Tag Archives: grocery stores

Math Is Important, Because….Toilet Paper

25 Aug

Shopping for toilet paper is confusing these days.

These days, there’s nothing I like less than having to go to the toilet paper aisle at the grocery store. I love grocery shopping and I’m a user of toilets, so replenishing the toilet paper stocks shouldn’t be such a problem.

Yet, it is.

That’s because every brand of toilet paper wants to create the illusion that you can get a deal. Why buy a regular-sized roll when you can buy 2x rolls? Why settle for twice the toilet paper, with you can get a megaroll 4-in-1?

Invariably, I spend far too much time examining the total length and calculating price per roll or price per sheet (and it’s rarely the breakdown per unit that the store gives you on the shelf price tag). Then I have to figure out whether a megaroll will actually fit on my toilet paper holder. Then I have to consider how much storage space we have at the moment and whether it will hold 24 super gigantic rolls, or if I should go with 16 quadruple jumbo rolls (we do not have warehouse-club-sized storage at home). Or maybe just a four-pack double roll is all we can get on that trip. There are calculus problems that are simpler than this kind of math.

The choice is paralyzing and anxiety-inducing — and it’s weird because having some choice is good. I like having different flavors to choose from. I appreciate finding low-sodium options or lactose-free options or new brands. But toilet paper doesn’t have that same excitement–or maybe it’s because their sizing just doesn’t make sense. It’s not small/medium/large; it’s 12 rolls = 24/6 rolls = 24 rolls, etc.

What you never see? A roll.

[There are also no triple rolls, which makes me even more suspicious–and sad, because a triple rolls, I think, would really be the sweet spot for having fewer rolls and being the optimal size for my toilet paper holder.]

Everything’s a multiple of a roll, so that you’re getting some multiplied deal, but you never actually get to see on what the companies are basing these so-called deals. Trust us, they say, we’ve done the math for you!

But I don’t trust them. They’re trying to make money, not lose money by giving me a sweet deal, and that’s part of my frustration. I just don’t trust the packaging, so I have to do the math myself, which takes far longer than I want it to, which just adds to the anxiety and frustration around making a choice.

I don’t quite understand why it is that way–once I get it home, it’s still just toilet paper. But now it’s got an aura of resentment. Have I made the right choice in sizes? Do I have to put it back on the list almost immediately and go through the process all over again?

I’m looking forward to the day where I stop caring about this so much–or maybe I just send the Boy to get the toilet paper from now on.

 

 

Postcard from Ketchikan

26 Feb

img_20160219_113526708.jpgI made it out of Alaska alive. Not even one attempted murder….I mean, as far as I know. Nobody attempted to murder me at least, so I’ll chalk that up to a successful trip. But really, would a murderer have this kind of interior design sense?

img_20160221_120427865.jpg

As for not knowing who I was staying with, all I have to say is that people everywhere can be amazing and interesting. I first stayed with a woman who counts fish, as in, will go out into the woods and count fish to make sure the population stays within a healthy range. Her dog? Adorable. Her girlfriend builds ships. Just to make you drool, she has an 11′ level at work. That’s eleven feet. Of level. My second hosts were a public defender, who’s had a case of assault with a bear skull, and an engineer who tests submarines. Dude.

I’m glad I got to experience Ketchikan during the off-season and as someone who wasn’t quite a tourist. We tried to do tourist-y things during my free day, but most of them were shut down, which was fine because I got to go to my favorite tourist trap: the grocery store.

Each of my hosts took me to a different one. I went to A&P — that’s Alaska & Proud for those of you who immediately thought of Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company — and also Safeway (open late!). Sadly, I did not also go into Tatsuda’s IGA, which has been around a long time, but I’ll save that for the next trip. Oh, and I went to Wal-Mart, which was an experience too, since I couldn’t tell you the last time I stepped into a Wal-Mart.

I’ve got to give my hosts credit here–they let me wander the aisles as long as I wanted. I told one I’d be in there a good hour, so she left to run errands and came back later. I saw lots of West Coast brands I was unfamiliar with, as well as some other random brands from around the country. Several different types of Louisiana-based hot sauce, Russian-style mustard, evidence of a Filipino community due to the prominence of (and what I thought was cheap at $1.69/pound ) frozen banana leaves and sweet corn ice cream–at Wal-Mart they also have Filipino-style spaghetti sauce. I also saw two kinds of buttermilk: regular and Bulgarian style. Where did the demand for Bulgarian-style buttermilk come from? My host didn’t know and said that a lot of products are in stores based on requests, so somebody knows some secrets about buttermilk!

You could also get massive quantities of onions and potatoes (think 25 lb. sacks) and meat. You want roughly 14 lbs. of NY Strip? That’ll be $111. 48. Beef brisket? I can get you a 18.27 lb. hunk or $91.17. If you’d rather have pork, how about a nice 23 lb. untrimmed pork butt for $80.55?

But beyond grocery shopping, some amazing scenery and eating fresh fish and chips, there was a fair amount of “let me blow your mind with this factoid.” I was amazed that Alaska Airlines lets Alaska residents check two bags for free (three if you’re flying within Alaska), which means that Alaskans will fly down south with two large plastic bins and go grocery shopping. My one host grew up in a smaller Alaskan town (Ketchikan’s about 12,000 for the town and surrounding borough) and said it was normal to fly somewhere once a month for groceries because that’s more economical.

Meanwhile, I blew their minds by telling them I had to have a permit to own a gun, not just for concealed carry–and that I don’t yet have a concealed carry license due to my town’s restrictions. We won’t even get into the reaction about how up until recently you needed a license to carry pepper spray in the Commonwealth. For them, it’s assumed that you own guns. Plural. Period. Of course you do. It’s Alaska.

But let’s not forget that I was there for roller derby, which was a really great time. I met some passionate and dedicated people who are working really hard to have this sport take off in their little portion of the world–which is an uphill battle when you’re competing with a pretty big basketball scene during the few months where people aren’t swamped with seasonal-based work and tourists. I’m always so amazed at how I’ve been able to go all over the world and basically walk into the same scene–and even though this group was mostly learning from books, manuals, videos and the occasional person who’s been able to travel outside of Alaska, they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves. I hope they can continue to grow the sport because you can see how much of a difference it makes in people’s lives, and Alaskans are no different.

This weekend, though, has put Alaska higher on my list. I’d love to go back and experience more of our country’s last frontier–there’s so much to learn from there.

Postcard from Cleveland

22 Sep

wpid-img_20150822_144921043.jpg

Hello Readers!

Somehow summer has almost completely passed, and although I’ve thought about you a lot over the last few months, I really haven’t done my part to keep up. Time to get back on track though, so I’ll start with some of my summer travels that caused disruption in my routine.

In August I went to Cleveland to officiate the first WFTDA D2 Playoff of the season, but I’m writing to you not to talk about the tournament (fun) or the officiating (which I thought went really well), but to  mention how smitten I am with Cleveland.

I’ve visited a few Rust Belt cities over the last few years, and I’m thrilled that many of them are experiencing a renaissance, with downtowns going through revitalization, people moving back in and interesting places opening up. You can feel a buzz of optimism, and it’s catchy enough to make me want to move there (Buffalo, I’m looking at you too).

If I had to move to Cleveland, I’d like to be able to live where I could regularly shop at the store pictured here. Oh, you thought it was the interior dome of a museum or something? No. It’s a grocery store. All right, Heinen’s didn’t build it that way, but they did keep The Cleveland Trust Company  building that is their downtown location pretty much intact from its good old days as a bank.

Heinen’s is on the fancier side in terms of grocery stores. They stock a couple of flavors of Polar, which is nice because you don’t always see Polar outside the Seltzer Belt (New England). They also have Noosa yoghurt, which you know is fancy because “yogurt” is spelled with an “h” (you should look for it in your local stores though–it’s totally delicious). Other froo-froo items include the parmesan-stuffed dates and some fancy tortilla chips that probably didn’t contain a lick of corn that I bought to fulfill my snacking needs for the weekend.

The best part about Heinen’s is its prepared food section (well, maybe the upstairs beer and wine tasting is better, but since I can’t drink and officiate, I didn’t even go up there). And here’s a tip: If you want a salad, skip the pay-by-the-ounce salad bar, and go to the global grill counter. This is where you can get things like meat and rice in a bowl or a themed salad OR you can make your own bowl.

I was in the mood for a big salad and thought about the salad bar, but I knew that with what foods I wanted, I’d quickly have a $15 salad on my hands and would have to hold back my tears at the cash register while I forked over the money and told myself I’d better be licking the plastic container clean.

Then I saw the bowl station had prepared salads, so I sauntered over there to get a Mediterranean salad, which would have fit the bill. Then I noticed that you could build your own, and they had maybe 30 different toppings, which was pretty much like the salad bar, except minus the cottage cheese, which I don’t eat anyway.

So I ordered a build-your-own salad, and the employee asked me what I wanted on it. I said, “Everything.”

“Everything?”

I scanned the rows of ingredients. “Well, maybe just two of the three coleslaws…and we can skip the kimchi. And I guess I’ll do just one kind of cheese.”

Raised eyebrows. “All right.”

Best damn salad ever. You can totally mix salsa and two kinds of coleslaw with spinach and peppers and feta and have a delicious concoction called “lunch.”

I went back to Heinen’s the next day and had the same thing, different dressing. Again, fantastic and joy-inducing, and I’m not sure if that’s because the food was good, the employees were super friendly or if shopping in such a beautiful building made the difference. I just know that it’s making a difference in a city–that still has a long way to go to get back to its glory days but is definitely showing a lot of signs of life. I’ll take that and look forward to the next time I go to Cleveland.

Now, if we could all work to get Gary back on track….

Best Thing Ever (Right Now): Hannaford Is Bringing It

3 Mar

I stopped at Hannaford on Sunday night–well, actually, I stopped at Market Basket first because that was closer to where I was driving from (and it’s cheap), but Market Basket closes at 7PM on Sundays, and I was too late. On to Hannaford.

I do like Hannaford. Sure, it’s not 90,000 sq. ft. of groceries, but they do have decent produce, they sell bison and they have decent prices. But now they also do this:

wpid-img_20150301_201841415_hdr.jpg

Blue bags and brown bags? What’s the difference? When I see a blue bag in a grocery store, it throws me back to Chicago’s old blue bag recycling program, where some grocery stores would pack your groceries in blue plastic bags, just to give you a way to recycle without having to buy the actual (pretty expensive) blue bags.

The Hannaford bagger explained that the blue bags only contained items that needed to go into the refrigerator.

Mind. Blown!

This is genius! I’ve always hated it when I’ve brought groceries home, set them on the floor, put away the refrigerated items and left the rest to unpack later, only to discover hours later that I’d missed something. Now I know. Get the blue bags unpacked pronto.

I found out from the customer service person that they implemented this a few weeks ago (this is a nice way of saying that I blubbered to the customer service person, she stared at me like I was nuts, tried to explain the meaning of the bags, and I had to stop her, saying, “No, I know what they do, but when did this start? THISISSOCOOL!!!!”), which I hadn’t noticed because (a) they don’t have it in the express lanes I usually frequent, and (b) if you bring your own bag, you wouldn’t notice.

As I try to bring my own bags when I can, I may have to start designating some of them “fridge only,” just to keep that concept going. It’s pretty genius.

It’s also a cool way to thwart the Market Basket competition I bet they’re feeling. We’re seeing a lot of interesting things from other local groceries, probably to try to keep customers from completely defecting to Market Basket. This blue bag program has me a bit more jazzed about Hannaford now though. That’s for sure.

%d bloggers like this: