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Shopping Trip #1 While Playing The Grocery Game

Obviously today was a big day for me.

First, I took the English certification exam (previous post).  I knew that I would also have to make a trip to the grocery store.  Current sales end on Tuesdays, and I wanted to take advantage of them.

You’ll recall that last week I signed up for The Grocery Game.  It’s a free, four-week trial period…during which I am allowed to get lists of all of my local stores’ sales.

Let’s talk about the “lists.”  The lists are what your membership fee entitles you to.  The lists group sales into three price categories:

  1. Only if Needed (i.e. on sale but not rock-bottom)
  2. Rock-Bottom Prices
  3. Free

Each category is color-coded, and regular prices, sales prices, coupon dates, amounts, and sources are listed beside each item.  This makes it easy to hunt for the coupon you need, and you know exactly how much you’re paying for each item.  There’s even a column to check mark the items you plan to purchase.

Before printing the lists, you can sort them in different formats…all items, original sorting order, only the items you check-marked, and a host of others.

A word of caution.  The original sorting order lists items in the same way that your stores are laid out (i.e. produce, dairy, frozen) .  I always seem to do things the hard way.  I sorted my lists by color and printed them that way…a very bad thing as I looked for items on my list while I shopped today.

Argh!

Lesson learned for next time.

The lists become available by noon on Sundays.  My only complaint thus far is the timing.  Because sales ads run Wednesday through Tuesday, this leaves me only two and a half days to shop.  This is not good.  Especially since I try not to enter a grocery store on Sundays…it’s just too busy and I like to relax on the weekends.

On Sunday, I printed the lists as soon as they were posted and bought a newspaper from Walmart, where my friend told me they are sold for $.99.  My mission:  hunt down as many coupons as possible.

Being organized is key here.  The way this system works is that you need to keep coupons for when prices hit rock bottom.  Teri (The Grocery Game founder) likens it to a stock market…buy when prices are low and double up when you can.  I love any opportunity to “get organized,” so I pulled out some extra folders and designated them for SmartSource, Red Plum, and Miscellaneous coupon sources…thus streamlining the time it takes to find the right coupon…

I printed the entire list for Publix…thankfully…as I made reference to it many, many times.  I bought quite a few items I did not originally plan on buying simply because I needed them and figured I was saving money, even if I didn’t have the coupon listed.  There were a lot of buy one get one free (BOGOF) offers.

Here’s a picture of my Grocery Game list, coupons, and the tiny list of “wants” that Chicky wrote out for me.  I was ready to roll.

I can’t say that I stuck completely to the items listed.  I don’t have a stockpile of goodies to use for recipes and, quite honestly, there are items you just have to replenish week by week.

Speaking of stockpiling…this is something that the site advises games to do.  If you can get something for pennies, buy it if you know you’ll use it eventually.  You don’t know how much time will elapse before the item goes on sale again.  My thinking is that this would be a great way to collect a bag of items for your local food pantry.

While I was shopping, an interesting thing happened.  I noticed that another shopper was using coupons.  No biggie.  But then something else caught my attention.  She had lists — lists that looked familiar.

Taking a deep breath, I approached her and asked if she was doing The Grocery Game.

Yes, she sure was!  We talked for quite some time.  She’s been playing since March and had loads of advice.  She told me about two coupon sections located at the front of the store.

She also told me there was another coupon handout that the store didn’t have.  I’ll be calling customer service about this one.

She reminded me that you can stack coupons…i.e. you can use a store coupon AND a manufacturer coupon on the same item.  I knew this already, but it was a timely reminder.  She also told me that you can use two coupons on BOGOF’s…even if the second item rings up free.  Personally, I think this depends on the management, but I was able to do it today.

After speaking with her, I visited the front of the store, where I picked up the coupon supplements she had referred to.  I then spent another 30 minutes looking for some of the items in these handouts.  I wound up getting three items for free!

By taking the time to methodically make my way through the store, I was able to spy out a very good deal that had not appeared on the list…i.e. I got free Caprisun after taking advantage of a buy one get one free offer on cookies AND a $2.00 coupon.

I couldn’t wait for the cashier to ring me up.  Look at my receipt:

The Advertised Special Savings were the BOGOF and bigger savings on chicken breasts.  Advantage Buy Savings were the little ones, like the $.40 I saved on detergent (which I combined with a manufacturer’s coupon to save even more $$).  You can see how much I saved by clipping and stacking coupons.

Amazing, eh?

The Mr. was not so impressed, claiming that we would have saved money on the BOGOF anyhow.  I beg to differ.  Those are the items you really want to have coupons for.  I mean, you’re already saving 50%, but to make it even more of a savings by throwing in a coupon!  Oy, the joy!!

My experience today was overwhelming, to say the least.  Would I have felt this way if I had not risen at 4am?  To some extent, I think I would have.

Was it worth the effort?

You betcha!

The end result was a buggy of goodies…

Which translated into a car full of goodies…

Which translated into a happy shopper.

I will keep you posted about my savings.  I want to visit CVS..a store that my new friend said she has loads of success at.

An Early Drive

This is the view out of my car window shortly after I left at the dark hour of 4:45:

And no, nothing’s wrong with your eyes.  The picture is a little blurry.  My hand shook a bit.

Why was I up so early?

Because I’m dumb sometimes.  Ok.  I’m dumb a lot of the times.

I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve been studying for my English 6-12 certification exam.  Today was THE day.

The test is not administered in my city, and the closest location is two hours away.

Lucky me.

The first stupid thing I did was scheduling myself for the 8am slot.

Apparently I have some inner drive that leads me to believe that I must excel at everything I do, which includes poor planning, because the site I selected was in a different time zone.

Yes, folks, Florida does have two time zones.

What that meant is that I had to do everything an hour earlier…including waking up at the ridiculous hour of 4am.

I triple-checked my alarm and made the wise decision not to hit the snooze button.  And yes, I even managed to grab a shower before I left.  I made it with 15 minutes to spare.

The test was difficult.  I was grilled on teaching methodology as well as plain old literature and grammar.  Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve taken a literature course?  I had no idea which authors match up with various works.  I Christmas-treed a few of the answers, hoping for the best.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to write an essay.

Now, I consider myself adept at writing, but when I took my practice exams at home, I quickly realized that I was in trouble.

I would be required to write about a piece of literature, explaining how the author used literary devices, rhyme, and rhythm to convey a message.

Oh

My

Goodness

Fear and dread set in.  The essay counts for 30% of the exam’s grade.

The practice tests I had taken put the essay at the end of the session.

A surprise was in store for me today, though.  The essay was the first component!  Ugh.

Here’s where God stepped in.

I read the first prompt.  It was a poem.  Oh boy.  That would not be easy.

I glanced at the second prompt.  It looked more like a regular passage from a book, so I investigated further.

Folks…it was an excerpt about a woman who loses a son and finds comfort from a blanket…and in doing so, remembers a time when her mother and grandmother dyed, spun, and wove their own yarn!!!!!

How FANTASTIC was this?!

It was something I could identify with and actually enjoy analyzing.

Don’t you just love when God does stuff like this?  It makes me feel as if He is personally reaching out to me, wiping away the worry lines, and giving me the hug I need.

All in all, I have no idea how I fared on the exam.  Unlike last year’s test, when I received my results immediately, I’ll have to wait for this one because the essay has to be graded by hand.  I should know within a few weeks.

I am not going to worry though.  It’s all in God’s hands.

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