Where are the store coupons when you need

The Baltimore Sun

Where are the store coupons when you need them? Not in my purse at the checkout, I can tell you right now.

Why not? Well, at my life stage, I can't be toting around a purse as heavy and downright unhealthy for my back as a typical high school teenager's backpack. I need a system where only the coupons I need are with me at all times, neatly organized by expiration date and sorted by store.

In short, I need a coupon assistant. I think it would be great if my coupon assistant were modeled after "Dobby" in the Harry Potter movies. Let's call him "Shoppy."

Shoppy could perch in the front of the grocery cart and use his powers to help me stop spending my fun money at the food store. His brain would be wired to have an automatic "unit price" converter so he could quickly cut through all the inventive supermarket point-of-purchase displays - the shelf-arrows, blinking coupons dispensers and dangling signs - to indicate which brand of paper towel is a better value.

Because let's face it, people, it is a paper towel, not a European luxury vehicle! We are going to use said paper towel to wipe up a nasty something-or-other, and then we will throw it away. We do not need to purchase a high-end towel festooned with all sorts of designs and waffle weaves. Will our spills appreciate the brand-name expense? I think not.

Shoppy could also steer me toward healthy choices. If I start to "impulse buy," veering off in the direction of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch or drifting into the land of Little Debbie, he could commandeer the cart and take me directly to the organic aisle. And then he could explain to me just what the heck I'm looking at. Burdock root? Daikon radish? Whole grain muesli? I'll buy these things, along with organic macadamia nut oil, as long as Shoppy has a few recipes he can share and prepare.

Alas, Shoppy is just odd wishful thinking.

Here's how grocery shopping normally goes for me:

I run out of some stuff. This week, it's ketchup, which is usually one of those items I have seven of squirreled away in the back of a cabinet. But this time I can only find jars of Dijon mustard and bottles of cider vinegar in abundance. So I must go to the store.

Before I leave, I grab some coupons for some items that are not on my list from a decorative box on my kitchen desk, and I put them on the front seat next to me in the car so I won't forget them.

I proceed to the store and meet many neighbors in the various aisles, and we all get distracted talking about Silda Spitzer. Because we do not really care about Eliot Spitzer; but our hearts break for his wife and children.

Eventually we get around to talking about why we are in the store, and share the recipes we are making that night for dinner. Usually, we end up swapping shopping lists so we can make each other's menu. Then, off I go to pick up the stuff that I recall was on sale with my coupons, invariably boosting my stockpile of Dijon mustard and cider vinegar.

When I get to the checkout, I will realize that my coupons are in the car. Adding insult to injury, the store will ring up my order, and at the bottom of my receipt will be a veritable tapeworm of coupons, coupons, coupons, tormenting me until they form a mulch-like bed at the bottom of my purse for my wallet and reading glasses.

Later that evening, when I am serving up the "Cheesy Organic Tater Tots Bake" recipe from my neighbor, I will discover I forgot to buy ketchup.

Contact Janet at janet@janetgilbert.net

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