Break the Shopping Rules!
(Excerpted from Home is Where the Mom Is; A Christian Mom’s Guide to Caring for Herself, Her Family, and Her Home. (There are TEN “shopping rules to break” in the book!) Home is Where the Mom Is makes a great Mother’s Day or baby shower gift! See ordering information in the column to the right.)
Several years ago I decided to start using all of the “shopping rules” I’d read and heard. It seemed so easy! I would only spend $100 on groceries every month and get lots of free things. I’d clip and use coupons for every single item I bought. I would save soooooo much money! And I’d take my kids along on every trip and teach them all of the shopping rules, too!
Or so I thought.
After several months (and many hours) of diligently studying sale ads, keeping track of prices, clipping coupons and printing coupons from the computer and following all of the rules…I always seemed to be one coupon short of that really great deal.
My kids became impatient after an hour or so of shopping, especially when it took so much time to match the coupons with the great deals. Many times I either gave up on the coupons or promised them extra snacks if they’d be patient, negating the money I’d “saved.”
I decided to “break the shopping rules”—or at least bend them so they’d better suit my life. My shopping trips immediately became more productive and shorter and less stressful.
Here are the shopping rules I love to break—or at least bend.
Rule One: Shopping is an educational experience for the kids, so take them along to match coupons to items, practice their math, and help you find things. How to break it: Don’t take the kids! Shop while they’re at school or when you can get a babysitter or when dad is home. You’ll save money (no little voices begging for treats and distracting you from comparing prices), have a little quiet time, and get done much faster.
Rule Two: Arrange your list according to how the store is set up. How to bend it: Also list the meals you’re planning to prepare. By doing this you’ll know how much of a particular item you need, and if you can substitute another item if necessary. For example, one day there was only one green pepper in the bin. Chili was on my meal list, and one pepper was enough to flavor it. If I’d have been making stuffed peppers I would have known to change my meal plan. If taking kids is unavoidable, bend the rule in a different way. Review your list so you know which items you need the most. That way if your child throws up, or throws a tantrum, you can quickly gather the most important items and make a quick getaway.
Rule Three: Buy only what’s on your list. How to bend it: If there’s a great deal on something—pork chops for example—add them to your meal list (if you’ve been following the hints to “Never Run Out” you should have the rest of the ingredients for your favorite pork chop recipe at home already) or take them home to freeze.
Rule Four: Don’t buy high-priced items like baby carrots, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and so on. How to break it: Before you pass up these items, remember that they require little or no preparation to make into a snack or meal. There’s also no waste—how often have you thrown away a mushy head of lettuce before you got it cleaned and chopped? The higher price might be worth the convenience, and these items often go on special.
Rule Five: Use as many coupons as possible. How to bend it: Use coupons wisely. Before you use a coupon for an item, consider; can you make the item from scratch for less? Would a (cheaper) store brand work as well? Do you really need or want the item, or do you just want to use the coupon? I find it frustrating to try to clip “all” of the coupons. I have pantry full of necessities and so therefore rarely buy anything that’s not on sale; I’ve found I save as much or more when buying on sale, and spend less time than I would clipping coupons. Note: There are just two grocery stores in our town, and they are very competitive but never offer double or triple coupons. I realize your situation might be different, and coupons may be a huge money saver for you!
Use these rules and other tips and suggestions you find online and in magazines as guidelines. Bend them, break them, throw them out completely—make “the shopping rules” work for you!