If you’ve been to the grocery store in the past few weeks, you probably noticed that the Valentine’s Day aisle is swamped. And you might have assumed the long-suffering moms in that aisle were dragged there by children who need exactly 29 Valentine’s Day cards to give out in class when the typical box of cards only contains 25.
So when you saw those moms scanning the shelves, you probably guessed they were looking for a way to avoid having to buy another 25 cards. And you were half-right. They were definitely cursing the “classroom Valentine’s Day card” complex under their breath. But moms are famous multitaskers, and they were also doing reconnaissance.
Because savvy moms know the best thing about Valentine’s Day is the leftover candy sale that starts on February 15.
Flowers, cards, and romantic dinners are all well and good. But knowing the candy is going to be half-off the next day … that only comes once a year. An inexperienced shopper might get overexcited and stock up on those candy hearts that taste like chalk and third-grade disappointment. That’s why you can’t go in blind. You need a guide.
As someone who has been in the trenches for years, allow me to be your discount aisle guru. Plan your candy aisle visit wisely by following these simple rules:
Beware of holiday versions of candy favorites.
This rule holds true for Christmas, Easter, and Halloween as well. You need to go in knowing how your favorite candy brand changes things up for the holidays.
For example, changing the shape of a mini-bar to a heart and using a red wrapper is fine. But if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a full bag of champagne-flavored jelly beans. This sounds great in theory until you realize there’s a reason the French aren’t famous for their jelly beans.
The ultimate offender here is the Reese’s peanut butter cup. In its classic form, this is a fantastic candy. But once shaped into hearts (or eggs or Christmas trees), something terrible happens. The proportion of chocolate to peanut butter is thrown off, and you end up with an unholy abomination of a Reese’s cup that leaves you wishing you had just bought a regular pack at the register.
Don’t forget about the chocolate sampler packs.
Sure, it may not be Godiva (though if it is, go crazy), but the Valentine’s Day chocolate assortments are literally the heart of the post-Valentine sale. It’s hard to get these the rest of the year, and since you’re only paying half-price, you don’t have to feel guilty about throwing away the mint cream one and the one with that weird jelly in it.
Choosing how many to buy is the tricky part. Too few, and you’ll have squandered your opportunity. Too many, and it starts to give off a Miss Havisham vibe. Definitely keep it under 50.
Avoid the giant novelty gummy bear.
“But it’s only half price!” you’ll say to yourself. “It’s fun!”
No, it’s not. It’s fun for about four bites. After which, you’ll realize that a little bit of gummy bear goes a long way. But you will still have a gummy bear the size of your forearm sitting in your kitchen, attracting lint and small, sticky fingers.
In fact, avoid the novelty candy altogether.
Chocolate roses, candy golf balls with suggestive messaging, jelly beans in mystery flavors … these are not meant to be enjoyed as candy. These are meant to be gifted and then left on the kitchen counter until mid-April, when the recipient unwraps them, takes a small nibble, and then tosses it in the trash.
Don’t even think about grabbing those chalky little conversation hearts.
You may be tempted to relive that awesome moment in fourth grade when Matt Huffnagel left a slightly dusty heart with the words “Be Mine” on your desk, and you wondered if he picked out that sentiment especially for you. But trust me, nostalgia has a better aftertaste than conversation hearts.
Technically, it’s true that some people eat and enjoy these. Those people are insane. Leave the half-price bags of hearts for those people so that they can continue to prop up the dental industry with their twisted conception of what constitutes a candy treat.
Pez dispensers, kid-oriented packs, and unicorn stuff are hidden treasures.
Not to eat, of course. No adult wants to go through the trouble of prying open a fist-sized plastic container shaped like Boba Fett’s helmet so they can eat five gumdrops.
No, this is where you stock up on goodie bag items for your child’s upcoming birthday party. I know you don’t want to do goodie bags. But this way, you keep the cycle of insanity going and force all the other parents to do them, too.
Finally, look for the good stuff.
It can be hard to find — mostly because I moved a few boxes to the bottom shelf behind the “Paw Patrol” candy bracelets — but somewhere in that clearance aisle, you should find the good stuff. I’m talking about the truffles, the Lindt and Godiva assortments … the premium candy.
Find the good stuff, and you’ve hit the gold mine. Here’s where you stock up and tell yourself that you’re saving money in the long run. And maybe you’ll give some to friends or family. It would be a nice gesture, after all. Better get a few extra bags in case you forgot someone.
Of course, you’re not going to give any of it away. But as long as you don’t admit that to yourself until you’ve already left the store, you’re in the clear.