ISSUE NO. 17 | Saver’s Delight by Caralyn Davis
Seventy-four bottles of yellow mustard; 58 bags of croutons; 40 cans of prepared pasta; 53 boxes of dried pasta, including 19 macaroni-and-cheese dinners; 49 bottles of hot sauce; 22 cans of chili with beans; 24 bottles of salad dressing; 26 cans each of corn and peas; 33 cans of tomato sauce; 31 cans of soup; 25 boxes of grits; 17 boxes of waffles; 13 pizzas; 20 family-size entrees; 36 bags of vegetables; and nine boxes of chicken nuggets.
On TV, savvy couponers make this kind of food haul in a single trip to the grocery store, paying in the neighborhood of $39.52, including tax, on a $793.18 bill. I spent eight long months stockpiling these items in my basement, where I carved out a food storeroom by commandeering space from my husband’s workshop and the children’s play area. According to my spreadsheet, the bill totaled $442.93 plus an additional $169.38 for long-term structural investments such as a chest freezer and a metal shelving system.
In my defense, I’m operating under some significant disadvantages. I re-watch Extreme Couponing episodes in marathon Saturday night viewing sessions to glean every tip I can. The grocery stores around my house only double coupons up to 50 cents, not up to $1, and they limit the number of coupons that can be doubled per $10 of goods purchased. Some of them also restrict how many sale-priced items a shopper can buy in one shopping trip.
Then, too, I have to buy mostly brand-name items, limiting my use of the bargain hunter’s best friend: generics. The experts, to be blunt, are wrong. My family of gourmands can tell the difference between brand-names and generics. Oh, the stink they raised over oatmeal, of all things. I’d sourced six boxes (12 pouches to a box) of generic apple-cinnamon instant oatmeal at 97 cents each, and knowing how they felt about generics in general due to some issues with the toilet paper, I’d emptied the oatmeal pouches into a glass canister and buried the packaging in the bottom of the recycling bin.
The first two times I served the generic oatmeal, they sniffed at their bowls but ate more than half. The third time, Mason — 39 and capable of knowing better — didn’t pick up his spoon.
“What is this?” he said as he eyed his generous three-quarter-cup serving. Benjamin, 10, Bunavee, 6, and Beulah, 4, put down their spoons as well. None of them would look me in the face.
“Funny Daddy,” I said. “You love oatmeal.”
“I do love oatmeal. That’s how I can tell this isn’t it.”
“Mason, please. Everybody eat your breakfast.”
“Oatmeal has visible, distinct grains, and it’s creamy.” Mason picked up his spoon and dipped it into the bowl. He raised the spoon nose-high and upturned it. Oatmeal splattered down.
“Oatmeal is thick. Gravity wouldn’t take effect so quickly. It would stick to the spoon for a few seconds. Then it would plop down in clumps, not a torrent.”
He did another spoonful to prove the reproducibility of his observations. Mason
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