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All shoppers have experienced disappointment at one time or another upon finding an empty shelf at the grocery store, especially when we have a dated coupon or time limited sale to take advantage of.   There are times, however, when couponers and savvy shoppers are delighted at the sight of an out of stock item …. think “raincheque” and read on!

The grocery flyer for Independent Grocers listed Neilson TruTaste 4L bags on sale for $3.99 this week (regularly $5.49).   And there is a $1.00 printable coupon for ANY Neilson TruTaste milk product, good until June 30, 2012.  Milk for $2.99?  Yes, please!  But milk isn’t one of the items we like to stockpile at our house.  Firstly, dairy items are only good for 3 months in a chest freezer, and although the vitamins & nutrients aren’t affected by the freezing/thawing process (Dairy Council of Calefornia website), the taste and texture is.  And besides, our freezer is still full of all that FREE chicken we scored a few weeks ago (see the OOP$ I didn’t pay for that Chicken! article).

When I popped into the grocery store today to pick  up some fruit, I did a quick zip up the ailes to look for tear-pads and empty shelves.  They say that we should shop on the peripherals of the store for the healthiest foods;  I add that we should use our peripheral vision to look for saving opportinities!  When I saw that the dairy case was empty, I was thrilled!  I asked the cashier for a raincheque for 6 bags of the sale milk when we were checking out.  The duty manager was standing at his podium writing raincheques for several other customers at the same time,  so it took only an extra minute and I didn’t have that yucky feeling of holding anyone up in line.

If I really needed milk today, I would have had to pay $4.99 for a comparable brand, so thankfully I’d already bought a 10 day supply on the first evening of the sale.   I will, however, pop back in to the store a few times this week near closing time to see if there are any more empty shelves and another opportunity to ask for a raincheque.  The raincheques are good for a month after the date of issue, so with any luck, we’ll be able to buy milk for the next 5 weeks at this great price, and will likely end up freezing some to use for smoothies, home made ice-cream, and baking throughout the summer. 

Where do we store all that milk?  Our family of 4 uses at least one pouch of milk each day, so when we have a chance to stock up on milk at a good price, we use the Milk Bag Organizers from Solutions to keep 3 pouches at the front handy, and 6 extra pouches stacked neatly out of the way along the back edge of our lower shelf.  I especially like the little slot to insert the date tab so we never mix up which box to move to the front next.

A few adages of savvy rainchequing apply here:

1. Check your flyers and match up your coupons prior to the sale period whenever possible and try to stock up on sale items at the beginning of a sale period (either by early evening on Friday or first thing Saturday morning for most grocery staples.  If the Saturday crowd beats you to it, you might miss out).

2. Use your peripheral vision to keep an eye out for empty shelves each time you’re at the store, especially for items on sale that week.

3. Ask for Raincheques whenever there’s an empty shelf for an item you commonly buy.  You never know if a coupon will become available in the next month and you can stock up.

4. Ask for the maximum number of items on the raincheque.  You are not obligated to purchase the full number, but at least the opportunity is there in the event of a special occasion or extra coupons becoming available.

5. Keep your raincheques in your coupon binder/file and always always always take it shopping with you!

So when you’re shopping for a great sale item, I hope you too, find “nothing” !  Ask for your raincheque and please, in hommage to my grade school teachers, help me in my plight to remind the English speaking world that it’s Cheque, not Check!

Happy Rainchequing!

Christa Clips (April 15, 2012)

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