Monday, August 24, 2009

How to Survive 1.0

To remind myself and to help others, I am going to start blogging about personal survival strategies in difficult situations. (This is also a prompt I can use over and over to entice me to keep blogging.)

Today's Topic: A busy Sunday afternoon's visit to SuperTarget

I have often said, "If you can't buy it at SuperTarget, you don't need it." My husband would argue Menard's should be added, but I rarely shop there myself. That's his territory. This is not to say that I ONLY shop at Target, I love me some good local businesses, but if you think about it, REALLY think about it, all the things you REALLY need, can be found at good ol' ST. My ST of choice is the one off Cedar in Richfield, because it is the closest to my house and is on the way home from work. Easy peasy. I like to shop once a week, usually on a Sunday, for my weekly needs, including groceries. I will admit I have been known to make several other stops during the week for random necessities and/or treats, usually on the way home from the aforementioned work. However, going to ST on a Sunday afternoon is not always simple. I have established ten easy-to-follow rules for surviving this daunting task. In no particular order:
1. Make a list. Make a list. Make a list. Make a list. I plan my dinner menu for the week on Sunday, writing down the ingredients I need to go with each as I plan. This cuts down on last-minute trips to the store and helps me stay organized all week. Make your ingredient list first, then go through your fridge and pantry crossing off things you already have (skip this step if you have a good memory; I remember I have flour, but do I still have kalamata olives in that jar? Best to check, lest you end up with 4 jars of peanut butter in your pantry like me.) After you've got your ingredients down, consider your other needs: ask your husband if he needs anything (this week: wasp killer and velcro straps), check the bathroom (TP, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.), check your fridge and pantry again for staples. Put everything on the list. Never assume you'll remember.
1.A. While at the store, do not deviate from the list!!! This is very important for your time, your pocketbook, and your waistline. Cross things off as you shop. I like to mark each thing on my list before I get to the store with a D, F, C, M, P, or O (dairy, frozen, cupboard, meat, produce, other) and then make sure I have everything from that section before leaving it. Nothing like forgetting milk from back-of-the-store dairy when you're already in front-of-the-store produce.
1.B. There are exceptions to the no deviating from the list rule. They are
-cool clearance items, applicable in any department (no, I did not neeeeed that bamboo cookie jar, but at that price, I'll find a need! For the record, it is the new catch-all on my microwave.)
-items that store well and are on [good] sale (this week: steak and chicken; used so often, they can chill in the freezer until recipes require their deliciousness)
-fresh fruits and veggies, especially when they're on sale unexpectedly (did I plan to buy watermelon? no, but it was only $1.99!); you can always use more of these, just make sure you remember to eat them. DON'T let them go bad, what a waste!
-things you obviously need, but simply forgot to put on your list (this week: eggs and bread; duh)

2. You are not in a hurry. Even if you really ARE in a hurry, your attitude must reflect that you are NOT. ST has a propensity to rearrange quite frequently. This can be annoying only if you allow yourself to be annoyed. So, you have to walk all the way across the store and back for an item that you believed was just by the pharmacy. It's okay. It's not that far, and it's good for your thighs.
2.A. To aid your not-in-a-hurry attitude, park far away, and near a cart corral if possible. You'll thank me later.

3. Starbucks helps. Whoever said, "Hey, you know what we should do? Put Starbucks INSIDE SuperTarget!" is my personal hero. I like to start my visit with beverage large enough to last my entire shopping trip (this week: venti cold press with skim milk and sweetener). This leisurely practice of ordering, customizing, and then enjoying while you wander the aisles also helps wonderfully with rule #2. Sip, walk, sip, walk, sigh. Ahhhhhh, SuperTarget.

4. Every person's needs are more important than your own. This piggybacks on #2 also. Cart-crossing? Let the other person go first. Someone cut in the deli line? No scene necessary; spend the extra time admiring the beautiful cakes in the bakery. You are the most polite person in the store. It always takes less energy to be calm than to be angry. Have a few more sips of your Starbucks beverage and relax.

5. Every child is adorable. The crazy kid playing leap frog in the very busy aisle? TOO cute! The crying babies? Poor things, they just want to go home. Double-wide stroller blocking the whole aisle while dad talks on his cell? Offer the twins some frappuchino. Kids are EVERYWHERE in ST. You must embrace their presence, for I'm sure they would rather be out playing kickball anyway. Feel sorry for them. Love them. SMILE AT THEM! It's fun to see which ones smile back.

6. After you've gotten everything from your "O" list (other: shampoo, underwear, velcro straps, what have you), head to grocery. Start at the back in dairy and frozen. This will keep you on track. There are now perishable and frozen goods in your cart. You may not saunter back to see if flip-flops are on clearance yet. You should have thought of that before. Time's a tickin'. Be mindful; you are still NOT in a hurry, but now you have a mission.

7. Always, always end in produce. No one likes a squished nectarine or kiwi (on my list this week for the salsa to go with grilled tuna steaks....jealous?)

8. If all check-out lines are long, pick the one with the magazines. Then you have something to read while you wait. Bonus leisure time! You'll be bummed when it's finally your turn.

9. The check-out person is your new best friend. Don't be afraid to ask for things. (eg: May I have your scanning gun so I don't have to lift the dog food off the cart?) Don't be afraid to talk to them. It's boring to just stand there and watch them scan and bag, scan and bag. Ask them about their work. Make general niceties. They're much more likely to do you favors if you're nice to them (this, of course, is true in all situations at all times). Favors? From check-out girl/guy? Oh, yes. Possibilities include: believing you instead of running a price check; double-bagging (though you should really bring your own bags; I have 4 and shop with them only every other week, because in Mpls, we have to sort our recycling in paper bags...grrrrrrr.), taking your garbage (empty Starbucks cup, people), and many other surprising needs. If I see a manager walking by or pass one on my way out, I am happy to tell them how great an employee so-and-so is. I don't wait around for one (frozen food and all), but if you pass one and he/she is not busy, it will make his/her day and the employee's day to hear it.

10. As you walk out, be proud of yourself. You just enjoyed a stress-free trip to SuperTarget. And because you are parked so far back, you are now near the exit and nowhere near the crazy, hurried people who are waiting for parking spots in the front, thus blocking traffic. You can glide out of your spot easily and hit the road.

Remember, it's much less stressful to spend an hour and a half following my simple rules at a relaxed pace than to spend 30 minutes freaking out about every little thing. Be organized, stay focused, and remember to smile.