Wednesday, April 1, 2015
How I Plan My Weekly Shopping Trip, Part Three: The Plan of Attack!
Over the last couple of days I've written posts explaining how I used to plan my shopping trips and why it didn't work for me, and also how I plan my shopping list these days.
Today I will explain another component of my weekly shopping trip: my attack plan!
It's really simple: even though I spend all Wednesday morning shopping, I really try to be efficient in the order of the stores that I visit (aside from today when I ended up going back to a couple of stores twice!).
I drive a gas guzzling SUV so more importantly, I try to visit stores in an order that makes sense, gas-wise. Also, I like to visit some stores before the others because 1) they might have meat clearance items earlier in the day and 2) they might have better produce prices than Aldi, since they don't advertise all of their produce prices either.
Around Monday, I usually grab a piece of scrap paper from a coupon page that I clipped, and I start making my list of stores that I will be visiting this week in the order that I want to visit. This list gets re-written several times, sometimes! That's OK. It's part of my process...
For instance, my plan of attack for this week was as follows:
1) Save A Lot (it's the first store on the right after I leave my house and easily accessed from the main road). It's also easy to leave the parking lot to continue in the direction that I'm going afterwards. Save A Lot accepts Discover, which is the credit card I prefer to use in order to earn Discover Rewards that I can spend at Amazon (or redeem for gift cards for other stores). There, I usually check the meat section for clearance items and I buy produce items that I know are cheaper than at Aldi. Their tomatoes are better than Aldi and also I can buy them by the lb instead of having to buy them pre-packaged. They might also have brown bananas on clearance for $0.29/lb. I buy my bread there since it's the same price at Aldi and I can charge it. Deli meats might be bought there if I have a coupon (they accept coupons). I also check what brand name deals they might have if I have coupons that go with them. I usually grab one or two cardboard boxes from their bagging area too, since I use them for my thrift store donations or in my garden to keep the weeds down.
1A) Lowe's (I forgot to bring the strawberries so I had to skip it). I wrote 1A instead of 2 because I had already written out the plan when I remembered I had to go to Lowe's and I didn't want to rewrite everything.
2) Target. I don't go there every week anymore. Before I enter the store, I fire up the Target app and make sure the digital coupons are loaded up (I don't use their wi-fi as I don't like them tracking me so much) and I also fire up the Cartwheel app so I'm ready to research and add Cartwheel discounts on items that I might see that I wasn't planning on buying. I make sure to hit the clearance shelf both in the Grocery section and the toiletry/home section. I check the meat section for those items with Target store coupons stuck on them. If they're JustBARE or Gold'N Plump items, I usually also have manufacturer coupons available since I belong to both their Customer Loyalty Clubs. I also always check their produce section for the berries since I get coupons from the Driscoll's Consumer Panel for taking their product surveys. Many times I will leave without buying any of those items and just stick to my list.
3) Aldi: I make sure to leave my coupon organizer in the car, grab a quarter, my shopping list and a pen and I'm off. Aldi is very small so there aren't very many ways to waste time there! Since I shop on Wednesdays and their new ad always starts on Wednesdays, they're pretty much always stocked up on the produce and meat deals of the week. I rarely, however, buy my meat at Aldi since I get better deals with 50% off meat at Save A Lot and sales/coupon/Target meat discount stacks at Target. Even if their line is long at the register, they're very quick to open another lane so I rarely spend any time in line. I always check their bread section for marked down bread. Once I got hamburger and hot dog buns marked down to $0.49 a package. Last week I got the brown & serve rolls for $0.25 a package. I also check if there is a "Marked Down" shopping cart near the registers with items that they have marked down for quick sale.
4) South Lake Animal League League: I usually donate my pet coupons there and I also like to check what they might have.
4A) Dentist: I needed to pick up my son's special toothpaste.
4B) Eye doctor: I wanted to get them to tighten my glasses (they were at lunch when I got there so I'll have to try again next week).
5) Publix: I rarely skip Publix altogether but it does happen. I used to do the bulk of my shopping there but now I usually get 1 or 2 items. I do circle the store for blinkies, though, if I have time. I also get Redbox movies from there and I use their Pharmacy. I've started using their free blood pressure monitoring station every time I go there too. Oh, and I also drop off my plastic/paper bags to be recycled there, as well as my foam egg cartons, trays and cups.
6) Walgreens: Food items I get at Walgreens regularly would be cereal and Hormel pepperoni if I have a Register Rewards to redeem and I'm low on pepperoni. Also I used to get the SavingStar freebie of the weekend there most weekends, but now that Publix participates, I might go to Publix instead.
7) The library. My favorite stop! I had to drop off a DVD.
My usual circuit also includes CVS, sometimes The Dollar Tree and of course Racetrac for gas and the survey freebies. Do I go to ALL stores every Wednesday? Oh no! If the list looks very long and it's a Wednesday when I have to pick up my daughter from her high school, then I have to either start shopping earlier or cancel some store visits.
Why do I do this Plan of Attack?
1) I do better when I have a plan. I feel more organized and I am more liable to "stick to the plan" and not go overboard if my plan is in writing. I also allows me to manage my time. I love grocery shopping so without this list, I wouldn't have a sense of urgency and would be gone 8+ hours... and spend wayyyy too much, even with a list. With my plan, I can see how much I have to accomplish at a glance and instinctively know what pace to use at each store.
2) I'm visual. I need to SEE what my plan is.
3) I'm forgetful. I get lost in my thoughts and would skip stores if I didn't have my list to glance at. Every time I get back in the car, I take a pen, cross off the name of the store I just visited, read the name of the next store outloud, picture the way I'm going to get there in my mind (well, not consciously but I know that I do it) and then set off. Since I'm forgetful, I add things next to the name of each store on my plan of attack: for instance "drop off recycling" next to Publix's name (lest I forget it and return home with a bagful of recyclables) or "D/O" or "p/u" next to Library so I remember whether I'm dropping off items or picking up items or both. I try to keep my printed shopping list mostly for groceries and other items bought in grocery/drug stores.
Of course, a good plan only works if you follow it and check that you have everything you need before you leave: shopping list, coupons, reusable bags, purse, quarter for Aldi, snack and drink. This morning was a fail as I neglected to check my plan before I left and totally forgot about exchanging the strawberries at Lowes :(
In my next post in this series, I will explain how I organize my coupons.