

In lieu of double coupons, Kroger has stated that they will lower prices on over 2,000 products. We saw this in other marketing divisions where Kroger discontinued double coupons.

We expect that the remaining stores that double coupons may soon follow suit. Some may occasionally bring back double coupons for special promotions. Of those that remain, Harris Teeter, recently acquired by Kroger, intends to continue their double coupons. Giant Eagle, which covers part of this Kroger Columbus marketing division still doubles coupons. There are also a few others across the US.

While The Grocery Game offers money saving lists and deals for most all of the aforementioned alternative markets, I’m still also a fan of the traditional supermarket. I shop alternative markets occasionally for particular specialty items, but I still love my Vons, a Safeway store (no double coupons). When compared to the alternatives, my love for the traditional supermarkets is not just for the great service, well stocked shelves, good variety and overall pleasant shopping experience, but also for the deals. Grocery Game comparison shopping shows that sales often dip lower at the traditional supermarkets than at club stores and smaller alternatives. With the additional printable coupons, digital coupons, and “mix and match” manufacturers’ incentives, much of the double coupons savings are still there. You just have to know how and where to find them.

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Food Prices on the Rise: Beef up as much as 28%

Costco Whole Chicken 1.19

Meat costs are up. Beef already went up by an average of 4% in January. The Agriculture Department expects grocery store prices to increase as much as 3.5% in 2014, up from 0.9% last year according to USA Today.

California’s drought has been a nightmare for farmers in the central valley, where 11% of US food is grown. Additionally, unusually cold weather in CA and citrus greening disease in Florida has already shown marked increases in the cost of produce nationwide.

The beef industry is still suffering from the lag of culled herds due to droughts in mid west grazing lands, and in turn, poor feed crops in the north.

Restaurants tend to pass on the cost of wholesale food price increases to consumers, where grocery retailers hold back longer from passing on these higher costs. *Databases at www.TheGroceryGame.com show dramatic increases in the cost of beef, pork, chicken, and fish, in January. The increases are on the original price or the sale price or both. Here’s just a few examples for beef:

AZ Fry’s – USDA Choice Boneless Beef Chuck Roast

Since 3/30/12 – $5.99 lb, sale BOGO (buy one get one = $3/lb)

2014 – 1/2/14 – 6.99 / 2.99 (16% increase in original price)

1/20/14 – $6.99 lb, sale 4.69 lb – and up we climb on sale prices…

2/7/14 – $6.99 lb, sale 4.79 lb

2/21 – $6.99 lb, sale 4.99 lb

2/28 – $6.99, sale 50% off (3.49 lb)

3/21 – 6.99 / 3.49 – this is the new sale price – 16% increase in regular and sale price will probably remain through 2014.

CO King Soopers – King Soopers T-Bone Steak

Since 2/8/12 – 9.99 lb, 6.99 lb

1/30/13 – 11.99 lb, 6.99 lb (9% increase in regular price)

2014 – 1/8/14 – 11.99 / 8.99 (over 28% increase in sale price)

With market share shifting from traditional grocery retail models to smaller version roll outs and dollar stores, price conscious consumers have more to consider.  Each grocery retailer tends to be strong in particular categories, but shift from week to week. Meat is simpler. As of now, the featured “loss leader” meat on the front page of the supermarket circular for chicken, beef, pork, and fish are still most often lower than the every day low prices at the smaller version stores and even warehouse club stores. Example pictured: Costco Foster Farms chicken varies from 1.19/lb to 1.29/lb. Supermarkets in areas that Costco serves regularly have sales on Foster Farms chicken from 79-99 cents a pound. In other areas of the country, such as where Perdue chicken is sold in the northeast, and elswhere, supermarket sales offer the best price over club stores and specialty stores like Trader Joe’s.

*Pricing data contributed by The Grocery Game, Inc.

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Plowing Through the Parade of Pathetic Grocery Apps

Grocery App and Ads

Gone are the days when FSI’s (free standing inserts) in the Sunday paper were the number one source of coupons. Numerous coupon sources and companies that aggregate coupons have proliferated over the past three years. With that and advancement with technology,  many of the best coupons are now printed or downloaded to the club card.

So along came the parade of grocery apps…

My smartphone has been cluttered with 32 apps that claim to help streamline grocery shopping, hone in on deals, and find coupons. OK, 32 is alot, but it’s my business to know. I found many of them by reading articles for top grocery apps. After waiting weeks and months for new apps to fail to fix their bugs, I uninstall. Some, have added patches to make them at least somewhat functional. I have laughed out loud at many of them, and become frustrated almost to the point of tears on others. What is the point of scanning my grocery receipt anyway? Even more pointless when the app returns their analysis that they couldn’t find better deals, but offered four other totally unrelated deals. That was “CartCrunch” by the way. “ZipList” is a crying shame. I can’t even begin. “PriceSpotting” is laughable, and has absolutely no value to saving money on groceries. Even high profile apps like “Favado” haven’t proven to offer comparison shopping, deal stacking, or even the best deals.

Not to pick on Favado, because the others are in the same boat or worse… Here’s just a few examples of missed savings potential among hundreds of current listings for numerous stores with many of the same problems:

The Grocery Game Favado
Ralphs – (Kroger) Ocean Spray $1.50 $2.00
Ralphs – (Kroger) Tillamook Cheese 32 oz.  $5.99  $6.99
CVS – Playtex 18 count  $1.29  $2.97
Trader Joe’s – Applegate Farms Herbed Turkey 7 oz  $2.69  $3.69
Trader Joe’s – Weetabix Cereal  $1.49  $2.99
Trader Joe’s – Lundberg Rice Cakes  $1.49  $2.49

Created with the HTML Table Generator

The problem with most of these apps is that they are developed by corporate people and tech geeks, who know nothing about grocery shopping, much less grocery savings, so they lack the strategies for getting the best value.

All that to say, at this time, the best grocery apps are administered by the retailers or supermarkets themselves. Here’s a list of links to supermarket apps and they’re quite good. Supermarket apps feature the ability to make shopping lists, add digital coupons, and take advantage of “personalized deals”, and most of them work quite well. The main drawback is that they don’t provide viable price comparisons with their competitors.

2 THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR IN SUPERMARKET APPS:

  • #1 – Sometimes the digital coupons are for less value than the printable or FSI counterpart, and many supermarkets will supercede the paper coupon if a digital has already been loaded. The solution is to download after you know there isn’t a better paper coupon.
  • #2 – Personalized deals are not always the best price. For example, a personalized deal for meat may be on a regular sized package. Even though it’s less than the original price, the value pack may be on sale for even less. That’s just one example of many. Personalized deals are an effective marketing tool that cannot always be trusted as your best deal.

Of course, www.TheGroceryGame.com has an app and mobile site that work better than all the other apps combined, leverages the best of supermarket apps, and actually does help you save the most on groceries. Just saying.

 *****

As CEO of www.TheGroceryGame.com, Teri Gault is the foremost expert in grocery savings. Over the past decade, Teri has been featured and contributed to media and publications, such as Good Morning America, The Today Show, 20/20, Inside Edition, Time, Redbook, Wall Street Journal, and countless more national and local channels. Teri has authored two books, “Shop Smart, Save More”, written with Sheryl Berk and published by Harper Collins. “The Grace of Saving”, Teri’s latest book, is the inspiring story of America’s smartest shopper, and her rise from an everyday mom, to one of the country’s leading savings experts.

Public Relations Director, Dawn Wickwire

www.TheGroceryGame.com

Email – PublicRelations@TheGroceryGame.com

(949)374-6308

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