TV Deals for Watching the NFL’s Bigggest Game

Ready to shop? Here are some of the best bargains that we found on big screen TVs and a couple of smaller ones if you’ll be watching from your bedroom or the kitchen.
Super Bowl LVI (No. 56 for the Roman numeral challenged) will be held on Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. SoFi Stadium is the state-of-the-art, gorgeous new home shared by the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams.
If you search for TVs on Amazon, you will see several choices for “limited time” deals, although there is no explanation as to what “limited time’’ means specifically.
You can also save 0 on the Sony X80J 65” 4K UHD LED Smart Google TV With Dolby Vision HDR and Alexa Compatibility, with a price drop from 0 to 0.
HDR stands for high definition range, which is the top current technology in color, contrast and clarity.
A new big screen TV will come in handy for the Winter Olympics from Beijing, Feb. 4-20, which are also being broadcast on NBC. There are other ways to watch the Winter Games.

How Many of Us Watch Football’s Biggest Game?

Walmart is offering a 55” Samsung Class 4K Crystal UHD (Ultra High Definition) LED Smart TV with HDR for 8 plus tax, down from 9.
A huge TV — the 75” Westinghouse UHD Smart Roku TV — is selling for 0, down from 0, at Target. Westinghouse is a lesser known brand among TV manufacturers, and this TV is not LED or UHD.
Best Buy offers the LG 24” Class LED HD TV for 0, and the step up LG 24” Class LED HD Smart webOS for 0.

The Best Super Bowl TV Deals

Most TV monitors today are smart TVs, meaning that they connect to streaming services, which is how people watch live NFL football these days if they have cut their cable service.
If you are brand loyal to LG, Best Buy is offering the LG 48” Class Ai Series OLED 4K UHD Smart webOS TV for 0, down 0 from the original selling price of ,200. Or, you could save 0 and go big with the 77” LG Class C1 OLED 4k UHD Smart webOS TV for ,000.

Walmart

Best Buy has reduced the price of the LG 65” Class UP7000 Series LED 4K UHD Smart webOS TV from 0 to 0 which makes it a worthy big game TV deal.
Last year’s big game attracted 96.4 million viewers, but that was the lowest TV audience for an NFL championship game since 2007. That number includes people who watch the game in bars and restaurants, which was likely affected by fewer people gathering because of the pandemic. There was growth, however, in streaming service viewership.
However, if you are a Sony person and you want the best TV possible, Sony has the 65” Class Bravia XR A8OJ Series OLED 4K UHD Smart Google TV for ,200, a drop of 0, which may make you feel better but there are better TV deals out there .  This TV is rated best premium 4K TV by Popular Mechanics.
The NFL reports that nationally televised, regular-season games draw about 17 million viewers. How to account for the huge jump in viewership? The championship game is now combined with big parties and clever commercials that help drive more eyeballs to the game. Many people “watch” the game who never see another one all season.
One of the limited time deals offered a savings of almost 0 on the Vizio 58” M7 Series Premium 4K UHD Quantum Color LED HDR Smart TV with Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast Built in. The price drop of 0, from 0 to 0, was one of the best deals on the site in terms of percentage of savings.
Kent McDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Keep this in mind as you check out the TV deals: How will the big screen TV be delivered to your house? Do you have a vehicle big enough to transport it or will you need to pay for delivery of your new TV to watch the biggest football game of the year? You’ll have to factor that into the savings. And, will you need to pay for set up?

Best Buy

The 4K reference indicates the top level for movie viewing. While most top line television monitors today offer either 4K for movie viewing or UHD for live action viewing, this Samsung has both technologies.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
UHD is the next step up from high definition, an improvement from a display resolution of 1,920 pixels to 2,160 pixels.
According to Popular Mechanics, the best 4K LED TV is the Sony X85J 4K UHD Roku Smart TV. A 65” version is selling at Walmart for ,098, reduced from ,237.

Amazon

Super Bowl Sunday — this year Feb. 13 — is the most official unofficial holiday on the calendar, and 100 million people watch that game annually. So it’s the perfect time to be looking for TV deals unless you’re one of the lucky people who’ve snagged a ticket to watch it in person.
There is one time of the year that TV retailers know you are going to be watching your television and are in the market for the best TV deals.
Yes, curved crystal. The screen is curved, a significant upgrade for any live action viewing.

Roku or Amazon Firestick? We’ve got the details to help you decide which one is right for you, but honestly, it’s a coin toss.

Target

Your TV monitor is never going to be more important than it will be on Super Bowl Sunday, which is why many sitcoms have tackled the big game for story fodder. Remember the King of Queens episode when Doug tried to cozy up to Carrie’s boss so they could watch the big game in hi-def on his big-screen TV?
If you have a tabletop TV in your kitchen, and you plan to watch the game while cooking for others or for yourself, a 24-inch monitor is your best bet. You should pay less than 0 for any of these, including the Vizio 24” D-Series Full HD 1080p Smart TV with Apple AirPlay and Chromecast Built-in at 8 on Amazon.

Watching the Game in the Kitchen

Retailers want to provide you with the best possible TV screen so that your football viewing is the best it can be. That’s why January is the best month to buy a new TV. Retailers are offering monitors at the lowest prices of the year because they know you are shopping right now.
A TV that does fit the 4K UHD model is the 65” Element 4K UHD Roku TV, selling at Target for 0, down from 0. Again, Element is a lesser-known brand of TV manufacturer.
Not big enough for you? Try the Samsung 65” 4K Curved Crystal UHD LED Smart TV with HDR for 7 plus tax, reduced from 0.
If ever there was a time to shop around for  TV deals for the big game, or to place your best internet shopping hound dog on the hunt, this is the time.
WebOS is a smart TV operating system owned by LG. It allows for more advanced features and connected devices to operate the TV monitor remotely.

How Risky is Investing in Rental Properties?

I am trying to buy as many rental properties as possible because of the great returns they provide. I am also trying to help other investors discover the fantastic world of investing in long-term rentals through my blog. However, I run into a lot of feedback from people who are worried about how risky it is to invest in rental properties. I hear: “my friend went broke investing in real estate” or “my parents had a rental and it was a money pit up until the day they were forced to sell it.” There are many horror stories involving real estate, but I have no doubt whatsoever long-term rentals are a great investment if you do your homework and buy properties right. Most of those horror stories come from people who did not do their homework, turned a personal residence into a rental out of necessity, or were hoping for appreciation. What are the real risks of rental properties and how can you mitigate these risks?

What are the main risks of investing in rental properties?

There are real risks with investing in rental properties. Many people felt the wrath of these risks in the last housing crash. Housing values plummeted and in some areas rents plummeted as well. Interestingly enough, not every area saw lower rental rates. Some areas saw rents increase because there were so many more renters (people who lost their houses) and the demand pushed rents up.

The investors who were hurt the most in the housing crash were those who were breaking even on their properties or losing money each month and hoping prices would increase to make money. When the bottom dropped out, they now had a property that was losing money each month and was worth less than they had bought it for. Many investors allowed these homes to go into foreclosure because they didn’t think they were worth keeping.

Other risks come from rentals when people buy a property and do not have enough cash to maintain the property or hold it when it is vacant. Most banks will require a certain amount of reserves when you get a loan on an investment property. But as soon as the property is purchased there is nothing stopping the owners from spending that reserve money. When you own a rental there will be times when the tenants move out, there can be evictions, and rarely a tenant can destroy a property. We see these situations occur quite often because people love to see drama but for the most part our tenants take care of our rentals and are awesome.

Why invest in rentals with these risks?

Rental properties have made me a ton of money over the last decade. Prices have increased significantly, which is great, but the properties also make money every month, and I always get a great deal on everything I buy which means I build equity on day one. There are many ways to mitigate the risks of rentals and the money I have made from my properties more than makes the risks worth it!

A lot of people will assume that when you are investing in large value assets like real estate and there can be huge returns, that the risk must be through the roof. There are types of real estate that can be very risky. We flip houses as well, and that is a much riskier venture than owning rental properties in my opinion. Development can also be much riskier but again come with huge rewards as well.

I also was an REO broker during the housing crash and I talked to many investors who lost homes. I was able to see why they lost their homes, what they could have done differently, and what happened after they lost their homes. For the most part, they bought houses that did not cash flow or make money every month and when things went bad they lost the motivation to keep paying into them. Losing the houses was also not the end of the world for these investors. Many of them had put little money down thanks to the crazy lending that was happening prior to that last crash. They were also able to keep those houses for quite a while after they stopped making payments. Many investors kept collecting rent during this time period which may or may not have been legal, but it did happen.

Many of those investors got right back in the real estate game after recovering and invested the right way with cash flow!

How can you mitigate the risk from rentals?

Buy below market value

One key to a low-risk rental strategy or any successful real estate strategy is to buy property below market value. Buying a property below market enables you to create instant equity, increase your net worth, and protects against a downturn in the market. One of the investors who was hurt badly during the crash was buying brand new houses and turning them into rentals. The houses were in great shape, but he paid full retail value for them.

When I buy rentals I want to pay at least 20% less than they are worth after considering any repairs are needed. For example:

  • A home needs $20,000 in repairs and will be worth $200,000 after those repairs. I want to pay $140,000 or less for that property ($200,000 x .80 – $20k). If I am flipping houses, I need to get an even better deal!

I also usually put about 20% down when I buy rentals which means after the property is repaired I have a loan around $110,000 and a property worth $200,000. Even if prices lost 30%, which is about how much they dropped across the county I am fine.

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Cash flow

I consider cash flow the most important factor in my long-term rental strategy. I want every property to make money each month after paying all expenses. Finding these properties that are also a great deal is not easy, but if you want to change your life with massive returns, it is not easy! When I invest I look for a return of 15% cash on cash. That means I make 15% on the money I have invested into the property. These are very high returns and not everyone needs to make this much but it is what I shoot for.

When you have cash flow coming in every month, it does not matter if values decrease because you do not need to sell the property. While it is true that rents can decrease and lower your cash flow, that is very rare and was even very rare in the last housing crash. There were some areas like Florida and Arizona that were massively overbuilt that saw lower rents, but the nation as a whole barely saw any drop.

My cash flow calculator can help you figure the real income on rentals.

Type of property

The older the property, the better the chance of a major repair needing to be done. I have enough cash flow coming in to account for major repairs, but homes over 100 years old can have issues come up that could wipe out all equity. It is rare, but a foundation or structural problem can make a property uninhabitable and cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. By purchasing newer properties, I lessen the chances of running into repairs that could wipe out my profit for a year or even two.

Multifamily and commercial real estate can also carry more risk. Those types of properties are more complicated and have fewer buyers. I also buy multifamily and commercial properties but I am very careful what I buy and understand there will most likely be way more costs and exposure if the market changes.

If you buy properties that need a ton of work that can add to the risk as well. On my flips and rentals, the worst deals I have done were properties that needed massive remodels. It takes so much time, so many resources, and there is so much that can go wrong. It can also be risky trying to do all of that work yourself!

Cash reserves

One of the most important things to have when investing in real estate is cash! If you buy rentals or flips that can be expensive at times. It is very important to set aside cash to take care of the problems that might come up. When I figure my cash flow I set aside money for vacancies and repairs. You need to have cash set aside in case something goes wrong and this is one of the biggest mistakes landlords make is not having cash around.

Ironically, getting a loan allows investors to have more cash in many cases. Paying down the mortgage early or trying to pay it off with all your extra cash can leave you in a bad situation. If you do pay a property off and need to access that money in an emergency it can be hard to get to without selling.

Good management

Another way to have problems with your rentals is to manage them poorly. Many people have no idea how to manage a rental but decide they can do it on their own. They choose a bad tenant after not screening them, then never check on the property, and are surprised when it gets trashed. If you are going to manage rentals on your own you have to take the time to learn how to manage them. You have to screen tenants, and keep tabs on the properties!

If you don’t want to manage them yourself, you can hire a property manager as well. It takes time to find a good property manager and this is where it takes from work from the landlord as well. Again, no one said owning rentals was easy, but there are many ways to make them a great investment if you are willing to put in the work.

Liability and damage

Another risk that comes with rental properties is natural disasters or liability from accidents. People can get hurt and can sue tenants or tornados can wipe your property off the earth. Both instances are rare, but they happen. To mitigate the liability side you can put your properties in an LLC or make sure you have the property insurance coverage like a landlord and umbrella policy. With these policies, if you have a tenant destroy property or need to be evicted, they can help cover those costs as well! Putting a property in an LLC can help with getting sued but is not foolproof.

It is important to make sure your insurance agent knows you are using the property as a rental so you have the right coverage. It might be cheaper to leave homeowners insurance on the property if you used to live there but that can cause problems down the road.

Risks that are tough to mitigate

There are some cases where a landlord does everything right but still has a massive loss. These are rare but can happen and just about any investment or simply living life comes with risks.

  • Meth or drug house: If someone is cooking meth or using meth in your house it can cause damage that insurance will not cover. You may have to make major repairs depending on how bad it is. These risks can be alleviated by good tenant screening and checking on the properties often. It is not always the case, but many drug houses we see have cameras all over. That can be a sign to check the house out more if you see cameras on your rental.
  • Floods: Not all floods are covered by insurance. You often need an additional rider or flood coverage. If you are in a flood zone the lender will require the additional coverage but if you pay cash or use private money you may not be required to have it. There is also the risk of a flood outside a flood zone. If the property has a risk of flooding it is important to talk to your insurance agent about additional coverage.

Why does everyone say rentals are risky?

I won’t tell you it is impossible to lose money investing in long-term rentals. It can easily happen if you don’t have a plan, have reserves, or are impatient. It is not easy to buy properties below market value with great cash flow. If it were easy investing in long-term rentals, everyone would be investing in real estate.

The reason so many people think rentals are risky is that they hear anecdotal stories. Stories are good for entertainment and drama but they don’t give the entire picture. “my cousins, aunts, friend, lost all their money when their rental was trashed!” They failed to tell us the person self-managed a property they used to live in from 4 states away and never once talked to the tenant in 3 years. Then they were surprised it was trashed. There are all kinds of stories but usually, you can find one of the main reasons above for why people lose money on rentals. Overall, real estate is one of the best ways to build wealth!

Don’t be scared to invest in rental properties

There are many people who have gotten rich and retired early by investing in long-term rentals. There is a lot of opportunity and many advantages to investing in real estate. Just because you can have some great rewards does not mean there is a massive risk. Some risk? Yes of course and the less you pay attention to your investment the riskier it will get!

Categories Rental Properties

Source: investfourmore.com

Discount Grocery Stores: Are They Worth the Savings?

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Like most people, I’d rather not spend any more at the grocery store than I have to. Over the years, I’ve tried every trick in the book to save money on groceries. And the single best way I’ve found to cut my grocery bill is to shop at discount grocery stores. 

Discount grocers like Aldi and Lidl offer much lower prices than big chains like Walmart and Kroger — not just on a few products, but on nearly everything they sell. When I hit my local store, I save money on every single item on my shopping list with no extra effort.

Admittedly, discount grocery stores have their limitations. They offer a smaller selection of products than a regular grocery store, and their quality can be uncertain in some cases. Hours are often limited, and the atmosphere isn’t fancy. But the savings make it well worth it.

Types of Discount Grocery Stores

The term “discount grocery store” can refer to two types of store: salvage stores and limited-assortment stores. Both types of discount grocers offer low prices. However, their selections and the strategies they use to keep their prices low are quite different.

Salvage Stores

Salvage stores sell goods rejected or discarded by other grocery stores. They’re also known as surplus grocery stores, closeout grocery stores, bent-and-dent stores, or grocery outlet stores. Like outlet fashion stores, they sell products other stores can’t at significantly reduced prices.

Salvage Store Inventory

Salvage and outlet stores can get goods at a discount for various reasons. Their merchandise includes: 

  • Overstock. Sometimes, supermarkets find themselves with more of a product than they can sell. They sell them to a salvage retailer at a steeply reduced price to clear their shelves. The salvage store passes the savings on to its customers. 
  • Discontinued Goods. Grocery stores often need to unload merchandise they no longer want to carry. Some of these are out-of-season goods, such as Halloween candy in November. Others simply didn’t sell well.
  • Damaged Goods. Supermarket shoppers prefer food in perfect condition. Slightly damaged food, such as dented cans or ugly-looking veggies, tends to get left on the shelf. Grocers sell them to salvage stores for less fussy customers to buy.
  • Late-Dated Goods. Some of the wares on a salvage store’s shelves are approaching or even past their expiration dates. However, that doesn’t mean they’re unsafe to eat. Their quality is no longer guaranteed, but they’re still safe and often still perfectly good.
  • Unsuccessful Products. Sometimes, a company like Kraft or General Mills tests a new product or new packaging for an existing one and finds it isn’t a hit. Rather than discard the unsuccessful products, they sell them to an outlet store.
  • Wreck Salvage. A few goods at salvage stores are literally salvaged. When a truck carrying groceries gets into an accident, goods often fall off. Salvage retailers reclaim the surviving items from these wrecks and put them on their shelves.

Because salvage stores sell items recovered from larger chains, most of their offerings are name-brand products. However, these rejected products sell at much lower prices than usual. 

The selections at salvage stores aren’t limited to food, either. You can also find wine and beer, health and beauty products, cleaning supplies, and pet food. There are even some non-grocery products like garden supplies, office supplies, or clothing.

But the selection at these stores is a bit haphazard. It varies weekly based on what other retailers happen to discard. And a few products at salvage stores are unfit for consumption, such as half-rotted produce or severely dented cans.

In short, shopping at salvage stores is a bit like a treasure hunt. You can pick up some real gems, but you might have to dig through a lot of doubtful bargains to find them.

Examples of Salvage Stores

One sizable chain of salvage stores is Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. It has over 400 locations, mostly in the northwestern part of the United States. 

This chain’s offerings include fresh meat, produce, frozen foods, health and beauty products, and wines. These goods can be as much as 70% off their retail price. Items marked as “WOW deals” are particular bargains.

There are also many independent salvage stores located across the U.S. They’re especially common in Amish country. 

You can find stores near you by consulting the directory at Extreme Bargains or searching online for “discount grocer near me,” “outlet grocer near me,” or “salvage grocer near me.” 

There are also chain stores known as job-lot or liquidation stores that sell salvaged and overstock goods. They don’t specialize in groceries, but they usually have some food products for sale. One example is the Ocean State Job Lot in the Northeast.

While not identical to salvage stores, dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Dollar General are similar. Their pricing model sets these stores apart, with most inventory priced at $1.

Dollar stores don’t focus on food, although most carry some grocery items. However, they often use the same methods as salvage grocery stores to score bargains on overstock and discontinued goods.

Limited-Assortment Grocery Stores

Limited-assortment grocers are just like regular grocery stores but with a smaller selection of products. Many of them offer just one brand and size for each product they sell. The stores are smaller and need fewer employees to stock the shelves. That helps keep prices down. 

Limited-assortment stores also keep prices low by cutting out extras. For example, they typically don’t have fresh bakery, deli, or floral sections. These no-frills stores often display products right in their shipping cartons so employees spend less time stocking shelves. 

If you shop at a limited-assortment store, expect to bag your own groceries. You must also bring your own bags or pay extra for bags at some stores.

Some chains even require customers to pay a $0.25 deposit to use a grocery cart. This small fee encourages shoppers to bring the carts back rather than leaving them in the parking lot. That way, the store doesn’t have to pay employees to collect them.

Limited-Assortment Store Inventory

Limited-assortment grocery stores tend to focus heavily on their own private-label store brands. At some stores, that’s practically every product on the shelf. 

In fact, some limited-assortment stores, such as Trader Joe’s, have built a bit of a cult following around their store brands. Devoted customers regularly visit these stores for products they can’t find anywhere else.

If you’re loyal to any name brands, you probably can’t do all your grocery shopping at limited-assortment stores. But it’s worth visiting them for staple foods that are often similar regardless of brand. Examples include flour, sugar, salt, vinegar, and cooking oil.

Examples of Limited-Assortment Stores

There are many limited-assortment grocery chains in the U.S. Major ones include:

  • Aldi. This German chain has more than 2,000 stores across the U.S. Its stores are small — about one-third the size of a traditional grocery store. It sells primarily store brands, including organic, gluten-free, and European specialty food items. 
  • Dollar General. This chain has over 17,000 stores in 46 states. Many of them are in small towns and rural areas with few other stores. Its fresh food options are limited, but it has great prices on staple foods, household goods, and non-food items like clothing.
  • Food4Less. Part of the Kroger family, this chain includes about 50 stores in Southern California, Illinois, Indiana, and Nevada. Its deeply discounted selections include produce, bakery, dairy, meat, and foreign foods.
  • Lidl. This European chain entered the U.S. in 2017. It now has over 150 stores along the East Coast, from New Jersey to South Carolina. It has higher-end goods than many discount grocers, including organic products, fresh-baked goods, and affordable wines.  
  • Save A Lot. There are over 1,000 Save A Lot locations in over 30 states, many in areas with few or no other stores. Its small, no-frills locations carry primarily store brands. But it gets high marks for its inexpensive meats and fresh produce.
  • Trader Joe’s. Loyal fans flock to Trader Joe’s for its high-quality store brands. Its specialties include wine, cheese, organic foods, and goodies like cookies and frozen dumplings. The chain has over 500 locations in 43 states.
  • WinCo. This employee-owned discount chain has over 100 bare-bones stores concentrated in the western U.S. Most stores are open 24/7. One notable feature of WinCo is its use of bulk bins like the ones at Whole Foods to cut down on packaging.

How to Save Money at Discount Grocery Stores

To get the most for your grocery dollar at discount stores, you have to shop strategically. Some grocery shopping strategies are the same for both salvage and limited-assortment stores. Others are more useful for one type of store or the other.

Check the Store Hours

Many salvage stores have limited store hours, which helps keep costs down. They’re only open on certain days or hours each day.

But it’s seriously annoying — and a big waste of gas and time if the store’s far away — to plan a special trip to a closed salvage store. So always check the store hours before you go.

Confirm Coupon Policies

One of the most popular ways to save money on groceries is clipping coupons. Unfortunately, that trick doesn’t always work at discount grocery stores. Most salvage stores and many limited-assortment stores refuse manufacturer coupons.

But at the few stores that take them, such as WinCo, the savings can be significant. 

For example, suppose you have a coupon for $1.50 off a 12-ounce bag of ground coffee. At a regular grocery store, that coffee might cost $8.49. That means your price with the coupon would be $6.99.

But at a discount grocery store, you might find that same bag of coffee for as little as $3.99. With your coupon, you’d pay only $2.49. That’s less than one-third the regular retail price.

To find out whether you can score bargains like this at your local discount store, check the store’s coupon policy. If you can’t find it on the store’s website, ask a cashier.

Even if a discount store doesn’t take manufacturer coupons, it may issue its own store coupons. For instance, you can sign up for the mailing list at Grocery Outlet to get deals such as $5 off any $25 purchase. Most limited-assortment stores also offer special deals to subscribers, though Aldi and Trader Joe’s do not.

Bring Cash

Few salvage stores accept credit cards, and some limited-assortment stores follow suit. That’s because credit card issuers charge merchants a fee to use their cards. 

Most stores pass these fees on to customers through higher prices. By refusing credit cards, discount stores can keep prices lower. 

Some stores are starting to relax their no-credit policies. For instance, on my most recent trip to Aldi, I was able to pay with my credit card instead of having to use cash. But to be on the safe side, bring cash or a debit card on your first visit to any new store.

Examine Containers Carefully

At salvage stores, it’s common to encounter food in damaged packaging, such as dented cans. In most cases, the food is still safe to eat. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s not dangerous to eat canned food if the dents are slight.

However, if a can has a deep dent — big enough to lay your finger in — leave it on the shelf. Deep dents can compromise the seal, letting bacteria in.

The same guidelines apply to rust. A little rust on the surface that rubs right off is no problem. However, heavy rust can create tiny holes that admit bacteria.

Food in torn or dented boxes is also safe as long as the plastic bag inside the box is intact. Boxed foods with no inner liner, such as pasta, are OK if the box is only dented. But if a box is torn open to expose the food, it’s best to leave it.

Examine Fresh Produce

Fresh produce at discount grocery stores is a mixed bag. On some trips to Aldi, I’ve failed to find a single bag of potatoes without at least one that was visibly rotten. On the other hand, the bagged Brussels sprouts and miniature avocados at Trader Joe’s have never let me down.

Since quality is hard to predict, it’s best to examine all produce carefully for signs of spoilage before you put it in your cart. In fact, that’s a good policy at most grocery stores. Even at big supermarkets, I often find a couple of mushy strawberries in a quart container.

Understand Expiration Dates

Food at salvage stores is often close to or even past the expiration date on the package. But that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat. Dates on food are there to assure food quality, not food safety. 

There are several different types of expiration dates, each with its own meaning:

  • Best if Used By means the flavor or quality of the food is best before the given date. Past this date, crackers might be a bit stale, or powdered milk might have an off-taste.
  • Sell-By dates tell stores how long to keep the product on their shelves. Food is still good up to this date and for several days after. For example, milk doesn’t go sour until five to seven days past its sell-by date.
  • Use-By dates tell consumers when the product will be at peak quality. They’re not an indication of safety for most products. The only product it’s unsafe to buy or use after its use-by date is baby formula.

Most products, including canned and frozen foods, are still safe after any of these expiration dates. The only time frozen food might be unsafe is if it has been thawed and refrozen. If the freezers at the store have puddles around them or don’t feel cold everywhere, pass them by.

There’s one non-food product on which dates are important: over-the-counter drugs. According to the Food and Drug Administration, drugs degrade over time. Any medicine past its expiration date may be unsafe or ineffective.

Know How to Spot a Good Deal

Although discount grocery stores generally offer low prices, they’re not always the lowest possible. Sometimes, you can do better at a regular grocery store by buying store brands or stacking sales with coupons.

The best way to spot the true deals is to keep a grocery price book. It’s simply a record of the prices you typically pay for the grocery items you buy most often.

For instance, the page for peanut butter in my price book tells me that the best price I can usually get is $2.85 per pound at Costco. So if I go to a discount store and see peanut butter for only $2 per pound, I know it’s time to stock up.

Consider All Brands

Salvage stores have a wide variety of brands on the shelves. Some are familiar name brands you know and love, like Campbell’s or Coca-Cola. When you find these, you can take the opportunity to stock up on your favorites.

But these name brands aren’t always available. Often, they carry off-brands you’ve never heard of before, like Banquet mayonnaise or Finest refried beans.

Similarly, when you shop at limited-assortment stores, there are very few name-brand products for sale. Most of the offerings are store brands, though they don’t always have the store’s name.

For instance, Aldi calls its cereals Millville and its snack foods Clancy’s. Save A Lot names its store brands after former employees, like McDaniel’s coffee and Sunny’s cookies.

Don’t discount these brands just because they’re unfamiliar. Some of them are just as tasty as the name brands you’re used to. But you can’t be sure until you try them.

To be on the safe side, buy the smallest package the first time you try an unfamiliar brand. If you like it, you can stock up on it next time. And if not, you haven’t wasted much money.

Stock Up When Appropriate

Discount grocery stores are great places to stock up on goods you use a lot. Even if you can’t use something right away, it makes sense to buy plenty, especially at salvage stores. Their stock is ever-changing, so the product might not be there the next time you shop.

But stocking up only makes sense for nonperishable goods or those you know you can use before they go bad. There’s no point in buying six avocados if four of them are going to turn black before you eat them.

The best products to stock up on are canned foods, shelf-stable foods, and produce with a long shelf life. Potatoes, onions, and garlic can all last a long time if you store them in a cool, dry place. Frozen foods are also a good choice if you have a big enough freezer to store them all.


Final Word

If you don’t like the offerings at one local discount store, don’t let that put you off the idea altogether. Each discount grocery store is different. If you don’t like the store brands at Aldi, maybe you’ll prefer the ones at Save A Lot.

Also, remember that the selection at salvage stores changes frequently. If you didn’t find anything you liked at your local store the first time, it’s still worth going back to see if it has anything better next time.

Shopping at discount grocery stores requires an open mind. The brand names aren’t as familiar, and the packaging isn’t as pretty. But if you’re willing to take a little extra time, these stores offer a way to save money every time you grocery shop.

For more tips on saving at the grocery store, check out our shopping archive.

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Amy Livingston is a freelance writer who can actually answer yes to the question, “And from that you make a living?” She has written about personal finance and shopping strategies for a variety of publications, including ConsumerSearch.com, ShopSmart.com, and the Dollar Stretcher newsletter. She also maintains a personal blog, Ecofrugal Living, on ways to save money and live green at the same time.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What You Need to Know About Virtual Open Houses in the COVID-19 Era

In 2019, the real estate industry celebrated 100 years of open houses. Over the course of those decades that real estate professionals have been hosting open houses, they have evolved, and in some cases, disappeared. Since the arrival of the COVID-19 crisis, the real estate industry has scrambled to evolve once again. That includes if, and how, open houses are conducted. At the guidance of the National Association of Realtors, open houses during this time should look different and those marketing properties have found new ways to make touring the home virtually accessible.

The traditional open house is what we’re all widely familiar with. It’s hosted by a real estate agent and potential home buyers are allowed to come and go while they tour the property. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, the National Association of Realtors has advised suspending in-person open houses. While this is simply a guidance to brokers, many state and local governments have also enacted “shelter-in-place” orders which deem in-person open houses not permissible.

Virtual Open Houses: A Quick Guide

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Tour and a Virtual Open House?

Many programs exist to provide 24/7, 360-degree virtual tours to buyers. While a virtual tour is the first step any prospective homebuyers should take, if interest is there for that property, a guided tour would be the next step. The difference between virtual tours and virtual open houses are that a real estate professional will guide you through the open house while virtual tours are completed on your own. Virtual tours can be completed from the listing page of a property without any prior scheduling. Virtual tour software goes beyond photography and provides 3-D, walking virtual tours of a property. This allows potential buyers to feel like they are literally standing in the middle of the room touring the home, but without having to leave the comfort of their own home.

Young woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptopYoung woman sitting on bed in bedroom and having video call via laptop

Virtual open houses can help provide more insight to potential homebuyers. They’re usually scheduled after you took a virtual tour or looked through the listing’s photos and felt interested enough to see the property in all its glory. Buyers can schedule a virtual open house with an agent directly from the Homes.com listing page. As in-person open houses and home tours are suspended, the prevalence of virtual tours will be of paramount importance.

Having these services are a crucial part of an effective real estate marketing plan during this time, so if you’re looking to sell, make sure you can find an agent that has the capability to utilize virtual tours and open houses.

Questions to Ask, or Be Prepared for, During a Virtual Open House

While your agent helps conduct the virtual open house, it’s always good to be prepared in advance with a list of questions for each property you’re going to see (virtually, that is). Start gathering your list after, or during, the virtual tour of that property. You can find a list of questions to start here, but also take into consideration that you’ll want to know the following:

  1. What’s the neighborhood like? Is it safe and walkable? Are there kids in the area and is it in a good school zone? These questions are important to ask local real estate agents, so make sure you’re working with someone who is familiar with the area you’re shopping around in.
  2. Are the current owners living in the home? Is it move-in ready? If the current owners are still living on the property, get an idea for the length of time to help set a basis for when you’ll be moving.
  3. Is the home in a flood zone? If so, what does the cost of flood insurance look like? If you’re in a coastal city or living near a body of water, these questions are pertinent to ask during the virtual open house.

Looking to Sell? Try These Alternatives in Addition to Virtual Open Houses

Despite a pandemic, many homeowners still need to sell their home which requires creativity on the part of the listing agent to market the home effectively and safely. By hiring an experienced and innovative real estate professional to the list a home, homebuyers can be rest assured that Realtors are working to reinvent the wheel and best serve their clients through a host of options.

Professional Photography

While hiring a list agent that understands the value of professional photography over cell phone list photos has always been crucial, the quality of digital images is even more important as more buyers will be searching on sites like Homes.com. By incorporating high resolution professional photography into the marketing plan, homes have statistically sold 32% faster.

A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.A kitchen in a modern farmhouse.

Drone Video

The rule of real estate is location, location, location. Even with the best professional photography and 3D tours of a home, many of these options lack the ability to properly view the location of the home. By incorporating drone images and video into a marketing plan, home buyers can evaluate surrounding conditions, proximity, as well as other factors. In fact, homes with aerial & drone photography sold statistically 68% faster than listings without aerial images.

As Realtors work to promote social distancing and safe practices, they have not slowed in their efforts to effectively assist buyers and sellers. If anything, real estate professionals are working harder than ever to reinvent the wheel and evolve in an ever-changing climate. While open houses and real estate marketing may look different than before, the real estate industry has incorporated multiple tools that adhere to social distancing guidelines without sacrificing the exposure of available properties.


Jennifer is an accidental house flipper turned Realtor and real estate investor. She is the voice behind the blog, Bachelorette Pad Flip. Over five years, Jennifer paid off $70,000 in student loan debt through real estate investing. She’s passionate about the power of real estate. She’s also passionate about southern cooking, good architecture, and thrift store treasure hunting. She calls Northwest Arkansas home with her cat Smokey, but she has a deep love affair with South Florida.

Source: homes.com

Good to Great: Take Your Kitchen from Good to Great

You and your family spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Whether you are cooking a family meal, eating dinner, or enjoying a midnight snack, the kitchen is a family gathering point. Little renovations and adjustments can take your kitchen from good to great.

  • Island: Add an island. An island provides extra counter space, room for more seating, and much-needed storage space. If you are on a budget and can’t get an island installed, purchase a stand-alone version or even put a small table in the middle of the kitchen.
  • Range Hood: Range hoods draw up steam and smoke, circulate air, and keep your kitchen from smelling like whatever you’re cooking. Your neighbors will also appreciate it because it decreases the likelihood that your smoke alarm will go off when you are simply cooking pasta! There are a wide variety of range hood options. You can find one for almost any budget and, to decrease costs, you can install it yourself.
  • Countertops: Beautiful and durable countertops help to take your kitchen from good to great. If you are looking to sell, they are a great selling point for potential buyers. You can remodel your countertops without spending a fortune. The prices vary depending on the type of material you choose to use.
  • Backsplash: Cooking can be messy. Sick of oils and sauces making marks on the walls? Get a backsplash. Similar to countertops, the price varies based upon the material you choose. If you are on a budget you can also do it yourself!
  • Appliances: New appliances make a big difference. Prices range depending on the technology but they make cooking easier and more convenient. New appliances can also attract sellers and increase the offer price of your home.

Eat, drink, and be merry in a kitchen you and your family will love for years to come! We’d love to hear your thoughts on the next room we should tackle taking from good to great. Tweet your recommendations to @Century21!

Source: century21.com

Does a Meal Prep Service Make Sense for Your Budget?

Meal prep services have become increasingly more common over the past few years. During the COVID-19 pandemic when people limiting their trips out of the house, food delivery services increased drastically. In addition to straight food delivery like DoorDash or UberEats, services that delivered meal kits became more and more prevalent. While these meal prep services aren’t a great fit for everyone, they can make sense for certain budgets.

What Is a Meal Prep Service?

A meal prep service, also sometimes known as a meal kit, provides you with a certain number of meals per week. You select the number of meals and which meals you want, and they will be delivered to your door. The ingredients are measured out in exact serving sizes, usually to make one to four portions.

It is common for meal kit services to offer a certain number of “free” meals when you initially sign up. The idea is that you can try out the meal service for less of a financial commitment to see if it’s something that will work for you. 

One thing to be aware of is that these free meals usually don’t all come upfront. If you sign up for a deal that offers 10 “free” meals, you won’t just get 10 meals delivered to you for no cost. Instead, it might be a discount that is equivalent to 5 free meals for the first week, then 3 for the second week and 2 for the third week.

What Are Some Popular Meal Prep Services?

There are many, many meal prep services. Each of these meal kit companies shares several characteristics, though they sometimes differ in a few key areas. Here are a few of the most common meal prep services:

  • Blue Apron — Blue Apron has you choose from their Signature recipes, Wellness or Vegetarian. You can also pair your recipes with their monthly wine subscription. Cost is $63 for three meals a week for two people
  • Freshly — With Freshly, you can choose from 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 meals per week, with each serving one meal for one person. The cost starts as low as $8.49 per meal, plus shipping
  • Home Chef — With Home Chef, you can choose from a variety of different meals each week based on your preferences and dietary restrictions. Meal plans start as low as $6.99 per serving. You can also find Home Chef meal kits at select Kroger grocery stores nationwide.
  • HelloFresh — HelloFresh has over 27 fresh recipes each week designed by chefs and nutritionists. Prices start at $7.49 per serving and you can easily swap, skip or pause your order at any time

When Does a Meal Prep Service Make Sense?

While a meal kit or meal prep service may be more expensive than cooking your meals at home, it may make financial sense for some people. If you find you are eating most of your meals at restaurants, a meal prep service could save you a significant amount of money.

The best way to figure out if a meal prep service might make sense for you is to take a look at your current food budget. How much are you spending each week or month on food? Is that primarily spent on groceries, single meal deliveries, or restaurants? Track your spending with a tool like Mint to figure out where your money is going now. 

Then you can take a look at a few different meal prep kits and their prices to see if that might make sense for your budget. Remember that many of these companies offer introductory rates so you might even be able to try a few options to find one that works for you. Another thing to remember is that some of the meals might have large enough portions that they could work for leftover lunch the next day as well, further reducing your per-meal cost.

The Bottom Line

Using a meal prep service may be more expensive than buying your own food and cooking at home. But, if your culinary skills, time, or energy don’t allow that luxury right now, using meal kits might be cheaper and healthier than ordering delivery or eating at restaurants. You may even find preparing meal kits are a good first step to more confidence in making your own meals.

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Source: mint.intuit.com