Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I went couponing and all I got was this lousy bottle of Old Spice

Have you ever read an article or seen a news broadcast on women who do extreme couponing - you know, the ones who take $300 worth of groceries through the checkout and it ends up costing only $3? I realize that for some people coupons are the only way they make ends meet, but I have a fantasy about the uber couponer. She files her coupons by category and expiration date, buys multiple copies of the newspaper for the coupon inserts, always matches manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales, and often buys additional coupons off eBay or similar sites. She spends any number of hours a week working on her coupons; meanwhile she is homeschooling her kids, growing an organic garden with ladybugs to control pests, upcyling castoffs into ingenious crafts, refinishing that $2 chest of drawers she found at a garage sale, sewing curtains, scrapbooking, running a profitable blog, and cleaning and decluttering her house by zone while still maintaining a stock of gallon milk jugs and empty shoe boxes for craft projects.

My first thought when seeing these jubilant women waltzing out of the grocery store paying no more than I would for a cup of coffee is that they cannot possibly be buying produce. How often do you see coupons and deep discounts for produce? They must have a cart full of tater tots, Velveeta and canned green beans. But then I think, of course they aren’t buying produce; they have an organic garden. They’re digging up potatoes from their garden, canning tomatoes and crock potting their way to financial victory.

Thing is, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. But I’m lucky to get out of a grocery store paying less than $165 a week, WITH coupons. Gluten free products cost a fortune rarely mitigated by coupon offers ($6 for 4 bagels or a small loaf of bread; up to $9 for a packaged mix). I recently put together the items for a flour blend, a not particularly complex one, and I believe the ingredients totaled around $25. I imagine in weight it was nowhere near equal to a 5lb bag of regular flour. And that was economical, because I was making the blend myself instead of buying a mix. No wonder some GF folks grind their own grains. I’m surprised they don’t have a rice paddy in their backyard.

Anyway, we keep our consumption of prepared gluten free stuff to a minimum, but there is still the expensive assortment of in-season fruit and veg, the free-range chicken and grass fed beef (I mean, have you seen what happens on Food Inc? the regular meats are incubators for salmonella and e-coli). And then we get to the sticking point - I so rarely see coupons for any product that I use. Most of the coupons are for foods I can’t or wouldn't eat (Sunny-D? Seriously? I might as well give them soda). And my word, the number of coupons for toothpaste, air freshener and makeup just astounds me. I go to various couponing sites, and they just make me tired. I’m particularly flummoxed by Walgreens;, which requires an elaborate system of purchases in order to get register coupons (I've seen sites that go through this in detail). It’s so complex that I've never even bothered to try it. And there’s nothing more dangerous than the Kroger “But 10 and get $5 off.” You will go insane tracking the stupid items, trying to make sure that your group of 10 has more lower-priced items than higher priced items, but not getting more than the 10, because then you’re just a pawn in their game, but you won’t be taken in, oh no, you will beat this! You will emerge waving your $5 gift card in victory! Cue maniacal laughter.

And I will still end up paying at least $165 worth of groceries.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm Back and Better than Ever

Oh, hello there! It’s been a while. Hope all is well. Things are great here – I just haven’t shored up enough time in one place to actually pin something to the wall here. I started a long, rambling account of our excellent trip to Los Angeles, but the post was getting overstuffed, like a bit unwieldy sofa, so I stopped, and then I got sidetracked.

Here’s the summary: Great weather. The girls went to the circus and Firecracker got a stuffed elephant she named Julia.
DramaQueen and Firecracker at the circus with  Popop
And they got to see two of their uncles.

The ride up to this point was harrowing.
 That's the girls with Uncle J as close as you can get to the Hollywood sign. J drove us up in his Bronco. The passenger door didn't open from the outside, and I almost dislocated my back getting in and out. I felt about 80. Which is how old the road was, judging from its condition. You'd think with millionaires living in the Hollywood Hills that the roads wouldn't look like rural Alabama circa 1932.

Uncle D, who's pretty much still a kid himself.

I saw my BFF from college, who is going backward in age instead of forward, like Benjamin Button. He has lots of fun stories about the celebrities he meets, none of which I dare repeat. He's a writer, and we eagerly awaiting seeing one of his works hit the screen someday, at which point we'll hit him up for drinks. DramaQueen was a tad disappointed that he hasn't met Selena Gomez. Steve likes to use his friends' names for characters in his screenplays. I was rather touched to find my name attached to a transvestite.

My awesome friend Steve and Dear Husband. In a parking garage. We're classy like that.

Went toUniversal Studios, where I managed to feel ill on the damn trolley tour. I hate projected movement. And giant 3-D apes. I was happy to spend time with Firecracker in the Curious George Water Playground and nurse my incipient nausea while DramaQueen and Dear Husband dealt with the Simpsons Ride.

Visited the La Brea tarpits.
Here is where the pictures of the La Brea tarpits are supposed to go, but I can't find them. Imagine glistening pits of sticky black liquid. Then imagine the paleontologists having to dig around in it. The area smells like a newly paved road.

Saw the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA (DramaQueen insisted), which did not smell at all.
This was the photo op spot. No pictures inside.
The exhibit was awesome. Uncle D and Uncle J were also there, and Uncle D and Firecracker went to the kids' area and painted. Since I had somehow once again managed to get glutined (Baja Fresh - I blame you), I spent a lot of time monitoring my position in relation to the bathrooms and trying not to look as if someone had just stabbed me in the stomach.

Went sailing, which I thought would terrify me but which I enjoyed oh so much. We saw sea lions sunning on a buoy and dolphins doing their dolphin thing. We had a captain from Munich who let Dear Husband help steer. I took Dramamine ahead of time, because of the glutined within and inch of my life thing (I somehow got glutined three times during a week-long vacation, and the effects linger for a very long time) and stayed out of the hold, which seems to move a lot more than it needs to.
Dear Husband and Firecracker set course.

DramaQueen takes her turn.

This was our captain. He's German and although he told us his name several times I never was clear about it.

And now, well school has started, and it has been very exciting. This is DramaQueen’s first year in middle school, with the novelty of a locker and changing classes. Firecracker is in fourth grade, and she is not at all happy about the amount of homework she has, since it seriously cuts into her time at Webkinz World. The start of a new school year always smells like hope and endless possibility to me. There’s always the chance that I’ll finally put 12 years’ worth of photos in albums this year, keep the laundry off the sofa, and remember to put air in my tires.

And what have y'all been doing?