I hope you all had a great weekend. Did you get your coupons? Did you have a chance to scan the ads? I sincerely hope that little by little this will start to make sense. If it's not, please leave a comment or email me. I want to know what more I can do to help this "click" with you.
Today I'm going to talk about simple strategies for shopping in the store. Some are common sense, some have been passed on to me by friends and family, and some I've just come to discover for myself.
In no particular order…here we go.
1. First, always make sure you are NOT hungry before going shopping! This should be common sense. Hungry shoppers = impulse shoppers. And usually the foods you'll end up with are convenient foods, too. Not always the healthiest of choices! Reach for a healthy treat to snack on before you leave, such as this scrumptious pear.
(Photo credit Petr Kovar)
2. Try to shop alone, if possible. This isn't always possible, and I know. In fact, I almost never get to shop alone myself. But when I do, I can tell you I feel way less rushed and can pay attention to my list and coupons. If I must bring my kiddos, usually our first stop is the bakery for free cookies. That occupies them for a bit.
3. Always shop with a list! If you read Lesson #8 over the weekend, you know that I generally have two categories on my list: items I need to make meals for that week, and items I'm planning on stockpiling. I will then determine what items to get where (I usually shop at two stores, depending on the sales). Next, I organize the coupons I plan on using in my little coupon organizer. Remember this guy?
4. Become acquainted with the stores you frequent. I try to make my grocery lists organized by the store aisles to avoid backtracking. One question I get A LOT is, "don't you spend a lot of time at the stores, Angela?" Actually, no. I don't. I've already essentially done the shopping at home - I know what items to get, the quantities, where they're located, and which coupons to use. Even a "big" shopping trip generally doesn't take me more than 20 minutes in the store. (If it takes more, it's usually because I'm waiting in line…although I try to go when the stores aren't as busy.)
5. Calculator & "Thinking Cap" required. Consider this example. You are out of sour cream and need some. The store has the bigger size (let's say 16 oz) on sale for $2. The smaller sizes are $1.50. Being a smart shopper, you'd naturally take the bigger size, right? After all, that's a better deal when looking at unit prices. Now if you didn't have any coupons, I'd agree with you. But since this is MY hypothetical situation I'm gonna say you also have a coupon that reads "Save $1 off ANY sour cream." In this case, you'd be foolhardy to grab the bigger one. A smarter move would be to buy two smaller ones and use two coupons. Here's the math:
One 16 oz. @ $2
Two 8 oz. @ $1.50 each = $3
Less (2) $1/1 coupons = $1
In the final analysis, you'd end up paying $1 less by buying two smaller ones with coupons! This phenomena occurs FREQUENTLY in the couponing world, so pay attention!
(Photo credit Flavio Takemoto)
6. Have a "Plan B" - especially for complicated transactions.What happens if you get to the store and they are out of the boxes of pasta you'd hoped to buy? Simple answer is get a raincheck. But what do you do if you'd counted on those boxes of pasta for a $20 mix n' match promotion? Or worse, an elaborate Register Reward transaction you'd constructed the previous evening? This is why I ALWAYS recommend you have a Plan B. My Plan B is usually I just don't proceed. Period. I leave the store. Too many times when I've tried to "wing it" I end up spending more money than I wanted and leave grouchy. Don't do this. Either think of something else to purchase to make your deal work, or hang onto your coupons for next time. And if it's possible, always ask Customer Service for a raincheck. It's usually not a problem at all.
7. Find ways to limit outings.I'm all about keeping it simple, and I hope that's come across. While I love great deals with coupons, I also love staying at home with my family, reading, going for a run (although it's been awhile…), and the like. In other words, I'd prefer to NOT be going back and forth to stores all bloomin' week long. I've gotten better about doing one grocery trip and one drugstore a week (or thereabouts). Sure I miss all sorts of deals every day, but I also know it's more important to stick with my grocery budget AND my gas budget each month. I also know more deals will be comin' around the corner.
I'd love to hear from my readers. How do you simplify your grocery trips and avoid wasting time or money in the stores? Please speak up! Let's share our ideas with one another.
Tomorrow I'm going to be talking a little more about shopping. This time, I'll be concentrating on how to find great deals on items you need, but may not be on sale.