It is Sunday morning and I’m heading to Aldi after church to get Noah some fruit. That boy is eating me out of house and home right now, but he has exhibited a slight inclination to eat fruit and I am indulging him. Aldi speaks to my cheap thrifty nature as it stocks alternate versions of brand names at half the cost. After spending just $21 on apples, bananas, cereal, stuffing mix, coffee, butter, mustard, facial tissue and orange juice, I head home. Then I realize I have no lettuce. So I decide to stop off at Whole Foods because it’s on the way.

I walk through the doors and OMG. What is going on? There are lines 20 carts deep leading to every checkout. I grab my lettuce, get in line and ask the nice lady in front of me why the lines are so long. “Whole Foods is moving and everything in the store is 20 percent off.” Oh, dear. If you are a proper Southern woman it is imbedded in your genes: Never buy retail. Twenty percent off everything. How can I resist? If you’re going to stand in line for 45 minutes to buy a head of lettuce you might as well add a few other things to the buggy.

I attempt to procure a buggy. There are none. I follow a nice gentleman to his car and gently urge him to unload so I can take his shopping cart. And then I enter the battle. I have shopped the sales at 4 a.m. the day after Christmas. I know how to do this. People, however, are unfailingly nice and polite. Maybe there’s a difference between shopping for marinated artichoke hearts and animated Santa displays.

My rule of thumb when sale or coupon shopping for food is never buy anything you wouldn’t ordinarily purchase. When I watch Extreme Couponing, which is strangely addictive, I am struck by the huge quantities of rarely used items these women (and they’re always women) purchase. How much nail polish remover and Pam can you use in a lifetime?

So here is what I put in the buggy, sometimes with great difficulty elbowing my way down the packed aisles: instant polenta, roasted salted cashews, bulk granola, pesto, buckwheat groats, sparkling mineral water, sesame snack sticks, sesame oil, honey whole wheat bread, salt and vinegar potato chips, paella rice, demi glace, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, linguine, mayonnaise, sea salt, grape tomatoes, grapes, garlic, bell peppers, ground bison, bison sausage, bacon, muenster and colby cheeses and, wait for it, lettuce.

I will use all these things. But first I have to get them out of the store. I join the end of the long line snaking its way down the bulk spice aisle. I add a jar of oregano to the cart. I chit chat with the older lady behind me and the young mother with a 3-year-old in front of me. There is a kind of hostage mentality in situations like this. You bond with total strangers who are in your same sad position of inching forward every five or six minutes. After about 45 minutes, I reach the checkout. The total is $165.88. However, with my 20 percent off, I pay only $135.10. Yes! Victory is mine.

When I get home I have to rearrange my entire pantry to get the newly minted five grocery bags of stuff put away. Then I decide to make bison burgers to celebrate. I have eaten bison before but never cooked it at home. Bison is much leaner than ground beef but tastes similar. I get the cast iron skillet smoking hot, add butter and the bison patties seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Cook to medium well. Nestle in toasted English muffins with red onion, cheese, mayonnaise and, yes, my lettuce. Delicious. A bargain always tastes better.


  1. Les Kerr
    May 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Very well written, Catherine! Reminds me of a friend who often refers to “Hundred Dollar Depot” because he’ll go into get tape or something at Home Depot, then come out with a bunch of stuff he couldn’t resist because of the good deals.

  2. JoAnn Rhodes Grose
    May 18, 2011 at 10:23 am

    What you didn’t grill them? Fun blog.

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