Cheap Chic

Saving money on everyday purchases seems to have attained a great deal of popularity these days.  I suppose this is really nothing new; I have fond memories of my parents pasting Triple-S Blue Stamps (from Grand Union), S&H Green Stamps (from Daitch Shopwell) and Plaid Stamps (from the A&P) into little books that were stored in a kitchen cabinet next to the refrigerator.  And then there were always coupons to clip from the pull-out sections in the Sunday newspaper.

My teenaged niece recently expressed interest in “couponing.”  I see that, these days, coupons don’t necessarily require scissors; you can just print them off your computer’s printer.  I call these “click coupons.”  Some coupons are even paperless.  You just wave your phone at a QR tag, scan a bar code or show the email/web page to the clerk.

There are a lot of bloggers out there writing about sticking to a budget and shopping economically.  I particularly enjoyed this post that encourages readers to make the dollar store part of their regular routines.  Nevertheless, I don’t agree with the author’s thumbs down on purchasing food at the dollar store.  Sure, you have to keep careful watch on expiration dates, but you can often spot large remaindered lots of soup or tomato sauce or canned vegetables that sell for more than a dollar each in the supermarket.  Junk food like chips and soda seems to be cheapest at the dollar store most of the time.  For nonfood items, however, you can pretty much run amok like a kid in a candy store.  (Speaking of which, it’s a great place for candy if you’re dying for sugar.)  We wouldn’t think of looking for greeting cards anywhere else.  And I credit the dollar store for the Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas schlock with which I have been able to decorate my cubicle at work.

I am a big fan of the “green” movement, and a fervent believer in reducing, reusing, recycling and repurposing.  So the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores are always fun places to visit.  Several times each year, we make donations of clothes that we no longer wear and toys that my grandniece has outgrown.  Better that someone else should enjoy them for 99 cents than that they should sit forlornly in our closets.  We like the fact that many donors have dumped off piles of books there, a few of which find their way cheaply (and temporarily) into our library.  We rarely keep them long.  After we’ve read them, we usually pass them on to someone else.  If no family member is interested, there’s always someone online who is.

I still get a kick out of the references to Grandpa’s coat and “poppin’ tags” with “twenty dollars in my pocket” from Macklemore and Lewis’ hip hop answer to conspicuous consumption, “Thrift Shop” (although I could do without the gratuitous profanity).

soy meat

When I recently had a day off work for Veterans Day, we took a trip up the freeway and over into Sutter County to check out Grocery Outlet.  My wife had stopped into one of their stores in downtown Sacramento after she dropped me off at work one day last month and was surprised to find my favorite “fake meat.”  There are a lot of these vegan products around, made from soy or textured vegetable protein, either of which can be formed into nearly any shape.  They are meat substitutes, good sources of protein and typically supposed to taste like beef or chicken (they don’t).  Most of these products make an excellent dish when sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic with a bunch of veggies and served over rice, potatoes or pasta (or done up as tacos).

So we decided to check out a Grocery Outlet store a little closer to where we live.  This place is a far cry from a 99 cent store, but it certainly does carry an eclectic variety of merchandise at relatively low prices.  You just have to be choosey and see whether anything you happen to need is available on the cheap.  In front of the store was a tall display filled with the largest bags of potato chips and barbecue chips that I’d ever seen.  Perusing the aisles inside, I was amazed at the quantity of non-food items they carry.  The last time I’d been in a Grocery Outlet store was back when we lived in the Central Valley, many years ago.  We used to call the place “the canned food outlet,” because that’s what we would buy there:  Lots of dirt cheap canned items, mostly dented or with the labels peeling off.

This place was different, however, and we were surprised at some of the bargains we were able to pick up.  A blue and white laundry basket for my niece, along with a matching rug.  (Merry Christmas.)  A Psalms calendar for Pastor Mom.


And that’s when I saw it.  A rack of zippered jackets, with enough insulation to be cozily warm without being heavy like a parka.  Most incredibly, they had some in my size!  I tried on a chocolate brown jacket and decided that this was indeed a bargain for twenty bucks.

Oh, and they had my fake meat, too.

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