How many stores do you go to?

Today, a friend asked me “In couponing, how many stores do you go to?”

Well, in general, I go to about 3 stores each week. I have some stores that I go to each week, some that I go to every couple of weeks, and some that I go to once a month or less often.

In this season of my life, I have three children under the age of 5, all of whom are at home all day, every day. I have adjusted my routine over and over and over again, until my current routine barely resembles the one that I had six months ago, which barely resembles the one I had six months before that, etc. I’m constantly adjusting to achieve that balance of family/cleaning/couponing/prayer/outreach/socialization that I try so hard to find.

Right now, I’m extremely satisfied with my routine, although I still need a little fine-tuning and discipline in some areas. I have figured out that I have a window of about 3-4 hours each day after morning routines and before naptime in which to do what I have to do each week. During that block of time I alternate between shopping, cleaning, family time, and socialization time. I usually go shopping (on the way back from the gym) two of the five days during the week, stay at home cleaning two of the five days and leave the fifth day open for purely fun family stuff, activities, spending time with friends, or whatever seems to come up. I leave that day open for whatever God wants us to do!

On the days I go shopping, I rotate among the following stores:

Publix – every week
Kroger – about once a month
Wal-Mart – about once every two months
Rite Aid – every other week or so
Walgreens – every six weeks
CVS – every 1-2 weeks
Bi-Lo – every 3-4 weeks

I do most of my main grocery shopping at Publix for a number of reasons: they take competitor’s coupons, they have lots of store coupon booklets that they regularly put out, they have good quality produce, they offer baby club coupons that I use regularly, they have great BOGO deals each week, they are quick about giving rainchecks, and they’re usually friendly. It really is a pleasure to shop there for me! They’re nice to my kids, they give them free cookies, they have free samples most days, and they take my groceries out to the car for me. I’ve also gotten good results on the few occasions that I have to speak to a manager about an issue. Plus, they give me my husband’s diabetes medicine for FREE each month. I don’t always do it, but I really try to put my money where my mouth is and I want to support a store that does all those things and seems to really care.

Kroger has a good average on their prices, but a Publix BOGO sale beats Kroger’s sale prices any day! Kroger does have some good sales on produce though, and they have the best price on some of their in-house brands (12 packs of Big K sodas, and non-dairy coffee creamer are staples for us.) When Kroger has their Mega Sale events, you can score some pretty good deals as well! I also try to get some of Kroger’s marked-down meat when I go, because they are pretty good at marking down meat. I am picky about which store I go to though, especially for the meat. I used to go to Kroger more often, but I am not a big fan of our local Kroger, or the way that I was treated there many times, so I stopped going unless I really needed to. My local Kroger also wasn’t good about marking down the meat consistently, and the meat didn’t always look good, so I go to a different location. I try to stock up on a month’s worth of our staple items, hit up the marked-down meat, and go on a week when the deals look better than average when I go to Kroger.

Wal-Mart doesn’t do sales. They advertise that they don’t need sales to save you money. I have found that they are the lowest on a couple of items, like white vinegar, and, like Kroger, I stock up when I go. They also have other household items that grocery stores don’t carry, so I get those when I go every couple of months. I also always check out their toy and clothes clearance because I have been able to find some good deals at times!

Rite Aid is a store that I go to every couple of weeks because I can usually use overage by combining some of their free-after-rebate or UP+ rewards items with the $5 off of a $25 coupon to score some cheap or free diapers. Rite Aid is very generous with their programs and by publishing the $5 off of a $25 purchase coupons. They’re also very generous with their Video Values series, which gives high-value store coupons that can be combined with manufacturer’s coupons.

I don’t go to Walgreens very often, because I don’t like their in-house program. I’ll go if I can get a freebie or a great deal that I can’t usually find elsewhere.

I go to CVS every 1-2 weeks to take advantage of their free-after-ECBs deals that they have often, also to get my husband’s prescriptions (using competitor’s rx coupons,) check out their awesome seasonal clearance, and to rotate my ECBs. CVS is another one of those very generous drug stores that will email $4 off of a $20 coupons, as well as ECB rewards based on spending, ECBs for taking surveys, and their in-house coupon printer. I also love my CVS cashiers! Good customer service really does go a long way!

Bi-Lo has very good deals, plus great mark-downs on produce, but I made a decision a long time ago to put it towards the back of my priority list. I just can’t do it all, and I gave Publix priority over Bi-Lo. I’ll occasionally go to Bi-Lo, but only on weeks where the deals at Publix are slower or I the deals at Bi-Lo are better for what I need.

So, there’s a VERY long answer to a very short question.

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