Monthly Archives: January 2017

Food and Stuff: Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I went to three different grocery stores this weekend.  I hate grocery shopping.  And totally on purpose I did it three different times in two days.  But there is, indeed, a method to my madness.  And it’s all about getting the best stuff for the lowest cost.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s.  I know lots of folks love Trader Joe’s for nearly everything.  For me it’s really a one purpose trip.  It’s all about the canned cat food.  It’s no secret that I’m a little nutty about my fur babies.  And I’ve tried every canned cat food from Friskies to the ultra-high end grain free foods.  But I keep coming back to Trader Joe’s.  The combination of high quality and reasonable price just can’t be beat.  Worth adding a quick stop at an extra store?  Since it’s not far from my house (so I’m not putting any financial savings into my gas tank), I think yes.

Second stop was WalMart.  I know lots of people have ethical objections to WalMart, but I really love having a low price “food and stuff” store close to my home.

My mission there was dry goods, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.  Some of these I can’t find exactly the brand and size I want at my favorite grocery store, so I go to WalMart.  And for things like laundry detergent, it’s just plain cheaper there.

All of that was enough for one day for me, but Sunday morning I was out again, this time to Wegmans.  My mission there was produce and store brand products.  I’m a huge fan of Wegmans brand stuff.  Toilet paper.  Tissues.  Soda (which yes….I know I shouldn’t be drinking…but I have an addiction).  Soups.  Dairy products.  All Wegmans brand.  All cheaper than I can get name brands at either WalMart or Sam’s Club.  And in my opinion better quality than I’ll find in the more expensive name brand items.

So for someone who hates grocery shopping, why did I put myself through this?  Could I have just gone to Giant and gotten everything I needed there for just about the same cost?  Maybe.  Would I have been as happy with the items as what I got by making all three stops?  Definitely not.

For me, the three stop shopping weekend isn’t the norm…but a two stop weekend is not unusual.  This was a big one.  I was out of a lot of things and preparing to not be home next weekend.  But my reality is that the best product for the best price is important to me.  Worth going to three grocery stores in one weekend.

Are you a one-stop shopper?  If so, you likely know that your priority is getting the groceries quickly and easily.  If you’re a multi-stop shopper like me, you know that you’re more focused on getting the best price on the product you really want, without compromise.  Both are viable tactics.

How many grocery stores do you go to regularly?


There is Strength in Numbers

There is strength in numbers.  Women all over the world showed that this weekend as they gathered to continue the fight for the equality our sisters have spent centuries battling for.

There is also strong purchasing power in numbers.  That’s why it’s less expensive to buy health insurance through a group plan, such as through an employer or the Aetna plan Penn State has contracted for its students, than if you were to purchase on your own.  It’s also why large big box stores are able to sell things at lower prices than mom and pop shops can.

So how can you take advantage of the strength that comes with numbers to help your cash flow?  Think about the things you are affiliated with.  Most of my readers are students. Look for student discounts on everything from food to movie tickets.  Are you a member of AAA?  That can get you discounts on hotel rooms, train tickets, amusement park tickets, and a number of other things.  My mother has no shame on asking for discounts.  She’ll pull out her AAA card, her AARP card and a stack of coupons and say, “What gets me the best deal?”  Are you a member of a club?  My membership in the Nittany Valley Running Club gets me a discount at one of the running shops downtown.  Your memberships can get you discounts in lots of different places.

There is strength in numbers.  And if you think about it a bit, you may find that you are stronger than you realized!

Fighting Against Nature

When I look back on my life, it amazes me how much energy and money I have put forth trying to fight against nature to look different than I actually look.  I was a teenager in the 1980’s.  Hair was big.  Very, very big.  Mine was naturally straight and fine.  So I spent lots of dollars on perms and curling irons and hot rollers.  And lots of time trying to make my hair do things that it just didn’t want to do (like be big).  The same kind of effort went into makeup.  Paint on a layer of foundation.  Add blush.  And eye shadow.  And eye liner.  And mascara.  And lipstick.  Being oh so careful to make it look like I’m not wearing makeup at all.  Baffling!  And today’s contouring makeup trend baffles me even more.  I can’t even imagine trying to paint on that many layers to make my face look like something my face doesn’t even resemble.

The older I get, the more I realize just how futile the whole exercise is.  “Doing my hair” now involves using a blow dryer and adding a little smoothing cream to tame the flyaways.  I have absolutely no intention of covering my increasing grey with hair color (though I spent a fortune on coloring my hair red and blonde throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s—and am very happy to have arrived back at my natural color).  I haven’t touched my curling iron in years, and on weekends how it lands after I wash and air dry is how it will be.

I gave up on nail polish years ago.  So much effort and time and money and it’s just going to chip off anyway.  “Doing my nails” now means using a clipper and a file to make them short and smooth.

Makeup is now something I use for the theater.  And if and when I feel like it (I pulled it out for New Year’s Eve this year).  It’s not something I feel like I need to do because it’s a day that ends in the letter Y.

There are two things I’ve noticed since I made this transition into being a lower-maintenance woman.  First, I have more time.  Time spent in the beauty shop or in the bathroom at the mirror is time invested in something I don’t really care about.  I’d rather spend that time watching Netflix or reading a book or sleeping. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I have more money.  The beauty industry is built around separating women from their money.  The less makeup I wear, the less makeup I have to buy.  If I don’t color my hair, I don’t have to pay for dye. It’s amazing how that stuff can add up!

I feel pretty.  My husband thinks I look pretty.  I’m not fighting against nature.  And I’ve recouped a lot of my time and money.

Have you been fighting against nature?  If so…should you be?

Secure Your Own Mask First…

When you fly on an airplane there is always a safety speech before takeoff.  And the thing that has been ringing in my head since my last flight is, “Please secure your own mask before assisting others.”


That one sentence pretty much sums up the last half of 2016 for me.  I’ve always prided myself on getting out the Moneywise Tip of the Week regularly.  And last semester I failed big time.  I know many of you noticed I was missing from my office quite often throughout the semester.  It was rough for me health-wise (and I’m very grateful for the health insurance that made that manageable!).  I was run through test after test and in and out of the hospital.  And I wasn’t writing the Moneywise Tip.  I was busy securing my own mask before I could assist others.  You simply can’t effectively help others if you are in risk of not keeping yourself going.

But I’m healthy now.  I’m running again and eating the right foods and happy to be available to help students as much as I wish I could have last semester.  Prepare yourself for a full semester of regularly scheduled Moneywise Tips!

The “secure your own mask” bit also hit close to home in a different way over the holidays.  It seems like every charity I’ve ever donated to was reaching out for an end of year contribution.  And I wanted to assist others.  But the year’s medical issues were challenging financially.  So rather than stretching myself to assist others as much as I would have liked, I smiled, politely said no, and proceeded with securing my own financial mask.  It won’t be this way every year.  And it’s ok to say no to charities if you’re not feeling particularly financially secure yourself.

I am certain that 2017 will unfold differently for me.  But it’s only because I secured my own mask first.  Now I can proceed with assisting others.