Jul 14, 2020

Shopping - Especially for Bargains - Looks Different During the Pandemic

It's been four months since schools closed their doors. I have to admit, even then, that first week when the kids were home, I went shopping, trying to pick up some last-minute items before we cocooned ourselves at home. But I haven't set foot inside a store since mid-March.

I do the bulk of my grocery shopping at Ralphs, scheduling a weekly pickup order that includes at least four gallons of milk. Now that my kids are eating all of their meals at home, we go through a lot more milk than we used to. I used to buy organic milk at Trader Joe's, at $5.69 or $5.99 per gallon. Trader Joe's doesn't offer any online shopping options, though, so now I pay $6.49 per gallon at Ralphs (sometimes it goes on sale, but not lately).

Ralphs is having a Buy 5, Save $5 Mix & Match sale this week (and it continues through the new sales cycle starting tomorrow). I just clicked through 40 pages of Mix & Match items looking for deals. I used to spend an hour at the store, scanning the aisles for unadvertised deals. Now I spend that hour scouring the website. At least they make it relatively easy to find the included items - it's an option in the drop down menu at the top left.

The deal I'm most excited about is on Dove - there's an e-coupon for $5 off when you spend $15 on Dove, Suave and Tresemme items. The men in my family all use Dove Men+Care body wash, which is on sale for $4.49 and included in the Mix & Match deal - I'm getting four, and after discounts, it works out to $2.24 per bottle. That's not the lowest price I've ever paid for this product, but it's the best deal I've found since we've been on lockdown.

My target price for toilet paper has gone up too. We were pretty well stocked when the safer-at-home order was enacted in March, but even we started running low. I used to buy when the price was 20 cents or less per regular roll. Now I'm happy to see a price under 28 cents per regular roll.

My spending patterns have changed in a different way too. I couldn't ignore all of the activism and allyship that has come out of the Black Lives Matter protests after George Floyd's death. To put it simply, I want to be a responsible citizen in as many ways as possible.

I used to prefer organic because research shows it might be healthier (for instance, organic produce can have more beneficial compounds and better flavor). But now I'm also trying to take into account the manufacturer's practices. I'm buying Ben & Jerry's ice cream even though it's more expensive because they use fair trade ingredients and take admirable social stances. I'm buying Challenge butter and Tillamook butter and ice cream because they're owned by farmers who seem to care about their cows, land, and producing a quality product. I'm no longer going to farmers markets, but I regularly order deliveries from Edible Gardens LA, so that I can support their farmers and get quality products at the same time. I'm buying most of my meat from ButcherBox (affiliate link), which has made a commitment to humanely raised and butchered animals and fair labor practices. And I buy fresh fish every week from local businesses that sell at farmers markets and started delivering when the markets closed.

I even want to move away from mainstream personal care products like Dove, to support more natural products. I've started by purchasing lotion from Bend Soap Company, which makes goat milk soap using milk from their herd of goats.

Of course, I'm still conscious about our overall spending. This is going to be a gradual transition, but it's one that I'm committed to. I'll always look for the best deal on toilet paper, but I'm also going to use my buying power as responsibly as possible.

Have your shopping patterns changed during the pandemic?

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