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Wal-Mart: A User's Manual

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This is a How-To manual for making your Wal-Mart shopping experience more efficient.

Tools needed:

Step 1: Assemble your tools in or around the shopping cart. Hold the list, pen, coupons, ads, and calculator in one hand while pushing the cart with the other hand. Gently instruct toddler not to take these things out of your hand. Hang purse on your shoulder, or recruit a larger child to hold it for you. Balance your large cold drink somewhere in the cart so it won't tip over until you get at least as far as the pharmacy aisle.


Step 2: Proceed to the entrance. You'll recognize it by the two large automatic doors. As you enter the supercenter, you'll notice large letters above the doors reading ENTER and EXIT. After doing my own independent research, I've discovered that most people were not aware these signs existed. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. The ENTER door is where you go IN. We will cover the EXIT door later. If, as you are going IN through the ENTER door, a family of 4 appears to be EXITing, side by side, through the ENTER door, give them a know-it-all, dirty look and refuse to move out of their way. Don't budge. They'll quickly learn the error they've just made and they'll sheepishly apologize. If, for some reason, they don't understand the message you're sending them, tell the various children you've assembled to lock arms beside you and block the way while chanting "Go IN through the ENTER door, go OUT through the EXIT door!" Kids love to do skits.


Step 3. If you've made it past the ENTER/EXIT mob, prepare for the shopping phase of your trip. Kindly greet the "greeter" and wait while they distribute smiley-face stickers to all of your children. Now, proceed to the health and beauty department. As you peruse the toothpaste selection, the toddler will sweetly suggest a trip to the bathroom. This is where some quick decision-making comes in. Which bathroom is closer? The front or the back? Is it worth a trip to the back for the nice, big Family Restroom, or is this an emergency that requires the shortest trip?

Hmmmm...

Well, you spent too much time thinking that one through. As you wait for an employee to come clean up the "spill," you decide to skip the pet food aisle and go straight to the toddler section for a pack of new Lightning McQueen underwear. You'll realize what a smart decision this was tomorrow morning when Fluffy cheerfully cleans the breakfast crumbs off the floor. Two birds; one stone!


Step 4. Now that you're in the back of the supercenter, make the most of it by visiting the Family Restroom. Make sure all 7 kids take advantage of this opportunity. This should take a minimum of 20 minutes. Sit and rest on the bench in the shoe-trying-on area. This will revive you for the remainder of the trip. (Remember, you still don't have any groceries in the cart.) Sip what's left of your cold drink.


Step 5. Once everyone is sufficiently relieved, proceed to the dairy department. This is a good time to check that you still have all of your tools. You may want to discard the coupons, calculator, pen, and ads and insert the toddler-stained list under your armpit for safekeeping.


Step 6. You'll realize at this point that you've been in the store for almost an hour, and still have a very long list. Several of the smaller children are beginning to fuss. This could signal hunger. Skip over the paper goods and laundry aisle and proceed directly to the snacks and cookies aisle. Pick out the largest, cheapest package of cheese crackers, open it and pass it around. Don't worry; cashiers can scan an empty bag, too. Your children are hungry, and satisfying that hunger will almost guarantee a pleasant finish to your trip.

Step 7. Now that the smaller children are tired and have full tummies, they need to rest. It's time to put the older children to work. Send one or two of them for an oversized cart with the blue plastic seat attached to the front. If it's the middle of the summer, you'll find these conveniently located outside the building, where the sun warms the plastic to a toasty 114 degrees. In order to cool the seats down, have your older children stack a few frozen pizzas on the blue plastic as they make their way back to the dairy section (where you've backtracked to start at the beginning of your list). This will also ensure that the frozen pizzas you'll resort to for dinner tonight are partially thawed.

Step 8. Now it's time to swing into high gear. Grocery shopping can be fun and educational. Sort your older children into teams. Tear your list into three parts. Give one part to each team and keep a part for yourself. Announce that the team to finish their list first will get to scan all the groceries at the self-checkout! Remember: you don't want to do the scanning, so you will need to walk at a slower pace than usual. That shouldn't be a problem since your team members are the toddler and the preschooler.

Step 9. Meet your teams at the self-checkout. Congratulate the winners and step aside as they begin the scanning process. Remind them that the self-checkout does not reward speed. They should not try to scan and bag with two hands. Scan. Bag. Scan. Bag. Scan. Bag. Slow and steady. Go ahead and ask the self-check clerk to remain on stand-by at your station to override errors. He or she will thank you later.

Step 10. Load the purchased groceries into 3 carts, gather your children, and proceed to the exit. Throw the coupons you meant to use in the garbage cans by the exit. You'll find another way to save money.

Step 11. Go home and rest. You have used up all the energy you had for one day. The smaller children will be ready for a nap, and the older children are old enough to make frozen pizza. If your husband should come home and ask how much you spent, immediately start crying and tell him what happened in Step #3.

See the kids that go to Wal-Mart with me.

Visit my other blog, Prairie Sense, based on the writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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