Monday, July 29, 2013

This is not a coupon blog. I still gotta tell you about some shoppin' I did this weekend!

I have rediscovered something wonderful. That something is shopping, at a grocery store. Not a hypermarket, nor a supercenter- I mean a real grocery store. Where they just sell food and stuff. Where it's sort of...quiet. Pleasant. And the people working there are nice, and not harassed-looking, because it's not crazy-makin'-crowded. Where people are there to buy food, in a pleasant, non-psychotic fashion. You might even see some of your neighbors, and you can talk and stuff, without being run over by the Crazed Shopping Hordes. It's been a revelation!

Some of you are probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about- in larger cities, like Portland, most of your shopping is probably done at a Safeway or something along those lines; in smaller towns, there's usually only one or two stores, so your choices are limited. Well, here in Boise, I found that I couldn't afford to shop at a regular grocery store- it's been Winco or Walmart for our family for years and years, with the occasional jaunt to the Freddy's or Natural Grocers for loss leaders or specialty items. I also use coupons, but not to the extent that some folks do- when you cook mostly from scratch, and avoid a lot of processed foods, you find that most of the coupons out there just don't speak to your needs. (Raw materials are rarely featured, but boy howdy, you can sure load up a few carts' worth of Cheezy Yum-Yums and frozen "meat-product" TV dinners on the cheap! Not our bag, I'm afraid.) The trade-offs that I've had to make to stay within budget and feed my family well have resulted in very early-morning trips to the Winco every weekend, in the hopes of avoiding the crowds, the traffic, and the noise. About twice per month, I do the same thing at the Walmart, to be able to bear the experience without having a panic attack. (And just so you know, that's not an exaggeration. Loud retail environments have caused me to go into full panic attacks, in the past. I have...issues...with crowded, loud places.) Being able to shop later in the day than 9 AM, and being comfortable, calm, and happy, with the kids in tow...I didn't think it was possible! But this weekend, I found that holy grail of shopping- a place that's running coupons for the things I use, and selling stuff at a price I can afford, in a setting that I can more than tolerate. A place that I can shop any day of the week, at any time from 6 AM to midnight, and not feel like I'm going to lose my mind.

That place is the newly-locally owned Albertson's. That's right, they're local again! (Seeya, Super-Valu- so glad you're gone!) They changed, much MUCH for the better, once they went back to local ownership again. What's the big deal? How did they make me so happy that I'm writing about this, without any compensation whatsoever, in such glowing terms? Let me count the ways that Albertson's has made me the happiest shopper in the world:

1. They dumped the "shopper's card" thing. Instead of having this wonky pricing structure where the prices only apply when you have your stupid card on you (or you can remember which phone number you signed up for it on- 5 cell phones ago! And then successfully type it in while fending off your two children who are in full Mommy-I-Want-Mode), they have prices. Most of them are reasonable. Some are incredible. Which leads us to number two...

2. They've substantially dropped their prices on almost everything. Albertson's hasn't been a place I'd consider shopping for a LOT of years, but they've brought their prices on most stuff right in line with Winco and Walmart. This weekend, their meat prices were much less than their competitors, and I found lots of other things we use (such as ice cream) well below their competitors' pricing.

3. They are putting coupons out there that I can actually use. Example: this week, they're running a coupon for whole chickens (a perennial favorite at our house)- Sanderson Farms natural chickens at $.79 a pound! The limit was four. I got 21 pounds of chicken at that price, and I could easily go back, grab another coupon (flyers are at the door), and do it again. (Except now my freezer's pretty full, thanks to the last shopping trip!) That's a helluva loss leader, if you ask me. And we had one of the birds last night- they're nice chickens, not gobby with fat, like the last batch of Foster Farms ones we got- bleh. The point is, though, they had coupons I could actually use. That scores some big points with me. Oh, and here's happy thing 3-and-a-half: they let you STACK coupons! If you have a manufacturer's coupon, and they happen to have a store coupon at the same time, you can use BOTH, unless one of them expressly prohibits it. (I love that!)

4. Their store brand is lookin' to be better than most. We tried their chips, because the prices were right in line with Walmart's generics, and guess what? They make a sour cream and onion potato chip that's just EXCELLENT- lots of flavoring (yeah, I know, totally processed, but we have to have our little indulgences!), and better than any brand-name chips I've had for a long, long time. It's going to be fun, trying out the various generic items in their lineup.

5. Their ads come out on Tuesdays, effective Wednesday through the following Tuesday. So if you're limited to weekends off to shop, you have some time to plot things out ahead of time.

And finally, 6. They're not crazy-crowded all the time! At least the one near my house isn't. It's a safe, sane environment, free of nutcases wielding grossly overloaded carts of crap, ready to run your family over as they screech into their cellphones at their spouses. The other shoppers were peaceful, calm, seemingly content to shop for their food items without resorting to guerilla-warfare tactics. People were polite and smiling. It was...nice!

As I get older and less fleet-footed, nice is starting to mean a lot to me.

Anyway. If you're tired of hassling with the bigger stores (and their patrons), Albertson's is a real contender again. If you live in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, North Dakota, or California, your Albertson's may be doing what ours has done- become a great place to shop again! If you don't get the newspaper, no worries- you can access their flyers online. If you sign up for an account, you can even have 'em emailed to you- and although it doesn't appear to be possible to clip their coupons online and print 'em, there's stacks of printed flyers at the store.

Hope to hear from some of you who live outside of the Boise area- are the Albertson's in your area doing this, too?

Workin' on a buncha things, so you may not hear from me for a bit, but no worries- there will be good things coming your way soon. Hope all's well in your corners of the world! Be well and happy.


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