Saturday, October 8, 2011

The $25 Shopping Cart, version 15.0

This week, something wonderful happened: I had my very first feature story published in The Sacramento Bee.  Not something from my blog, not a story about me - a real, honest-to-goodness article written by me!  It may not seem like a big deal to some folks, but for someone who's dreamed of being a writer all her life, it's quite a milestone to finally get published.

The article I wrote was on a gal who was recently featured on TLC's Extreme Couponing show.  She's actually from Elk Grove, a suburb located south of Sacramento, so I was able to meet with her for a quick shopping trip a few weeks ago.  We decided to go to a Bel-Air in Elk Grove, which worked out perfectly because I'd already planned to do my next $25 Shopping Cart at one of their stores.  I figured I'd wait to see what I could learn from my shopper before I went shopping myself, and that was the right choice to make.

Raley's & Bel Air stores are beautiful and filled with all sorts of products, but their prices have always seemed a little high to me the few times I've been in one.  I'm used to Trader Joe's, Grocery Outlet and heavily discounted Safeway items, so to see some of the higher prices was definitely a shock.  But with the new couponing secrets I learned from Kelly, I felt confident I would leave the store quickly with a nice cart of food items that would last me the next 2 weeks.  Here's the loot I scored:

  • 1 4.3 lb flat of chicken thighs (on sale at $0.99/lb) - $4.23
  • 1 large acorn squash (on sale at $0.69/lb) - $1.10
  • 4 bananas - $1.25 $0.25 ($1 off with manufacturer's coupon from Dole)
  • 1 head of butter lettuce - $1.49
  • 4 French Butter pears (on sale at $0.99/lb) - $1.30
  • 1 16 oz. package of thick cut bacon - $3.99 (with special weekend store coupon)
  • 1 8 oz block medium cheddar cheese - $2.50
  • 1 dozen large eggs - $1.98 $0.00 (free with special weekend coupon, after spending $20)
  • 1 16 oz. bag frozen sweet yellow corn - $1.50 (on sale @ 2/$3)
  • 1 16 oz. bag frozen peas & carrots - $1.50 (see above)
  • 1 lb sweet cream butter - $3.38 
  • 0.37 lb Israeli/Pearl couscous - $1.11
  • 0.71 lb orzo - $2.48

Grand total, including store coupons & manufacturer coupons: $24.78!

As nice as my little cart of groceries ended up being, I have to admit this was the most nerve-wracking $25 Shopping Cart experience ever.  Even Whole Foods didn't cause such panic!  I was seriously stumped at one point, because I couldn't find anything that I wanted that I felt was reasonably priced, and the things that were somewhat reasonable were things I don't normally use.

Still, I persevered; Poor Girl would not be stumped!  I just had to wind slowly through every aisle to scan prices & selection before committing to certain items.  Kind of like what I do when I'm at the farmer's market - I do my rounds, then I buy from the stands with the best selection at the lowest prices.  I made good use of their group of store brand items at low everyday prices called "Raley's Dailies", found the best items in their bulk section, and, of course, I used some coupons.

So what can I make with my loot?
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • Bacon & Cheese Frittata
  • Chicken & Orzo Soup
  • Pear Salad
  • And plenty of other soup, salad and sandwich recipes when I add the fruits of this harvest to the bare bones staples I already had at home.
So while Raley's may not be the closest grocery store to me, nor the one with the most affordable prices in town, it's still possible to get some great deals - if you know what to look for & take advantage of their valuable coupons.

That's it for this edition of The $25 Shopping Cart!  Any ideas for the next trip?  If you're local to Sacramento and know of a store I haven't tried (check out the full list here), then leave a comment below and I'll add it to my list.  New recipes coming later this weekend, so stay tuned!  :)


  1. try your $25 shopping cart next time at a Super Walmart. They have a price match program and also take coupons. a couple of weeks ago i watch a woman buy approximately $300 worth of groceries for -$2.41. That's right after it was all said and done they owed her money.

  2. I had a blast shopping with you, and I'm glad I was able to share a few tips. I hope couponing can help you in your life as much as it's helped me in mine. And if you ever want to go shopping together again, I'm always up for it! :) And I had no idea that was your first published article, that's so amazing! Congratulations!

  3. Sunflower Market is opening sometime in 2012, they have THE best sales on produce and meat that I can find anywhere. (I know it'll be awhile, but wanted to give you a heads up!)

  4. Congratulations on your article!

  5. Great $25 shopping cart, and a great article, too. Congratulations! I'm wondering what sort of resources Kelly uses for her coupon shopping -- are there websites that she uses, or does she really have to hunt around on the net?

  6. I love reading your $25 shopping cart posts! For more stores, I know they're a little far from midtown, but try some of the Asian supermarkets in south Sac, like 99 Ranch, Sunh Phat, or A & A Market! I love shopping at them and always find great deals, especially on produce and meat.

  7. I just found this series- what a fun stumble! I'm really glad you are doing this. Yes, sometimes people have NO money, but a lot of the time eating healthy is as simple as self respect. You are giving people the tools to manifest that self respect. I've started calculating the costs of the recipes I'm posting. Thanks for being a role model.



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