September 14, 2011

Shopping

For much of the last year I haven't had the level of income I'm used to so I've been forced to cut back on quite a few things.  It hasn't been easy, but I wanted to maintain some integrity so I had to quit on short notice.  There are repercussions when you go from about $50K a year to $0.

Let me be the first to say that while I would have done some things differently, I definitely made the right move.  While I do have my bad days....and sometimes my bad weeks, generally speaking I am much happier  on a daily basis than I was.

Living off of savings, loans, and the occasional consulting gig has made me more frugal than I was before.  This is a good thing, for more than one reason.  I've changed the way I do certain things initially to save money, but in hind sight I should have done them anyway.  Two examples: I've started making my own shampoo and I've done a lot more cooking from scratch.

I'll probably blog about these things later, so I won't go into detail.  I will note that as I integrate these new "frugal" ways of doing things, I do so with an eye for making my life easier in the process so I can keep doing them when I'm working full time.  In the past I've always worked overtime (or been salaried) so I don't want my work, my activities/volunteering, or my new-found lifestyle to suffer.

Yesterday I needed to go out and do a resupply run.  I have a general idea of what is cheaper where, but it is a pain to run to the store for little things all the time.  Carolyn works at Fred Meyer and I'm over there a couple times a week, so that is the backbone of my shopping.  We get an employee discount of store brands and by watching the sales we do alright.  Some things though I need to shop around for.

Spices, for example, are usually much cheaper at the ethnic markets.  I prefer the term "ethnic markets" because while I shop generally at stores that refer to themselves as "Asian Markets", that just doesn't seem right to me.  My favorite store is run by an Indian couple and their goods are generally from India, even though they also claim to be a "Nepal Store".  This place is the best for spices by far.  I pick up everything I can from there.  The other market I stop by is owned by a Thai family, but the employees I usually run into are from China or Central America.  There are also several Mexican Markets I don't recall every going into, and a Bosnian Market, which was a great source for illegal Kinder Eggs (I don't think they were illegal at the time, just difficult to get).  Whenever we get down to Salt Lake City we have to go to Volsen's, which is a German Bakery.

Yesterday I ran all over hell and back shopping.  I ended up going to Best Buy and Office Max, two different Fred Meyers (one just because I didn't want to pick up frozen food until just before I finished up at home), three ethnic markets, the dollar store, and Albertsons.  It was a busy day broken up by a stop for lunch and a back-track errand for Carolyn.


Some of my better finds:



OfficeMax toner.  Our Brother printer is running low on toner.  Of course the machine acts up wanting toner a good ream of paper before it actually runs out, and they never last as long as the should, even when running in "toner saver" mode.  Best Buy had the extended cartridge for about $75 and OfficeMax was $68.  Their store brand was $60, but they had a "Buy one get one 50% off" deal.  I went ahead and stocked up.

Coconut Oil.  Even with the Coconut oil at Fred Meyer's Nutrition Center on sale for 25% and an extra 10% off for employee discount, the Ethnic Market had the same quantity.  Sure, the stuff from the Nutrition Center has a fancy label and is marked "Extra Virgin" but guess what?  Unlike the Olive Oil industry, there is no industrial classification standard.  Instead of the $12.99 (shelf) price for the fancy label, I'll go with $4.99 for the Swad stuff.

Spices.  This is a bit generic here.  I needed some garlic powder and Fred Meyer has the real cheap stuff for $1 for 2 ounces.  It's not bad, but is from China.  The Ethnic Store had a big 14.something ounce container of American Garlic powder for $4.99  I also got Sesame Oil (for seasoning my wok) in a larger container for 1/2 the price elsewhere, and a bunch of other spices for a lot less.

Dollar Store.  Another a bit generic.  This dollar store lowers their dollar items to 88 cents on Tuesday.  I didn't know that until I walked in the door.  Usually I find the stuff there to be just as cheap as it is inexpensive, but I had a purpose this time.  Last weekend some friends of ours swore by a particular cleaner they found at the dollar store.  They said it was better than pretty much anything else they tried.  I picked up what I hope is the right stuff, which is the only reason I'm not mentioning the name yet.  I also got some cheap bamboo skewers I'm going to use for gaming terrain parts.

Equal.  I'm not afraid to admit it, never had (Dave?!), but I've always liked Kool-Aid.  Drank it growing up as a kid, drank it at summer camp (Bug Juice) and at one time I probably had at least a thousand packets of the stuff lying around when I was pretty much getting paid to buy some.  The thing is I prefer to sweeten my Kool-Aid with Sweet-N-Low.  Until recently it hasn't been a problem, but all of the local stores went from carrying it in a small bulk box to only carrying the packets.  I got used to measuring it out now having to cut open 24 packets is not my idea of a fun time.  My last stop of the day was the local Albertsons, where I hoped they had my Sweet-N-Low in the box.  Nope.  But they did have Equal with Saccharin packets for a lot less than the Sweet-N-Low....and every box had a $1 off coupon.  Hmmm.....roughly 80% off.....SOLD!

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