CVS magic

I am not an “extreme couponer” and I hate the whole concept of “extreme couponing.” Life experience has taught me to be frugal, but *living* life has taught me that reading 5 newspapers to get a few extra bottles of Tide raises the question of how much is my time and my happiness worth?

When stores first starting using loyalty cards, I hated the concept. I still hate cards. But customer loyalty apps are different. I already have my phone. These apps also allow me to shop and plan my shopping trips. Target Circle, like many others, combines their coupons, payment options (even when in the store), circulars, and stock all in one place. I can scan items to see if there’s a deal while in the store and, of course, they customize offers to cater to my shopping habits.

The Lidl app allows me to make a shopping list (as does Target but I like Lidl’s list organization system better) and rewards me based on how much money I spend. Last month I earned a 30% off sliced cheese coupon! So I bought extra cheese. We might be living on toasted cheese sandwiches with my upcoming job loss.

I sign up for the emails and while a lot of them get annoying, some of them alert me to major deals on my household staples.

And that is what happened with CVS. They sent me a coupon for the gallon bottle of Arizona iced tea for $1.66 cents. The teenager has a weakness for Arizona iced tea so I let her buy some as an occasional treat.

I texted her the offer, and asked her if she wanted to walk to CVS to redeem it. She declined.

CVS sent a 40% off one item coupon. I loaded it to my card because you never know when you’ll end up in CVS for a health emergency.

The teenager also loves Cinnamon Toast Crunch and had a craving for Honey Nut Cheerios. Now I view cereal as an occasional emergency snack, not as breakfast. But the teen is a convert to the cereal-to-start-the-day camp.

Now I know CVS regularly has regular cereal sales.

Yesterday they sent me a coupon. “One day only! General Mills Cereal! $1.99!”

And the photo featured Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios.

I texted the teenager.

She came downstairs. When I told her that I would buy both cereals, she volunteered to walk to CVS. I handed her my debit card. She refused it. “Mom, it’s $4.”

I asked her if there was anything else she needed. She said no, but she might buy iced tea. I thought, “drats. We missed that iced tea offer.” I told her she could use the 40% off coupon if the iced tea was full price.

She came home with the gallon of iced tea, the two boxes of cereal, and a bag of Doritos. I asked her how much she spent.

“$7,” she said, “but that doesn’t make sense. This is $14 worth of stuff. At least.”

Apparently I also had a snacks/drink coupon I forgot about that also saved us 85 cents.

So we talked about it, and I asked her if she was starting to get my system. She said no. Not at all.

As far as she understood, she merely said she wanted to go to CVS, I looked at the app and put coupons on, she randomly grabbed what she wanted, and told the clerk at the register to use all the coupons.

Magic.

Pandemic Ponderings Wednesday edition

I’m spending time with my cockatoo, having already completed the Wednesday evening trash collection.

Nala and I

The teenager is carting garbage from the basement and organizing the tool bench in preparation for a trip to the hardware store. She hopes to lay a new floor in the mud room— the same mud room where the kittens shattered a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid.

I suggested the teenager use the basement experience for her gym log. I’m encouraging her to find unorthodox ways to fulfill her gym requirements.

We opened a mini-container of Oreo cookies today and I can’t even remember the last time I had an Oreo. It was delicious.

I have cat food and cat litter on auto-ship from Petco. With the four cats, we go through a lot of kibble, three cans of cat food a day and about 60 pounds of cat litter every three weeks.

Petco had my litter listed as “on back order” and I was almost out. To be on the safe side, I ordered 60 pounds of cat litter from Target.com. I ordered them at the same time.

All of the Petco order came today— but the lid of one of the cat litter containers smashed and led to 10 pounds of cat litter leaking out of the corners of the cardboard box.

Only two of the three Target bottles of litter came today, so I suspect we’ll see the FedEx driver again tomorrow.

Finally, my stimulus payment arrived today. I immediately transferred $1000 into savings. I plan on using $200 for groceries and the hardware store. The remaining $500 is going onto my American Express to pay off most of my medical bills.

I’ll have to reconfigure the budget I’ve been working with. March turned out to be a very expensive month.

I’m also not looking forward to the next round of utility bills— electric, water and sewer are going to spike.

I thought maybe something insightful would emerge as I typed this, but no.

Shopping is different now

My teenager wanted junk food and wanted out of the house so she accompanied her father grocery shopping. At Target. Her choice.

I made her a list, downloaded the Target Circle app to her phone, logged her into my account and loaded all my coupon.

We weren’t at the point where we needed groceries, but if things are going to get scarce, I want to be ready. I’m not hoarding but I’m trying to stay ahead of what people want next.

I use a lot of bleach, white vinegar, Borax powder and baking soda when I clean because of all the animals so I asked her to grab them if she saw them.

Flour, cooking oil, tuna fish, peanut butter. Things like that. Well, tuna is getting more scarce so I asked her to get canned chicken. It was that or the expensive tuna. Next time we’ll grab some Spam.

She even nabbed a bottle of acetaminophen— PM. But hey, if I need the acetaminophen I might need sleep, too.

This morning for breakfast we had the last of our homemade crepes, turkey bacon, scrambled egg and smoked Gouda (with pickles).

The teenager and I FaceTimed my parents— which was a riot because I don’t think they ever FaceTimed before so they were struggling with the camera angles and my stepmom was showing me pages from her cookbook while my daughter chased cats around the house.

And then I got a text. My prescription was ready at CVS.

The teen and I had a 30% off coupon expiring today so we walked the half mile to the pharmacy. I got my prescription. We got a bottle of acetaminophen without sleep aid. And she got a gallon of Arizona iced tea. We got some other impulse buys that included a strawberry Twinkie, which resulted in a very silly video of us:

Taste test of the Strawberry Twinkie

These are a few of my favorite teas

(You have to ‘hear’ that as a line from The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things.)

I started this post at 5 p.m. as I drank a 21-ounce mug of 2-parts Simply Balanced* Unwind Tea and 1-part Traditional Medicinals Nettle tea.

It’s 8 p.m. and I’m trying again.

Some favorite teas

When I was in Djibouti the first time, I ordered a cup of tea. The waitress said, “Le Lipton?” and I thought, “Really, I’ve flown half way around the world to the Horn of Africa and the best you can do is Lipton?”

If you have no idea where Djibouti is and want to learn more about my African travels, this is a good start: Sunday in Djibouti

So I thought I might tell you about some of my favorite teas. First off, know I do not add milk, sugar or honey to my tea. Black. I don’t even enjoy sweetened iced tea.

When we were on our road trip to Georgia, we stopped at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina where I got some first flush. So good! I make it in the French press. That has a robust kick.

Staples in my home include some form of strong black tea. Currently my favorite is Tazo vanilla macaroon. I have a box of Tazo organic earl grey in my desk at work. I keep chai on hand for my friend Nancy and the teenager. The Tazo Caramel Vanilla Chai is my favorite, but the Bigelow Vanilla Chai is almost as good but much cheaper.

I love, love, love herbal teas. But I hate chamomile. Yogi has a lavender honey stress relief tea that is a favorite. Tazo has a juniper mint honey that might be my new afternoon go to.

Simply Balanced Voice Tamer is a great one for when you want something that is fairly strong but decaffeinated. It is actually a rooibos tea, which, according to our friends at the Charleston Tea Plantation isn’t a tea at all but a random plant from South Africa.

If you want to read my post about South Carolina, check this out: Memories of South Carolina

The teenager likes orange tea, Tazo Sweet Orange. I don’t do fruity tea often, and when I do I prefer Simply Balanced Raspberry Hibiscus. Tazo’s Glazed Lemon Loaf is a delightful treat.

Nettle tea is supposed to be high in iron, but the Traditional Medicinals one does not discuss that on the box so I wonder if they process it out. Good to fight anemia.

And lastly, I want to touch on matcha. I got into matcha before it was cool. Before it hit the Starbucks menu. I love Starbucks iced matcha latte with skim milk, but I won’t pay their prices. I also discovered why theirs tastes so good. They sweeten the matcha blend.

I really like the Tazo Matcha Mate Grapefruit. It has just the right amount of puckery, clean grapefruit flavor to make it an awesome breakfast tea.

But I’m not conniving to taste Dunkin Donuts new matcha.

But for bedtime, nothing relaxes the body like a strong glass of Traditional Medicinal Nighty Night Valerian.

And to store my teas, I use pencil trays from the dollar store: one for herbal, one for caffeinated, and one for medicinal.

* Target has recently rebranded what was their Simply Balanced line as Good & Gather. Some of these teas may have been relaunched in the new line, but some may have been discontinued.

A new Target run?

8 a.m. Originally my friend Nancy and I planned to go to the Grocery Outlet. Nancy is blind and likes to shop with me because of my love of food, how frugal I am and my eye for weird stuff.

I start looking at my list, and at my emails, and I realize for much of my list I can shop at Target. I worked at Target up until the middle of last year so I know Super Bowl weekend is a big grocery sale weekend. The things you learn working almost 9 years at the Bullseye.

It also looks like with the switch from Simply Balanced to Good and Gather, corporate strategy has moved into trendier products. Like vegan, Gluten free and other high-end groceries.

Our local Target is very middle of the road. I wonder how many of these products won’t be available because we aren’t a community high enough on the socio-economic scale.

10 a.m. Picking up Nancy. It’s always better to get in and out of Target before noon on weekends.

10:10 a.m. Arrive at Target and start to see old work friends. Wendy, my trainer from cash office, and Courtney, who used to supervise me in the front end, both meet Nan. And Nan almost shakes hands with a box instead of Courtney.

In their defense, Courtney was holding a box and a Frappuccino so she was too slow maneuvering.

We treated ourselves to a drink at Starbucks, made by my soon to be ex-husband’s niece, who is a dental hygienist on weekdays.

10:30 a.m. Shopping begins. I was hoping for some clearance hosiery, no luck. There were some beautiful clearance boots (and I am rapidly running out of shoes) but nothing under a size 11.

Run into several former colleagues who want to say hi and help Nan look for a can opener. There are five to choose from but we still can’t find the right one.

Run into a colleague from my current job.

Ran into the widower of one of my Target colleague whom I worked with very closely in food service. She died of cancer two years ago.

Discover my favorite deodorant is up to $8 and they changed the formula so my rose and vanilla is now rose and black pepper.

11 a.m. We finally hit the “Market” section, which is what Target calls grocery. There’s a lot of hit or miss. Avocados are an amazing value at 79 cents each, but the avocados themselves are lackluster. Most of the produce seems beyond it’s prime.

That’s a big problem with groceries at Target. Fresh produce isn’t culled regularly and the non perishables are often way out of date. I’ve found items on the shelves that the use by date is more than a year out of date. So you really have to check everything.

I know for a fact that the employees try, but the more Target increases wages, the more each employee needs to do. Retail survives by keeping employees at part-time hours so they don’t have to offer benefits and then they schedule at ridiculously low levels so it’s a challenge to keep the store properly manned. This isn’t just a Target problem. It’s the whole corporate/consumerism system.

People want cheap stuff with no concern for quality, its longevity, how it was produced, impact on the environment or the community, or whether or not they need it.

But that’s another tangent entirely.

I didn’t find many new products nor did I find some of the sale items I had wanted.

Noon Nan and I head to the front end.

I bought $100 in groceries and earned a $10 gift card, but I also didn’t appropriately load the $20 in gift cards I already had.

Highlights of my purchases:

  • The $7 giant tub of peanut butter pretzels. It was on sale and it’s the perfect pre-workout snack. Listen to me, I’m under some delusion that I will be going to the gym.
  • Doritos. The ultimate stress food. I shouldn’t even buy them but $2 a bag.
  • An $8 pork loin for $3. Expiring. But I can toss it in the crockpot for dinner tomorrow.
  • Turkey Perky jerky. On Target Circle for 30 percent off. Going in my desk drawer at work for those days where workload means lunch doesn’t happen until 2 or 3.
  • Waterloo sparkling water. $3 for eight cans. I got it as a treat. I wanted to try the watermelon flavor.
  • A giant bottle of white vinegar for $2.29. I use it instead of fabric softener. Cheaper, less chemical-y and less slimy that traditional fabric softener.
  • I got some canned carrots and peas. I don’t normally do canned veggies but if I want to make a shepherd or cottage pie, they will be perfect.
  • Cafe Mosaica and Traditional Medicinals Nighty Nite Valerian. My favorite coffee and my favorite pre-bedtime tea. Both on sale.
  • Smoked Paprika. $3.39 for the tiny spice bottle. Another splurge. But it’s amazing. It’s Gaz Oakley’s favorite spice and he has me hooked. If you haven’t looked up Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube, do it. His recipes are usually easy and delicious. Regardless of your dietary preferences.
  • Another splurge (which I ate for lunch): Birds Eye shaved Brussel sprouts. $3.19 a bag which is supposed to be two servings. But I sprinkled some imitation bacon bits on top and ate them for lunch with a side of Doritos.

  • Caulipower Pizza was on Target Circle for 20% off. They are normally $7 but with the discount and the sale price it was $5. Nan has wanted to try them so I will make it for her when she comes over for dinner Monday. I love them, but I’m not paying $7.
  • And ice cream. I promised the teenager malted milk shakes this weekend so I bought a pint of vanilla bean ice cream for $1.79. They have some very odd flavors in the full size containers, including my old favorite Unicorn and the new Mermaid. But I had to buy Rainbow because it has strawberry rhubarb swirl. And there is a Breakfast Cereal variety with, no lie, cinnamon toast flavored ice cream.

Nala shenanigans and meal planning

For those who enjoy Nala’s shenanigans… She insisted on trying to steal my coffee. See her here: Coffee thief.

And we do still have the cats. Including big, dumb Oz.

Periodically I put her back in my room, but she kept calling me due to her fear of the budgies. So Nala watched me unload & reload the dishwasher, have breakfast and make extra parfaits, do two loads of wash, hang wash, let the roomba vacuum the kitchen and then I washed the kitchen floor.

As for meals this week, the menu includes:

  • A nice chunk of ham I got at the grocery outlet for $1. Probably with boxed Mac and cheese.
  • Veggie burgers or regular burgers
  • Spaghetti, either that black bean spaghetti I got at Marshall’s or Green Giant lentil rotini I got on sale at Target
  • A prepared salmon and vegetable salad I also got cheap at Grocery Outlet
  • And “Greek night” with a lentil salad and a white bean salad from Lidl and some mighty fine looking mixed olives I got at Grocery Outlet for 77 cents.

And this little naughty cockatoo refuses to vacate the drying rack, probably because it’s heated.

Now my daughter and I are off to bake cookies.

Day 6. Technically going backwards.

We started the morning by checking out of the Wyndham Garden Inn in Summerville, S.C., at 7:30 a.m.

It took us 20 minutes to get to the IHOP across the street. The shopping centers here are huge and have so many trees you can’t see the stores.

We drove past it and had to backtrack, then we turned into the plaza and drove a mile behind the stores in the prettiest Walmart parking lot ever.

Approaching the IHOP from behind, we recognized it by color.

And, like Waffle House, my meal did not disappoint.

It’s the older teen girl’s 16th birthday today. My girl turns 14 tomorrow. We asked them what they thought about the “fancy” hotel. They didn’t seem to think it was worth all the extra money.

We had to run back to the other shopping plaza across the street to visit Target. I dropped my deodorant in the toilet and my daughter needs some bathroom items.

I made everyone stay in the car. I told them I’d be in and out in five minutes. My teen timed me. 4:50.

Honestly the unfamiliar layout slowed me down, and my cartwheel deals had expired and their store network slowed down my phone… and then I had to choose between rose vanilla and lavender sage deodorant. So it was close.

We are now headed backwards. We’re going to the Bigelow Tea Plantation, the only working tea plantation in the United States. Then we are headed to the Angel Oak on John’s Island (recommended by Alyssa at my place of employment) and hopefully a volkssport walk at Magnolia Plantation back near Charleston.

It is completely possible we won’t gain any mileage today since we are going backwards.

Indochic— Target’s New Home Line celebrates colonization or as they call it, “French-Vietnamese fusion.”

My husband and I started brainstorming our weekly household needs and while he worked on meal planning and a grocery list, I opened the Target app on my phone to see if they had any amazing deals on things we needed. We all know a trip to Target is dangerous and needs to be carefully and cautiously plotted.

Otherwise, the money can disappear.

I immediately found myself drawn to this luscious teal blue chair.

I mean, I seriously see this chair as part of the renovations to our master bedroom here.

But then I read the description: “Indochic: Think French-Vietnamese fusion, full of elegant shapes and sophisticated jewel tones.”

Now, this is my version of when people cry sexism when parents put little girls in clothes that focus on cuteness or certain traits our society sees as feminine. Like the t-shirts that say “I’m too pretty to do homework” or something like that.

“Indochic” is the exploitation and the ignorant perpetuation of the stereotypes that allowed colonialism and the “civilizing mission” to destroy cultures. If you understand my outrage… Well, may the sun shine upon you. We are kindred spirits. If not, let me see if I can calm down and rationally explain the root of my indignation.

First, let me start with the term “Indochic.” It’s a play off of the term “Indochina,” a strongly European word describing the region between India and China. The term became prevalently used in the 19th century and eventually referred strictly to the French colony of what is now Vietnam.

The French called its colony in the region “Indochine” so already Target has managed to make a playful pun, and a French pun at that by combining the French term “chic” with the prefix “Indo.” It’s Indo-great! Indo-cool!

Now, let me rant about the idea of “French-Vietnamese fusion.” The mix of French and Asian style occurred when the French colonized this region. I am no expert on French colonization in Asia, so I can’t address this in depth. But let me offer a few ideas.

Any fusion between the French and the Vietnamese was not voluntary. So should we celebrate it?

Is a pun like “Indochic” okay because the reference dates to the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century? Is it a forgotten pain? Can it be compared to referring as certain styles as “urban” as opposed to African-American? Would people feel differently about this type of style if the ad featured an Asian woman and a French man?

What I also find interesting about the concept of Indochic, French-Vietnamese fusion connects to my interest in miscegenation. The French developed strict plans for breeding between the civilized French man and the indigenous woman. In French Indochina, French men in the colony were encouraged to make local women their concubines specifically to purify and civilize by producing children with Frenchness.

But remember, the women in these unions would come from poverty by French standards and would be servants or laundresses to their colonial master before they caught his eye. Young native women and older French men, the women unable to say no because of the power exchange.

In colonialism, native cultures lose their land and their resources to the more powerful nation. Their men lose the chance to earn their own living. People who had independent lives become dependent on a foreign system. Tradesmen become servants. Women become housekeepers and sex objects. Native traditions and languages bend, twist and often break or are forced broken by the more powerful, dominant presence.

So when we advertise a sophisticated, elegant French-Vietnamese fusion and give it a cutesy name, we are perpetuating the idea that the cultures on the peninsula between India and China did not have anything to contribute to the world before the French came along and subjugated them.

It’s not Indochic. It’s not cool. It’s contemporary Orientalism.

If anything it’s Asian-influenced French design. Influenced. Because fusion implies an intentional attempt to blend two strong styles.