safeway trash can

I had a lot of mixed feelings about putting my secret free turkey plan into motion for the $1 Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge. On the one hand, had I been a little more organized and had a little bit of luck, I would have already had a free turkey when Safeway offered their free turkey with a $100 purchase a few weeks ago. The problem was that with the sales that were on at that time, I could only find a way to get about $50 in free food thus making it impossible for me to get the free turkey. I thought that another store in my area would offer a similar deal, but it never materialised.

I fully believed that I could win the challenge through the normal use of coupons that anyone would be willing to do and it was my plan to win the challenge without resorting to tactics that some people would refuse to do. That being said, with the choice quickly turning into losing the bet or doing something a bit embarrassing, there was not a question that I was going to choose to be a bit embarrassed.

I have long held the feeling that there were a lot of hidden coupon treasures to be found for anyone willing to go and look for them. I find free money Catalina coupons on a regular basis left inside shopping carts, shopping baskets and in grocery store parking lots. I know that most people never look at the Catalina coupons that they get and throw them away without even realising that they are throwing away money. I know this because I used to be one of those people. My gut has been telling me for quite some time that anyone willing to look in the trash cans outside grocery stores would likely find free money coupons hiding inside. In fact, I was thinking about doing a challenge to see exactly what I could find at some later point, but that point was quickly moved up so that I would not have to hear my sister’s “I told you so” for the rest of the year.

I decided that my secret plan to getting a free turkey would be to search the trash cans for free money coupons that were thrown away by people. I needed to find $7.00 worth of these Catalina coupons to secure a free turkey and not being sure how difficult this might be, I decided to start over the weekend in case it required several days (and because grocery stores tend to be a lot more crowded on weekends meaning a better chance of finding Catalina coupons thrown away.

I found myself in front of Safeway with a steady rain coming down all around attempting to get my courage up to delve into the trash can:

safeway trash can

I open up the plastic trash can liner and lean down into the can and immediately found a few Catalina coupons that have been tossed. Moving a few advertising inserts revealed a few more that I grab. I began to move aside a paper bag when I felt a tap on my back…

Me: (thinking: “Damn, are you serious? I just started and already I am going to get in trouble for doing this?”) as I slowly take my arm out of the trash can and turn around expecting to see a store manager or security guard.

Older lady: “Here you go,” she says waving a dollar bill for me to take.

Me: (look of shock at this unexpected event) “No, no…I can’t take that,” I stammer still in shock.

Older lady: (Looks confused) “Oh,” she says, then reaches into her purse to take out another dollar and hands both to me.

Me: “No, no, you don’t understand. I don’t take money.”

Older lady: (still confusion on her face) “Oh, would you like me to buy you some food then?”

Me: “No, no. I am searching for coupons,” I say thinking that this will make everything clear.

Older lady: (now looks at me like I am totally crazy and hurries off into the store probably to call the police — Note to older lady: If you ever happen across this post, I sincerely apologize for freaking you out and not getting the chance to tell you what a kind heart you have in trying to help out someone that you thought was in need)

Despite the awkward beginning to the search for thrown away Catalina coupons, I did manage to find 22:

catalina coupons

Unfortunately, none of the coupons were the $x.xx off your next purchase type that I was hoping to find. There were a couple of free item coupons: One for free Dreyer’s ice cream (up to $3.99) and one for one free gallon of milk (up to $3.60)

free catalina coupons

There was also a very interesting coupon that may get me my free turkey. I found a “Receive a $10 US Bank Reward Visa Card when you talk to a banker today!” with the fine print saying there is no purchase necessary. If this is a legit deal, I should have no problem getting a turkey using this card.

free 10 dollars catalina coupon

I’ll find out on Monday if this will work. Keep your fingers crossed…

Rebate Fanatic. Saving you money every time you shop online! Sign Up and Start Saving Today


  1. “How are you only $7 away from a free turkey?!”

    I assume a 10 lb turkey at something like $0.69/lb or $0.89/lb (with some other freebie goodness)

    Makes me wonder if I should look through the trash bins myself 🙂 Good work!

  2. @J

    There is a sale this week at Safeway that if you buy $20 in groceries, you can get up to a 16 lb turkey for $7.00. I should be able to get the $20 in groceries for free using coupons.

  3. Wow, you manage to do what I always dream of doing lol, if people weren’t around I would so rummage through the trash myself lol

  4. Ok..this exchange between you and the older woman cracks me up! I am not sure I am gutsy enough to go through the trash but good for you. I am still rooting for you to win this bet.

  5. You can go when the stores are closed. Do your stores have self check out? you would be amazed the coupons people toss in those garbage bins as well. 😀

  6. Good luck! I got my 13 lb frozen turkey for $4.26 on Friday using the “we will match any competitor’s price” offer at my local store ($.39/lb) and an additional $1 off coupon from the Shady Brook Farms web site.

    Next time just say you accidentally dropped your car keys in there while throwing away a candy wrapper or something……

  7. I have found catalinas in carts, but never thought to check the trash. I let someone step ahead of me in line one day, and she told the cashier to keep the catalinas. I asked for them and got a $3 on your next purchase that way. It was Karma.

  8. You constantly amaze me! Do you know how many times I have seen coupons/catalinas in a cart and just let them be. Well no more. Thanks for another way to get free food. Oh, and I will be using the lost keys excuse for the trash bins.

  9. Great story, Jeffrey. We are rooting for you. And I love your dumpster diving scheme – had not thought of that being your secret plan. (Maybe bin-bending would be a better name for it?)I know there’s a whole subculture of trash-picking as a modern form of hunting and gathering, but I totally get your embarrassment. I blush just to pick up a catalina off the ground to see what it’s for – and I still regret the summer day I passed up at least a dozen empty Coke 12-pack boxes that someone had stuffed in the trash can outside Albterstons after filling coolers. That was a motherlode of Coke Rewards (free music, free soda), but I just didn’t have the nerve to pick the trash. So, good for you – and good luck! (And I hope that lady does get word of what was going on, she has a good heart)

  10. Great job Jeffrey! I was going to guess that(!) haha. I had a bad experience with it though. I was in Albertson’s and have been checking the little waste baskets by the self service checkouts regularly. I have been able to score some really good $3.00 off and $4.00 off coupons that way. Well, I was approached by the store manager and was told that it was not okay to do that and that they would no longer allow it. Since that day, the store cashiers monitor the Catalina machines and remove all coupons from them after each customer. Not only do they remove them, but they tear them up before they put them into the trash. I am glad that you were able to find a store that allows you to use them. The way I see it, the coupons are being tossed so why can’t others benefit from using them?
    Good luck with your challenge. Our state does not have that sale for the turkeys at our Safeway, but I was able to score a turkey at I paid $16.82 for $69.40 worth of groceries. Not as great as your savings but I am still learning! Keep up the good work. And by the way, thanks for the soda coupons. I will be using those at Kmart this week. Soda is 88 cents making the deal even sweeter! 🙂

  11. I paid right around $4 for a 16.5 pound turkey with a $20 purchase (which comprised most of the rest of my T’giving items)

    My total cost for T’giving is going to be right around $25. I expect to feed 5 people.

    And best of all it involved no real effort/work.

  12. That made me LAUGH! I have been digging through the trash cans near the self serve checkouts myself, but afraid to ‘dig too deep’. Sorry to see that others have been discouraged from doing that. Also picking up thrown away Catalinas in the parking lot, and did find one for several dollars OYNO one day!

  13. I’m busting up at your story about the coupons and the garbage can! Good luck, I think you just might do this! I’ve been watching your challenge since you started it – You can probably still go test drive a car for a free turkey remember! 🙂

  14. you can possible get a money maker around $4-$5 per trans. this week at walgreens,

    Olay Bar Soap 2/$4.00,get $1.00 RR
    Buy 2 Secret Deodorant trial size.99
    = 5.98
    Use(2)$5.00 any olay/wyb secret coupon.

    = $4.02 MM + 1RR

    The pumpkin pie is on sale for 4.99 which is not the best deal, but would be free after the RR’s.

  15. Heheeh…you made my day!!…i am really laughing hehehe hard!!…Way to go Jeffrey…at fred meyers in the self checkout people always leave catalinas behind ..without even looking at them…i just go after they leave and get them….if the cashiers let me do it hehe..i will check the trash cans from now on :)…Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  16. Bravo! This entry made me laugh, congratulations on your accomplishment. A very clever use of coupons and desire to win! 🙂 You are inspiring me to take on my own 30 day challenge, stay tuned!

  17. I picked through a trash once for coupons. a new store had opened up and had sent out coupons for free 3lbs of chicken and a free bbq sauce. i ended up with almost 90 lbs of free chicken. didnt bother me a bit to look in a trash can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment