Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Retail Beat: Cheap Thrills

Though I haven't been bragging about it much, I have, in the spirit of my 2008 resolutions, been practicing more economy and restraint. I haven't done anything crazy like stopped going to Target altogether, cut out bi-weekly trips to Einsteins for what bub calls "bagel muffy," or colored my own hair, but I have been making a conscious effort to spend less money.

That's why this edition of the Retail Beat focuses mostly on grocery store items with one "splurge." In no particular order, please enjoy some descriptions of recent purchases that have affordably afforded me pleasure.

Fudgesicle Chocolate Variety Pack (contains 18 fudgesicles)
Where? The Jewel or your own "regular grocery store"*
How much? $3.99 or maybe $4.99 (probably less when they're on sale)

Though I do not enjoy chocolate ice cream at all, I do enjoy fudgesicles. These 60 calorie treats (40 calories if you buy the artificially sweetened ones) are an ideal post-dinner treat. Finding the variety box was pretty exciting because it contains not only the original milk chocolate fudgesicle but also a dark chocolate fudgesicle and, drum roll please, a white chocolate fudgesicle that will knock your socks off. Now, the sad news is that, as far as I know, you cannot buy a box with only white chocolate fudgesicles in it. My recommendation would be to buy the variety box, hide the white ones for yourself, and fob the others off on your family members.

Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits

Where? The Jewel or your own "regular grocery store"
How much? Can't recall, but I usually buy Triscuits on sale 2/$4 or 2/$5

Since around 1998 or so, I have been a huge fan of Triscuits. In the late nineties, I often enjoyed a delicacy I called "cheese weavers," which involves melting shredded cheddar cheese on top of Kroger brand "Triscuits" (called "Weavers"). I ate cheese weavers for lunch several times a week as a high school teacher and frequently snacked on them as well. These days, I prefer to eat my Triscuits with slices of cheese cut from the Jewel brand brick of sharp cheddar (unmelted). It is rare when there are not several boxes of unopened Triscuits in the pantry, just waiting to be enjoyed. I have not always been a fan of the specialty Triscuits. The rosemary ones were particularly offensive to me. But I have to say, the Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil ones are very tasty, even the bub has been enjoying them. I don't know, however, if his most recent Triscuit combination is quite so tasty as cheese weavers. Tonight, he used his Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Triscuits to scoop up his strawberries. I didn't sample the combination myself, but it did not look good. However, he seemed to enjoy it and for all I know I may be raising Bravo's next Top Chef. NTB.

Colgate 360 toothbrush
Where? Target
How much? Can't recall, around the same as the other toothbrushes though

I am loving this toothbrush and, thanks to the bub's insistence that "mommy brush too" each time he brushes his teeth, I am using it approximately six times a day (when you combine my brushing schedule with the bub's--he has a strong desire for clean teeth, NTB). The brush has these awesome nubby things behind brush head and I feel like I am not only cleaning my teeth but the inside of my mouth as well. Why not?

Trader Joe's Artisan Bread Soft Pretzel Mini Loaf

Where? Trader Joe's
How much? 99 cents baby!!!!!

Loyal readers of NTB have surely noticed that soft pretzels are frequently praised around these parts. Soft pretzels are, in my mind, the main reason for attending any sporting event and a snack that I need to have on hand (well, in the freezer in a Super Pretzel box) at all times. My mom and LAP have regular and easy access to loaves of soft pretzel bread at Jungle Jim's and at Servati's Bakery. They cut the soft pretzels into pieces and serve them as appetizers with a mighty tasty cheese dip. Divine. Anyway, imagine my delight when Monday's trip to Trader Joe's revealed that they now sell mini soft pretzel loaves. I admit that the little loaves have more calories per each than I would have guessed (420), but I loved the one I purchased and can only pray that this item is a regular part of the Trader Joe's bakery stand. Fresh soft pretzel loaves available in five minutes by car (15 or 20 by foot) is more than I ever dreamed.

3-pack of tank tops by French Dressing
Where? Costco
How much? $11.99 for the pack

It seems I never have enough tank tops, which is an odd statement for someone who no longer willingly exposes her upper arms unless absolutely necessary (that's right, outside of the privacy of my own home, I very rarely wear tank tops as my primary top). Ever since the bub was born, I have been obsessively layering my clothes. Unless I have a tank top on underneath whatever t-shirt, sweater, or turtleneck I am wearing, I feel like something is missing. Why? No idea. I'm just going with it for now. I picked up this 3-pack of tank tops at Costco on a whim (because really, $4 per tanker is a pretty good price). I have been thrilled with the tanks. They are nice and long (long enough even to cover, more or less, the pregnant belly) and have stayed soft and have not shrunk. I chose the variety pack that included one white, one gray, and one black. I am pleased.

Okay, that's all I got, my less-than-thrilling cheap thrills! What's on your Retail Beat?

*"regular grocery store" is favorite phrase of the Semi-Homemade Sandra Lee


Actchy said...

I wish I could report some cheap thrills. In a city where groceries are, by definition, exorbitantly priced ($3.59 for one half gallon of Tropicana no-pulp OJ that is never, ever on sale), it's tough to land a truly marvelous surprise bargain. However, our grocer (read: Fresh Direct, a grocery delivery service that rocks my and any Manhattan cook's world) occasionally flubs an order by tossing a few extra freebies. In this way, I got a bag of organic (!) carmel-flavored popcorn cakes, something I would normally never, ever purchase (not being one for rice- or popcorn cakes, myself) and I was delighted with them. Not to say I ever affirmatively purchased them thereafter, but I keep hoping they'll show up in my orders by chance again.

I've also taken to ordering the Kashi frozen meals for nights when I don't feel like cooking. They offer far less sodium and preservatives than the alternatives, are made with whole grains, and, much to my shock, are actually kind of delicious. I get them for $4.49/ea., or the bargain price of 2-for-$8.50 (but that price only applies to the sweet and sour chicken flavor, for some reason?)

LAP said...

Mmm...I will be checking out the nooks and crannies of your freezers looking for a white chocolate fudgesicle when I visit next month.

Wish I'd have known about the tankers prior to my weekend visit to Costco.

I'm intrigued with the soft pretzel loaf, but it sounds like it wouldn't be all that soft if in a loaf form? Do you slice and eat or just bite into it?

MEP said...

Just at Trader Joe's again this morning and purchased two more of soft pretzels. Noticed that they are called soft pretzel sticks, not loaves (but don't picture a skinny stick). I promise no problem with softness. Next time you're near Kenwood, check them out.

Anonymous said...

I am not a big grocery shopper lately, but I felt I got a great deal today compliments of Donna, my new best friend at Macy's. I was ready to make a purchase from a bridal registry that I had scouted out the night before online. The item that I had settled on was listed as buy two, get one free. So I am thinking I will buy six of this item and only have to pay for four. The item in store was $8 more so I said I would just get it online. Donna said "I don't want you to have to pay shipping, I will match the price online" As an added bonus she took another 20% off for my friends and family coupon. I think I got a pretty good deal. I would like to mention, too, that those tankers from Costco rock. I have the fuchsia, aqua, and white three pack. They are thin and long and dry after washing in a jiffy. Great item. m

Anonymous said...

Baby Cheapskate is my secret obsession. http://babycheapskate.blogspot.com/ This blog tells you how to save on baby products especially diapers. Maybe it will help with Bub 2.0.

There is nothing better than the rush of a good deal.


Cassey said...

This is something I need. I've gone over my food budget, not one week, not two weeks, but THREE weeks in a row. I'm shocked to hear how little my friends spend on food and their pantries are still more stocked than mine. Is there a grocery shopping class?

MEP said...

AAP, I know you're a loyal reader! Thanks for leaving the comment and for the tip on Baby Cheapskate!

Anonymous said...


I have the recipe for the cheese dip that goes well with the pretzel loaf/stick etc.

Here goes...
2 lbs Velveeta (I use the light)
1 cup and 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (I use light)
1 (8 to 10 oz) Jar Horseradish
15-20 drops Tobasco

Cup up Velveeta and melt in microwave safe bowl at power level 7 for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir halfway through. Add mayonnaise. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in horseradish and Tobasco. May be frozen. Serve with soft pretzels.



MEP said...

Thanks for the recipe, B.Davin. I think the one that my mom and sister use involves cream cheese and that Olde English cheddar cheese. This one sounds quite tasty as well, and I like the fact that it is warm. Yum.

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