An Easy Way Earn a Free Trip Just by Shopping for Groceries

Staples Now Sells Safeway Gift Cards
Staples Now Sells Safeway Gift Cards

According to the USDA, an average family of four spends upwards of $1000 per month on groceries.

What if you could save five percent of that cost?

Better yet, what if you could earn 60,000 frequent flyer miles each year just from your grocery spending?

Since I’ve never seen this mentioned elsewhere, I wanted point out that Staples.com is now selling Safeway gift cards.

If you purchase Safeway gift cards with an small business credit card that pays five times points on office supply store purchases, such as a Chase Ink card, you can accumulate five percent cash back or five times points for travel.

Staples.com sells two types of Safeway gift cards in several denominations up to $200 — emailed cards, and actual plastic gift cards.  There is a mailing fee of $2.00 per card for the plastic version.

I have been buying these cards for sometime, and have only encountered two Safeway cashiers that know how to use the emailed version of the gift cards.  So if you opt for the paper gift cards, be prepared to endure the wrath of shoppers standing in line behind you!

Did you know about this deal before reading this post?

Fee Free Visa Gift Cards at AAA Mid-Atlantic

Fee Free Visa Gift Cards at AAA Mid-Atlantic
Fee Free Visa Gift Cards

Twice a year,in June and DecemberAAA MidAtlantic members can buy Visa gift cards fee free in AAA stores.

The promotion is back this year from November 25 – December 25, 2016.  You can purchase these gift cards with a credit card, and can load up to $500 per card.  Typically, AAA limits purchases to two cards per member.  The cards are issued by MetaBank®, and you can set a pin.

Please note that there is a  monthly inactivity fee of $2.95 after 12 consecutive months of inactivity.

Five Ways to Save Big on a Whole Foods Thanksgiving Dinner

Table Decorations by Willams-Sonoma
Table Decorations by Willams-Sonoma

Check your calendar.  Thanksgiving is just a week away!  If you are hosting this year, it is seriously time to start planning your menu!

Thanksgiving is a huge deal in our family.  We traditionally have:

  • the meal before the meal;
  • the meal; and
  • the meal after the meal.

As our family celebration has grown to over twenty people (think two turkeys) it is sometimes practical to bring in prepared food.  After all, the point of the holiday is to spend time with friends and family, not to be stuck in the kitchen all day.

When Whole Foods Market invited me a few other bloggers to sample their traditional Thanksgiving meal and their Top 10 Holiday Wines, I was intrigued.

Does the Food Measure Up to Grandma’s Standards?

Thanksgiving Dinner from Whole Foods Market
Thanksgiving Dinner from Whole Foods Market

Actually, yes!

The turkey was delicious — moist, flavorful, and nicely seasoned.  The traditional side dishes complimented the turkey:  crisp, vibrant green beans, tart cranberry orange sauce, real mashed potatoes, mushroom stuffing — the works!

In my estimation, the Whole Foods traditional Thanksgiving meal was a good value at $89 for six to eight diners.

Everything tasted homemade, the veggies were fresh, not soggy.  This meal was far, far better than the $49 disaster I ordered from Safeway a few years back.

But you can do much better price wise!

What’s Included in the Whole Foods Traditional Thanksgiving Meal?

Delicious!
Delicious!

The basic package that feeds six to eight people is on sale at Whole Foods Market for $89 and includes an uncooked oven ready turkey, gravy, traditional sage stuffing, homestyle mashed potatoes, organic cranberry orange relish, and a choice of two vegetables or homestyle casseroles.  All this is on sale from the regular price of $119.99.

The small turkey included in the basic package weighs about 13 pounds.

For larger gatherings, a dinner that serves 12-16 costs $169.

You choose the style of turkey from five offerings:

Small Turkey Feeds 6 to 8
Small Turkey Feeds 6 to 8
  • Locally sourced
  • Organic
  • Heirloom bronze (higher percentage of dark meat)
  • Kosher
  • Brined

The ready-to-cook turkey is rubbed with herb butter, and rests on a bed of mirepoix.  You just need to pop it in the oven.

You can choose two vegetables or casseroles from this list:

  • Maple carrots with pecans
  • Creamed spinach
  • Roasted brussels sprouts
  • Green beans with roasted shallots
  • Organic harvest roasted vegetables
  • Garlic roasted fingerling potatoes
  • Organic corn pudding
  • Butternut sweet potato casserole
  • Organic green bean casserole
  • Macaroni and cheese

    All the trimmings!
    All the trimmings!

Yum!

And for $99, you can get a fully organic turkey dinner with a slightly  different selection of sides.

You schedule a time for pickup with your local Whole Foods store — they are even open Thanksgiving morning if that works for you!

Five Ways to Save Big on the Whole Foods Thanksgiving Package Deal

Top ten holiday wines
Top ten holiday wines

Fishing4Deals is all about the deals, so I am going to show you five ways to maximize your savings.

  1. Shop the sale
  2. Order online and get a $10 off coupon
  3. Get the Whole Foods App
  4. Seek out local specials
  5. Pay with Whole Foods Gift Cards purchased at a discount

Shop the Sale

Whole Foods is offering special deals on some other Thanksgiving basics.  For instance, you can order two bakery quality pumpkin pies for $15.  Fruit pies are $9.99 each.  The store is featuring a Cuvee Papale red wine for $10 off.

Order Online and Get a $10 Coupon

Save $10 if you order online

If you place your dinner order online before November 22, 2016, Whole Foods will email you a coupon for $10 off your next in-store purchase of $75 or more.

Get the Whole Foods App

Download the Whole Foods app for Apple or Android.  If you’re not using the app, you may be missing out on some pretty big discounts.

Every Wednesday, Whole Foods loads new deals that are only available by scanning a barcode on your phone when you check out.

The app also provides weekly coupon specials that are available to all shoppers.

Scan the barcode when you check out for savings
Scan the barcode when you check out for savings

Seek Out Local Specials

Pick up the weekly flyer of in-store sales and the bimonthly coupon book at the front of the store.  You may find some seasonal specials for your Thanksgiving table.

For instance (for my Northern Virginia friends) the Tysons Corner Whole Foods Market is offering 25 percent off a bottle of wine!

Pay with Whole Foods Gift Cards Purchased at a Discount

Here’s the real deal:  I never pay cash or credit at Whole Foods Market.

My trick is to buy Whole Foods gift cards at a discount.

For example, Staples sells Whole Foods gift cards.  There is no fee for the purchase of these gift cards in-store.  If you pay with a Chase Ink small business credit card, which earns five times points at office supply stores, that effectively amounts to five percent off the cost of groceries at Whole Foods.

Whole Foods Gift Card
Whole Foods Gift Card

Alternately, if you have an American Express card, check your AmexOffers for a deal at Staples.  My card has an active offer for a $20 statement credit for a $75 purchase at Staples. Purchases of Whole Foods and many other gift cards are eligible for this offer — which could bring the cost of your turkey dinner down to $69!

You may also be able to find Whole Foods gift cards at a drugstore like Walgreens.  The Chase Freedom credit card is offering five times points at drugstores this quarter.  If you purchase a Whole Foods gift card at a drugstore and pay with a Freedom card, you will earn five percent cash back.

If You’re Not Cooking, You Have Time to Decorate

Thanksgiving tableware by Williams-Sonoma
Thanksgiving tableware by Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma partnered with Whole Foods Market for the blogger meet up, and they provided two sample table settings to create a festive mood.

The first tablescape was designed for a formal dinner, complete with seasonal china and serving bowls.

The second casual tablescape featured porcelain dishes from William-Sonoma’s economical Provisions line, and modern serving pieces from the Open Kitchen line.

Economical porcelain dinnerware
Economical porcelain dinnerware by Williams-Sonoma

Do these designs give you any ideas for your own celebratory feast?

***

Cousins in New Jersey are hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I won’t be cooking.  Where will you be spending the holiday?

Disclosure:  I have a partnership with Whole Foods Market and was compensated for my work, but all words and opinions are my own.

DC Restaurant Week — Get It While It’s Hot

DC Restaurant Week Seafood
3 Course Lunch for $22 at Ford’s Fish Shack

Temperatures this August in Washington, DC have reached record highs.

Anyone who’s anyone has decamped to Martha’s Vineyard.

That means restaurateurs are trying to fill their tables by offering fixed price menu specials:  $22 for lunch, and $35 for dinner.

Over 260 restaurants in DC, Maryland, and Virginia are participating in DC Restaurant Week, which runs from August 15 – 21, 2016.  It’s a good opportunity to try some of the region’s highly acclaimed (and expensive) restaurants.  Several that are tempting me include:

  • Del Campo — Latin American in Penn Quarter
  • Dino’s Grotto — Italian in Shaw
  • Jaleo — Spanish in Penn Quarter
  • Oyamel — Mexican in Penn Quarter
  • Rasika — Indian in Penn Quarter
  • Zaytinya — Mediterranean in Penn Quarter

Restaurant Week at Ford’s Fish Shack

We snagged a great deal at a fabulous seafood restaurant in Loudoun County:  Ford’s Fish Shack.

A choice of three fixed price specials are offered at lunch and at dinner during restaurant week.

Naturally, we chose the “Eat Like a Mainer” lunch special for $22.

This included:

  • Jalapeno corn muffins
  • Cup of clam chowder
  • Hot lobster roll with butter and garlic
  • Cold lobster roll in mayo
  • Shoestring French fries
  • Blueberry pie with cinnamon ice cream

Highly recommended!

Amex SPG Surprise Retention Bonus

Amex Retention Bonus
It never hurts to ask.

Amex has been bending over backwards lately to encourage me to keep my Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) business credit card open.

I had been set to cancel the card when the annual fee went up from $65 per year to $95.

But American Express has been wooing me back with special offers.

First, I received a targeted offer for 5,000 bonus points if I spent $5000 on the card, and 10,000 bonus points if I spend $10,000.

Ordinarily, those spending thresholds would be far out of reach.

But thanks to a number of concurrent Amex Offers, that provide statement credits for purchases at popular vendors, such as Staples and Home Depot, I hope to qualify for these bonus points.

Amex SPG Surprise Retention Bonus

Amex is reluctant to waive the annual fee on their SPG credit cards, but it never hurts to ask!

In my case, after talking to a customer service representative, I was transferred to a “loyalty representative.”

The second representative offered me a $25 statement credit if I agreed to keep my credit card account open.  That doesn’t bring the annual fee down to the original $65, but it is close.

I believe I can more than offset the $70 fee with rebates via “Amex Offers,” but it remains to be seen what the offers will be in the coming months.  I can usually take advantage of offers for pet food or groceries, and Amex has has been pushing a number of travel offers lately.

Have you snagged a retention bonus for an Amex card?

Remember, it never hurts to ask!

How to Land A Pair of Group A Boarding Passes on Southwest

 Joel Shprentz Photo
Photo by Joel Shprentz

Here’s a tiny hack that might help you get a better seat on your return trip when flying Southwest Airlines roundtrip in a single day.

Southwest Airlines does not assign seats, and follows an open seating model.

Customers board in order of the group (A, B, or C) and number (one to sixty) on their boarding pass.  The earlier you check in, up to 24 hours prior to your flight, the earlier your assigned spot in line.

Group A boarding passes put you at the front of the line, increasing the likelihood that you can sit with your travel companions, and giving you the best chance for a window or aisle seat.

Cool Tools has a neat trick to up your chances of getting Group A boarding passes  for both legs of your trip when flying out and back on the same day.

As Cool Tools notes,

If you book a one-day round trip on Southwest, you won’t be allowed to check in for the return flight until after you complete the first flight.

However, if you book two one-way trips instead of a round trip, you can check in for both flights exactly 24 hours before the scheduled departure.

Two one-way tickets are priced identically to a round-trip ticket, so there is no extra cost to pursuing this strategy.

Turf Not Surf — $1 Filet Mignon Sliders at Morton’s Steakhouse

Morton's Steakhouse $1 Petite Filet Mignon Sandwiches
Quite the deal!

Usually I am all about the seafood, but I had to pass along this upcoming deal at Morton’s Steakhouse.

On Friday, August 12, 2016, Morton’s is offering petite filet mignon sandwiches for $1!

The offer is good from opening until 10 p.m. at the bar — no takeout permitted.

The Morton’s website lists all their locations, but recommends calling your local restaurant first to see if they are participating in this special offer.

 

Forget Tokyo’s Robot Cafe; Kyoto has Roberoids!

GEAR Show in Kyoto
GEAR Show in Kyoto — Circus arts at their best

You’ve probably heard the hype about the Tokyo Robot Cafe, but did you know that Kyoto has real life Roberoids?

The Roberoids are stars of the GEAR Show, running at Kyoto’s Art Complex 1928. 

These robots perform mime, magic, juggling, and break dancing.

Art Complex 1928, Kyoto
Art Complex 1928, Kyoto

Their skills are showcased in a non-verbal performance with a story line that pulls at the heartstrings.  The show is very entertaining with lots of incredible special effects.

The production values are amazing.  The technical wizardry reminded me of the Broadway production of the The Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime.

The GEAR show has been running for several years straight with a rotating cast.

The theatre is in a cool art deco building in downtown Kyoto.

Tickets are discounted if you order online in advance.  Also, you get a ticket discount any time during your birthday month.

But don’t take my word for it.  You can read all the rave reviews on TripAdvisor!

 

Wear a Kimono — Get Discounts!

2016 Kimono Passport
Wear a kimono in Kyoto!

If you see a beautiful woman wearing a kimono on the streets of Kyoto, chances are they are a tourist, not a Geisha.

The city of Kyoto, Japan is promoting traditional arts in a variety of ways, including an innovative program to encourage people to dress in kimonos.

The Kyoto Kimono Passport offers discounts or small gifts to people wearing kimonos at dozens of restaurants, shops, and museums.

At certain times of the year, you can even get free bus and subway rides and reduced taxi fares!

If you love to dress up, this may be the deal for you!

Kimonos and the necessary accessories are available to rent at lots of places in Kyoto.  For an extra fee, you can get your hair styled.

With the Kimono Passport in hand, if your outfit becomes disheveled, there are a number of places that will help reassemble your kimono free of charge.

Benefits of the Kyoto Kimono Passport

2016 Kyoto Kimono Passport
2016 Kyoto Kimono Passport

A list of all of the discounts available with the Kyoto Kimono Passport is available online.  The many dozens of places where small discounts or gifts are offered include:

  • Temples and shrines
  • Kimono rentals
  • Museums
  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Shopping
  • Experiences
  • Historic Sites
  • Hotels

The small gifts might include something like a free postcard, or a hair ornament to go with your kimono rental, or 100 Yen off a museum admission.

The more valuable savings are probably the restaurant discounts.  A huge number of commercial establishments in the Kyoto Station participate in the Passport Program.

Your best bet may be the restaurants in the Isetan department store in the train station, which offer ten percent off to patrons wearing kimonos.  The Isetan store has a large variety of restaurants in different price ranges, including nine casual ramen shops.

How to Access the Kyoto Kimono Passport

2016 Kyoto Kimono Passport
2016 Kyoto Kimono Passport App

The easiest place for tourists to pick up the passport booklet is in Kyoto Station at the Tourist Information Center.

Alternately, you can just print out a passport card online.

There is also a smart phone app available in the Japan app store.

 This year’s Kyoto Kimono Passport is valid from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016.  Some discounts may have a limited validity period, so be sure to check the details of each offer.  For instance, the discounts at temples and shrines are only valid during the Autumn months.  

 

Win a Trip to Washington, DC for July 4 Festivities

The National Archives
The National Archives — Check it Out!

Washington, DC is blessed with so many interesting museums that the exhibitions and programs at the National Archives may not be on your radar.

We visited recently for a screening of the animated shorts that had been nominated for the Oscars, one of many free film events offered regularly.

The updated Archives Museum is an interactive display that brings the Archives to life.

Sleepover in the Rotunda The National Archives
Sleepover in the Rotunda at the National Archives

Twice a year, the Archives invites 8-12 year olds to participate in a sleepover in the Archives Rotunda.  Pretty cool!

Celebrate July 4th with a Trip to DC

The National Archives Foundation is sponsoring a  contest to fly a family of four to Washington, DC for the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall on July 4, 2016.

The contest prize includes flights, three nights in a hotel, and dinner at one of DC’s hottest new restaurants.  (Check out the Japanese-themed spring menu here!)

Win a trip to DC!
Win a trip to DC!

The contest winner will receive:

  • Round-trip airfare for four on Southwest Airlines
  • Three night stay at a local hotel
  • Three course tasting menu for four people at Derek Brown’s Columbia Room
  • Membership in the National Archives Foundation
  • VIP experience on July 4th at the National Archives
  • Private tour of the National Archives Museum
  • July 4th gift basket, courtesy of the National Archives Store, including a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence

I don’t often post about contests, but this one seems to have pretty good odds.

To enter, submit your zip code and sign up for a newsletter here!

The last day to enter the contest is June 10, 2016.

Read the Terms and Conditions here.