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Ramblings from my Consumer Side

June 4th, 2008 at 03:57 pm

1. Fresh Produce: After cutting back some on fresh produce over the winter (and substituting with frozen stuff ... generally speaking much better nutritionally than canned), I really started missing it, and am so glad that it is now "in season" time and I can finally start finding deals on fresh again. I feel like DH & I are on a fresh fruit & veggie binge! On Saturday I went to a local farmer's market where I got a squash (a local variety whose name I forgot ... something like tatate), corn (is there anything better than fresh-picked), onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers (another local variety, name forgotten), and a huge grocery bag full of leaf lettuce. I spent $11, and felt it was worth every penny! Not only am I enjoying the flavors and nourishment, but becoming familiar with the local products is a way to learn about a place, so the farmer's market trip was part of my immersion in to life in my new state & town. (On a side note, whenever I travel I love to visit grocery stores. I always get a kick out of learning how people in different regions and countries eat at home. To me it's as fascinating as visiting a museum. And hey - it's free, so I guess that qualifies it as a frugal bit of sightseeing, doesn't it?)

I've also found moderately good deals on fresh fruits other than the old standbys of apples & bananas: $2 for a pint of blueberries, $2 for a container of raspberries (6 oz), and $1 for a whole pineapple (sale + coupon combination). I've been told I must buy Fredericksburg (TX) peaches as the season here comes early, but I've yet to do that ... I was disappointed when the farmer's market did not have any.

2. Grocery Shopping At Randall's: Here in Austin, the biggest grocery store chain is HEB. There is also Randall's, which is a bit more expensive but has very nice meats & produce and I've been told has the reputation for being a tad more "upscale." (We also have Whole Foods, which is headquartered here and is appropriately also know as Whole Paycheck ... for obviou$ reason$, I do not shop there.) I think Randall's is in some way a part of the Safeway family because they have the same private labels (such as Lucerne). Since it's a bit out of the way and more expensive, I had not shopped there. However, as new residents we received two coupons in the mail for $10 off if we spent $50 or more (pre-discount). So, off I went twice recently with my list & the store circular & coupons & a notebook where I kept a tally of all of my purchases as I shopped, because I did not want to go over $40 ($50 - $10). I succeeded; spent $41 both times. Both times, I got funny looks from the store managers, but both cashiers gave me "Atta Girl" type comments. The receipts said that I saved 51% and 53% respectively, but I thought that was a crock since the prices were a bit higher than the stores I would normally shop at (HEB, SuperTarget, and Costco), and since I always shop sales and use coupons. I felt like I truly saved 17-18% over what I would have spent elsewhere, and so it was worth the trip! Does anyone else think that some stores inflate their pricess so that they can trick consumers into thinking they are saving a ton of money when they look at a receipt that says "You saved 53%!"?

3. Bye-bye Sub-$100 Power Bills ... Hope to See You Again: Just got our power bill for May ... $98. Since we are in AC season (Texas has been in an early heat wave for the past couple weeks where every day is mid to high 90's), I know we can kiss power bills of less than $100 bye-bye until fall. We definitely used the AC during May, but will certainly be using it more in the months ahead. We really try to walk the line between comfort and frugality when it comes to the AC. We keep it at 80F during the day and move it up to 85F at night (because for some reason our bedroom stays a couple degrees cooler than the rest of the apartment). That may seem a tad warm to some of you, but we have ceiling fans that help and we're willing to live with feeling a bit warm and are just grateful to have AC at all. I am hoping to keep our power bill under $125 for June, and under $150 for July & August, but since this is our first year in Texas I really have no idea what the final numbers will be.

8 Responses to “Ramblings from my Consumer Side”

  1. boomeyers Says:

    A grocery store sightseer, eh? That's one I've never heard of!! LOL!
    That is good that you are thinking ahead for the expenditures. Do you have gas heat? Or all electric?

  2. baselle Says:

    Yes - the Safeway here does the very things you describe. I've made my peace with them and their take-away-your-privacy card. I mysteriously lose mine every year or so.

    I had a blast doing the grocery tour in Paris - how I figured out the Monoprix was the Fred Meyer of Paris.

  3. snoopycool Says:

    I'm rather nervous to get our first electric bill of the summer. It has already been really hot in FL and I know we're going to hit the $200 mark Frown

  4. managinglife Says:

    I am glad to know that my family is not the only one who keep the AC at 76 - 80 in the summer. The ceiling fans and keeping the window blinds closed kept the house cool and comfortable. It also contributed to keeping our electric bill in the range of $75 - $90 during D.C. muggy hot summer last year.

  5. sagegirl Says:

    We keep the thermo set at 80 during the day if nobody is home. 78 if someone is home. 85 at night and we run the ceiling fans all the time. On the weekends, when we are all home we hover at 77 and kick it down for a few minutes if it is particularly hot. We live in Texas also and it was 98 in DFW yesterday. August will be a bear and we just try to keep the bill in the $185-$220 range in summers.

  6. Jane Says:

    Hi, there,

    I'm a reporter with a national newspaper, and I'm working on a story about HSAs. I read your blog, and was wondering if we could talk? I have to file the story by noon tomorrow (Friday), so please let me know. See my e-mail above...

    Thanks.

    Jane

  7. Sunshine Suz Says:

    Hi SCFR,

    Yes, Randall's and Safeway's merged or Randall's bought out Safeway...can't remember which. Randall's IS expensive.

    I love, love, love HEB!!!! All of their own brands of items that I have bought have been good. They are still family run and are "Texan".

    AND YES, you gotta get you some of those peaches...only bad thing is other peaches will taste like cardboard after you eat them! Have you gotten any fresh picked blackberry's from anybody selling them on the side of the road yet? Yummy, with BlueBell!

    The heat in Texas in the summer can get really HOT, especially with the drought that we seem to be in now....and it seems really, really extra-windy this year. And consider yourself a transplanted Texas when you "Brand" your arm with the metal on your seatbelt!

  8. scfr Says:

    boomeyers - Our apt is 100% electric.

    baselle - Glad to know I'm not the only one who enjoys doing grocery store tours. It's funny that I did not even think until I was typing up my post that it's actually a very frugal form of entertainment and education when travelling ... I always just did it because it was so fun & interesting.

    managinglife - Good point about keeping the blinds closed. I should have mentioned that. We keep all closed but one that is on a window that is almost completely shaded because it is next to a deep porch that is shaded by a tree. It really helps.

    Sunshine Suz - If I see fresh blackberries at a road-side stand, I will give them a try! Thanks for the tip.

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