19 June 2015

The Simple Grocery Trip Gets Dramatic

I knew it was a brave decision when I first made it. When I announced my plan to Matt, he thought I was joking. Grocery shopping. With the girls. By myself. Usually I go on Thursday evening after they're sound asleep (grocery stores are dead on Thursdays at 8pm), but for the last few weeks, it wasn't happening until Friday night, and I was sick of grocery shopping on Friday nights. The girls needed to get out of the apartment and I needed to get food. As Matt left for the bus this morning, he wished me good luck.

It was gonna be a long shopping trip: in addition to our usual two week supply of groceries, we needed a few presents and some snacks for our 4th of July trip. (More on that in a future post). And I had to buy everything today because I had an eCoupon (Mperks) for 5% off my entire food purchase and 10% off my entire general merchandise purchase.

I had a plan of attack: we'd go first thing in the morning, when the girls are most chipper. I'd get one of those grocery carts with the bench seat attached. I had my grocery list and my coupons all ready to go. I wore my most comfortable sneakers. I said a prayer for patience. I even put my girls in cat shirts that morning (shirts with cats on them) because cat shirts are a fun distraction during a meltdown.

Now my Meijer (local superstore) only has about three of these fancy carts for the entire store and they usually keep them on the far, far side of the building, about maybe 75 feet from either entrance (which entrance is anyone's guess).

I found this pic randomly on the Internet, but this is the style cart, except mine was a rickety ghetto version with only waist belts and no separator piece between the kids' seats.

So at 8:35am, I circled the store in my car, creepily passing slowly by the collection of carts, searching for one with a bench. "Come on, Cart!" I said enthusiastically to the girls. "Where are you?!" I thought maybe I found one by the right entrance, so I proceeded down the aisle that always has good parking. And there, in the cart corral, was a bench cart! With a parking spot open right next to it! What good fortune! I almost never see a bench cart in the cart corral! And when I do, it has never been in Good Parking Aisle. Yet here we were: bench cart and great parking! I let myself get ridiculously excited about my good omen and hoped it wouldn't be the last good thing to happen to us before we left.

With the girls strapped into the bench, our sweatshirts, my purse, and my coupons crammed into the cart's seat, and our stack of reusable bags underneath the cart, we made our way to the first section: health and beauty. The tough section.

This section is tough because I can't fully prepare for it. For example: the flyer might say that L'oreal lotion is on sale. The fine print simply states the certain types and sizes are sale. Will it be the original formula? Only the deep conditioning sensitive skin one? Are the scented ones included? My coupon might state that it only applies to the small size bottles of all types excluding original formula. I rarely know if the health and beauty sale + coupon combo will work until I get there, so it takes me a bit longer in this section. Intense, I know. I knew my girls would consider this stopping, standing, and waiting to be highly offensive to their sensibilities.

They did. Eleanor shrieked like a bottle rocket. Abigail yanked on Eleanor's seat belt to ensure tears would flow. I searched desperately for the right mascara while singing The Wheels on the Bus. I started the panicked sweat and had to stop to make an emergency pony tail. I got some dirty looks and some sympathetic smiles. I swore up and down to the girls that things would go much faster once we were done in this section. I said another prayer for patience.

Thankfully the toy section follows the health and beauty section. Ahhh, the toy section. I don't know when most kids start the "Buy me this or I'll cry" phase, but mine have not yet entered it, so toy aisle was a big break for them. Now our main goal in the toy aisle was to buy their soon-to-be six-year-old boy cousin a very budget-friendly toy. Now I've got more nieces and nephews than I do money in the gifts budget, so we try to keep things very simple. Alright, now what do six-year-old boys want? I selected the outdoor toys aisle. How about a super-fancy looking, $2.70 frisbee? The girls voted yes. A $.68 water gun? Eleanor reached for it. And lets see, if I can one more thing and get out for around $5, I'll consider it a success. A $2.70 nerf football? Um, yes please! Frisbee, water gun, nerf football? Now I'm no expert in six-year-old boys, but I think he'll be happy. Another victory, another victory dance. The lady passing our aisle gave me a bizarre look, but the girls laughed.

The toy aisle bought me peace for 1/3 of the food section. Then the bottle rocket began shooting off and Abigail did her best to make things worse. We needed a new distraction. How about every item I picked up? Perfect! Everything I took off the shelf went to Abigail for her inspection. She passed it to Eleanor. While the girls inspected, I scratched the item off my list and added its price to my running total. Then Eleanor would pass it back to me and we'd move on. My system worked flawlessly for another 1/3 of the store. Somewhere around the chip aisle, the girls started loosing it again. "Come on, Ladies!" I said in my most encouraging voice. "We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel! Finish strong!"

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" A friendly voice asked. I turned around to see a gray haired lady I completely didn't recognize smiling at me. I smiled back politely as my mind raced. Is she the liar from the dairy aisle who told my girls they were being good helpers? Is she one of the secretaries from Abigail's school?
"Did you go to Stockbridge?" She asked.
"Yes - for high school!" I responded, completely shocked. She introduced herself.
"Oh! From home...?"
"Home economics."
"Oh! That's right! I never took your class, but I remember your name!"
I only attended school at Stockbridge for 2.5 years and I graduated 11 years ago. And I never took her class. And she remembered me! What an incredible memory! She flirted with my girls while I grabbed the rest of what we needed from that aisle. The brief adult conversation and pleasant feeling that comes with being recognized helped me vent the building frustration with the girls.

Okay, the produce, bread, and bakery section. That was all that was standing between me and the checkout aisle (which is my favorite part of grocery shopping). My feet, legs, and all the muscles that keep the baby from falling out were aching. The girls were firing up again. My cart was getting too heavy to make sharp turns. You can do this, you can do this! COOKIES! FREE COOKIES! I practically sprinted to the bakery counter. Children under 12 get a free cookie at my Meijer. I rarely bring them with me, so I don't usually take advantage of it, but today? Today was DEFINITELY a free cookie kind of day.

The peace and quiet was so remarkable that my ears were ringing a bit in the silence. I leisurely selected some hot dog buns, doubled back for spinach, and got picky about my strawberries. The cookies survived until we arrived at checkout. Now I'm one of those people who prefers the self checkout, as I'm a picky bagger and I like to double check that my items are ringing up for the right price.

I keep track of the prices of everything as I shop so I don't go over budget. Here I'm pointing to my money column in the margin of my grocery list.
Okay, checkout. Checkouts are tricky. The girls are at the front of the cart, I'm at the back. Aisles are too narrow to prevent little hands from snatching packs of gum. Usually the people waiting in surrounding aisles aren't in the mood to listen to my shopped-out children shriek like bottle rockets.

But then, my friends, then the heavens opened up and God sent down a couple of angels to save me.

On the right side of us, another family with young children pulled up. Their baby was shouting (mine were still louder back in said chip aisle) and their toddler was wearing an Elsa shirt. Nothing shuts my kids up faster than watching another kid yell and an Elsa shirt.

On the left side of us? A Ds mom. Her remarkably high functioning son was in his late teens/early twenties and wanted to unload the grocery cart, so she flashed me that "My soul knows what your soul is going through" smile that only comes from other moms from Holland and pounced on Abigail.

And I rang up and couponed and bagged to my heart's content while my children sat calmly and happily in the shopping cart. And it was marvelous.

My children later that afternoon helping me blog about our grocery adventure.
There was one spot of bad news in my checkout aisle delight. I'll mention it first so that I can end on a good note. It's something that happens annoyingly often to us pregnancy-brain couponers.

You see, my grocery list was a bit long, but my bottom line was doing pretty well, so I decided I was going to spring for these super-special, sale + coupon treats:

Their total should have been just over $2 each, and as their regular price is $3.something high, this would translate to just over 40% off. This was very appealing to me, as iced coffee/tea is one of my most-prized indulgences. But then tragedy struck.

My coupons had expired.

Ah, the inhumanity!!! But the beverages were already bagged and in my cart by the time I learned of the betrayal. And this pregnant woman was not about to unbag her groceries and hand back the item she was most looking forward to enjoying when she got home, so instead I just got them for the regular sale price, which was only about 25% off and completely not brag-worthy.

In the end, 4 of my coupons had expired (on Wednesday, the little bastards), and my total was overbudget by exactly $2 + the total of my 4 coupons. (I'm pretty sure I forgot to add the $2 Frozen fruit snacks in my money column. I blame Eleanor because I'm mature like that).

Okay, now for the good news. And the reason I love the checkout aisle. This is my receipt:

It's about 4 feet long. And my grand total was honestly $199.99 (budgets included: food, household, gifts, and diapers).
A good half of the items I got were on sale or on sale plus I had a coupon, then I also got an additional 5% or 10% off everything I bought.

I am most proud of getting Covergirl mascara and eyeshadow for 43% off ($3/each), my favorite hair dye (Garnier Nutrisse in Light Natural Copper) for 49% off ($3.70 total), and some "bath tissue" (ie toilet paper) for $.12/roll (I think it was 60% off). All the money we save gets put right back into the grocery budget (Matt will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think our grocery budget has increased since having kids). If I have leftover money that month, I'll upgrade our meat quality and get cage-free chicken, hormone-free beef, and nitrite/nitrate-free bacon.

This week:

I realize now that the numbers are backwards. It says I saved $80.23 (a solid 40%) today alone! I've saved $1,154.18 since January (we're only half-way through June, so that's $210 a month for a family of four!) So in the end, despite the bottle rockets, the additional 40 minutes shopping took, and the fact that I will not be doing it again anytime soon, I don't regret grocery shopping with the girls this morning. And not even one person said, "Wow, you have your hands full!" Not one! That never happens. I can't take a walk around the block without someone saying that. So I must have been doing something right.

That being said, I now plan to kick back with a glass of iced mocha, countdown the minutes until Matt gets home, and beg him for a foot massage.

1 comment:

~Katherine~ said...

That, and I mean it in all sincerity, is one heck of an accomplishment! Good for you!!!!

Now, go get your iced mocha and foot massage...you deserve it! Better yet, get your hubby to fetch you an iced mocha before he gives you the foot massage. ;)