Coupon Clipping (Are You Proud, Mom?)

I think about groceries a lot. Sometimes I honestly look around a room and think, “I maybe the only person here who doesn’t hate Walmart.” Any room. (In my defence, I’m partial to the Neighborhood Market rather than the Super Center, but that’s neither here nor there.)

There is something distinctly spiritual about grocery shopping, and I tend to develop a very loyal and obsessive relationship with my chosen store. I approach the cart racks like early Roman Catholics would approach the altar: reverent and at peace, with a well thought-out list in hand (optional at altar). Even if I’m filling my reusable canvas bags with only wine and cereal, grocery shopping temporarily puts me in the ranks of adults with (probably) steady paychecks, Christmas card lists, and a mailman they know by name. I want to be them.

Being from western Arkansas, land of Walmart, I’ve never really considered competing stores—they didn’t exist. When I moved to Denver last summer, I think I might have stepped into a Walmart once, in the first month I was there, and quickly abandoned it for the closer King Soopers (which was also abandoned for the smaller and prettier King Soopers on University Avenue, over five miles farther from my apartment than the Colorado Boulevard location, but atmosphere is important and reigned supreme). Occasionally I’d hit Trader Joe’s after work for bread and Greek yogurt, but only certain times of the week to avoid vegan moms and their way-too-well-behaved children. My grocery store runs were more ceremonious and disciplined than any organized religion I’ve ever been in.

Now I’m in Dayton, Ohio, far from King Soopers (though the membership card is still on my keychain, hopeful) and resentful of supercenters. Nearly three months in and I’m still trying to view this as an adventure, a quest to find my new favorite grocery store. I’ve tried Meijer but I’m iffy on the pronunciation so I avoid it; I never have a quarter with me to get a cart at Aldi and end up cradling bananas and frozen vegetables more often than I like; I’m not suburbian enough to enjoy Target that much.

Then, on a fateful evening, I was introduced to the Kroger coupon app.

Don’t get excited, I still haven’t been to a Kroger. There was one in Fort Smith according to my mom, but I have no memory (there was also a K-Mart and tourism, of which I have limited memory). I’ve also not used coupons since our family went through the Extreme Couponing phase, complete with binders and multiple transactions in one trip. Perhaps this is my chance to fully become my mother just like Judy Blume warned; perhaps this will become a sad love letter to grocery affairs of yore.

I’m trying to not get my hopes up—the iOS app has 2/5 stars—but this could be the start of something new.

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