By Monica Gruber
Complex Solutions to Simple Problems
You are finally settled in your new apartment when your stomach starts to grumble. The next question is where to go for food, which depends on what kind of food you’re looking for and how much you plan on spending. Just like popular clothing brands, grocery stores come in all shapes and sizes and depending on your wallet you’ll want to choose wisely. Your local supermarket will offer you the widest range of food products. It’s best to ask a fellow classmate or teacher where they shop to get an idea of what your city has to offer. Hypermarkets are the crossbreed between a supermarket and a department store. They are usually gigantic and can offer everything from clothes, electronics, groceries, to bicycles. A couple of examples of hypermarkets in the US are Wal-Mart and Target. Remember you get what you pay for, so a lower-end store like Wal-Mart may be cheaper but the quality may suffer. You may find groceries, especially produce, in the States to be much more expensive than in your home country. It’s important to understand that grocery stores usually carry a generic brand of most products that offers a more affordable option. For example you can buy Nabisco Oreo’s for $2.98 or buy Wal-Mart’s Great Value Chocolate Twist & Shout Sandwich Cookies for $1.98. That’s a $1 difference, which may seem small but it adds up fast! Plan your budget before you leave your house and make sure you don’t forget your pre-planned grocery list.
Many over-the-counter medicines can be found in grocery stores and discount stores. Over-the counter medicines are the common meds that do not require a doctor’s prescription. The most common are painkillers, anti-acids, cold and flu medicines, and other medicines for common ailments. These medicines can be found at different prices depending on where they are purchased. For example: buying cough medicine at the university bookstore or convenience store may be twice the price compared to buying it at your local pharmacy, Wal-Mart, or supermarket. In the States you pay for convenience. However, when you are feeling sick and you are desperate to feel better, paying a little more may be worth it. The best advice is to prepare by buying the basic over-the-counter meds ahead of time. Talk with the onsite pharmacist and ask them to show you the different options for the common cold and other illnesses. By doing this you can even take advantage of the coupons stores send to your mailbox or offer directly at the store.
Just like medicine, common toiletries also vary in price according to where they are sold. Toilet paper, tissue, toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, etc., can probably be purchased at the local university bookstore, but these items will be much more expensive there than at a discount store or local grocery store. For example, Tide, a popular laundry detergent, might cost $10.00 for 32 ounces at the university bookstore or convenience store, but at Wal-Mart, the same size container of Tide might only cost $6.00, a $4.00 savings. So, unless there is no choice, it’s best to shop for toiletries and other necessities at a discount store. Another way to save money is to clip coupons.
Coupons are sales the stores offer. Coupons can be found in newspapers, on the Internet, and sometimes a store will send coupons through the mail. It’s possible to find coupons for common medicines, toiletries, food, and even for restaurants. For example, if you need to buy toothpaste, you can probably find a coupon for Crest or Colgate brand toothpaste. The coupon may be for 50 cents off or more. Be careful though, it’s important to read the coupon very closely because the store will only accept a coupon for the exact item listed on the coupon. Also, coupons have expiration dates. Be sure the coupon you are using has not expired because the store will not accept it if it is too old. If you present the little piece of paper with the offer on it when checking out, the cashier will then reduce the amount of the item by the amount listed on the coupon. Coupons can save you a lot of money in the long run, but cutting them out and organizing them is a time-consuming process. It’s a great way to practice your reading and learn new vocabulary while saving yourself money!
Monica Gruber found her love of ESL through Spain’s Ministry of Education grant teaching program after graduating from Marquette University. She taught elementary and high school ESL in Madrid for three years before she decided to pursue her TESL Master at St. Cloud State University. Since graduating she teaches English for Specific Purposes at the University of Malaga, Spain. She has always believed in the importance of learning the culture behind the language. This belief has led her to create Online English & Culture Skype classes for aspiring foreign students coming to the U.S. You can visit her page mgenglish.com.