Review: End of Hello Fresh week two and random junk we tried

My daughter often stops at Grocery Outlet in part because of their “rainbow Coke program” where you can rummage through lose cans of soda and mix and match flavors for 25 cents each. They have weird food, good deals, and allow us to try things on which we wouldn’t usually splurge.

Tonight we made the Cheetos Jalapeño Macaroni and Cheese. Now, hands down, without question, my absolute favorite ultra-processed boxed macaroni and cheese product is Wegmans house brand Spirals and Cheese dinner, which I often used to get on sale for 33 cents a box.

This hard larger than average noodles that once prepared very quickly absorbed all the sauce. It tasted exactly like jalapeño cheetos. Except you didn’t have to chew so much. I ate a bowl, and the spice developed on the roof of my mouth versus my tongue. I added a can of tuna and had another bowl. A two-serving box was 79 cents.

Other Random Products

  • Fried Oreos: finally tried them at Sheetz. Gooey in the middle. Enjoyed them but was disappointed by the end product because I never realized how much of the allure of Oreos was in the crunch factor.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream Cone Hershey Kisses: very smooth strawberry flavor and I didn’t expect the crunchy bits. Honestly, between 20 flavors of Oreos and constantly rotating flavors of Hershey Kisses, my taste buds are getting burnt out. How many different flavors of potato chips and Mountain Dew do Americans really need?
  • Tropical Swedish Fish: like the iconic red flavor of Swedish Fish that vaguely resembles cherry, these tropical Swedish fish vaguely resemble something familiar but the flavors listed on the box aren’t even all flavors (passion fruit, pina colada, beachy punch and tropical island). They are weird and the colors are muted and off-putting.
  • Dunkin’s Peach Lemonade Refresher: possible one of the most over sweetened items I have ever tasted. Even teenager #1 who likes sweet things couldn’t drink it. So I suggested she blend it with some diet ginger ale we had in the house. That she loved.

And as promised— a brief update on Hello Fresh.

Meals, for four servings, cost about $35 each, when including shipping. The meals are amazingly curated and the recipes amazing. This week I tried to pick things my daughter would like but that I wouldn’t normally buy or don’t often take the time to make.

The Turkey meat loaves with mashed potatoes, Brussel sprouts and mushroom sauce were a hit. But the shrimp Thai salad bombed. I don’t care for shrimp, poor teenager #1 struggled to eat it all. And didn’t. And it turned out I didn’t notice when I ordered it that the based of the salad was arugula. And the teen hates arugula. So I ate massive vegetarian salads for dinner for three days. They were scrumptious but I don’t want to eat arugula again for a while.

We downsized our box from three meals to two as it is Sunday, another box ships tomorrow and we still have steak from last week to make.

So while we are eating better, we are spending a whole lot of money, struggling to find time to be in the kitchen and then stressing over getting the meals prepared before they go bad or another box shows up.

Coffee musings: Review of Folgers Black Silk

I love dark roast coffee.

My current favorites are Target’s Archer Farms Mosaica and Wegman’s whole bean espresso roast.

My neighbor prefers Starbucks PPR (Pike’s Peak Roast) to brew at home and I enjoy it when I have my amazing coffee mornings with her, but I don’t believe it is worth the money. But I also don’t begrudge anyone their favorite coffee— I prefer to get my Mosaica when it is on sale or on the Target Circle app, and if that is not available I go to Wegman’s as it is normally $4.99 for the bag. I don’t recall the exact ounces of the bag, but it is the small bag that typically lasts me a month at one cup of coffee a day.

But recently Target had ridiculously low prices on my allergy medicine so I decided to see if my coffee was on sale.

It was not.

So I did what I do— I stared at coffee options and price points for 20 minutes deliberating.

I purchased a massive plastic bin of Folgers Black Silk, their dark roast, for $5.99. Today I opened it.

Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside…

Now, a few basic facts before we continue:

  1. I hate Folgers coffee. This whole experiment rests on the idea that I can remain objective.
  2. I love the buckets Folgers coffee comes in. Household tip: save it. I keep one by the sink for a composting bucket. The lid is easy to open but as the company promises, keeps the freshness (or in this case rottenness). Also a handy small cleaning bucket as the container has a handle. So if you need a small bucket of hot soapy water to carry around the house, this is a great bucket. AND it goes into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. Perhaps I bought this for the bucket and it came with free coffee inside.
  3. I do not brew my coffee in a standard coffee pot or even a snobby French press. I used to make the perfect cup of coffee grinding my Wegman’s beans and putting them in my French press but I have forgotten how.
  4. My husband got the coffee pot in our break-up, and that was by necessity, as he and the coffee pot had an intense relationship whereas I have videos proving that the teenager, at the tender age of four, had to teach me how to use it.
  5. Instead, I consume my caffeine via the espresso machine. My first real boss— my first white collar, grown up job—gave me a $50 Boscov’s gift card when I got married. At the time, I thought that was ridiculously extravagant of him. I did not start drinking coffee regularly until after the teenager was born. To do justice to the generous gift from my boss, who was a coffee drinker, I purchased a tiny espresso machine (with steamer) and coffee grinder. I thought I had arrived in the world. I use this to make my coffee. Yes, I am putting commercial Folgers into my espresso machine.
  6. I do not sweeten my coffee. I use real half and half to lighten it, and *spoiler alert* this coffee did require extra half and half to make it the color I prefer.
  7. Finally, a note on my coffee preferences. I prefer Dunkin to Starbucks, on the taste of the coffee alone. I find Starbucks bitter. Not intolerably bitter but bitter.

And yes— that is a Pyrex measuring cup. The carafe broke. What do you want from an espresso machine more than 20 years old?

And now finally the tasting…

It’s more akin to Starbucks PPR than the coffees I prefer. Bitter, but after the first few sips, the bitterness is forgotten.

I must ask my neighbor to use some the next time we have coffee together. Meanwhile, for the price, this economical option will tide me over until I regain my financial footing and start making money in my “side gigs” or attain a job.

Business feature: Why do people love Wegmans? (2006)

This story ran on the front page of The Bethlehem News in 2006 after Wegmans had made the Forbes list of the 100 best places to work. Again. They always end up on this list. As a fan of Wegmans, I thought I’d do a feature. In ran in all of the Lehigh Valley News Group papers. I wrote the story, took the photos and did the artistic lay out. (Really how artistic can you get with so many columns and rules. I tried.)

In recent days, I’ve noticed lists circulating the internet of why Wegmans is basically a Play Place for grown-ups. I’ve noticed that most of my friends do the bulk of their shopping at Wegmans. People meet at Wegmans. They get coffee at Wegmans. They drool at the cheese at Wegmans. So, why?

For me, it’s a combination of customer service and the goods they carry. When my daughter was two, I tripped and fell in the parking lot of the Wegmans pictured in this story. I’m a clutz. It happens. I got my kid and my groceries into the car. Turned on the car. My arm was killing me. I had fallen on my elbow. The air conditioner whooshed on. I started to black out. At that exact moment, my phone rang.

I couldn’t see. I rummaged through my purse with my hand. Found it. Somehow answered it. It was my friend, Gayle. I told her what had happened and that I thought I was passing out. She called Wegmans. I managed to get out of the car. That’s when a Wegmans “Helping Hands” cart attendant found me, and a manager right behind him. They brought me and my daughter and my groceries back into the store. My in-laws came to get us. They asked if I needed anything. I said no.

My daughter asked for ice cream, but no one heard her. If they had, the staff probably would have given some to her.

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