Friday, April 26, 2019

Cafe Roma Chocolate Lava Cake (Dollar Tree)

Haven't seen this at any Dollar Tree in over a year, so had to steal this screen grab. (Img Credit: Markis Pea Welby)
Any time I go to Dollar Tree, I usually end up walking back and forth down their freezer section, looking for something that I wouldn't be absolutely terrified to eat. I consider myself to be very open-minded with many food stuffs, but some of those things just look too grotesque even for me. I mean, meat products, or seafood for a dollar? I'm not so sure about that—if it doesn't get you sick, it will more than likely taste like junk and be an unnecessary waste of money. I don't care if it is only a dollar, sometimes those add up.

I literally was on my fourth or fifth freezer pass (this on a return trip to the freezer: the first time I took one or two passes before deciding to move on), and was just about to head up and pay without anything, when this little guy caught my eye. He was a little difficult to see, because he was placed near the connection of two panes of freezer glass, but once I saw him, I knew I'd found something I wanted to try. I immediately grabbed him, and put him in my basket, then made a beeline for the registers, because by that time, I'd already spent way too much time and money there.

A couple days later, and just in the middle of the day, I was looking for a snack. As usual, there were precious few things in the house, but I saw this when I opened the freezer. Might as well give this a go, I thought to myself, and I proceeded to tear into it (after microwaving it, of course). Immediately, I was put-off by it, as the entire outer edge of the cake is unusually tough, and packs in very little flavor, and I was ready to toss in the towel and chalk this up as yet another Dollar Tree failure.

Only it's not, because the actual inside is a completely different beast: it's moist, very chocolatey, and if you can believe me, unusually delicious. Now, if you're expecting a rush of delicious chocolate liquid to ooze out after cutting into it (as I was), you'll be sorely disappointed, because there isn't any at all: after all, I thought that was the whole "lava" part in the product's title. But the chocolate innards have the same delectably rich taste without it, putting it pretty much on par with every other lava cake I've had (though, to be fair, haven't been many).

For $1, some of Dollar Tree's single-serve desserts are a little on the small side, and feel unjustly overpriced. Here, though, you get quite a bit of lava cake for the money; it's about the same size as any other lava cake that I've seen, so I can't knock it for that. The quick cooking time (it suggests 20-30 seconds in the microwave, but our microwave sucks and needed closer to a minute) makes it a perfect little dessert to have at any point of the day, and you can top this puppy off with ice cream and hot fudge for a sensational treat that you'd pay upwards of $8 for at virtually any restaurant!

About the only drawback is that tougher chocolate ring around the outside. I get that it's probably a cheap way to keep the inner chocolate part from collapsing, but it's still very off-putting, and not a feature I remember in any other lava cake I've ever had. It was especially noticeable toward the end, as there was only a little bit of actual lava cake left, I had to blend the bites with the “outer shell” and it noticeably affected the flavor to the negative. Dealing with it isn't that hard...either suck it up and eat the whole thing all at once, to get the worst part out of the way, or if you don't mind being wasteful, just peel it off and chuck it. But if you do that, keep in mind you're also throwing away half the cake.

I made the mistake of buying only one, and even though I look virtually every time I go, I've never seen these on the shelves again. As far as Dollar Tree desserts go, this just might be the crème de la crème: A hidden gem, one that they could probably slap some fancier packaging on, and sell for twice, or maybe even three times the price at a traditional supermarket. If you have these at your local DT, or see them anywhere else for a buck, do yourself a favor and stock up on them. I wish I would have.

Overall: 8/10. An exceptional treat for the price, especially given the store that it came from. A few of Dollar Tree's desserts I've had previously, are too small to justify the price, if not outright horrid. These, on the other hand, are fantastic, barring the weird ring of tough chocolate that surrounds it (I'm assuming maybe to keep the soft insides from collapsing, but it's more exaggerated than any other lava cake I've had). The soft, moist innards (apologies for the gross term) are rich and delightfully flavorful, while the size is pretty impressive for a buck. Note that this isn't the “molten” version, so don't expect any liquid chocolate to seep out (much to my dismay), but it honestly doesn't need it, because it's very delicious on its own. They could put it in fancier packaging and sell them for twice, maybe even three times the price at a traditional supermarket. If you see them, as I haven't since getting this once over a year ago, be sure to stock up!

Dolce Tuscano Chocolate-Dipped Bananas (Dollar Tree)

Better than one would think.
Bananas are one of my favorite things in the world, which pretty much means they’re far and away my favorite fruit (and I love me some fruit!). However, aside from chocolate-covered strawberries, I don’t want cocoa anywhere near my fruits. I know fruit and chocolate is a hugely popular combination now, but I find it to be a repulsive combination of two things that don't belong together. 

Complaining further, I can’t stand dark chocolate. Of course, that’s the kind that’s supposed to be the best for you, but I normally dislike anything that has strong notes of bitterness in its flavor profile; it is for this same reason that I despise coffee, and can’t stand beer. If you ever see me drinking either of those things, please take me to a hospital because something is seriously wrong.

So then how did I end up with a box of Dolce Tuscano Chocolate-Dipped Banana Slices after exiting a Dollar Tree store? Let’s just say, when people tell you not to go shopping on an empty stomach, listen to them. For some reason, the combination looked so delicious that I just had to try them, even though it’s clearly not something I would ever spring for. But I knew my wife would absolutely love these (she’s as much a fan of the fruit and chocolate blend, as I am against it), and they were only $1, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose. Unless these were the worst things in the world, between the two of us, there was no way they were going to waste.

Prepping these frozen treats for consumption couldn’t be easier: simply pull them out of the freezer and put them at room temperature for a mere 5-10 minutes, and you’re ready to dig right in! All it took was my first bite in to remember why I don’t like these: frozen banana. I can’t stand it. I love the soft smoothness of a ripe banana, and when you freeze it, it completely destroys the texture, giving it a hard popsicle-like consistency. I understand that’s the appeal for most, but it's just not my cup of tea.

Well, reading all the negativity in the previous paragraphs, you’re probably thinking this is the sentence where I start ripping into them, and tell you that they’re a waste of money--only, that’s not at all what I’m going to say. Because, in all honesty, I kind of liked these. All of my aforementioned complaints still apply, and I would make sure to let these sit out for twenty or thirty minutes next time (even at the risk of having melty chocolate all over the place) just to give the bananas a chance to soften up a little bit, but the chocolate coating is sweeter than most dark chocolates, and I thought they blended together well. My wife’s chief complaint is that there’s only a thin layer of chocolate on the outside, but I thought there was just the right amount.

Even more surprising are the ingredients: bananas and chocolate. That’s it. Usually products from the dollar store are stuffed with all sorts of chemicals, or “natural flavors”, or other mysterious oddities that allow manufacturers to cut costs while still delivering in the dollar price range. The fact that these are simply what they appear to be is pretty refreshing. On the value front, your $1 gets you ten medium-sized pieces…I split them with my wife and it was the perfect amount for a quick little treat. While they’re not anything I would think to get with any sort of regularity, they're great to pick up occasionally as a cheap, unique (for me) way to fill a sweet tooth…my wife is already planning on stocking up on these during the summer months as a nice way to help beat the heat!

Overall: 7/10. I wouldn’t get these frequently, but just the fact I would get them again at all is enough of a positive. I can’t stand frozen bananas, or dark chocolate, the only two things this product consists of, and yet I have to say these were pretty darn good. The dark chocolate isn’t as bitter as most darks (probably because of the cheap price point), and fits well with the sweetness of the fruit. I still don’t like the texture of a frozen banana, so I would let these sit out for twice as long next time, in the hopes that it would soften a little bit (and at the risk of having melty chocolate all over the place), but these are pretty darn good for a buck. Also of note: consists only of bananas and chocolate, without all the annoying additives that most dollar store products tend to sneak in. Definitely recommended.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Little Journey Thick & Quilted Baby Wipes (Aldi)

Great wipes at a great price!
If you read my previous review, you'd see that my wife is basically a Momzilla (like a Bridezilla, only for parents instead of a would-be spouse), and is super protective of what goes on or near his body. (Haha, I was actually just joking and sincerely hope it didn't come off that way; most mothers I know of are like that with their children.) Well, wipes are perhaps the second most important thing that will constantly be in contact with baby's skin, and so it should come as no surprise that she's just as maniacal and opinionated about brands of baby wipes—and this time, not even Little Journey is exempt from her stringent standards.

You see, she dislikes the name brand of baby stuff that starts with a “hug” and can't be bothered to try anything that pertains to that brand. Well, the packaging for Little Journey's Thick Quilted Baby Wipes compares it directly to said brand, which has automatically disqualified it from being the main baby wipe in our household. How am I reviewing it? Because we still buy them to use as “backup wipes”, either for when we run out of main ones and don't notice in time, or just to use for smaller messes and mishaps, such as juice spills. I also have a little confession to make: While my wife probably makes sure to grab the “good” ones for cleaning up baby's poopy messes, I just grab whatever's available, and have used these on his bottom on multiple occasions.

I can honestly say I prefer these to the brand we normally use (which is Comforts, a different store brand). For the most part, to me, a wipe is just a wipe: as long as it can clean up poop and other baby-related messes without ripping, and without causing breakouts, then it's fine in my book. By that criteria, almost any wipe is going to do the trick these days, unless your child has really sensitive skin or allergies to a specific ingredient. But what I like about the Little Comforts wipes are that they feel a little thicker than others, while the quilted texture actually helps with the grip, both in my hands, and with whatever it is that I'm wiping (usually a baby's ass, but sometimes various spills or other bodily fluids).

In my opinion, the texture really seems to “grab” more per swipe than flat wipes: rather than just sliding through a baby crack and potentially smearing things around, these seem to get more to “stick” to it, which means fewer passes to clean up even the tougher messes, which means fewer wipes used, which translates to an even better value. To be fair, I haven't used these for poop cleanup enough consecutive times to know if they would lead to skin rashes or breakouts--which I believe is the issue my wife had with the name brand of diaper--but in terms of actual use as a wipe, these are fantastic.

Even better is the value, with a 3-pack of 216 total wipes (72 each pack) costing just $2.99. This puts them about on par with prices from membership clubs, but without the requirement to buy boxes of 1000+ wipes at a time. (They also have individual packs for a higher cost per wipe, though the specific price escapes me at the moment.) That makes these yet another solid item in Little Journey's impressive Little Journey line, and another solid choice for parents looking to help control the excessive costs associated with having a baby. Just think: You could have bought a brand new car instead!

Overall: 8/10. Although these are our “backup wipes” due to my wife's dislike of the general name brand these are emulating, I actually find these to be better at cleaning up baby shit than the ones we normally use: they feel thicker, stronger, and the quilting honestly seems to “grip” more mess up at once than other brands, reducing both the number of wipes needed, and the total number of passes required to clean up even tough messes. And at $2.99 for 216 wipes (three 72-ct. packs), they are an excellent value. Chalk these up as another win for Little Journey! The only variable preventing me from assigning a higher score, is that I have not used these enough consecutive times on our baby to know if they would break out his skin; I don't think they would, as he hasn't seemed to have any type of reaction when I have used them, but can't say for sure. At any rate, they're great to keep on hand for backups or emergency situations.

Little Journey Small Strides Baby Diapers (Aldi)

Solid performance at a great price!
As pretty much everyone in the world knows, diapers are expensive. Even if you don't have children, your parenting friends have probably casually mentioned this to you at least a thousand times over the course of conversations that have nothing to do with babies or finances. Unfortunately, they are also completely necessary. As tempting as it might be to tape a plastic bag to your child just to save a few bucks sometimes, that's obviously not a logical (or hygienic) approach. (Can you imagine the looks on the faces of stunned parents as you whipped out a tape gun and plastic bag in the changing station of your local mall? Come to think of it, that could be a funny public skit idea...) 

Of course, there are alternatives—the main one being cloth diapers—but those require higher upfront costs and ongoing maintenance (constant washing), not to mention the learning curve of figuring out which of the half-dozen different kinds of cloth diapers will work best for you. There's a big reason disposables are the most popular kind of diaper on the market, and it's the same reason most things become popular: convenience. People are lazy, and no one wants to deal with extra loads of laundry every couple of days. At least, I know I don't. 

It shouldn't come as much of a shock that Aldi's Little Journey line, which showed up in stores literally two months before we had our little guy back in 2016 (I swear they plan their product lines around us half the time!) offer some of the most “inexpensive” diapers on the market, even besting the prices of those in some membership clubs. But as we also know, price is only half of the equation: a good price just isn't a good deal if a product sucks. So how well do Little Journey diapers perform? Let's take a look! 

Each pack comes with two styles: "Animal" (left) and "Boring" (right)
Just to reinforce parenting stereotypes, I'm pretty laid back when it comes to most aspects of parenting. My wife, on the other hand, is the polar opposite of me: This is the woman who refused to take our son ice skating at two years old because she was afraid he would fall too many times and hurt himself (actually, when you're a kid, falling and sliding on the ice is the best part anyway, and I swear kids don't feel pain when they're having fun). She's also the reason why I had to literally wait until she left the house to change his diaper for the first time when he was three months old, because she was afraid I would do it wrong. (Aww, her heart's in the right place.) Needless to say, she's also the type that has to make sure all of his clothes are carefully coordinated to match, down to the socks, any time we go out in public. 

For these reasons, I just give her free rein to decide every aspect of the products she uses on our child, from wipes, to lotions, to shampoos and soaps—and of course, diapers are included in that bunch. Thanks to a baby shower, we had quite the stash of various name brand diapers to test out, and after going through those, she bought even more brands to try, attempting to find the perfect mix of performance and value. It probably wasn't until some time after the six month mark that she even gave Little Journey diapers a try, hesitant that they would cause some kind of rash, or constant blowouts. As such, this review also blends her perspectives along with my own to give you a more accurate, thorough examination.

Let's just say after she was finally willing to give them a shot, we haven't gone back to using anything else (except for the odd “emergency situation” where they were out of stock, or whatever.)

Now that's not to say they are her favorite diaper overall, or that they are even the “best diaper” on the market...and probably not by a long shot. She prefers the more “natural” brands, that “naturally” cost twice as much (or more!) than other disposables. You know, the ones with names and packaging that look like they're trying too hard to convince you that they are worth the price increase, because piss and shit looks better in their diapers, or something. However, when cost is factored in, she finds that Little Journey offers the best balance between the two: blowouts and leaks are rare (and generally only happened when we needed to go up a size), they have never broken out his skin, and they can hold a lot (how can such a little person have so much waste?), arguably the three most important features of a diaper. Leaks have occurred a few times overnight, but not enough to where it's any sort of ongoing problem (and could also be from user error, or extra liquid intake the night before), they are very stretchy and easy to put on (as most are) and seem to be comfortable for him, as he's never complained or acted like they bother him. The light animal designs are also cute, and make them a little more “fun” than a plain diaper would be. 

If this lining doesn't scream "Comfort!", I don't know what does.
The only downside I can think of (aside from the occasional leakage) is that these don't have the color-changing “wetness indicator” strips that other brands have (though maybe that's why they're cheaper?). My wife was disappointed to learn these were without, but has easily adapted to where she no longer misses it. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it's really kind of a pointless feature—how hard is it to tell if a diaper is full of piss or not?--but it can be nice to have in certain rushed situations and save you from wasting a diaper by changing one that doesn't really need changed.

Onto the value: Aldi offers their diapers in two case sizes: soft packs, which surprisingly come in soft packs, and club size, which are larger and come in boxes. Curiously, club packs are only offered beginning with size 3 and up through 6, though I guess from their limited-inventory standpoint that makes some sense as babies seem to grow quicker in their early years (we had to give away several packs of newborn and size 1 diapers that we had received because he outgrew them so quickly). However, the price for all soft packs (with varying numbers of diapers in each) are $4.99 in our area, while the larger club packs offer almost three times as many for $10.99—even at size 6 where you only get 60 diapers per box, that works out to just $.18 per diaper! (Keep in mind that pricing varies by region, so your stores might be more or less expensive.)

If you're a parent looking for ways to cut some costs--and unless you're a rich prick, you should be--the whole Little Journey's line offers up some great products for your little one, and at great prices to boot; their diapers are no exception. A reminder if you're still a little hesitant about having your baby soil an unknown brand of diaper, remember that you really don't have anything to lose thanks to Aldi's money-back satisfaction guarantee!

Overall: 8.5/10. They aren't perfect (what is?) but Little Journey diapers provide the best balance of performance-to-value out of any brand that we've tried (and we've tried at least a dozen): Blowouts and leakage are rare, they've never broken out our baby's skin, have cute little designs, are easy to put on and remove, and seem to be comfortable for him. They are missing the color-changing wetness indicator that many brands have, but despite being disappointed by that at first, we've learned to adapt to it and only miss it on rare occasions. They have two sizes available: soft packs, which are smaller, and club size boxes, with prices ranging from around $.10 per diaper, up to just $.23, offering incredible value compared to most other brands. If you don't have time to clip coupons or hunt for deals, these are a great go-to option, provided you have an Aldi store near you. If they can win my wife's seal of approval, then they will more than likely do the same for you!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

An In-Depth Review of Checkout 51: Does the "Accepted Anywhere" Mobile Rebate App Really Have an Advantage Over Competitors?

WHAT IS IT? 

Checkout 51 is, much like Ibotta, a free “coupon rebate” app that offers money back when specific items are purchased. The main advantage it has over its competition is that, unlike most apps that are only accepted at specific retailers, any of the offers in Checkout51 can be redeemed anywhere—even online! But does that make it a formidable opponent to the top rebate apps? Or is it a complete waste of your time? Read on for all the sordid details!

EASE OF USE 

The main screen. Simply scroll down to see and add offers.

If you have used other rebate apps, then you probably already have a good idea of how to use Checkout 51—which, in many ways, is even simpler! All of the available offers are accessed via a single page that can be scrolled through, and adding offers is as simple as pressing the grey “+” that appears next to each one. If you want to search for a specific item, that can be done via the search bar at the top, or you can browse for deals by category. Clicking on an offer will provide you with more details, though sadly there is no “scan UPC” function to verify an item in advance; this means you'll have to carefully read through the details to make sure the size/quantity you're buying is eligible for the rebate. It's a bit of a drag, but shouldn't be a dealbreaker for most.


Watch out for store-specific offers like the ones above, which can be kind of hard to see, especially on computers.

Also, even though a big selling point is that all offers can be redeemed anywhere, keep in mind there are still items only available at certain stores. These are denoted on the main page with “Select Retailers Only” above the item name if there are multiples, or with a single store name above the item if it's only valid at one. If the offer is good at multiple stores, you will have to click into it to read the list of specific stores where the offer is valid.

SELECTION

Not sure what you're looking for? Browsing for products by category is very simple.
On its own, Checkout 51 has a solid variety of offers, spanning just about every product category from “snacks”, to “baby”, to alcohol, and almost everything in between. However, once you really break it down, there are generally only around a handful of items per category. Whereas with Ibotta you can just do your normal shopping without consulting the app first, and have at least a decent chance something you bought is on offer, a majority of the items in Checkout 51 are things most people will intentionally have to seek out, with the sole purpose of capitalizing on the offer. 

This can be a good thing: It was this app that got us to try Icelandic Provisions Skyr for the first time, which is a pretty delicious (if overpriced) semi-sweet yogurt-style treat that we otherwise probably never would have gotten. But on the other hand, if you wander from your grocery list too often, or are on a tight budget, you might find that going out of your way to add additional, unnecessary items all because you’re promised a rebate in the future just isn't worth it.

Really, that’s the mindset that powers the app: brands pay these companies to have some of their items featured, in the hopes that the small discount will be enough incentive to get people to give it a shot. So if it happens to be something you normally get, that’s just an even better bonus!

I was excited by the proposition that Checkout 51 is accepted at any store, and while that's technically the case, there's a big black mark next to that notion: Aside from the first week you sign up, and your birthday (which was a cute, unexpected touch), you are never given offers on unbranded or generic items. That means every offer is only available on brand name products, shooting big holes through the perceived benefit of being able to cash in offers anywhere. So while you can submit a receipt, for example, from Aldi, how often do they have name brand items, and what are the odds they will have the specific item, in the specific size and/or quantity required, at the specific time that Checkout 51 is offering a rebate on it? In my experience, it happened once (for Bubba Burgers), and I didn't even buy it.

Moral of the story: Unless you’re doing a lot of your shopping around this app, or happen to buy products that consistently have rebates, don’t really expect to make all that much: I started using both Ibotta and this one around the same time (summer, 2018), and as of this writing in March, 2019, I have five times more in my Ibotta account than I do here, and none of the money in Checkout 51 came from Aldi, which was the whole reason I signed up for it in the first place.

(Note: As of March, 2019, Aldi is now an approved retailer in Ibotta, giving Aldi shoppers one less reason to even try this app in the first place. However, this also happened for a brief time back in 2017, before Aldi was unceremoniously dumped from Ibotta again, so who knows if it's a permanent thing this time, or just another limited run.)

REDEEMING OFFERS 

After you select your offers, and purchase them in store, redeeming them is as simple as taking a picture of your receipt, similar to other apps of this nature. Once you submit, it can take up to 24 hours for the balance to appear in your account, though it’s typically much quicker than that. 

A photo template makes lining up and taking images of your receipt quick and painless!

One big area of difference from other rebate apps is the timeframe you have to redeem your offers: all offers reset at midnight on Thursdays, meaning all receipts must be submitted by 11:59PM every Wednesday. This is much different than the 7-day rule used by other apps, and also a drag if you tend to do your shopping on Wednesdays, as you'll have to remember to upload your receipt that day. It’s an even bigger drag if an offer you were eyeing is valid again the following week—you still can’t submit receipts from the previous week-long period.

There are also instances where offers can expire before Wednesday, though they tend to be well-communicated: Most rebates have a certain number of times they can be redeemed; ones close to hitting that threshold will have a “Very Few Left!” note right below the title on the main screen, giving you an at-a-glance warning that you’d better hurry if it’s an offer you’re planning to capitalize on. Annoyingly, items that run out of redemptions are still displayed until the weekly reset, with a note that says “0 Remaining”. They can still be added to your list (though, obviously, they can’t be redeemed) so it’s a good idea to look things over closely so you don’t get shafted. 

Uh oh, hurry! Not many redemptions left on this one!
On the flipside, knowing a specific date and time when all offers expire (outside of those expiring via redemption), is nice, and allows you to plan a little better than other apps, where they may expire out of nowhere even before the specific expiration date specified. I’ve never had an offer expire out from under me with Checkout 51, something I can’t say about its closest competitor.

As I believe I mentioned earlier, Checkout 51 also allows you to redeem offers for items that you buy online, though I don't foresee many people using this function: Unlike other rebate apps, which offer a percentage back on your purchase for specific stores, Checkout 51's online offers are still limited to the specific items it's offering rebates on for that week. So I guess if you're one of the five people in the world that buy their Pond's Face Wipes from Amazon, then you can submit that receipt to get money back! Well, assuming the packing list you receive meets the criteria: Everything must be itemized, and include a store logo, date, prices for each item, and a total. Email confirmations and PDF receipts are not accepted, probably because they're easy to fake and/or reproduce. If your packing list meets these requirements, you can snap a pic and submit it just like any other receipt.

WEBSITE 

Since this is predominantly a mobile app, you may be wondering, “What if I don't have a phone? Can I still open an account?” If I just read your mind, I'm happy to say that the answer is yes! The mobile app is hands-down the easiest and most convenient way to search for offers, as you can source them while you're in-store, take the picture of the receipt using your phone's camera, and then submit it, all from within the app, with just a few screen presses, and from anywhere that has cellular reception.

However, if you're old as shit and don't have a phone, the Checkout 51 website has the same full functionality of the mobile app, allowing you to do everything you can do on your mobile device, right from the comfort of your own computer! It's also the only way to submit Walmart e-commerce receipts, so if you do a lot of your shopping from there, you'll have to hop on the ol' comp to redeem your offers.  
Submitting online follows the same principle...attach a photo file of your receipt, and voila!
I found the website to be overly slow and glitchy when I tried using it: The first few times, it wouldn't activate the pop-up that allowed me to sign in from Google, which is how I signed up. Even once I signed in, the site constantly froze as offers were loading, leading to jerky navigation and a frustrating experience that was the exact opposite of the smooth overall experience the app provides. But if you can't get the app, or just don't want it, it's still a feasible way to submit receipts (though you'll still need a digital camera to take and upload the photo files.)

GETTING PAID

Once your account hits the $20 threshold, you can request payment—in the form of a paper check. That’s right kids, no direct deposits or Paypal payments here, which is another big drawback. As a point of reference, I only have about $14 in my account after about 9 months of use, so I can't speak as to how quickly the checks arrive, but needless to say it won't be as quick as a balance transfer to a checking account or online payment processor.

OVERALL

PROS (+)

+Easy to add offers and submit receipts
+Offers end the same time every week (Wednesday at 11:59 pm)
+Offers can be redeemed at any store
+Simple navigation as all offers are on the main screen
+Bonuses for referring friends and redeeming certain sets of offers
+$1 bonus on any treat for your birthday, which was an unexpected surprise
+Offers broken down by category for easy browsing

CONS (-)

-All items are brand-specific (i.e. no private label or produce offers)
-Far fewer offers than competing apps
-Offers that reach their redemption limit and are no longer valid still show up in results
-Payment by check only (no Paypal or gift card options)
-Website is very slow to load (maybe this one is just me)

I really wanted to like this one more than I do, but Checkout 51 is a pretty worthless app, at least for my shopping style. The lack of private label or non-brand specific items (such as produce) pretty much negates all offers for stores like Aldi, where I do a bulk of my shopping. There are also far fewer offers than other apps, virtually requiring the user to intentionally go out of their way to buy items they're offering in order to get any savings (which is kind of the point, from their perspective, but other apps have so many you can go in after shopping and generally find a couple rebates, without having to change shopping habits).

I'm sure there are people that this app will suit very well, and if you think you're one of them, then go for it! From a technical standpoint, searching, browsing, adding, and redeeming offers on the mobile app is such a simple, straightforward process that virtually anyone can do it. Personally, I just don't find much use for it, and after hitting my first $20 and cashing out, I'm honestly not sure I'll ever go back to it again.

RATING: 3/10

If you're interested in giving this app a spin (and it's completely free, so why not?), it's available on the Google Play Store for Android users, or the App Store for iOS users.