Hands up if you remember the great tomato surplus of 2011.
Anybody? Us neither.
Two years ago, Nadine Chappellaz was contacted by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. The writer was putting together a story on tomatoes. More specifically, what a bumper crop of love-apples in the United States was doing to prices north of the border.
And why did reporter from a Pulitzer Prize-winning business daily want to interview a stay-at-home mom from St. Boniface? Because for the last four years, Chappellaz has been an inspiration for skin flints everywhere, thanks to her blog, Save Money in Winnipeg.
A few days before the Wall Street Journal got in touch, Chappellaz penned a post discussing how a specific type of canned tomatoes was on sale in Winnipeg for $1. It got better: Chappellaz also told her readers where they could find $1 manufacturer's coupons for that same brand. (Do the math.)
"I thought the coupon was a misprint but after the reporter told me about the overabundance (of tomatoes) in the States and how everybody there was trying to get rid of them, it all started to make sense," says Chappellaz, who subsequently wrote a followup piece explaining why everybody was getting free tomatoes.
It's been said there's no rest for the wicked. Same goes for the thrifty.
Every morning, Chappellaz rises and shines well ahead of her husband and seven-year-old daughter. After fetching the newspaper, she heads to the kitchen and spreads whatever flyers there are across the table. Coffee cup in hand, Chappellaz gets busy hunting for sales and deals. After double-checking her notes, she tiptoes to her computer, where she shares her discoveries with her flock of frugal followers.
Later in the day when Chappellaz is out and about, picking up a few things for supper, she tweets about every in-store bargain she trips over.
"A couple of weeks ago, for example, pasta was on sale at Safeway for $2.20 a box -- buy one, get one free," Chappellaz explains. "Tuesday was 10 per cent off day, plus there were coupons that got you another 75 cents off, per box. So when all was said and done, each box of pasta only cost about 50 cents.
"I took another mom with me to show her how easy it was; we each bought 10 boxes and I let her keep all of them."
Chappellaz hasn't always pinched pennies. Things changed in that regard about five years ago, she says, when she went grocery shopping and spotted a breakfast cereal her family enjoys marked down to $3. Chappellaz turned the box over and noticed coupons totalling $10 on the backside.
"I said to myself, 'Omigawd, the box is worth more than the cereal itself.' When I got home, I called everyone I knew to let them know, too."
Before long, Chappellaz was spending a couple of hours on the phone every day, informing friends and family members about bargains she was turning up. Finally, her cousin told her she should start a blog.
Mission accomplished: at last count, Save Money in Winnipeg was registering hundreds of hits per day and the blog's accompanying Facebook site (www.facebook.com/SaveMoneyInWinnipeg) had more than 2,000 friends.
"If you go that (Facebook) group, the discussions are non-stop -- it's very interactive," Chappellaz says. "Somebody will ask, 'Where are the cheapest kids' shoes?' or 'I need to buy a new bed; where should I go?' and within minutes, there will be like 20 responses."
"Groups like (Nadine's) have made me more cognizant to check if there is a deal out there before purchasing," says Jodie McRae, one of Save Money in Winnipeg's fans. "While I have always been penny-savvy, this group just provides an easy facilitation of resources out there. I am a stay-at-home mom and I also work from home... I need info quickly and don't always have the luxury of perusing ads."
Among the deals McRae has twigged to thanks to Chappellaz's site are children's boots ("clearing out at Walmart") and early-bird Christmas presents ("family-sized Cheerios were on sale... some boxes had $10 coupons for Mattel toys").
"If you have to purchase something anyways, wouldn't you prefer to have the savings in your pocket?" McRae asks matter-of-factly.
Chappellaz has been approached by tight-fisted types hoping to create a national, daily registry of savings.
"I might team up one day but there's so much going on in Winnipeg and Manitoba I don't really feel the need to expand yet," Chappellaz says, noting her husband used to tease her until he realized her persistence was slashing at least 50 per cent off their monthly food bill.
Before letting her get on with her day -- laundry detergent is on sale at Sobey's, you know -- we'd be remiss if we didn't ask Chappellaz about the ad space on her blog. What we mean is, are there any deals to be had there?
"Of course," she says with a chuckle. "We can always figure out a price that works for you."