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Frugal Find #1: Dents are your friend!

19 Oct

One of the first things that bowled me over about life in NYC is how expensive groceries are. Here’s how to shave several bucks from your grocery bill down to what things would cost in…well, everywhere but Manhattan.

At Food Emporium, and I suspect many other stores, they have a huge selection of dented boxes or cans for half price on an end-cap of one of the back aisles. There’s nothing wrong with the food; it’s merely been damaged in the process of shipping. I recently got a box of Nature Valley granola bars for about $2.50, and several cans of fruit and soup for under $1 each. Just make sure they are labeled properly (usually a bright orange 50% sticker) before you head to the checkout.

If you spy a dented item and your nearest grocer doesn’t do dent discounts, just ask. They’ll probably oblige.

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How do we feel about Trader Joe’s?

30 Sep

In an effort to save money-slash-boycott overpriced NYC groceries, I’ve been taking the 4/5 to Union Square after work to The Trade. I’d like to hear from more TJ’s-savvy people than myself here, because so far? Not all that impressed. Here are my pros and cons. Help me add to this list!

Loving:

OK, T-Joe's, this is just sad.

OK, T-Joe's, this is just sad.

• No-Pudge Brownies, Salsa Autentica, spicy sushi, smoked salmon, etc.
• That fellow shoppers in the aisles are always enthusiastically recommending products.
• Extremely friendly cashiers (with conversation-starting hometowns on their nametags).
• Frozen food selection. TJ’s prevails here moreso than in any other category. Their reasonably priced OJ is a close second, however.
• $5 delivery that always shows up well before your scheduled timeframe is up, as opposed to just a couple minutes before. (I’m looking at you, Fresh Direct.)

Not so loving:

• The produce is sub-par at best. My apple was mealy, and the banana? It had a black stringy part down the middle. Gross.
• That many items aren’t actually a good value for the price. (See my photo at right: Because hello, wtf?!?)
• That the line is constantly blocking people from getting to the food. That can’t be good for sales, or shoppers’ psyches.
• That most times I’ve been there (either before 1 p.m. or after 8 p.m.), everything is picked over. I’ve yet to find a good time to shop there.
• The salads. The first time I had a prepackaged one, it was great. The second time? It was spoiled and I almost barfed.

READERS: Where do you shop for groceries (if it’s not Trader Joe’s)? What are your favorite TJ’s meals? Snacks? What do you stay away from? What are the good values? Bad ones? Is it overrated, or am I being too hard on them?

In which Duane Reade sucks a lot less

16 Sep

New New Yorkers, you’re moving at a very good time, drug store-wise. Cue the hallelujah chorus! Duane Reade is remodeling.

Raise the topic of the antiseptic Duane Reade of (almost) yore, and you’ll get New Yorkers surprisingly riled up. Just like Chase ATMs, there’s a Duane Reade every few blocks; we go there because it’s easy. But we were fed up with the hard-to-navigate layout, unfriendly prices (are you kidding me with the $10 for Dove body wash?), precious few sales, stock boxes in the aisles and pore-piercing doctor’s office lighting.

The new neutral-toned interiors, wider aisles, expanded beauty section and softer lighting are huge improvements. (In light of all this, I guess I can make my piece with the clashing typefaces in the new logo.)

Additionally, they’ve installed kiosks in which you can view and order prints of your photos, make cards and calendars and so forth. 4×6 prints are 30 cents each — not bad for next-day service.

Recently I even saw a few new deals, like two for $4 boxes of cereal when you spend $20 or more. Duane Reade also does online RX refills and has a rewards card, but I await a better system for the $5 coupons than printing them on the receipt; I’m always throwing them away. Can they credit my rewards card? Like the revenue from unused gift cards, I bet Duane Reade makes buckets of money off those thrown-away receipts.