It’s noon on Saturday and we just got home from the grocery store. (This is a weekly activity that my husband, Juan, lives for. I think it makes him happier than most things in life.) I hate grocery shopping.
Eighty-five percent of the store is full of things we don’t need and probably shouldn’t be eating in the first place. I want to get in and get out. He wants to go up and down every aisle. It’s either an instant sitcom or a no-frills melodrama depending on your perspective.
But we have one thing in common, which is what makes team grocery shopping possible for us: We both love saving money on groceries.
When we pull up, he darts in, selecting his cart specifically for the one that has the metal holder for the do-it-yourself scanner. He loves this scanner because it comes with a separate set of savings (and a tally that tracks your total as you go). I love it for the ease of getting the heck out of the store.
The store, for him, is full of games. How do you outwit the coupon machine? How do we get to pay nearly nothing for something we didn’t need? How can we rationalize getting way too many snacks? Here’s how his method works:
1. Know you’re approaching a gimmick and embrace it. Take, for example, gas points. For every $100 we spend at our grocery store, we receive $.10 off per gallon of gas. We barely drive, so we have time to accumulate the reward for significant savings before we fill up. Stations are easy to find in our area so this is totally worth it. Our store now has extra ways to get gas points; buy 3 of these items you may not want or 5 of these items you never have looked at before and we’ll give you more gas points!
We decided to partake in this promotion today:
100 Calorie Snacks! We find them, notice they are also on sale 2 for $5 and grab more than the four we need. Why? It was just too good to pass up in terms of the total savings.
2. Cautiously and quickly glance at overstimulating aisle display sections, without looking at the price tag and make a quick decision about whether you need the item. Then, run away! We almost gave in … Juan had just mentioned mac & cheese as we turned a corner only to run into a big, flashy end-of-the-aisle display advertising that yellow-orange delicious pasta!
His eyes lit up, but I vetoed the impulse purchase. Who really needs to eat mac & cheese? (Ok, I just lied. We all need it. We happen to have a friend who makes it from scratch, so we can get a fix another way. Plus Juan makes it with less milk and much more butter than the recipe calls for. It will kill you… I mean it’s to die for.)
3. Just because you have a coupon, doesn’t mean you have to use it. We’re not over-committed coupon people, but we’re pretty big on them. We don’t buy a newspaper just to clip and the show Extreme Couponing on TLC just makes us sad. With that said, if a coupon happens to present itself and it makes sense, we’ll take it. Juan’s gym often has buy-one-get-one-free coupons at their front desk, so he grabs a few… hundred. This summer, we had 150 of them.
Somehow, last year 300 Power Aid drinks came in and out of our home. (I’m sure this topic will come up again.) For this post, the point is that we had a fresh stack of coupons in hand, but since the items weren’t on sale, we passed. Fear not. He will not go without. We have plenty of bright colored bottles filled of this crazy juice taking up space in our hall closet — stocking up on good deals is also part of Juan’s system.
4. Always be nice to the cashier, especially the older ladies. These frontline staff are between you and your wallet. They don’t expect a smile, but it goes a LONG way when you give one. Remember, the cashier is someone’s grandmother. She’s cute. She wants to be helpful. And she probably hates technology. Patience is needed, but it can really pay off in the end. Sometimes the cashier has coupons they can help you cut a little more off the bottom line with if you’re friendly. She’ll make sure the coupons work for you and you may get a free hug, too.
We leave very satisfied. I walk out of the grocery store feeling victorious for challenging my husband to save money. He finds satisfaction in the challenge, too.
This week, I was so excited, I waved our receipt like a streamer in the wind as I rode the cart back to its pen with it flowing behind. In the car on our way home, I review our savings and new gas point totals, and we high-five and fist bump about all our minor victories. He can’t wait to unpack the goodies giddily as if it were Christmas morning… this happens every Saturday. And that’s the real meaning behind why we use coupons at the grocery store.
What’s your strategy for saving at the super market? Let us know below!
Sam Hammar is a city-dwelling workaholic, who works on all kinds of projects that help the City of Boston be the kind of place PerkStreet Financial is proud to call home. Although public service is tough, Sam keeps things in balance by focusing on the little things in life. Sam loves saving money and helping people, and she also loves her husband, Juan. Her writing is geared toward recently married couples..
Interested in becoming a regular guest contributor to the PerkStreet Blog like Sam is? Email the editor at kyle.psaty[at]perkstreet[dot]com
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