I just spent 2.5 hours at Shoprite. You read correctly: 2.5 hours. With a three-year-old "driving" one of those horrendously huge carts with the car on the front. Wearing big boy pants for the first time in public. Yelling "Honk! Honk! I want to go home now! Honk!" the entire time. Have I mentioned that we were shopping for groceries for 2.5 hours?
I hate grocery shopping. Hate it! For some reason I have always felt some sort of weird grocery entitlement, like standard food items, such as chicken and milk and bread, should be just delivered to our homes each week, no charge. We need this stuff to live, after all. Sure you can pay for fun stuff like Twinkies or ice cream, but the basics should just arrive at my door, kinda like the water just arrives in my tap (I know I pay for that too, but you get my drift). So you can imagine my annoyance about paying over $4 for a gallon of milk! Or $5 for a bag of grapes! Or $7 for a friggin' frozen pizza!
The good news, I suppose, about tonight's trip -- and it's relative, mind you, as far as news goes -- is that I spent only $150 on two weeks' worth of food. And I "saved" (according to the receipt) $75. Cool me! (I did a little happy dance as I pushed the overloaded cart to the car, and Sweet Boy gave me a high five -- I've trained him early, yes.) This was not my best grocery-saving experience, but it'll do.
There was a time that I would just walk into the Acme, nary a list, and just wander the aisles, throwing stuff into the cart and paying whatever the gum-cracking checkout girl told me to pay. That was before I had a child and a giant mortgage payment. Nowadays, I'm a coupon girl. And since a wise friend clued me in to the Grocery Game and CouponMom.com, I've discovered the strange little high that comes from watching the subtotal come down as the checkout girl scans my pile of clippings. (By the way, they looove to scan those coupons -- the eye rolling and sighing really expressed their understanding of frugality.) My stomach does little flips as I hear the boop-boop-boop of each scan. One of the biggest thrills of my life (and I know as I write this how pitiful I'm about to sound) was the first time I did all the coupon-circular work and looked down at my receipt to realize that I had spent $100 and saved $125. I'm thinking this is the rush that thieves feel.
The grocery savings, of course, only occurs with great preparation: poring over the weekly circulars on Sunday night to decide which of the major stores has the best deals on the stuff I need; clipping the week's coupons and throwing away all the expired ones; making a list, then organizing the coupons according to what's on sale. It's hard damn work.
Mind you, I am a Grocery Padawan, still learning the ways of the Grocery Jedi. I really don't know how people like this woman waltz out of a grocery store with a full cart and a full wallet. But you can learn a bit from the Coupon Mom's "ebook" PDF.
I still hate the grocery store, I still hate grocery shopping, and I still hate paying actual hard-earned money for something as fleeting as food. Especially when the only time I have during the week to grocery shop is 6:00 on a Thursday night with a tired, cranky toddler in tow. (Did I mention that Sweet Boy peed his pants as we left the store tonight? So, make that a tired, cranky, wet, and stinky toddler in tow.) And I still feel that inexplicable sense of grocery entitlement and skyrocketing-price rage. But learning the grocery ropes, then planning out the shopping enough to see the big savings at the bottom of the receipt takes a little bit of the sting out of the experience. And knowing that I'm saving a bunch makes it easier to buy the $3 treat for Sweet Boy on the way out to the car.
I'm sure there's a ton that I still don't know, but I really want to be a Grocery Goddess someday, so please send along anything you've learned in your search for cheap groceries.