Posted on November 24th, 2023
In the Before Times I used to put as much money as I could manage into my savings so I could spend it on Black Friday sales. Since my buying power could end up being 200% of normal (or more!), it just made financial sense to buy everything I need for the year on this one day. Especially clothes.
But then I remodeled my kitchen, did a bit of landscaping in my front yard, and had a water leak... and all of a sudden my savings are more than gone. They are non-existent.
Which is not that bad for once. I don't need any electronics or appliances or housewares. The clothes I have are in wearable condition. There are no tools, video games, or cool toys I am dying to have. My car is still mostly running. And my shoes are still in one piece. Albeit thanks to Shoe Goo.
My boots and shoes don't get a lot of heavy use, but they still fall apart. Mostly when the sole's toe-cover comes unglued. Fortunately that's an easy fix. Shoe Goo and an overnight stay in a bucket to keep it held in place is all it takes...
So... yeah... not much happening today for me. Certainly not like it's been for other years.
I've still got nearly a half-tube of Shoe Goo left, so I'm good.
Posted on October 6th, 2023
I'm not an overly-sentimental guy. Sure I have experiences that I treasure and I guess thinking about them could be considered sentimentality... but I don't really view it that way. One area that I fully admit being sentimental about is food. It just pushes all the sensory memory buttons for me. For my Washington grandma, her apple pie was truly epic. Award-winning epic. Mind-bogglingly epic. For my California grandma, it was her incredible enchiladas that send me. I make them more often than is probably healthy, but it was something I associate with her so deeply that it goes beyond a memory. It's a connection with how I remember her.
This is getting somewhere I promise.
Another thing that my California grandma made that I love is "Magic Marshmallow Rolls." I remember very, very well the first time I got to eat them. They were just beyond anything I had ever had before. Melt in your mouth incredible. My mom got the recipe from her, made them from time to time (but never often enough), and once I became an adult I got the recipe and started making them for myself. But then I became a vegetarian, so the gelatin in marshmallows meant that I don't make them very often now. I wish there was a vegetarian marshmallow that worked the same, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Oh well.
Fast-forward to earlier this week.
I needed to place a grocery delivery order on Monday night for delivery Tuesday morning. I decided that I would order the large marshmallows and crescent rolls required for Magic Marshmallow Rolls. Essentially you coat a marshmallow in melted butter with sugar and cinnamon then wrap the crescent roll dough around it. When you cook it, the marshmallow melts and disappears, leaving behind sweet, gooey goodness. It's for this reason that they are also called "Jesus Resurrection Rolls" or "Easter Empty Tomb Rolls"... assumably Jesus is supposed to be the marshmallow in this scenario, and he disappears from his crescent dough "tomb" when he gets "resurrected."
Then yesterday morning I got a notification that Safeway had made substitutions on my order.
The Jet-Puffed large marshmallows were out of stock.
They asked if they could substitute mini marshmallows. And my only option is to click "Yes" or "No." You can't talk to the shopper and ask them to substitute with a different brand of large marshmallows like you can with Instacart. You can select a substitution before you send your order, but it takes a lot of time to go through every item, so I often skip it.
I was mad.
How the fuck can I replace my single Large Jesus Marshmallow with a bunch of Tiny Jesus Marshmallows and get the dough to seal around them without it becoming a lumpy, leaky mess? If I had wanted mini marshmallows, I would have ordered them. Where is the correlation with this substitution? I guess it's for the people who don't care about the size... they only care that they're made by Jet-Puffed.
I don't get it.
It's like the time they wanted to substitute a pepperoni frozen pizza for the cheese pizza I had ordered. I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat meat. Which is why I ordered a cheese pizza. And it's like... in what universe does this make a lick of sense? So lesson learned. I now specify a pizza substitution that I can actually eat. And this week I learned I have to substitute large marshmallows with large marshmallows if I actually want large marshmallows.
If only I wasn't so lazy I'd be enjoying Jesus Resurrection Rolls right now.
Instead his tomb will have to wait until next week when I can =shudder= go to the store.
Posted on May 5th, 2023
Yesterday I went to make a shopping list so I could plan a trip to the grocery store this weekend. As I opened up the Safeway app, I decided to roll the dice and see if delivery was available to my small city. Unlike the last several times I tried, delivery was actually available!
And so... I gave it a try. If grocery delivery is normal for you, then you already know how it works. But for me?
Ever since the pandemic started and the lockdown happened, I make one big grocery run the first weekend of the month (after payday)... then make little trips for perishables until the next month. And that's what I did when making my order for delivery. Which is silly, really. I signed up for a "free delivery" trial so I could get $30 or more in groceries delivered any time I want for one month. And since $30 barely buys anything anymore, it would be easy to hit that amount.
Habits, and all.
The nice thing about making an order through the Safeway app is that I get all the stupid-ass discounts available... Weekly ad, Just 4 U, Club Card... and whatever else they dream up to make shopping a massive chore because it's a crapshoot if the discounts actually get applied. Because a lot of times, at least one of them doesn't. But with the app, you see the discount on every item. And the grand total you pay reflects all the discounts you got. Refreshing!
Delivery fees vary by how big of a window you request. A one-hour window is $9.95. Larger windows cost less money... down to $3.95. But since I'm on a free trial, I was able to get a one-hour window after work for $0.00. Nice.
Safeway allows you to add a tip for your driver. They default to 5%, but I went up to 10%... which actually worked out to over 15% because the amount is calculated on the total before discount. I've seen the videos about the horrendous shit that drivers have to put up with, and it seems like the very least I could do. Especially since they are saving me a 20 minute drive to the store, followed by 30 minutes shopping, followed by a 20 minute drive home.
You're texted a link once your groceries leave the store so you can cyber-stalk your driver...
All my groceries arrived on time. Everything I ordered was there. Frozen stuff was still frozen. Cold stuff was still cold.
It was like magic.
I seriously felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
There was only one thing that made it not a perfect experience. The two small bags of salad I got were turning brown. Not expired yet. But far from fresh. If I were doing the shopping myself, I would have never bought them. There's $3 down the drain. The rest of the produce was great though.
I'm probably going to pay for the subscription for free delivery. It's $99 a year, but you get a $5 credit every month, bringing it down to $39. Then you get discounts and specials which will probably make it a wash. The only thing I'll be paying extra is the tip for my driver, which far, far outweighs the inconvenience and horrors of having to do it all myself.
And I could do with a little less horror right now.
Posted on June 28th, 2022
For the longest time I've been telling people that I haven't traveled for work since September, 2019. And I could have sworn it was true. But it isn't. The last actual work trip I took was the day after Christmas, 2019. Before that I was in New Orleans for work in October, and the work trip before that was to Las Vegas in August. Which is to say I didn't even travel in September of 2019!
I get all confused because, pre-pandemic, I traveled a lot for work. Like a lot a lot. I have no idea why a prime work/travel month like September was a blank slate, but I probably had something personal going on. It happens.
Fast-forward to today, and I have my first work trip in 2-1/2 years. I didn't have to fly, thank heavens, it was just a drive over to Seattle this afternoon where I will be for two nights. I don't think I want to fly now that people don't have to be tested or wear masks and COVID is mutating into some shit that's more serious (which is disappointing, because the new variants were actually getting weaker for a while there).
The weirdest part about this trip is not that I'm actually traveling for work again.
It's that I had forgotten what it's like to be around STUFF again.
Oodles of great restaurants... tons of great stores... loads of great places... and they're all so close! A mall with one of my favorite stores (The Container Store) is a five-minute drive away. A Cheesecake Factory with those frickin' amazing Avocado Eggrolls is a five-minute drive away. Heck, a frickin' Burger King with my beloved Impossible Whopper is just a five-minute drive away! Everything is just so ridiculously close in a big city. Where I live, Burger King is almost a half-hour away.
It's all so... great.
Except I am seriously missing my cats. Leaving them has never been easy, but it's even worse now that I'm with them every day. Poor kitties probably think I've abandoned them.
Posted on November 26th, 2021
As always, I save up whatever money I can scrape together all year long so I can take advantage of the massive sales going on this awful time of year. Alas, I didn't have as much saved up as previous years because I had to pay the first payment and taxes for my new MacBook Pro. Which was money well-spent, because it's easily the best purchase I made in all of 2021.
But anyway, here's my loot for this year's Black Friday...
And... that's all I could afford.
UNTIL I DECIDED THAT I JUST *HAD* TO HAVE THE MILWAUKEE TABLE SAW THAT I COULDN'T GET LAST YEAR BECAUSE IT WAS SOLD OUT EVERYWHERE IT WAS ON SALE...
Unfortunately it wasn't on sale this Black Friday. But I did get $50 off for opening a Home Depot account, so there's that. I probably shouldn't have bought it, but I just can't take another year of trying to get precise cuts out of my wonky $110 Harbor Freight table saw.
There are three things I've been needing to complete my wood shop. A good table saw. A good drill press. A good planer. So one down, two to go, I guess. Heaven knows where I'm going to find space to put all this stuff when I'm using my garage as an actual garage in the winter.
Posted on August 7th, 2020
In the middle of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis fiasco back in 2008 I was visiting with my sister over the mountains. As you may... or may not... remember, it was a horrific time to be alive. Thanks to Wall Street fucking over the American people (not to mention a financial crisis enveloping the world), there were a lot of people hurting. My retirement savings lost a huge amount of its value, and most all of my freelance work had dried up. After going to the grocery store my sister had to go to the mall for some reason and I tagged along. When we got there, I was shocked that the parking lot was jam-packed.
ME: "What are all these people doing here? Aren't we in the middle of a financial crisis?"
HER: "Retail therapy, baby."
I know it's a thing, but it's something I never understood. If I don't have money, I don't spend money. It's a novel concept to be sure, but once I climbed out of crushing credit card debt I decided I would do whatever I could to not get sucked back in again. If I go on vacation, I save for it. If I want to buy something, I save for it. If I have an emergency, I dip into the money I'm saving. The interest rate trap built into credit cards is a killer.
And now we're in the middle of another recession... one which makes the Subprime Mortgage Crisis look like a cakewalk.
And my way of dealing with all the uncertainty and horrors that plague us right now? Retail therapy, baby!
I bought a pricey new WiFi router last month and took the money out of my Annual Black Friday Shopping Savings. Probably could have saved some money if I had waited until Black Friday to buy it, but I needed higher speeds from my internet to make it so I can work from home more easily.
Yesterday was a pretty bad day and so I... uhhh... went a little retail therapy crazy.
Since my vacation to Amsterdam and London was canceled, I've been dipping into my Travel Savings. And why not? I may never get to travel again, so might as well do something with that money before I die. I ordered a new floor steamer. I ordered a bunch of exotic spices for cooking. I bought a bunch of movies and TV shows from the iTunes Store that were on sale. I ordered memory for my media server. I ordered materials for the kitchen remodel I'm working on. I ordered stuff to re-stock my medicine cabinet. I ordered some foods I like but don't normally buy to save money (Dutch Mayo FTW!). I even ordered some online storage to back up more of my travel photos! I didn't go into debt since this was all purchased with my savings, but it did feel weird spending money in a way I usually wouldn't dream of spending it.
And so... yeah. Blowing through Benjamins like there's no tomrrow here. I don't know that it makes me feel any better, but it did give me something to do.
And, at the rate we're going, there might not be a tomorrow anyway.
Posted on August 4th, 2020
My favorite paper towels are Brawny brand. But Brawny is owned by the Koch Brothers, so I buy Bounty brand.
I've been trying to use less paper towels in an attempt to live more sustainably, but there are some times that it's the perfect tool for the task at hand so I still buy them on occasion. Thanks to the pandemic, that's a hit-or-miss proposition lately. My small-town grocery had no name-brands available when I last went shopping so I ended up getting something called Simply White which totally sounds like a resort for white supremacists or something, but it was my only option...
And now... perhaps somebody can answer a simple question for me?
Why is it that cheaper brands can't make a paper towel which tears off the roll properly?
Because I've had to buy other cheap brands when I was on location for work... or I was too poor for name brands... or couldn't find anything else... and they ALL have one thing in common. THEY DON'T FUCKING RIP AS ADVERTISED! You go to rip one off the roll and it doesn't tear along the perforation, it tears everywhere except the fucking perforation!
So what is it? The major brands are the only ones who can afford perforating blades that are worth a shit? Cheap brands are manufactured by major brands who want them to suck so you won't buy them? The laws of time and space don't allow cheap brands to exist any other way? I don't get it.
The mind boggles.
And speaking of mind-boggling stuff... I just found out last night that most of the sourdough you buy in a store is not made from an actual sourdough culture. It's just regular old bread that has a sourdough flavoring. I was video-chatting with a friend and complained that the sourdough I bought tastes like it was made from chemicals.
"Probably because it was. Most mass-market sourdoughs you find at the grocery store are just flavored that way."
A few minutes Googling that shit and, sure enough, that's a thing.
Products are apparently designed to disappoint. On top of not being built to last.
Posted on June 5th, 2020
When I was a kid, we'd climb into our big Chevy Blazer each month after payday and head into the nearby Big City for dinner out (hopefully at Pizza Inn, my favorite)... then head to Prairie Market for groceries.
Prairie Market doesn't exist any more (neither does Pizza Inn, at least not here), but it was a discount warehouse grocer from the 60's which was most notable for all the inexpensive generic foods they sold. Black and white boxes. Black and white labels on cans and bottles. Black and white signs on the big bulk food bins. It was nothing like the "generic" foods sold today, which are essentially re-branded in-house store brands, these were generic-generic. And it all came rushing back to me when I removed the sleeve from my tub of Feta Cheese and saw this...
All of a sudden I was 4th grade again.
Just like shopping for groceries today, nothing at Prairie Market had prices on it. But unlike today, where things are rung up by their UPC bar code, at Prairie Market you grabbed a grease pencil and wrote the price on every item. My mom would pick out what she wanted. My dad would write the price on it with his impeccably perfect handwriting, then my brother and I would stack it on the giant slab cart (like you find at Home Depot) before heading to the next item.
It was a really smart way to shop, because the food was just as good as the name-brands you could buy (probably because the name-brand companies manufactured it) but cheaper because every aspect of the experience was done as cheaply as possible. In addition to not paying to price-sticker stuff, they didn't stock anything on the shelves. They just cut the face off the case and threw it on a rack. There were checkers to ring you up, but they had to key-in every item. And they were fast. You bagged your own groceries, of course (in real paper bags, natch).
I don't remember when Prairie Market closed. I think in the late 70's or early 80's maybe? Probably when all the grocery chains started consolidating and developed their own name-brand alternatives. And UPC code scanners came along.
The giant cement building that Prairie Market built is now a toy store-slash-sporting goods store. I shop there once or twice a year, and I'm able to remember exactly how it used to be every time. The ghost of all those generic packages still haunt me.
As do the banana chips.
One hot summer day we ended up buying a big bag of dried bulk banana chips. Then my brother and I ate them all the way back home. In a hot car. For twenty minutes. Not long after we pulled into the driveway I was puking my guts out and everything tasted... and smelled... like bananas to me for days. It was years before I could eat banana chips again. And I still can't eat them alone, even to this day. Only if they're scattered in a trail mix or something. And even then I have unpleasant flashbacks.
If only food prices were as cheap now as they were at Prairie Market back then.
Holy crap are things expensive now. Even when adjusted for inflation, food in 1970's was crazy cheap compared to today. Vegetables for 15¢ to 20¢ a can? I think only meat and dairy are cheaper now (with adjusted pricing) than they used to be... and that's thanks to government subsidies artificially making them cheaper. Without it, I'm sure they'd have massive price tags like everything else.
But, hey, the packaging is prettier, so there's that.
Posted on May 27th, 2020
Last night I stayed up until 1:30am working, so I decided I deserved to leave work early today. So at 1:30pm I gathered my things... I hopped in my car... I screamed at the world... I sucked it up... and went grocery shopping.
This is most decidedly not something I wanted to do. If you remember last time I did this one month ago, it did not go well. I could have probably held out for another week... perhaps two... but I didn't like the consequences of doing so. At the end of that second week, I'd be eating saltines with ketchup or something.
As an added incentive? My Safeway Monopoly Instant Winner prize tickets expire tomorrow, and I will absolutely risk COVID-19 (and dealing with assholes) for $44 in free stuff.
Little did I know that 2/3 of my tickets could not be redeemed. So many of the things I was supposed to get for free or at discount were out-of-stock. Free bottle of hand-sanitizer? Don't make me laugh. Discount on Vlassic pickles? Nope. No Vlassic pickles to be had. Discount on chocolate milk? Denied. What I estimated to be $44 in savings ended up being... $17 total. Wheeee. My biggest score was a bottle of aspirin that I will never use. I only take Ibuprofen. But it was free, and who knows? Maybe one day I'll need it.
One hour and $200 in groceries later, I escaped no worse for wear.
That I know of, anyway.
I'd estimate that less than half of the people shopping with me were wearing masks. Which is not surprising. A lot of people here still think that the pandemic is a hoax, masks will kill you with carbon monoxide poisoning, and a litany of other nonsensical things. Logic has gone right out the window.
Which is why I'm more than a little worried about Washington State starting to open up again. Don't get me wrong, I certainly hope that we can reopen safely and not get a second bigger wave of COVID-19 infections, but it wouldn't surprise me after observing how some people are acting. If everybody was observing proper distancing, wearing masks, and generally giving a shit about other people, I'd feel a lot better about it.
Oh well. Not much I can do about it... except protect myself as best I can, look after others as best I can, and listen to people calling me names because of it.
Posted on April 28th, 2020
My allergies are not improving. In previous years my body manages to adjust after Spring starts springing. As I get older, it takes longer. But usually in early April I start to feel better. It's almost May and I am feeling worse. And last night in the middle of my geek documentary marathon, I ran out of the only thing that works... Benadryl.
I thought perhaps I could make it until I was done with work, but at 10am I couldn't take my running nose and itchy eyes any more and decided to put on my mask and head to the grocery store for more. While there I picked up some groceries which, much to my surprise, included toilet paper, paper towels, and flour! The only thing on my list I couldn't get was yeast and Comet cleanser scrub. I forgot to check and see if rice noodles were available this time (last time I found it strange that they were out of stock).
Grocery shopping was a horrific experience thanks to one dumbass who was proudly proclaiming that he was an asshole who wasn't going to wear a mask. Which, fine, whatever, you do you. Right now there's no law here about masks being required even though they help halt the spread of the Coronavirus, so be an idiot if you want to. But then he leaned into me as he was passing and said "You know, it's okay if you catch it!" which was rage-inducing. THIS is the kind of thing I worry about when forced to leave my home. There is ALWAYS going to be something out there... now it's COVID-19, later it will be something else... and some people are just going to be fucking assholes when it comes to the greater good and protecting their fellow citizens, friends, family, and neighbors. Just like drunk drivers, their stupidity hurts us all.
I did not react well to this particular asshole and said something I really shouldn't have. It was all downhill from there as I attempted to curb my allergies by taking way too much Benadryl. Not a fun day to be sure.
And so... $190 spent restocking my pantry, refrigerator, and shelves for another month or two.
At which point I'll have to go out amongst the assholes again. Wheee.