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?
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.
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?
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:
Heirloom bronze (higher percentage of dark meat)
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
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
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
Fishing4Deals is all about the deals, so I am going to show you five ways to maximize your savings.
Shop the sale
Order online and get a $10 off coupon
Get the Whole Foods App
Seek out local specials
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
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 Foodsloads 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
I think gift cards make terrible presents — Cash is a much better gift!
The unspent balances and fees on gift cards make a tidy profit for the people selling them.
Spending gift cards causes delays at the checkout counter.
Returns are more difficult with gift card purchases.
Gift cards can be lost or stolen.
There are a million more reasons why I hate gift cards, but that is a topic for another post.
This post is about each of the gift cards I have in my wallet right now, and why.
Staples Visa Gift Card — Value $20
I got this card from Staples as a rebate for purchasing $300 in Visa gift cards during a promotion. Every few weeks, Staples runs a promotion on Visa gift cards, with a rebate that offsets the card purchase fees. Sometimes, the rebate is in the form of a Staples gift card that must be spent at Staples. This Staples Visa gift card is a cash equivalent that can be spent anywhere.
Clydes Gift Cards — Value $50
Amex was running a special promotion where you could get a $5 credit for a $25 purchase at various Washington area restaurants. I purchased two $25 gift cards at Clydes, one with my Amex SPG credit card, and one with my Amex Bluebird card. Clydes is my favorite restaurant so I know these gift cards will be put to good use.
Tara Thai Gift Card — Value $45
Tara Thai is a fabulous restaurant that participates in the Rewards Dining Program. I purchased this gift card whenUnited Mileage Plus Dining was running a special promotion. The gift card gives me the flexibility to participate in the promotion offer, while delaying my actual dine until a more convenient time. I ended up missing the deadline for meeting the terms of the promotion, so I just earned 5 times Ultimate Rewards Points on this.
Lonestar Steakhouse Gift Card — Value $40
Lonestar Steakhouse is another participant in the Rewards Dining Program. I think when I picked up this gift card I had it confused with Texas Roadhouse. Lonestar Steakhouse is pretty far from where we live so we’ll have to go out of our way to use this.
Whole Foods Gift Card — Value $6.70
Amex Offers was offering a $15 statement credit for a $75 purchase at Whole Foods. By purchasing a gift card, I am able to earn the credit, while redeeming for small purchases at Whole Foods at my leisure.
Home Depot Gift Card — Value $100
I purchase Home Depot gift cards at Staples using a Chase Ink card that pays 5 times points on all purchases at office supply stores. I give the gift cards to our contractor to purchase supplies for our home renovation.
Amazon Gift Cards — $100
I picked up an Amazon gift card at Office Depot recently, where I earn 5 times points on my Chase Ink card. My daughter started college recently and we purchase some of her textbooks on Amazon.
Home Improvement Gift Card — $200
This is another Office Depot purchase. Home Improvement Gift Cards are sold without a fee, and can be used at either Lowes or Home Depot, as well as a number of other stores.
Starbucks Gift Card — $32
I purchase Starbucks gift cards at Staples and load them to my iPhone. I usually pick up something from Starbucks if there is an outlet in the airport.
Exxon Gift Cards — $100
Currently, I am putting my gas purchases on my Chase Freedom credit card because of the quarterly 5 times bonuses on gas purchases. I purchased these Exxon gift cards at Office Depot, but won’t use them until October when the Chase Freedom bonus categories change.
CVS — $10
Honestly I can’t remember where I obtained a paper gift card worth $10 at any CVS drugstore. It will be a miracle if I remember to use it! I do know that some Office Depot stores sell CVS gift cards.
What’s in My Wallet? $700 Worth of Gift Cards
I totalled up these various gift cards and am appalled to report that I am carrying around $700 worth of gift cards. That is overkill, for sure.
First off it is way too much cash equivalent to have in my purse.
Second, that is an awful lot of money to have tied up in gift cards rather than earning interest in the bank.
It is just as necessary to keep tabs on your gift cards as it is on your bank account or credit card balances. It looks like I need to be more deliberate about slimming down my wallet!
Are Gift Card Purchases Worth It?
Let’s tote up the bonuses I earned on these gift cards.
Ultimate Reward points: 4,160 points
Amex statement credits: $25
United Mileage Plus miles: 425 miles
This is pretty small potatoes. After accounting for the time and gas spent driving around to purchase these gift cards, you might conclude that its not worth stuffing your wallet with gift cards, remembering to use them, and holding up the checkout line for such trivial bonuses.
On the other hand, you might find that small bonuses add up to big rewards if you consistently pursue all opportunities.
Where do you come down? Are gift cards part of your miles and points strategy?
Our 40-year old townhouse is in desperate need of repairs.
What with the original bathrooms, and leaks springing left and right, it was past time to take action. Of course if you defer your home repairs like we did, you find yourself facing some major expenses all at once.
Luckily, I met Carlos the contractor when I was out walking the dog one day. Carlos can fix anything and is super nice and flexible. Our arrangement was that we would pay Carlos for the labor, and that we would purchase the materials.
Since I knew we would be racking up charges, I saw this as an easy way to meet the minimum spend requirements on some new travel rewards credit cards.
My Travel Rewards Credit Card Applications
It had been over six months since I had applied for a travel rewards credit card, and there were several cards with large sign-up bonuses on my wish list.
Purchasing materials for the home renovation would be an easy way to meet hefty initial spend requirements.
Warning — if you don’t pay your credit cards in full and on time every month, you should not be in this game!
Barclay’s U.S. Air Dividend Miles Card
The Barclay’s U.S. Air Dividend Miles credit card was offering 50K bonus miles after the first purchase and payment of the annual fee. This card was on the verge of retirement due to the US Air – American Airlines merger. I had applied once before, and was not approved, so this was my last ditch effort to rack up 50K miles before the merger. I applied, and was denied once again, for having too many recent credit card applications. Fortunately, the bank did not do a hard pull of my credit report, so no skin off my back. This card is no longer being offered.
Chase’s Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card offers 40K bonus points after completing a minimum spend requirement of $3,000 within the first three months. You can get an additional 5,000 Ultimate Reward Points by adding an authorized user. Ultimate Rewards points are great because they are easily transferred to a variety of frequent flyer programs. The card pays two times points on travel and restaurants. There is a $95 annual fee that is waived the first year. I wrote yesterday how I used 45,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points earned from opening the Sapphire Preferred credit card to finance our Amtrak Auto Train trip to Florida.
Capital One’s Venture Card
The Capital One Venture rewards card offers 40,000 bonus points to new applicants who meet a minimum spend of $3,000 within the first three months. The card pays two times points on all purchases, and carries a $59 annual fee which is waived the first year. After meeting the initial spend requirement, I had 46,000 points which could be used to offset $460 in travel expenses. The Venture card is not a favorite among travel bloggers — which I think is crazy because it has a decent sign-up bonus, earns a great rate on all spending, allows flexible redemptions for travel expenses (while still earning frequent flyer miles on your purchases.) I have read numerous reports of people having success in getting the annual fee waived, sometimes for two years in a row.
Gift Card Purchases for Home Improvement Stores
The last method I used to accrue free travel to Florida was to purchase gift cards for Home Depot and Lowes at an office supply store with my Chase Ink Bold business credit card. The Ink Bold card earns 5x Ultimate Reward Points for purchases at at office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot and Amazon. My contractor used these gift cards to purchase supplies for the renovation, and we used the cards to order plumbing parts, medicine cabinets, light fixtures and more. When possible, we shopped through an online shopping portal to earn extra points and miles for our purchases.
A “Free” Trip to Florida for Spring Break
My daughter is graduating from high school this year so this was our last chance to take a spring break trip together. She asked if she could invite a friend to come along, a request that was easy to accommodate thanks to miles and points.
Our trip was not completely free, of course. But through the strategies outlined above, and prior accrual of points, we were able to enjoy our round trip travel on the Auto Train and four out of five nights hotels in Florida for free.
Gift Card Mall is an online vendor of various gift cards. They sell directly, via Ebay, and they service other sellers such as office supply stores.
To enhance security, Gift Card Mall typically mails the card in one envelope, and an “activation code” in a separate envelope. The activation code is needed to register your card online, or to use the card to make purchases.
In theory, this practice makes sense. If someone steals a gift card from your mailbox, they will not be able to use it without the activation code.
How Secure are Mail Orders from Gift Card Mall?
Recently, I purchased a gift card from Staples. The card arrived promptly in a plain envelope from Gift Card Mall.
However, when I tried to register the card, I was informed that the card had not been activated.
After several days, I still had not received the activation code.
I called Gift Card Mall in inquire about what to do. The customer service rep asked me for some identifying information, such as my street address, and the order number. This information was sufficient to validate the gift card.
The hitch is that all this identifying information was contained in the enclosure that came with the gift card.
So if someone had stolen the envelope, they would have all the information needed to activate the card, sans an activation code. Here’s a link to report any suspected mail theft to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Is mail theft something that you worry about, or am I just being paranoid?
If I spend $3000 within the first three months, I will earn a 50,000 mile bonus.
$3,000 is not an easy reach for me, so I am always on the lookout for special opportunities.
How to Maximize Your Minimums
The Citi AAdvantage business card offers a number of spending categories that earn bonus points. These include two miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and on purchases at certain office office supply stores, telecommunications, and car rentals, and one mile on all other purchases. Other cards, like the Chase Ink cards pay a five times bonus at office supply stores.
Obviously, if I can focus my shopping on these bonus categories, I will earn the most miles for meeting the minimum spend requirement.
For me, that means shopping at office supply stores like Staples. Last week, I got a good deal on an iTunes card at Staples. This week, I stocked up on toilet paper that was on sale there. Next week, starting Sunday April 27, 2014, there’s a rebate offer on MasterCard gift cards.
$20 Rebate on MasterCard Gift Cards
Staples is offering a $20 rebate on the purchase of $300 worth of MasterCard gift cards.
My plan is to buy three $200 gift cards. The cards have a steep fee of $6.95 each, so if I buy three, I will be paying $21 in fees. The $20 rebate will offset most of these costs.
These cards come with a PIN number, so they can be loaded onto a Bluebird card at Walmart.
I’ll need to get to the Staples store early before these cards sell out. If I am successful, I’ll be $600 and 1,200 miles closer to meeting the minimum spend requirement.