Friday, April 13, 2012

Club Cards and Coupons

I was very skeptical about the new online version of Vons/Pavilions' club card.   I don't use that many clipped coupons because I try not to buy processed food.  If more than half of my purchases are from the aisles, rather than the perimeter of the store, I'm either making something specific or very tired and short on time.

While it's a little spooky to know that the store is keeping track of every single thing I buy, the specials they are offering for things I actually use have improved.  I've learned to click on Roma tomatoes, bananas, and onions even if I don't plan to buy them.  You never know.  I got half off some sliced deli meat, making my entire lunch cost about a dollar.

Coupons are great if you use what they offer.  I'm cooking for one, so getting a dollar off if you buy 3 isn't usually the best choice for me.  Someone with a large family will certainly have different shopping habits.  I've seen episodes of Extreme Couponing where the contestants end up paying nothing.  You have to know where to find the coupons and which web sites get you the best ones for the least membership fee.

I know I've ranted against club stores like Costco and Sam's Club for aiding potential hoarders.  They are no more responsible for hoarding tendencies than bars are for alcoholism.  If you go in there knowing your goals and limits, you can stock up on things you really do need and use for a low per-unit price.  You should always be prepared to leave with nothing at all if the items on the shelves don't fit your need.

But the most important thing to look at when shopping is the final cost of an item.  Is it what you believe that product should cost?  I don't care if something is 50% off, or even 75% off the original price.  (Although, when I saw 4oz of lox for 99¢ a couple of weeks ago, I didn't really care what it tasted like.  Lox was on my shopping list, and that was the best price on the shelf.)  If that final price is higher than I think I should be paying for it, I won't buy it.  I'll rethink my menus for the week while I'm standing in front of the meat or produce display, if whatever I was going to buy doesn't meet my standards.  And sometimes I'll give up on the larger chain and go to Sprouts, which is on my way home from Pavilions, and get the fixings for a vegetarian meal.  Their meats are too expensive, but no one can beat their produce prices.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that it's possible to make creative meals on a budget, if you're willing to shop creatively and alter your plans.

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