January 10, 2013

Don’t coupon? That’s okay – you can still save! Look for markdowns in produce, dairy and meat

I just went to QFC and easily saved 50% off my bill. Maybe even 60% and I didn’t use even one coupon. AND I bought healthy foods. It is possible to eat healthy, on a budget, without coupons folks – I promise!

My secret? Manager Markdowns. If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time you know this is my FAVORITE way to save. It’s perfectly good food that the store wants to move – and I’ll be happy to take it for 50% off or more.

Here’s what I found in the store today:

Tillamook yogurts – $0.25 (reg. $0.80) – dated out to Jan. 14

Fresh Express Salad mix – $0.99 – dated out to Jan. 13

Big bag of broccoli – $1.99 – dated to Jan 14
This could easily be flash boiled, then frozen.

Organic Arugula – $1.49 (reg. $3+) – dated out to Jan. 13

Fresh Express Salad mix – $1.29 (reg. $3+)

Greek Gods blueberry yogurt – $1.25 (reg. $4+!) – dated to Jan. 14

The other things I bought were on sale:

Peppers – $1 each

Eggplant – $1 each
Making Eggplant Parmesan!

5 pound bag of grapefruit – $3.99
There are 7 grapefruit inside, only $0.57 cents each

Bananas – $0.69 cents a pound. Not the best price, but not too bad.

The salads will easily get eaten up before they expire (don’t forget we’re in the midst of a soup and salad recipe series around here). Our family is used to going with the flow – as in eating what’s on markdown. We’re used to it. It works for us – and it’s EASY.

Here are my tips for making the most of manager markdowns:

  • Find out the markdown schedule – Find out what days your local store generally marks down the items in the meat and dairy sections. For example, do they always markdown on Mondays and Thursdays? Shop the same-day as the markdowns to get the best selection.
  • Check the dates – Don’t assume that they are close to their expiration dates. Markdowns can happen for lots of reasons – packaging changes, overstock, or even that the dairy or meat manager is going on vacation and needs to mark down items before leaving, you never know!
  • Freeze meat – If I find meat that is dated within a day or two, I’ll take it home and freeze it immediately. Remember when you go to defrost it that you should use it immediately after defrosting.
  • Know the good spots to look – My favorite place to look for markdowns are the deli counter cheese section, lunch meats, sausages, yogurt and milk. Some stores have a specific “clearance” or markdown section.
  • Make the call based on your comfort level – Use your best discretion on the viability of dairy products that are close to date. Some people claim yogurt is good for weeks after it’s “best by” date, I prefer to eat mine within a day or two of the “best by” date. When in doubt, throw it out. Meat is another story all together – it’s recommended you don’t take risks on PAST-dated meat. It should be frozen or cooked by the date on the package.
  • Use your coupons – Combine with coupons (either printable or e-coupons) whenever possible and you can get even better deals!

Here’s some information I pulled from the USDA Food Safety web site that explains the different dating methods used on food:

  • “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

You can get some really helpful information at the USDA Food Product dating Web site.

Do you buy manager marked down items? What’s the best manager markdown deal you’ve found lately?


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  1. I find the better brands of Greek yogurt are good well past the expiration date. In fact I just ate a Voskos greek yogurt yesterday that was dated Jan 1 and it tasted just fine.o

  2. I love the markdown bins!!! I recently moved and am closer to a QFC now, I might have go check them out. I’ve always shopped at Freddy’s but the one close to me know doesn’t have good markdowns. Love, love your blog!!!

  3. I love the manager markdowns! I’m a little obsessed about checking for them as soon as I go into my local Safeway. It’s not a very busy store, so they frequently mark down to move products. My favorite is the deli area. I make sandwiches for my husband’s lunch everyday and lunch meat gets expensive. I get a lot of lunch meat that has been marked down. It’s not passed the pull date or anything, it’s usually just because it’s the ‘end’ of the turkey, roast beef, or whatever, and it hasn’t sliced up nicely, so the slices are small. It’s always marked 50% off!

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