Friday, July 13, 2012

A mother's pastime...grocery shopping

So, here in the great Capital District, we have two main grocery stores, Price Chopper and Hannaford.  Most people I know are loyal to one or the other.  There is not a lot of cross mingling.  Price Chopper is truly a local company, run by the Golub Corp out of Rotterdam/Schenectady.  It has been around forever.  PC has outlasted Grand Union, Shop Rite, A&P, Edwards, just to name a few.  My mom was never a PC shopper.  We were Grand Union all the way.

So, now that, somehow, I'm a "responsible" adult, I spend a lot of time in the supermarket.  And a lot of my money.  I feel obligated to get the best stuff for the best price.  I have looked around, and Hannaford (or the Big H, as I like to call it), really does have the best overall prices.  They do not have a loyalty card.  Everyone gets the sale prices.  I like that, no discrimination.  Price Chopper runs fantastic sales, so you can get some really good deals.  A lot of times, their BOGO offers run in conjunction with the coupon circulars, so you can get an even better deal.  And PC has the gas program.  However, they just doubled their requirement to earn money off of gas, making it a little less appealing.  Now, for every $100 spent, you earn $0.10 off per gallon of gas.  And the cents off do expire, so you have to be careful.  But, when I paid $3.09/gal for gas the other day, I was pretty pleased.

Hannaford does not double coupons.  PC does, up to $0.99, I believe.  They used to issue 1-3 coupons for double coupons in their circular, but you could double up to $5, if my memory serves me correctly.

The Big H does reward loyal shoppers throughout the year (at least once or twice) by offering cash coupons ($1 or $5 off next purchase).  Those $5 off coupons can really make a difference, especially when you have 3 or 4 of them.

So, enter Shop Rite back to the Capital District.  My cousin in New Jersey, who is pretty much a pro-shopper and coupon magician, has often told tales of fabulous deals at Shop Rite, especially using the loyalty card and TRIPLE coupons.  Woo Hoo, I'm so excited to try this new Shop Rite.  The store openings were news worthy events and people were all abuzz.  Coupons, oh, only doubled up to $0.99, just like PC.  Boo.  Maybe this Shop Rite is nothing special.  But then I heard about it.  Shop At Home.  I can go online, select my stuff.  Then I can either pick it up or have it delivered.  SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!  My groceries, delivered?  I think I hear the angels singing.  It is every mother's dream, especially during these summer months when grocery shopping means doing it with kids in tow.

I had a few friends try it out.  The comments were about the same, whether it was pick up or delivery.  The orders were not ready on time.  OK, I can probably deal with that, if I know that that is what I'm getting.  So, yesterday was the day.  We were out of milk.  We were out of OJ.  We were running dangerously low on Pop Tarts.  Grocery shopping MUST occur.  I dictate a list of essentials (ketchup, dishwasher detergent, kitty litter, tissues) to Jake while I'm trying to get Sophia up and ready for camp.  So, after my morning appointment, I cut my coupons at lightening fast speed, and log on and try to order.

This is where it all derailed.  It took me a while to find out where to apply for the loyalty card.  Then I got my order all ready for the Albany store (8.36 miles, 16 minutes away).  Trying to beat a 1 pm deadline so that the groceries can be delivered between 5-9pm.  Go to check out, no delivery to my area, pick up only.  Between 5-9 pm.  Uggh.  Switch over to the Niskayuna store (11.2 miles, 19 minutes away).  Thankfully everything stayed in my basket.  But I missed the delivery window, and now my only option was for delivery on Friday am.  FAIL.  Also, I could not figure out how to use the coupons while placing the order.

Oh, crap, now I have to go to the market.  With the kids.  In the 90 degree heat.  Play date first, will go on the way home.  Crap, forgot my purse at home.  All the way back home, get the purse, back to the market with two hungry and tired kids.  At this point, I employed the last ditch parenting strategy of "encouraging" (AKA bribing) the kids with a candy bar for good behavior.

It worked.  The shopping trip was AWESOME.  The Big H was not crowded.  It was nice and cool and refreshing.  The kids liked being able to pick out what they wanted and have an active role in what they are eating.  Ended up buying a lot more produce, but I'm ok with my kids wanting to eat lots of fruit and veggies.  Very little whining, even by me.  Got everything on the list, got to use my coupons.

And reaffirmed what I think I already knew.  Shop Rite, like PC, runs really good deals.  When something is not on sale, however, Hannaford has better prices.  Some items, like the English Muffins were more expensive ($2.99 Big H vs. $1.99 SR).  There were some moderate differences.  Lean Pockets (which Jake specifically requested) are $2.00 at the Big H, where they are $2.79 at SR.  The biggest difference was in the meat department.  SR had no chicken on sale this week.  A 4# package of chicken drumsticks was $7.16.  The same drumsticks were on sale at the Big H, and I ended up paying $3.89 for a 4# package.  The kitty litter that I had a coupon for was $7.99 at SR and only $5.99 at the Big H.  Also, with some of the sale items at SR, you had to buy multiple quantities to get the sale prices (3 BBQ sauce, 4 packages of ziplock bags).

In a perfect world, I would slowly comb the Sunday fliers and make my lists based on what is the best deal at each store.  Is the time and energy worth doing that just to save some money?  Maybe.  I can give it a try and see how much work it really is.

I still like the dream of my groceries just magically appearing on my doorstep.  Maybe someday.



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