Are You Overlooking These Fast Food Deals?

Next time you’re about to toss that fast food receipt in the trash, take a second look. You might be throwing away a valuable deal.

In a recent post I described how supermarkets print coupons on the back of their receipts. These so called Catalina coupons offer valuable grocery savings.

Are You Overlooking These Fast Food Deals

Now it seems that fast food restaurants are getting into the game by providing offers on the back of their receipts as well. The great thing is that you don’t have to buy any newspapers or clip coupons to enjoy them. The deals are essentially handed right to you.

Now the value of the deals vary. I’ve received savings ranging from a single dollar to six dollars. As an example, here are some of the offers I’ve come across recently.

My recent Boston Market receipt featured a buy one lunch meal, get one lunch meal free. This is about a $6-$7 savings. Not bad and again no coupon clipping needed!

A Burger King receipt I received contained a toll free number. Call the toll free number, complete a quick phone survey about your visit and receive a free Whooper sandwich with the purchase of fries and a drink.

I made the call and a few minutes later, after finishing the survey, I received a code which I wrote on the receipt to use as a “coupon” for my free Whopper.

A Dunkin’ Donuts receipt offered a free donut with the purchase of a medium beverage. To get my free donut I simply visited the Dunkin Donut website and filled out a customer survey about my visit.

As with the Burger King offer I received a code at the end of the survey which I wrote on the receipt serving as my “coupon” for the free donut. It took me about three minutes to complete the online survey.

The next time you eat out, take a second to look at the receipt. It just might contain a valuable money saving coupon.

7 Ways to Save Money When Eating Out With The Kids

We all know that’s its much cheaper to cook and eat at home, but sometimes with hectic schedules, it feels good to eat out and let someone else do the cooking.

7 Ways to Save Money When Eating Out With The Kids

We list 7 ways to eat out with your kids without breaking the bank.

Eat at places that offer free refills on drinks. Beverages at restaurants can quickly add up, especially for a family. Many restaurants offer free refills. This allows you to buy smaller sized drinks which can be refilled, saving you money. Alternatively, simply ask for water instead of soda and save nearly $1-$2 per person.

Skip the kids menu, split an adult meal. At some restaurants, the kids meals can be relatively expensive for the amount of food that you actually get. In such cases it may be more cost efficient to order one adult entree to split between two children, or have each adult share their meal with a child.

Go to places where tips are not expected. You can find restaurants that provide a nice, casual dining experience without waiters, so no tip is expected. This saves you an instant 15-20%. The national Chipolte’s Mexican restaurant chain is one such restaurant where you can save by not having to leave a tip.

Fill up on the free bread, salad, and chips
. Restaurants often offer free bread, salad, or salsa chips while you wait for your main meal. These items are relatively cheap for the restaurant to prepare and can be quite tasty.

They’re also a great way to fill up without having to order expensive appetizers.  Many restaurants will even gladly offer you extra bread or salad for free or for a nominal fee.

Go on nights when kids eat free.
 Many restaurants offer special nights where kids eat free. Usually the free child’s entree is restricted to the kids menu and the child must be eating with a paying adult. This is terrific way to save money.

Just double check how many kids can eat free per paying adult and during which hours of the day the deal applies. The website coupondivas has a great list of restaurants offering kids eat free nights, as does the website mykidseatfree.com

Join birthday clubs. Some restaurants have birthday clubs which provide children with a free meal on their birthday. All you have to do is sign up ahead of time. Check out MommySavers.com (list is halfway down the website page) to find a great list of restaurants offering birthday meal savings .

Eat dessert some place else. Why pay $4-$5 a piece for expensive restaurant desserts when you can make a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home and pick up a gallon of ice cream for a fraction of the price. Alternatively, a stop by McDonald’s can net you hot fudge sundaes from the value meal for only $1 a piece!

Save Money by Building a More Effective Shopping List

shopping listShopping with a grocery list is one of the most effective ways to slash your grocery bill. Not only does a list help you avoid costly impulse purchases but it also prevents expensive repeat trips to the supermarket.

Unfortunately, most shopping lists are flawed, making them much less effective as money saving devices.

Below I list three common grocery list flaws and how you can correct them to save more money.

Flaw 1: We make our list right before we go shopping.

This is the most common mistake in making an effective shopping list. You jot down a list right before you step foot in the store. Unfortunately, this almost always results in items being left off the list, necessitating the return trip to the supermarket you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

You can easily create a more effective list simply by posting a pad of paper (with an attached pen) or a wipe board directly to your fridge door. This way you can easily write down items as you run out of them ensuring that you don’t forget anything.

Flaw 2: Not everyone is involved in making the shopping list.

The person responsible for the shopping may leave off things other family members need. A husband may forget that his wife has run out of her favorite coffee beans. A mother may not realize that the kids have run out of their favorite after school snack.

Again, posting a pad of paper or wipe board on the refrigerator door provides everyone in the family with the opportunity to contribute to the grocery list.

Flaw 3: We think in terms of consumables, not in terms of needed ingredients.

Its easy to notice when we’ve run out of milk or the kid’s favorite cereals. These are things that we consume without much preparation and are thus easily noticeable.

Less noticeable are the individual ingredients we frequently need to make many of our meals. These include items like sugar, salt, olive oil, margarine, seasoning salt, herbs, and spices – the very items that frequently send us back on repeat trips to the grocery store, sometimes right in the middle of cooking!

One way to prevent this oversight is to take a moment to think about the meals you might prepare for the week. Then check to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients.

Some people take it a step further and completely plan all of their meals for the upcoming week. This allows them the additional benefit of planning their meals around the items that are on sale that week.

By creating a more effective grocery list you can avoid expensive impulse purchases and costly repeat trips to the supermarket. Do you have tips for creating a better shopping list? If so we’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

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How Your Local Friendly Supermarket Profits From Your Inconvenience

How Your Local Friendly Supermarket Profits From Your InconvenienceA recent post by Myscha Theriault at the personal finance blog Wisebread.com got me thinking about our “friendly” local grocery stores.

In the article she discusses things that frustrate us all about our local supermarket. Particularly how supermarkets will:

Dramatically increase the price on a favorite item.

Change the location of an item in the supermarket so it becomes difficult to find.

Stop carrying some of your favorite items for seemingly no reason at all.

I can totally relate to this article because I’ve had the very same gripes on several of my shopping trips.

The simple fact is that supermarkets really have no interest in making our lives more convenient.

Yeah they say they do. They advertise their friendly atmosphere, vast product selection, and super low prices. But the real truth of the matter is that your friendly supermarket is a big business whose sole existence for being is to make a profit, not to make our lives any easier.

In fact, your convenience gets in the way of their profits. Making things more convenient for the shopper directly interferes with them making more money.

Let me explain.

If your grocery store was truly concerned with making things more convenient for you they would place the basic staple items you need closer to the entrance.

This convenience would allow us to quickly grab what we needed and go.  But how many times have you gone into the store for a quick trip to buy some butter or bag of sugar and come out with a cart full of groceries?

Supermarkets purposefully place the essential staples not at the front of the store, but far in the back. As a result, we pass through row upon row of edible temptations. In fact, nearly 40% to 50% of all of our purchases inside the store are impulse purchases!

If your supermarket made it convenient for you by placing all of the staples at the front of the store, they would lose all the profit they collect as you make your way to the back to purchase your essential items.

If your grocery store was truly concerned with making things more convenient for you they would place the items we use together near each other. 

Why are the hot dogs on one end of the store and hot dog buns on the other end, the salad greens in one place while the the salad dressing sits in another?

Well it again relates to the issue above. By making us travel across the store to get the buns for our hot dogs we’re more inclined to make impulse purchases, spend more money, and increase the store’s profits.

If your grocery store was truly concerned with making things more convenient for you they would keep sales items in stock. 

Lets consider the super cheap “loss leaders” that supermarkets use to lure us into the store. The simple fact is that if you don’t get to the store during the first two days of the sale the sale items are frequently out of stock.  But to make it convenient for us by keeping store shelves fully stocked of sale items would cost the supermarket profits.

Many of these super cheap sales items are sold at a loss to the supermarket (ie the term “loss leader”). Their only purpose is to lure you into the store. Once a customer is in the store there is not much of an incentive to stock a product the store loses money on.

If your grocery store was truly concerned with making things more convenient for you they would keep check out lines short. 

Long check-out lines. Why does it seem that grocery stores have some magical formula where the number of check-out lanes left open is directly proportional to the number of people in the store so that even at 11pm we are kept waiting in a check-out line?

Simply put, long check-out lines create a captive audience more likely to purchase that candy bar, bag of chips, or magazine sitting right in front of us. In fact, per square foot, the check-out area is one of the most profitable locations in the entire store!

If your grocery store was truly concerned with making things more convenient for you they would keep sale prices simple

As I mentioned in my last post, supermarkets make sale pricing unnecessarily complicated – 3 for $7, buy 2 get 1 free, 4 for $7. Determining the individual price of a sale item is like taking a 5th grade math test.

Grocery stores have discovered that we simply spend more when prices are advertised this way. With a 3 for $7 sale, for instance, its often easier for us to just place 3 items in our shopping basket than divide 7 by 3 to determine the individual price of a sales item.

They don’t want you to easily figure out the sale prices of  individual items … you might realize you’re not getting a great deal after all.

The take home lesson: Supermarkets are in the business of making money.  Making things more convenient for us costs them potential profits. And let me be clear there is nothing wrong with a business wanting to make money. We live in a capitalist society.

The key is for us to realize this so that we keep more money in our pockets. By understanding supermarket tricks and tactics we simply save more.

Update: We’d like to thank Counting My Pennies for including this article in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights personal finance blog carnival.