Monday, September 9, 2013
Tips For Going Plant Based - Embrace Internet Ordering
How did we ever live without you?
Internet shopping for someone like me is from the heavens. I don't drive, I'm an introvert, I don't live on a coast where the good stuff is and I love to save money. I'm all about free or discount. I'm really good at finding a way to get it for less!
I often hear people complain about not being able to afford to eat in a healthy way or not being able to afford the extras in a plant based lifestyle. It's easy to be plant based on a budget if you eat beans, rice and veggies but if you want to include the fun stuff like raw nuts to make cheese, nutritional yeast, protein powders, supplements and specialty ingredients that cost more than the average 'shit' ingredients we can all get at our local supermarket, then you need to get creative.
If you live in a place where it's an hour drive (if you're lucky) to find specialty stores that carry these products then you need to find your inner Sherlock and take to the web!
Luckily the internet is a wondrous place where you can find pretty much anything you want and if you dig a little, you can usually find some great bargains. I've saved a ton of cash on things like beauty products, pet meds, clothes, shoes, beads and jewelry supplies, electronics, appliances, you name it.
Some people protest and say 'well, if you have to pay shipping then it isn't a deal'.
Think about what an item costs locally, add in sales tax, your time and the gas to go and get it, the energy to get it home. Even if you have to pay a little shipping, (and many places have free shipping on minimum orders) you might not pay any sales tax, you might not have to pay for the gas to go and get it (for example, my nearest Whole Foods is an hour way so if my only choice is to drive an hour or order it online... ordering online makes sense), you won't have to haul it home (I got my Treadmill online!) and where else can you shop in your PJ's at midnight? (ok, Wal-Mart but you have to get up and actually go there)
Now, that said... I do try and shop locally if I can and if it works with my budget but I will not compromise my beliefs to save a buck... I won't set foot in a Wal-Mart and I wouldn't even if they were giving away 50 lb bags of nutritional yeast. I love nutritional yeast so you need to understand my convictions about Wal-Mart. I despise that place.
Anywho ... I've found some great places and great tricks to get what I want and save money. By saving money on certain things, I have more money to spend on fresh produce, convenience foods like Tofurky or Field Roast and eating out a few times a month. It's only as hard as you make it and if you want to find a way to get what you want, you will. Trust me.
Get another e-mail address
Shopping online will bring you email. You'll get order confirmations, order shipping info, newsletters and offers from the companies you buy from. I recommend setting up a side e-mail thru G-mail or thru your current service provider if you have slots available to do so. Use that e-mail account when you shop online.
If you do that, you aren't clogging up your personal email. I also recommend signing up for newsletters from any company you might want offers from. Companies send out special offers like free shipping codes, coupons for their brick and mortar stores, percent off deals, deluxe freebies and more. Some companies also do special birthday discounts or gifts. Some stores send you welcome offers that can be used on your first order. I've gotten $10 off, 20% off, free bread sticks with a pizza order, free shipping. It's worth it to see if a site has a 'first order' discount before ordering. I've even had websites give me a pop up with a discount if I tried to leave without placing an order!
Brick and mortar stores sometimes send catalogs via snail mail with coupons too!
Find a Friend
You may know a local friend or family member that would like to combine orders with you so ask around. You can combine orders to split shipping (if it's charged) or get free shipping. You can buy in bulk and split the items (like nuts or case lots of products) or help someone out that doesn't have the internet (like my Grams!) and can't order online.
Internet Payment Options
Credit Cards - obviously, using credit cards is usually the preferred payment for most people. I recommend having at least one card for emergencies and for things like renting a car or securing a hotel room. I have no idea what happens with those things if you don't have a credit card. One thing you should never use online is a debit card. If your card number is stolen, they are getting your real, actual cash and it could take time to get it back. Some businesses will 'capture' funds on your card to guarantee payment and that means it can put a hold on your cash for a few days. Also, sometimes glitches happen and your transaction could get interrupted or you could accidentally get charged twice. You do not want that happening with your cash!
You could even get a credit card just for online purchases. They are damn handy. Plus, if you choose one with reward points or cash back, you can get more freebies!
Pay Pal - You can tie your Pay Pal account to your bank account and/or your credit card. You could even set up a special bank account just for Pay Pal if you are weirded out by having it attached to your main account. Either way, Pay Pal works as the middle man in a transaction. Pay Pal has your credit card or bank account info but whoever you do business with, doesn't. There are fees involved in using Pay Pal, of course but it's a secure venue. I've used them for years without any issue. You can also get paid thru Pay Pal should anyone owe you money. You can choose to use your Pay Pal 'cash' balance, your bank account or your credit card to pay thru Pay Pal. The majority of websites I come across now take Pay Pal so it's really convenient.
Bill Me Later - This company is a sort of credit account. If a business takes BML then you can order, bill yourself and pay the bill when it comes. Another great feature is that BML can be tied to your Pay Pal account so if a business takes Pay Pal, you can use BML to pay even if they don't have BML as a payment option at checkout. I've been using BML for years. The interest is high but if you pay it off every month then it's a moot point. This is the best option if you don't have a credit card.
Cash Back Sites
If you are shopping, why not get some cash back for doing so? It's one small extra step when online shopping and if you can remember to do it, you can get back some significant cash. I don't always remember to use these sites (which makes me mad) but it does pay off to check them whenever you shop to see if they have a cash back offer.
I have put my referral links here so if you sign up, please consider doing it thru the link so I get the credit. These sites do not cost you money to use them so go sign up! You have nothing to lose!
Ebates - I've been using Ebates since 2003 and I've gotten back $400 in cash. I remember about half the time to go thru Ebates so it could have been more. Once you open your account you just need to go thru Ebates.com and search to see if the store you want to buy from is there... if it is, you click thru and Ebates is 'tracking' the purchase and you'll get a percentage back in cash. They range from 1% to 30%. They also have special coupons codes for some stores. If you have $5 or more each quarter, you can have a check sent or a deposit made to your Pay Pal account. Super simple! If you refer people to the site, you ear $10 for each person that signs up and makes a purchase thru your link.
Mr. Rebates - Mr Rebates works much like Ebates with percentage back, and coupon codes but it also has a residual payment system as well. You will get a percentage off your own purchase and when friends and family use your link to sign up, you will earn up to 20% of their percentage long term! Pretty cool.
Googling for Codes
When I shop anywhere, I look for deals and discounts. You can simply Google for specific stores (google the store name and codes) or you can go to dedicated code/coupon sites like Retail Me Not. There are hundreds of code sites so I won't link them all here.. just keep trying them until you find one that works. It's really worth the few minutes if you can get free shipping, a percentage off or some other little freebie. You can use codes even if you went thru the cash back links so it's a double discount!
Now that you have the basics, lets talk shopping! I'll give you my tips and tricks for the major categories when it comes to plant based eating. If you're looking for other items in general like beauty products, pet items and such.. shoot me a message. I'd be happy to help if I can. The basic rule when shopping online is to google whatever you are wanting and you'll eventually find some great prices!
I am a book whore. I admit it. I have well over 100 books about plant based nutrition and plant based cooking. I want to get them at the best price possible so I almost always buy books online.
Amazon usually has books for 30% to 45% off the publisher price. They have free shipping on orders of $25 or more and if you pay for their 'Prime' service you can get 2 day delivery on orders. If you have a Kindle you can get e-books. They even offer down loadable Kindle apps for smart phones and your computer so you can read them for free once you buy them in e-book form without having to buy the Kindle device.
Barnes & Noble also offers books less than the publisher price but they seldom honor those prices at their stores. They offer a members club for $25 a year that gets you store discounts and special shipping deals online. If you sign up for their emails you can also get coupons and discount codes for use in the store and online. They offer the Nook device for e-books. I have a Nook and while I'm fine getting a nutrition book in e-book form, I won't do it with cookbooks. If you are someone that can have your Nook out while you're cooking, more power to you! I'm a messy cook so I don't want my Nook tablet anywhere neat the kitchen!
Ebay - someone might be selling that slightly used book for cheap!
The Library - now, you won't own it but using the library to test out cookbooks or if you just want to read that plant based nutrition book and not own it .. it makes sense. Some even have a way to check out e-books from your computer!
Supplements & Ingredients
Protein powders, vitamins, supplements, Spirulina, nutritional yeast, raw nuts, flax seed, gluten flour, garbanzo bean flour, special pastas, .. the list goes on! There are certain products that are plant based basics and you'll find that you'll want to have them on hand. You might need to do a few searches when you're looking for something and multiple sites may have what you're looking for so you need to compare prices shipping costs, wait times and discounts to determine what your best choice is. You can even combine orders with friends and family to meet free shipping minimums. I even buy products online that I can find locally because I can usually get a better price online.
Remember to consider bulk buying. It's usually less if you buy more and if it is something that keeps well or you can share, then it makes sense! I buy raw cashews in 5 or 10 pound bags. I store a couple pounds in my pantry and the rest in the freezer. I also buy the broken pieces instead of the whole nut. I can save as much as $3 a pound that way! I'm just going to toss it into my Vitamix anyway so who cares if they are whole or in pieces?
These are the places I shop at quite a bit:
Amazon - they have everything. They also have a Subscribe & Save program that will save you even more if you commit to auto delivery of certain items. If it's something you are using a lot of, it might be the way to go if the prices fall into line. The program is simple and easy to edit. You can set it to ship every month or as far as every 6 months. You do need to pay attention tho or you could end up with a shipment when you don't need it.
VitaCost - they have supplements, vitamins, food, product for my dogs, beauty products.. tons of things. Free shipping on orders of $49 or more and they ship pretty quickly. They also offer your choice of free samples. They have a Set & Save auto delivery program. They have tons of deals and buy one get one offers every week, discount codes and their prices are almost always the lowest I can find. Use the link here and you can get $10 off your first order of $30 or more!
iHerb - Iherb has some great prices as well and they carry much of the same things as VitaCost does. They offer free 1 to 3 day shipping on orders over $20 and you can choose freebies with your order.
Use my Rewards Code AWE648 at iHerb.com. You'll get $10 off your first order of $40 or more; or $5 off orders less than $40!
Anuts - They have nuts, dried fruits and seeds at decent prices. Even when I factored in the shipping cost it was less per pound than locally. They are in Illinois so if you are in the midwest, you'll have your order within a day or two.
Bulkfoods.com - They have nuts, dried fruits, psices, candy and more. They had the lowest price of raw cashews and nutritional yeast (5 lb quantities) I have been able to find as of this blog posting. They offer $5 shipping on orders of $75 or more. They are based in Ohio so Midwesterners get quick delivery.
Vegan Essentials - based in Wisconsin, if it's vegan, this company probably has it.. including refrigerated products. They offer shipment with cold packs and since they are so close to me and I can get a delivery pretty much overnight, I have ordered cold items from them but it's your call if you live further away.
Fake Meats - based in Illinois and independently owned, this fun website has all types of fake meats. Not everything is vegan, some are just vegetarian so pay attention! This is where I get my Soy Curls and they also have The Vegg if you've been wanting to try that!
Casa.com - this company is actually Amazon! They have 10 different stores with specific categories. The cool thing is that you can order from all the stores with one cart.. they give free shipping on a low minimum order and it comes in 2 days or less. Each item will tell you when you can expect it! Plus, you can get 20% off on every first order from every store... so, 20% off at Casa, 20% off at Wag, 20% off at Soap ... all ten stores! They have amazing customer service and their prices are pretty good. They also send emails out with codes for 15% off at various times.
Note about brick & mortar stores and the internet - some stores will price match even if you find the prices online. If you have a store you prefer shopping at but another store has it for less, it won't hurt to ask your preferred store if they can beat the price. It also helps if you'd rather not have an item shipped (like a TV) or need it right away. We've gotten a car stereo from Best Buy at a New Egg.com price. We got our washer and dryer from Sears but they price matched another store and when they found the washer we wanted was out of stock, they upgraded us to a better model for the same price. All they can do it say no.