December 19, 2020 – Anything to save a buck.

I’m exhausted. Saving money takes hard work and today I had my work cut out for me. As promised, I put my grocery list together last night before I went to bed and I also went online and scheduled my grocery pickup(s). Sounds simple enough. But I think I can make anything complicated and I sure made getting my groceries a rather complicated affair today. If it were a matter of just going to two stores, pulling into the parking lot, popping the trunk, and waiting for a store associate to load the groceries into the trunk, it’d be a piece of cake. But when I shop, it’s never that simple. Ever.

My shopping consists of several parts. There is the ‘prepare the list’ part. There is the ‘clip the digital coupons’ part. There is the ‘print the coupons’ part. There is the ‘decide which stores offer the items at the best prices’ part. There is the ‘place the online orders’ part. There is the ‘mapping out which store to start out at and the which store to end up at’ that requires the least amount of time and use of gasoline. And then there’s the actual ‘shopping’ part. Today, my shopping consisted of going to six different stores. First stop? Grocery Outlet to return overpriced spaghetti sauce. Last stop? Safeway. In between, I went to four additional stores. Why so many stores? Because I’ll practically do anything to save a buck.

Why not just go to one store and do it all at once? Wouldn’t that be more convenient? Sure! That would definitely be more convenient but it would also be much more expensive. I’m all about savings. And I know you’re thinking that I must be blowing a ton on gasoline in order to ‘save’ all of this money. But in actuality, I’m not. I live in a small town and to physically drive to all 6 stores, the combined time is less than 30 minutes. Why 6 stores? Are you sure you want to hear the answer? Because if I tell you, you might begin to think I’m even more nuts than you initially thought. You may really start to question my sanity. And if you were to do that, I wouldn’t blame you one bit. I often question it myself.

When I shop, as I said, I first start out with preparing a list. I create it throughout the week as I run out (or nearly run out) of items. On the list today there was pork rub and potato chips, vegetables and meat, yogurt and candy, amongst other things. I do the online pickup orders using Safeway and Wal-Mart. And when I enter the items in the ‘virtual cart’, I do it while having two windows open on my computer screen at the same time, one for each store. Why is this necessary? Maybe Wal-Mart has the lowest prices ‘overall’; however, Safeway offers weekly specials at deep discounts. By looking up the items simultaneously, you can determine which store will give you the best price. For example, a party-size bag of chips at Wal-Mart is $3.78. It’s not a bad price. BUT, if you buy those exact same chips when Safeway has their $5 Fridays, you can get 2 party-size bags for $5 (or one for $2.50).

I know that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but every dollar of savings adds up! And as you know, I’m all about saving money! And there are so many other ways to reduce your grocery bill. Do you ever shop at Walgreens? I do. And almost 50% of the time, when you complete your transaction, the cashier will hand you a ‘coupon’ for a future purchase. The ‘coupon’ is actually a printout that’s generated that will say something to the effect of, “Spend $25 on your next shopping trip, get $7 in rewards.” I hang onto those puppies like gold! If you think about it, that’s a pretty good return on your investment. You spend $25 and they credit your account $7. Ok, so I need to spend $25 anyway. I could use some magnesium (which happens to be BOGO this week) and a new pair of slippers (you don’t want to see the state of my current slippers) and my husband would never turn his nose up at some sour candy.

Guess what? I just surpassed $25 and now I have $7 to look forward to on my next shopping trip! Big-Lots also has ‘reward’ opportunities. But they go about it differently. They actually take a dollar amount or a percentage off the bill. Well, I have to tell you, that $5 off my $15 purchase sure came in handy today! My husband got some nitrile gloves to use in his shop, and I picked up some Moose Munch popcorn (for my mom) and some rubber kitchen gloves (for me) and after the coupon, the popcorn and kitchen gloves were free! I love the word ‘free’. Such a beautiful word! But I must admit, I did get a little bit confused when I went shopping there today because their email indicated that DVDs were free for rewards members but I didn’t get a good enough look at the fine print before I went rifling through the bins and finally settled on ‘Spiderman’. Turns out, only the DVDs that were $3 and under were free. Dang it.

Between Grocery Outlet and Big-Lots, I made a stop at our local fruit warehouse. Another stop? Yes! I told you I went to 6 stores today, I wasn’t kidding! The fruit warehouse is something I learned about only recently. I buy a lot of produce, especially apples, and when I have to spend $2.99 per pound for apples, that’s a lot of greenbacks! Well, guess what? I don’t have to spend $2.99 per pound for apples, not anymore! I can pick them up at the local fruit warehouse for 99 cents per pound! Are they as fresh as the ones in the grocery store? Not always, no. But they’re nearly as good and for one-third of the price, they’re good enough! The warehouse also stocks local honey at the best price so I always make a point to grab a quart or two whenever I swing by for my apples.

After Big-Lots, it was a quick trip to Wal-Mart, then on to Albertson’s. Albertson’s doesn’t offer the grocery pickup where I live so I have to go into the store. But I don’t mind. They have the best fried chicken in their deli and if I don’t feel like cooking, I can pick that up along with a can of beans and a couple of ears of corn and just like that, dinner is served! And the best part? It’s enough for two meals! They also have the best meat section. Even the meat in their discounted section is good quality. And their customer service? Second to none! If you ask any of their store associates where to find something in the store, they’ll tell you exactly which aisle. And you don’t get the ‘sorry’ excuse as you would at Walgreen’s. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, they make a point to find it or offer a substitute for the same price or even call around. That kind of customer service is nearly unheard of these days!

My least favorite store? Walgreen’s. Even though I don’t generally like to shop there, they do offer decent coupons which help ‘ease the pain’. They don’t even provide weekly ads at their local stores anymore which gives me angst. Honestly, if they didn’t offer the coupons, I doubt I’d even step foot in the store. Regardless, I went. I got my magnesium, my slippers and some candy and got the Hell out of there! The rest of the shopping was nearly painless. I drove up the road, pulled into a designated space in the Safeway parking lot, called their number, gave them my name, and within 5 minutes, all of my groceries were loaded into the car by a helpful and friendly store associate and away I went!

You know what’s really sad? I didn’t actually get everything on my list. I’m trying to put together a gift bag for my mom and really wanted to include some Aplets & Cotlets but the one store I was absolutely positive that would have them (Walgreen’s) was completely out. I shouldn’t be surprised. Now my dilemma is trying to determine if it’s worth it to send the gift bag with my daughter (to give to my mom) without the Aplets & Cotlets or whether I need to go to yet one more store. Ugh. I think I’m going to have to sleep on that one tonight. I don’t know whether I have it in me. It’s ugly out there, my friends! Have you tried going shopping in the last few days? The lines are horrendous. The traffic is even more horrendous.

While I sleep on that, I hope you have a pleasant day and that it doesn’t involve shopping. It’s the weekend, after all! It’s the worst time to shop!! If you have to go, do me a favor? Wait until Monday. You’ve got a better chance of getting through the experience without wanting to murder someone if you wait until Monday. I don’t want to see you go to prison for the rest of your life because you chose to shop on a Saturday or a Sunday and it brought out your homicidal tendencies. Shop ‘smart’ and stay healthy! Until next time, my friends!

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