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Today's Top Story: Food Geek Deal Makes Payday Worthwhile

February 1st, 2008 at 10:40 am

It's payday! Finally!

I can't believe I survived the past 2 weeks on $160. Considering $100 of that went to gas money (bleh), I think I did pretty well. It feels good to have a little breathing room again.

Anyways, you're probably wondering what the food geek deal I got was.

It all begins with one of my favorite periodicals: Cook's Illustrated. For those of you who have not have the pleasure of picking up this little magazine, I like to think of it as the creme de la creme when it comes to food magazines. There are no sponsors, no advertisements, no fluff - just to-the-point useful cooking information. If you've seen the show America's Test Kitchen, that's one of their productions.

Anyways, I've been on the hunt for one of their top rated items - a Tramontina 6.5qt enameled cast iron dutch oven. They say you can pick it up for about $40 - but I can barely find it, much less for $40. Sometimes I'll see it online for like...$60. Anyways, it's not their very top rated, which is a $240 Le Creuset - which I can do without. So I've been hunting for this thing, thinking about all the delicious French onion soup and beef stew and no-knead baked bread I can make in it.



Turns out, it's Wal-Mart of all places that has this for $40. Using their new snazzy find-stores-with-this-in-stock feature online, turns out 3 of the 18 or so Wal-Marts in a 50 mile radius have this thing. So, I made a resolution of heart to get up early this Saturday morning (as it was after payday) and suck it up to drive the 18 miles to this fabled Wal-Mart, largely to reward myself for all the no-spending I've done in the past 2 weeks. All this work for a dumb pot.

Anyways, while I was running some errands during lunch today, I drove by a Wal-Mart - one of the ones the site said was "OUT OF STOCK". Figuring I had nothing to lose, I pulled in and beelined to the pots. And there it was. Glorious and ugly green, my darling pot sat so lonely on the shelf, the last one remaining amongst its diminutive 3qt siblings. Ecstatic, I grabbed it and nearly dropped it on my toe. No, not because it was heavy, though it is pretty heavy. It's because I caught a glance at the glaring red price tag under it that said - "Clearance $30.00".

I made out like a bandit. Take that, uppity Le Creuset. I don't need your stinkin pots.

If you're looking for a dutch oven, ransack your Wal-Marts and leave none of your faith in their online stock checker thing. The Tramontina one that I got is a great deal, even at $40. If you can't find that one, there's also a Lodge one that's $50 - it's also regarded highly by Cook's Illustrated. The handles are bigger (which is super useful with such heavy pot), the knob on the lid is better, but it's only 6qt instead of 6.5qt. But at least you get a choice of color, other than the 80's retro green.

Uh-oh. CVS is my new hobby.

January 25th, 2008 at 10:03 am

After hearing/reading about so much CVS savings action, I couldn't help but get ready to jump in. But how? I was lost in a swirl of ECB's and "stacking". I figured, the best way to figure it out was to actually dive in and see what the fuss is all about.

Fortunately, I scored big on a deal: SoyJoy "health" bars, which look ridiculously unappetizing to this self-proclaimed foodie snob. But, they were advertised in last Sunday's paper AND there were coupons. $4 for 4 bars + $4 ECB (that's Extra Care Bucks, for you fellow CVS newbies) effectively taking the cost to be "free". Extra Care Bucks are just like little slips of register tape money that can be applied to your next purchase at CVS within 30 days.

Then came the coupons. $2 off $10. $3 off 10 bars. 1 free SoyJoy bar.

12 SoyJoy bars later, I walked out the door shelling out $6.09 out of pocket with $12 of ECB's in my pocket.

What a rush! I just took CVS for a ride, and no one was the wiser. The lady at the counter seemed suspicious at a 20-something young professional strolling in and buying a barrage of soy health bars with a fistful of coupons - but took no action to stop me. I meandered across the parking lot to my car, envisioning scenarios where CVS management would bolt out of the door and call me back on a drastic mistake on their part, igniting a freefall plummet of their stock to destroy the American economy. Alas, no such event occurred. I sat in my car, satisfied and content, knowing that CVS just paid me $6 to help take these revolting SoyJoy bars off their shelves.

I still have 11 and 3/4 of them left. Can I interest anyone in a brick of dried sticky crunchy joyful soy?

A Brief History of My Credit Cards

January 23rd, 2008 at 08:54 am

I just transferred/consolidated $7000 worth of credit card debt to my Citi AmEx. It costed me $200 (ouch!) but I'm effectively dropping my APR by about 16%. I figure I'll make that $200 back in mere months. This is one of the first "pre-game" steps in getting this mountain paid off.

I don't really like to think about how I amassed this debt. It wasn't strictly all bad decisions and impulse buying, a lot had to do with the situation. When I was in my last couple of years in college, my mother severed me financially out of the blue one day. Okay, so we got in a fight. But with not much savings, unqualified for a educational loan, and an out-of-state tuition to pay plus books and such, I didn't have much of a choice but to turn to my trusty plastic card(s).

Then, after I graduated, I sold my car, paid off a lot of the debt with that, and headed out to California for two years. Things financially weren't exactly happening for me, as I didn't have much income and not nearly enough to really live on too much. Again, plastic saved the day (as well as grandma and grandpa, but that was only to help stop the bleeding temporarily) - and I crossed the fabled $10k credit card debt mark during this period.

Finally, I landed a job back here in Atlanta and I decided that it was time to take hold of my finances - $18k of credit card debt was insane for someone in their mid-20's. But I came back empty handed - no furniture or anything of that sort - just my car (that was and still is in dire need of replacing), my clothes, and some books, all of which fit in the backseat and trunk of my Nissan.

If anyone remembers having to start their first apartment from scratch, you'll know how damaging it is financially. I slept on the floor for months, and had an empty living room for just as long - until a dear friend donated a couch. I still had to keep a semblance of "doing okayness" as a show for my dad and grandparents, because as my only family left that haven't disowned me, the last thing I want them to do was to take care a 20-some year old me financially.

So I'm making progress. Step by step. For being raised in an environment where a love of money consumed the woman who bore me and in turn destroyed her family, I think I've gained a lot of financial sense in these past 6 months. Much of it has to do with so many blogs that many of you write and articles on different sites. I even started contributing into my 401(k), with the meager money I have left after dishing out to all those credit card bills. The goal is to get this all paid off by the end of the year, when I will reward myself with a new-to-me car.

This means, all you readers/writers, keep doing what you're doing, and just know that you've made a difference in at least one person's life.

Working from Home

January 4th, 2008 at 12:49 pm

A slightly boring/less entertaining post for today:

I'm working from home today!

It sounds a lot better than it really is. I was feeling kinda sick when I woke up this morning. After collapsing on the ground initially, I pulled myself back into bed for round 2 of sleep.

By the time I've rested enough to gain enough strength, I wrapped myself in my blanket to head to my desk where I e-mailed out some of my favorite words: "I'm working from home today."

So, in turn, this becomes what is known as a "no-spend day". I made another dent into clearing leftovers from my fridge for lunch.

And! I sold my TV on craigslist. That's some extra money coming in. What a great day.

Apart from being in constant communication via IM and e-mail all day, and pretending to really be doing work, I'm beginning to think that working from home isn't the best for me. I get bored too easily. And that's a bad thing.

The Importance of Measuring

January 3rd, 2008 at 11:19 am

Last night, I did a terrible job of defying my post-paycheck whims and went to Target.

I needed some more shelves for my apartment. Really. It was a NECESSITY, I tell you.

So I walked out with one of those metal shelving units (on sale!) and headed back to put it in the designated spot in the kitchen, where I can stack all my small appliances galore instead of having them ready to pounce-attack me every time I want to get something from the pantry. Though, in hindsight, I guess they were doing me a favor - I shouldn't be digging through my pantry for something to eat all the time anyways.

Assembly was a snap. Literally. You snap these little plastic things on and throw the shelves on, and you're done. I did it in the time of one commercial break.

Standing back, I gazed at my handiwork. Matte, black, and forged from the cheapest metal that our dear Chinese factory workers can get their hands on to assemble such a fine easy-to-assemble product.

I proudly lift it up and carry it into my kitchen, and positioned it in its reserved location. The end of it jutted out half an inch. Hm. Well, I can live with that.

Nothing left to do now but to grab a bottle of water from the fridge and sit back and enjoy all my hard 3.5 mins of work.

KAPOW!

The fridge door slams into something upon opening.

Looking down, I realize that the stupid metal shelving unit is about an inch too deep to clear my swinging fridge door. It only opens about 75% of the way, then...WHAM.

Let's hope that I never need to open my fridge door more than 75% of the way. Maybe it'll keep me eating only 75% of the food in there.

Carefully crafted illustration of my awesomeness:

Feeding 15 - Went a Little Overboard?

December 17th, 2007 at 08:19 am

This past Saturday, I had 15 people over for dinner. You can only imagine what it looked like in my little one bedroom apartment. I have to admit - this WAS my idea. But it wasn't my idea for so many people to show up.

The past week, leading up to this eventful Saturday, I decided that it would be nice to have a bunch of people over for dinner. So, I asked some of my friends to come over, had them confirm with me, and I started to sit down and plan how much food to buy and prepare.

By early Saturday morning, when I cranked up to go to Sam's Club, I had all my confirmations in, plus a couple extra that my invitees asked if they could bring with them.

Here's the damage report:
6 racks of pork ribs: $52
1 gallon BBQ sauce: $7
1 big can of corn: $3
shredded cheddar and parmesan: $5
1 lb of pasta shells: $1
2 lbs coleslaw (just in case): $6
sodas: $3
plates and cups and misc.: $7
stuff already on-hand: $6

Total: ~$90

Now, a couple of these things are multiple use - like, I didn't use an entire gallon of BBQ sauce, just about 1/4 of it. And, still a good amount of disposableware to last another get-together. Also, there was still a pound of coleslaw leftover and a little bit of corn. All in all, ribs for 15 people for about $90 breaks down to about $6/person. Not too bad, I guess. I'm still trying to justify spending a month's worth of food money.

But what really bugs me is this:
Dinner was scheduled for 5:00PM. From 3:30PM to 5:30PM, my phone was going off left and right of people who I didn't invite who had heard about this soiree and asked if they could come, then mope about why they couldn't come when I said no. If you're going to call me an hour before feeding 15 people and want me to magically make food appear out of nowhere, you've got some nerve. People, contrary to popular belief, I'm not a soup kitchen. I'm not a cafeteria. I'm not here to feed YOU. I wish I could invite everyone who has ever walked the face of this planet. But the fact is, I bought food for 15, I cooked for 15, and I only have room in my apartment for 10. You do the math.

Okay, enough venting. Hope everyone else had a good weekend. =)