Friday, December 30, 2016

Oh, or, instead of getting $5 free, you could get $30 free

So I did the Dollar Shave Club Swagbucks deal, and it worked flawlessly -- $1 was charged to my debit card, I got credited 600 Swagbucks three days after I did the deal, and the razor and cartridges showed up today, which is six calendar days after I placed the order.

I decided to look on eBay and see whether people buy these razors and cartridges. (Helpful hint: If you want to know what people are actually willing to pay for something on eBay, rather than what people are trying to make you think it goes for, go into the sidebar and select "sold listings only.") Yeah, so, the starter package ("The Executive" razor plus four six-blade cartridges, in a carton with some shaving product and some leaflets) sells for $20-$25. Dayum. Yes, I sure would like that much free money.

Just listed my Dollar Shave Club starter package on eBay. I'd suggest ordering one and selling it on eBay even if you don't do Swagbucks. Because dayum.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Donating used items helps low-income families. So why are so many low-income folks against it?

From Vox: "A lot of the advice I hear about what to give, and what not to give, is well-intentioned, but it's rarely informed by the experience of the people who actually rely on thrift stores to keep their closets stocked and their budgets balanced."

As someone else who does a lot of shopping at thrift stores and on eBay, I will say that this is largely on point. Yes, people like me will buy things that you think should be thrown out rather than donated. I have no superstitions about using something that may have touched who knows what; we wash everything. And stuff that's got some slight wear? It's going to get that way anyway the first time it's used.

The one thing I think this article does get wrong though is the suggestion that it's mainly wealthy people who think no one wants something slightly worn. As a long-time resident of a mixed-income, racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood, I actually notice that my friends who tend to be the most meticulous about things needing to be new and flawless are people who have grown up in intergenerational poverty.

I get why this happens. I've written before about how my family, despite being poor, has enough educational and other privilege that people think "resourceful" and "hippie" when they learn that we eat a lot of rice and beans and most of our belongings are from thrift stores, rather than thinking "can't afford hats and gloves for their kids" or "better call child protective services." A lot of families don't have these same protections as we do. I absolutely get why people without a lot of privilege feel the need to clothe their children in new and spotless garments and to go into debt to have brand-new matching furniture sets in every room. Many people, unfortunately, need to live in such a way that no one can question that they can provide for their families properly. My poorer friends who do shop at thrift stores, barter, hand items down among their families, and so forth tend to be people who have more protection against potential bias, generally through things like education, housing stability, and participation in community organizations.

What I don't really get is people's tendency to shun being a part of people reusing items even on the giving end. I frequently observe friends of mine living in poverty stating that they absolutely won't donate used items to charity, typically because, "that's nasty." Stacks of brand-name, barely used clothing and shoes go into the trash. Even some of my friends' teens, who love to make money selling electronics and similar things locally or online, want no part in the reuse of clothing or household items. Now that know firsthand that people will buy absolutely anything on eBay, I wonder if I would get anywhere letting them know they can make money with the clothing they would ordinarily throw away.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dollar Shave Club offer on Swagbucks: One razor plus $6.81 Amazon money for a dollar

I just did this offer. I'm getting one razor shipped to me for $1 (paid by credit/debit card), and 600 Swagbucks (worth $6.81 on Amazon if you redeem in batches of 2200 points for $25) credited to my account within 3 days. After the free trial, Dollar Shave Club doesn't actually seem to be a good deal, so I'm going to cancel; I'm only in this for the better-than-free deals, obviously.

If you need a Swagbucks account, this is a good time to sign up using my link. We both get even more free stuff than usual, since they're doing a promo right now. And then you can get your friends free stuff, and they can get their friends free stuff, and since this is a damn pyramid scheme like all of these things are, the people who wait too long don't have anyone to refer to get free stuff. But even without referrals, anyone can still do deals like this razor thing, so go do it!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ship Goodwill donations for free if you can't drop them off

I'm not sure how green this actually is, in terms of using up a box and taping it up and printing a label and all that rather than just walking over and dropping off donations in overflowing trash bags like we tend to. But for people who live in rural areas, or who can't always leave loved ones to do errands, or aren't physically able to get out as much as they'd like, Give Back Box sounds pretty great. It's definitely better than tossing perfectly usable items in the trash, which I see far too many people doing.

How it works is: You put your things in any box you have lying around (they're partnered with businesses like Amazon and REI that are specifically encouraging people to use their boxes for this purpose, but it can be any box), print a label from their site, and arrange for UPS/USPS to come get it. It then gets shipped to Goodwill.

In terms of Goodwill Industries, I am aware that the charity is problematic in some ways. Their stores are run as a sheltered workshop program, which means that individuals with significant disabilities are paid less than minimum wage to sort, tag, wash, and display merchandise. Employees with a higher level of independence get paid minimum wage to work the cash registers and interact with the public. Some disability advocates believe that no one should be a subminimum wage, even people with severe disabilities who aren't able to work without constant supervision and assistance, who would be watching movies all day in an adult daycare program if sheltered employment wasn't available. Other advocates have raised concerns that Goodwill continues to pay some folks a subminimum wage even after they've progressed and have demonstrated that they can complete a typical amount of work with minimal extra support. Be aware though that a hoax post is going around stating that Goodwill is a for-profit company and the CEO makes $2.3 million per year, and this information is not in fact accurate. They are a nonprofit and Charity Navigator rates them highly.

In the Boston area, if you are able to donate in person, or you have a donation large enough for them to send a truck, I would suggest donating to Boomerangs. They support the AIDS Action Committee and are completely legit. Their website also has a list of charities where you can donate items that thrift stores don't take. But if you have a smaller amount of items and would otherwise be putting them in the trash, please check out Give Back Box and help those items get reused by struggling families instead of ending up in a landfill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Taxpayers claiming EITC won't see refund until late February

From the IRS website:

"The IRS reminds taxpayers that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. In addition, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware it will take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the IRS cautions that many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27."

Well that's annoying. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Graze box: It was free, but eh

My Graze box showed up today. I got this through a Swagbucks deal in which I paid $1 shipping for a free trial of Graze, then earned a couple dollars' worth of Swagbucks.

The concept is really more of a novelty than utilitarian. The snacks are small, definitely more of a tasting than an actual snack. I was thinking they'd be nice to take for lunch on the go or send with the kids when they don't have time for real meals between activities (like I often do with homemade muffins or energy bars I get with coupons), but they're not substantial enough even for that. The snacks list the calorie content, and most are not even 100 calories.

I haven't tried the snacks yet, but they look good. They're basic enough I can't imagine they'd be bad; mostly assortments of dried fruits and nuts and things. One of the ones I was sent is a "flapjack," which is their term for something like an energy bar, only shaped closer to a square than a bar. I also got a Tom Yum dried-soup-in-a-cup-type thing, which sounds promising. So, sure, it was a fun little thing to receive, considering it was free, but overall I'm not impressed. In fact, given that the actual subscription is quite expensive, it seems downright frivolous. You can get normal portions of wholesome snacks at Trader Joe's or from Annie's or whatnot for a lot less money.
Box pictured here with junk mail for scale. See? SMALL.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

MA DCF foster adoption subsidy payment schedule 2016-2017

I scanned this and am posting it here for other families who foster, have guardianship of relatives, etc. DCF typically is almost a year behind in posting it on their site. As of today, they still have last year's up. I couldn't find my paper copy and tried to google and see if it was posted anywhere. I found a ton of people looking for it, but didn't actually find it.

So, here it is, the 2016-2017 MA Massachusetts DCF Department of Children and Families Foster Care and Adoption/Guardianship Subsidy Payment Schedule, which runs from July 2016 through June 2017 and includes the dates for foster payments, adoption subsidies, guardianship subsidies, clothing checks, and holiday bonuses from the aforementioned Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. (Hey, just trying to make this findable on The Google, OK?)

Click here to see it full size. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ways to reduce food waste

I thought this link might be useful to many. It seems quite relevant to those of us who use Fair Foods and end up with a ton of produce we need to use up quickly.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Good site for comparing prescription costs

A friend told me about GoodRx. I haven't played around with it much, because we are super fortunate to have Masshealth, but the site works, and various interwebs reviews tell me the information is accurate. Apparently the out-of-pocket cost for various meds can be a few dollars at one pharmacy chain and a few hundred at another. So definitely check it out before paying if you're ever told something isn't covered.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Free book giveaway

Thanks to a generous donation of Disney inventory from First Book and the AFT, the BTU and BTU-PAC will be giving away 25,000 FREE Disney books!
When:   Tuesday, December 13, 2016, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where:  Boston Teachers Union, 180 Mt. Vernon Street, Dorchester, MA 02125
Parking Available: Use 80 Day Boulevard, Dorchester for GPS directions.
MBTA Accessible: Less than a 5 minute walk from the JFK/UMass Red Line.

Click here for more information.
Also, the person who sent me the invite mentioned that there will be books for all reading levels, up through highschool. Typically these events tend to only have preschool or early elementary books, so this is nice to see.

I can't find additional information as to whether the books will all be Disney-themed, or whether it's just a partnership. I checked out the First Book website, which has a lot of great information and resources, and it seems to indicate that they receive a lot of funding from Disney, but doesn't suggest that the events center around Disney books. It's possible someone misunderstood, or it's possible that this will be Disney books. It seems worth checking out even for people who stay away from Disney for social reasons, because Disney also owns Star Wars and a bunch of other media that most people find less problematic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Today I Learned: Socks and underwear are not clothing least at Target anyway. They have this sweet deal right now on "clothing, shoes, and jewelry" where you can get $10 off of $50 or $25 off of $100 using checkout code STYLE. The fine print didn't list any exclusions, but the promotion didn't work for the underwear and socks I was going to order. Pajamas were included though, and a lot of things, especially Cat and Jack and the other house brands, are already on sale.

There's also 25% off cold-weather items, which is even more ambiguous and isn't clarified on the site, but likewise, when you go put it in your cart and enter the code, it will list "promotion code COLD applied to this item," so you can easily tell what to take out or how much more you need to spend.

Monday, December 5, 2016

HomeChef trial was definitely worth it

I'm finally getting around to posting about the two meals we got for $2.75 from HomeChef. So, it was easy to place the order, and we got to pick which meals we wanted out of a selection of meals available during that week. We chose a risotto and a calzone. The food came in a box with gel ice packs and lined with insulated sheets, which the website states is safe to be left outside if you aren't home when it arrives. I ended up refreezing the ice packs because free ice packs, and saving the insulation stuff for packing fragile eBay items, because, well, you know what blog this is.

The risotto ingredients
The boxes contained everything we needed for the recipes, including things like flour, rice, and butter. The only things we had to provide were oil, salt, and pepper. Everything was measured out and neatly labeled. I snapped a photo of the risotto package, minus the little bottle of white wine which apparently didn't make it into the photo. Oh, the meals also generally come with a few reusable-type plastic bottles, like the kind you buy to put travel toiletries in or pack salad dressing with your lunch in. Zing!

I assume HomeChef is intended for people who don't cook much, but have a basic familiarity with food and kitchens. The recipes include a lot of photos of what each step is supposed to look like and how you can tell when it is done. We don't fall into the don't-really-cook demographic, but I would say the recipes and the pre-prepped ingredients would be suitable for people who don't cook. Keep in mind you do need basic kitchen items though (pots, pans, baking sheets, knives), but nothing you can't get at IKEA or Dollar Tree. The recipes were simple and straightforward enough that a couple of elementary-aged kids were able to make the calzone without any difficulty.

I particularly liked the risotto recipe because it's something I've never made before, and actually didn't really understand how it's made. I've certainly made rice and kind of stir-fried it with whatever produce I had in the house, but it's not quite the same.

The "garnish" is only because I forgot one piece of kale
Risotto gets its texture (kind of overdone compared to how rice is generally eaten most places, but creamy and firm rather than sticky and mushy, sort of a mac-and-cheese texture) by frying the grains of rice in oil until toasted, then adding a small amount of water at a time and boiling it away until the rice starts to get sticky, then adding more and doing this for about 25 minutes until it's the right texture. This was intriguing to learn, and definitely something I'll try again. The rice that's used is arborio rice, which is typically expensive. Thrive Market has it though, so I added it to my most recent box of mostly free stuff. 

The other recipe was a calzone, which was also great and easy and fun to make. It uses that two-ingredient bread recipe that I've been curious about, but not curious enough to actually buy self-rising flour, which seems wasteful. It turned out so well though that I did actually cave in and buy self-rising flour, which I've been using to make pizza and rolls and things lately. The only downside is that the recipe requires yogurt and won't work without it, so it doesn't work if you have people who can't eat dairy even when cooked. In that case, use this recipe, which is a little more time-consuming, but still very cheap and easy.

Calzones are something I never think to make, but they're so easy and versatile. I really should just come up with a list of different foods to make with random produce. Basically what you do is saute whatever you want to put in it (this was mushrooms, red pepper, broccoli, onions, I think a few other things), mix in some cheese if desired, and stick it inside dough and bake it.

The meals were quite big. I ordered the smallest (i.e. cheapest) box available, which was two servings of each meal. They really are midrange-restaurant-type servings though, so two servings plus the salads we served it with was enough for a whole family.

Overall, the HomeChef recipes were quite fun. It allows you to put your subscription on hold indefinitely instead of cancelling it, so that's what I've done. I'm thinking I might order from them again as an alternative to going out to dinner. I think the standard price is about $10 per meal, which is much cheaper than going out, and in most cases cheaper than buying all of the ingredients, since they only give you exactly as much as you need. The way it shows up at your door and is a new recipe makes it feel to me like something that would be a better birthday dinner or dinner with company than just cooking something you usually make, without the expense of going out to dinner or ordering food.

Friday, December 2, 2016

70% off everything at Aeropostale

Everything is 70% off online and in stores. FYI their kids' pants start at size 4 and all have adjustable waists. Some stuff is ridiculously low, like $1 and $2. And there's a $20 off $100 deal if you use your Visa card, promo code VISA after you've entered the card number.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Free wine is back on Swagbucks

The Winc offer is back, and it's free/beyond free this time. Pay $32 for four bottles of wine with free shipping, then get 3200 Swagbucks ($36.37 in Amazon gift cards if you redeem in batches of 2200 Swagbucks). It's an easy way to have some snazzy wine on hand for when you inevitably get invited to holiday things and have nothing to take. I found it under Featured Ways to Earn.

And obviously, if you don't have Swagbucks yet, use my referral thingy, then refer all your friends, because we all know us broke folks love pyramid schemes. Thanks to the people who have signed up under mine recently. One of you needs to start actually using the account though so we can both get some gift cards!

Monday, November 28, 2016

15% off nearly everything at Target today (online and in-store), plus another 1% off

Here's the official press release from Target. It even includes game consoles and Apple products, which is highly unusual. There are a few exclusions listed here (mostly just the usual ones, like alcohol and gift cards).

I totally just fished this out of the laundry someone didn't put away
Speaking of Target, we are loving the Cat and Jack line of kids' clothes. It's cute stuff, most of it's seriously cheap ($6 leggings, $12 jeans, $6 t-shirts, $10 hoodies), a lot of it's gender-neutral, and they have t-shirts with positive messages and science themes rather than the usual tough-guy/cute-and-or-sexualized-girl messages. They have infant, toddler, youth sizes, and the youth sizes go up to XXL in most items, which fits the average-sized adults in this household. Not to say that we've gone in the kids' department just because they have $6 t-shirts and $10 hoodies or anything like that. That would be silly, right?

There's also a deal on InstaGC right now, not sure for how long, where you can get 1% back on online purchases from Target. Target also has the Cartwheel couponing app, which you can now use online. Between that, today's sale, and the InstaGC thing, you should be able to get some serious deals on things. Like clothing. That you definitely didn't buy in the kids' department.

Here's the Target fine print
I just realized I didn't do a tutorial on InstaGC, but if you know how to use Swagbucks, it's quite simpler. It has the same TrialPay and OfferToro and all that that Swagbucks has. It also rewards you in Amazon gift cards, and allows you to redeem for $1 Amazon cards, which means you don't have to wait until you get to $5 or $25 or whatever like some of the other ones. Like the others, you can earn referral points. Sign up under my thing if you don't have an account yet, and then refer your friends.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Free Museum of Fine Arts admission every day

This doesn't seem to be well publicized, but the MFA is free for the last hour they are open every day. They also have $3 tickets for EBT card holders, if you want to stay longer. If you don't have an EBT card though, the last hour thing is such a good deal for people who are close by and can just come back another time to see more. Admission is ordinarily $25 for a ticket, which, wow.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Gourmet vegan cooking class and meal for $10

This looks pretty great. Cooking class and a whole meal for $10 per person ($5 if you're a member of The Trustees) at that new facility in Haymarket. Usually these things are ridiculously expensive, like, more than going out to dinner at a nice place. I unfortunately wouldn't be able to make it on Wednesday morning, but check it out if you're available and want some low-cost family fun.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Don't spend money on paper for printing coupons

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I use coupons and stacked coupon deals to feed my family within my means. One of the things that's annoying about this though is that the manufacturer's coupons have to be printed out and handed to the cashier physically. I've heard that stores in other regions have systems of putting them on your store card like you can with store coupons, but this isn't here yet. So, for now, I'm using a lot of paper, which costs money and is wasteful.

Similarly, I am a professional stuff-getter-ridder-of-er. We have a large family in a small space, and I don't like having things sitting around that we might some day maybe use, when there are people who can use them right now, or ways they can be recycled.

The other day, I suddenly had a realization of how I could kill both birds with one stone. Speaking of which, I had a program director at a former job who would say "house two birds with one nest" so as to be nonviolent. I like this, except no one knows what it means. I probably should just do away with the birds altogether* and say I'm solving both problems.

Anyway, I need to print coupons, but paper is expensive and wasteful. And I have a folder of paper I don't want to recycle since it's blank on one side, but couldn't find a use for since it's too thin to use for art, and the stuff printed on it is mostly just too weird to use as eBay packing material or to print handouts on or anything like that.

Coupons though. They just need to be printed on paper in a way that's basically legible, and it doesn't reflect on me in any way that matters if they're printed on something strange. So, yeah, I totally just printed off 28 pages of coupons on the back of an outdated sexual harassment manual from a company I used to do some work for. Which was where I know Nest Guy from, actually.

Oh, and as far as ink for all this printing, I'm using some knockoff cartridges I got on Amazon for a few dollars for 10 of each color or something like that. The color sometimes seems slightly off from legit cartridges, and once in a while you get a dud, but I'm OK with that for paying $4.99 or something for something that would normally cost like $600. If you can't risk fake ink because you're an artist or need high-quality prints for your business or whatnot, get a free printer from OfferUp or Craigslist and use it for coupons. People are constantly giving away perfectly good printers, usually either because the ink costs more than a new printer, or because they don't know how to make an older printer work with their wireless network. Snag these though, because you can buy knockoff ink and there are ways to get pretty much any printer working wirelessly.

*Not literally. That would be violent.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I can't take you people, er, robots, anywhere!

I noticed the other day that I had a huge surge in page views, but I didn't dig further.

Then I got a comment in my moderation queue that suddenly made everything clear, and I dug deep into my stats, and sure enough...

Apparently a spambot search engine has decided that the word "stripping" in one of my home improvement posts means that the page is visited by people who would be interested in their unholy spam link, rather than people who are looking for ways to make thrift store furniture look snazzy.

You know what though? A page view is a page view, right? The number of hits a page gets is in part what decides how much my ads pay me when people click on them. So, yeah, I'm fine with some perverted robot driving up my stats, though I do prefer views and comments from my lovely human readers. Stripper porn whores XXX viagra cialis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hollar deal on Swagbucks: $15 worth of stuff for 80 cents

I just did the Hollar offer on Swagbucks. If you make a $15 purchase, it gives you 1250 Swagbucks, which is worth $14.20 if you redeem in batches of 2200SB for $5. This means you end up paying $0.80 once you get the Swagbucks, but you do have to front the $15 on your debit card.

I hadn't heard of Hollar before. It's a lot like Five Below, except online. They have pajamas, t-shirts, headphones, room stuff, drinkware, etc., and most of it is $2-$5. Some of it is more. Some seems to be closeout/overstock and some seems to just be cheap stuff. So, yeah, you're probably better off going to a thrift store if you want clothing and other items that will last, but this place was a lot of fun for doing some holiday shopping for the kids. I got this stuff for $1.12, y'all. Um, if you know my kids, don't say anything, k?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If you have Masshealth managed care, you can get a bunch of free stuff

I just learned that the various Masshealth managed care plans (Tufts Health Together, BMC HealthNet, Neighborhood Health Plan) have reimbursements and freebies just like private insurance does.

Tufts Health Together offers $50 per year per member reimbursement for gym memberships, dance and exercise classes, or sports leagues. They offer $30 reimbursement for contacts or glasses purchased out of pocket. They also have reimbursement for childbirth classes and breastpumps. They send one free bike helmet per year per child or adult member via mail and vouchers for $25 off a booster seat or $50 off a convertible seat (this is enough to purchase the cheapest models on the market). They also will send you gift cards for doing proactive health tasks, like filling out an asthma action plan or going to diabetes visits. Check out their member handbook, pages 23-27.

Neighborhood Health Plan offers $50 per year per member reimbursement for gyms only, $15 off bike helmets for children and adults, childbirth classes, and breasts pump sent by mail.

Boston Medical Center HealthNet offers free car seats and booster seats by mail, a free box of disposable diapers for parents of newborns, $200 per year per family reimbursement for gyms only (it's unclear whether this is the limit per family or whether a single gym member would get this whole amount back), one free bike helmet per child member per size, and dental kits (which appear to be the stuff you get free at the dentist anyway).

The basics of these extras seem to be pretty much the same for the three plans, though they differ in terms of how much of a discount they give on particular items and whether you have to front the money for various costs. It seems like it would make the most sense to join BMC HealthNet if you have a baby or toddler, then switch to Tufts Health Together, which seems to cover the most stuff overall. Surprisingly, switching managed care plans once you're already enrolled in MassHealth is actually really easy.

Please, spread the word about these benefits! We've never been told about any of this in many years of having MassHealth and using community clinics. I actually don't think most of the providers know what's available to their patients, though they're happy to write down that we ignore their recommendations to join gyms and use expensive over-the-counter products. So, let people know they can get things through their MassHealth plan, and let them know about all the drugstore items MassHealth covers.

By the way, I've had mixed luck using the OTC program. When providers ask us to start using a vitamin supplement or ear drops or something, I ask them to write a prescription for it so MassHealth will cover it. So far none of them have been aware of this program. About half have seemed happy to hear it's a thing and have written the prescriptions. Others just insist "you don't need a prescription for that" and even "there's no such thing as a prescription for Benadryl."

Monday, November 14, 2016

Aaaand...the shaming people for shopping on Black Friday is in full force

So, I'm used to seeing the hashtags and images telling people to buy nothing on Black Friday, presumably to fight capitalist culture or something. Fortunately, in my circle of friends, there are usually people who beat me to pointing out that this is a really privileged viewpoint. I mean, come on, some of us can only afford things when they're on sale, and those of us in this boat are already doing less consuming than average throughout the whole year. But it apparently makes people who have a lot of economic privilege feel better to boast that they're making their purchases on a day other than Black Friday.

Today I saw on the REI website that they're closed on Black Friday. I find this admirable, that they're allowing their employees to have a longer weekend with their families, and avoiding having their store filled with people fighting over merchandise. That seems like a good choice for an individual business to make, if they feel it aligns with their values. But the hashtags, and encouraging customers to pledge not to shop that day? That seems a bit privileged and obnoxious.

I imagine much of REI's customer base is people who buy high-end products for hobbies rather than basic needs, and clearly their marketing folks know this. But there are also people (like me!) who shop there for winter wear and bike stuff, because they have some amazing deals for members. I'm not really fazed that the store is closed on Black Friday. I probably wouldn't be headed there anyway, since we don't need anything for our bikes or for winter right now. But I'm not too crazy about their "movement" to not shop at all on Black Friday. I too am quite turned off by spending the entire day buying tons of stuff because you can, but if I find a sale for something we need, yes, I'm going to duck out of eating leftovers and watching movies and go get something I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

The overall message is good, but I wonder why they couldn't have made it a more general plea to have a simpler holiday season and to gift experiences, secondhand items, and sturdy necessities instead of buying every damn thing. Because encouraging people with lots of expendable income to buy the stuff on a different day (and pay more for it!) doesn't actually change anything with regards to all this "stuff" affecting the environment and our mental health, and it needlessly shames people who already consume less for shopping when things are affordable. Right now it just seems like asking people to show off that they have the privilege to buy anything they want, rather than asking people to change their overall consumption.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Two free months of women's clothing rental for negative $10.67

This deal is on Swagbucks today. 350SB (about $3.97 if you redeem your SB in batches of 2200SB for $25) for joining Gwynnie Bee for a free trial month. Then another 4900 ($55.70) if you pay for another month once your month is over. The cheapest plan costs $49 per month. If you buy things on Amazon anyway (or another store that Swagbucks has giftcards to), you can essentially pay $49 from your debit card and put $59.67 onto your Amazon account, plus rent clothing for free for two months if that appeals to you.

I only did the first month for 350SB, because Gwynnie Bee is not something anyone here would use, and it's a lot of money to front. I actually had heard of this business but didn't know anything about it until I clicked through to get some Swagbucks. I assumed it was one of those things for people who want to show off luxury items, like that one where you can rent $5000 handbags and look like you own several, but poking around on the site made me think that it's actually something that could be really useful for people to meet some fairly basic needs. They rent women's clothing sizes 10-32 clothing via mail order, it's every type of clothing, not mainly fancy designer stuff, and the price is surprisingly reasonable. I was excited to find that not only can I post about it as a fun freebie, but also a potential resource for struggling folks.

The service seems like it would be really useful for lots of different folks who are scraping by. Women whose weight is rapidly changing due to illness or recovery from illness would probably be better off spending $49 a month renting clothing than repeatedly buying new wardrobes even from a thrift store -- especially when the first two months can be acquired for free through this deal. Women of some builds can get away with wearing larger sizes instead of specific maternity clothes during pregnancy, so they could potentially use this too.

Gwynnie Bee also has a selection of cocktail and semi-formal wear, so this could be really great for women who have a wedding, graduation, work event, etc. coming up and can't afford something appropriate to wear. This sort of thing is really one of the hardships of being working poor and being in a part of the country where there really isn't widespread extreme poverty. So many people's jobs and other obligations expect them to socialize, especially around this time of year, and aren't very understanding that there are people who honestly can't afford these things, even though we don't have holes in our shoes and aren't living in sheds without plumbing. I did the free wine deal a few months ago in anticipation of "forced socialization season," and it's going to come in handy in the next few months if I have to take anything anywhere or thank anyone for anything. (For the record, I'm not anti-holiday or anything at all. I'm just reflecting the realities that the expectations around this season can be financially stressful, especially for those who are employed at places where most folks are better off than us.)

My household is actually very fortunate to have suitable clothing for pretty much anything semi-fancy we want to attend. Some of the families we get kids' hand-me-downs from are of religious/cultural backgrounds in which people typically wear conservative/traditional clothing rather than jeans and sweatshirts. One of the adults here has a job that entails wearing rather formal clothing (and thus scoping out yard sales and clearances and whatnot all year). We have time and energy to browse eBay and pick through thrift store racks. We have stable housing that allows us to buy things "just in case" when we find them used or on sale, and not have to pack up everything and move every few months. Most of us are average-sized, and the person who has a physical disability that affects stature and requires the use of mobility equipment is able to wear off-the-rack clothing just in a different size range than you'd expect, so we can all easily borrow things from someone if needed, or find them used.

Think about how many people are of size, need clothing adapted for disabilities, or don't have places to store things like party attire, and just aren't going to have this stuff. People can roll their eyes and say that no one "deserves" to have luxury items, but is it really a luxury to not have your boss and coworkers think you're antisocial because you always turn down free tickets to things and you don't ever socialize with them? Or have people think you're rude or even harmful for showing up to a graduation or baby blessing wearing *that*? So, yeah, clothes -- and not just the bare minimum to make you not be naked -- are a need just like food and housing are

Oh, and if you don't have Swagbucks yet, during this month there's a promotion where you get $5 in Swagbucks once you do your first few earning tasks and your referral source also gets $5. Then you can refer more people and you get $5 from theirs, just like a good little pyramid scheme. Please use my link if you haven't joined yet. Thanks!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

State of the scraper address

Wow, OK, so half of the country voted for a filter-lacking narcissist whose campaign centered on blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, and ableist insults and threats. So, I've known all my life that these views were this widespread, but this guy and his "plans" are nonetheless much scarier and more threatening than, say the Bushes, who at least seemed to have some basic professionalism and sense of human decency even though the impact of their policies was just as marginalizing.

A lot of us are terrified, not just around the end of our day-to-day relative safety from harassers and attackers, but also because we depend on government-funded programs for healthcare, disability services, children's services, or employment.

So, what can we do now?
  • Here is a list of some concrete things we can do, like stockpiling emergency contraception to distribute if it becomes unavailable next year, along with advice for trying to preserve rights for green card holders and our transgender brothers and sisters.
  • For internationally adopted folks (thinking especially of the many people in the community who have brought relatives here from Haiti through adoption rather than sponsorship), if you don't have a Certificate of Citizenship and only have your entry papers, go here and follow the steps to get one.
  • If you're transgender, make sure your gender and name are current on all your documents. Go here to learn about Boston-area organizations who are helping people do this for free, and similarly to volunteer if you have legal training or experience navigating these systems.
  • Write to your legislators, even if they're progressive, even if you're in Massachusetts where they've been telling us most of the federal changes won't affect us, and tell them why it's important that they support your family in maintaining insurance, disability services, housing assistance, and anything else you receive that's partially federally funded or might be affected by a federal mandate.
  • Go here to learn how to respond if you witness Islamophobic harassment (or any other type).
  • Be sensitive and sensible. It's fine to participate in movements/rallies/safetypinwearing that focus on positivity and understanding. But be aware that others, especially some marginalized folks, feel betrayed by these actions and feel that no one should be attempting to "build bridges" with the oppressors. Others take issue with people voicing their opinions in progressive spaces but being afraid to speak out against those who support bigotry. Still others don't appreciate privileged folks finally speaking out for the first time this week, because it highlights that these folks have been refusing to listen to the voices of the oppressed for years. Ask people how they're doing. Ask what would help. Don't take this as an opportunity to brag about how enlightened you are or how your manner of coping is the best one.
EDIT: You know how I mostly post about how our spartan lifestyle involves a lot of unprocessed food, walking and biking, and simple hobby items acquired at thrift stores? Yeah, it's not doing it for me right now. Someone point me to tips for how to get good deals on strong drinks, crappy TV, violent video games, tubs of cookie dough, and so forth. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Be sure to vote! Also, Imzy will give you a free shirt if you do

I don't think I even have to point out that one of the viable candidates has a fairly decent record on helping struggling families, and the other one has outwardly stated over and over again that he has no concern for poorer folks, people of color, people with disabilities, or immigrants. If you live in Massachusetts, you could vote for a third-party candidate and advance third-party visibility without doing any damage. If you live in a swing state, please just vote Democrat and don't risk our country electing a fascist just to make a point (even though it's one that I consider quite valid).

Also, once you've voted, go here and post proof and Imzy will send you a free t-shirt. Promos like this are pretty much how I get my pajamas and gardening clothes and whatnot.

If you don't have Imzy yet, check it out. It's still small, and doesn't have a whole lot going on, but it seems like it has big potential. If you haven't heard about it, it's a couple of Reddit founders who left Reddit and started up a similar site, except that while Reddit prides itself on free speech to the extreme, Imzy prides itself on respectful and helpful speech. I certainly value aspects of Reddit, like the frugal sub, and the subs dedicated to Swagbucks, Perk, and so forth. There are definitely a lot of smart people on there, as well as incredibly creative and funny folks, and there are a lot of good people who help complete strangers (whether it's with advice, money, logistics, connections, or whathaveyou). I can do without, however, the culture on most of the subs in which racism, sexism, ableism, and generally abusive speech is totally fine. I'm hoping that Imzy will get bigger and become the type of resource that Reddit is.

Fortune magazine also has a list of freebies and discounts for people who vote. A lot of them seem to be regional chains that aren't around here, but check it out.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Something deceived me, but I'm not sure what

This check showed up in the mail, for a generous $23.30. It took me the longest time to figure out what it was. I couldn't recall joining a class action suit with anything called News America Marketing Digital, but then, the same is so generic that it could have been anything. I did finally figure out that it's a reimbursement from Checkout 51, not a class action settlement. Checkout 51 still sends paper checks like it's 1964 or something. Hey, I guess it cuts down on people actually requesting them, since a lot of people probably don't bother, so if it keeps the program up and running, I'm happy to deal with the paper check nonsense. 

I didn't use Checkout 51 much until recently, since they use to only have small amounts off of obscure products. It's worth checking out (get it?) now, since they have a lot of major brands and their rebates overlap with the other apps and the Stop and Shop coupons, making for some nice stacked deals. I did get one rejection the other day though for using a paper coupon on top of the Checkout 51 deal, so beware. I've also had others that went through fine, including some where the brand name of the paper coupon did print on the receipt, so it's worth a try. The only downside is that the coupons are first-come, first-served, and are based on when you submit the receipt, not when you activate the deal. So you can go to the store and buy the product, and then it runs out of coupons before you can submit, which is annoying. Still, it's free money for things you would probably buy anyway, right?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Just scored two HomeChef meals for $2.75

Swagbucks has a deal right now that rewards 1500 Swagbucks instantly when you sign up for HomeChef and place your first order. Signing up costs $19.80. 1500 Swagbucks ends up being $17.05 in gift cards if you wait to redeem until you have 2200 and redeem it for $25, which is how you should always redeem to get the most value.

Just don't forget to cancel the subscription after your stuff shows up. I've been putting the date to cancel by on the Apple calendar for the ones that offer a 30-day trial membership (you don't want to cancel right away, or they can take your Swagbucks back), and for the mail-order ones, I just cancel as soon as my stuff shows up.

And of course, click the Swagbucks label to find out more about how it works, and use my referral code so we can both earn.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dinner for basically free

A couple days ago we harvested the last batch of veggies from our garden before everything gets frozen and ruined. The only thing left out there are herbs, which we leave since they tend to come back in the spring. We were fortunate to have enough tomatoes and peppers that I didn't have to add anything from the store or from cans. I would have preferred more than one onion for a pot of chili, but not enough to go out and buy one.

I basically threw everything in a pot, added WIC beans and some frozen corn kernels a local organization gave us a while back, and let it do its thing. I added some Adobo and a pinch of sugar when it got close to being done. (It's about 20 minutes from being done in this picture.) With all these vegetables, it was substantial enough to serve as an entire meal. Sometimes I also make bread or cornbread, or serve with chips and guacamole, but this time I just served it plain, and it was a big hit as usual.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Get paid to sign up for Hulu

Swagbucks has a deal right now that earns 1000 Swagbucks (worth $11.36 if you save up and redeem 2200 Swagbucks for $25) for signing up for a Hulu subscription, which start at $5.99 a month. Like all of the monthly subscription offers, don't cancel until at least 8 days later. Put it on your calendar to cancel a few days before they will bill you again.

And, obviously, if you don't have an account yet, sign up under mine so we can both earn. Thanks!

Yaarlo and Receipt Hog pay you for scanning receipts

I've started using these two apps, Yaarlo and Receipt Hog.

They work the same way; with both of them, you snap a picture of a receipt, and that's all. You then get a few cents per receipt. Yaarlo is a bit harder to redeem, and I believe it requires a gift card purchase to redeem, but you get a large percentage off of the price based on how many points you have. Yaarlo also gives you points for buying gift cards or shopping online through the site. Receipt Hog is straight redemption of your points, just like Swagbucks, Bing, Perk, etc. They allow you to scan online packing slips to an extent too; just read the FAQs as they differ in terms of what types of stores are included and so forth.

They're both pretty good so far. On Receipt Hog I'm almost up to a $5 Amazon Gift Card after a month of using it, and we all know I don't spend much money at retailers. Yaarlo is a little more frustrating, because more than 50% of the time I submit a receipt, it comes back saying it earned 0 points and/or classified as the wrong type of retailer. I have to go on their site every time and submit a help ticket (this is fortunately really easy -- just click the conversation bubble to the right of the receipt and type in a quick phrase and they'll fix it). So I have no idea how many actual points I have on Yaarlo or if I will keep using it once I do my first redemption

EDIT: If you join Yaarlo, use my code LOCOMOTI955, and we both get extra points. Thanks!

Friday, October 28, 2016

How did I not know about this Papa Gino's all you can eat thing?

I just found out about this a few days ago when a friend posted on social media about taking their family there.

It's $4.99 for all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta, then you can add salad, breadsticks, or meatballs for a dollar. Amazing. It's Monday through Wednesday 4-8pm. Definitely going to check this out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Free fruit at Stop and Shop

I was happy to see this when I walked into Stop and Shop a couple days ago. This is the Jackson Square Stop and Shop. I haven't yet noticed if others do it as well, but I'll be looking out for it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The free wine and the free $25 are back up on Swagbucks

The wine offer is back, and it looks like it's not quite free this time, as you get 2000 Swagbucks for the first order and 2000 for the second order a month later. Still, you get around $45 in Swagbucks (if you buy $25 gift cards for 2200 bucks) for buying eight bottles of wine for $64, so it ends up being $19 for eight bottles. That's cheaper than Three-Buck Chuck, and it comes in pretty bottles that are appropriate for giving people or opening with friends over.

The Fingerhut deal looks exactly the same as the one I did, which doesn't require you to buy anything to get the 2500 Swagbucks.

$98.64 for almost $300 worth of stuff

Here's my haul from Stop and Shop yesterday. Everything was done with online printable coupons and phone apps.

Leave me a comment or e-mail me if you can't figure out one of the deals, but I used the Stop and Shop coupons that load to the card,, a few other coupons I found via googling, Checkout 51, iBotta, and SavingStar. For the past few months, the Stop and Shop coupons have largely been duplicates of the ones on, which means you can stack them. The apps often duplicate them as well. FYI, the Fiber One and Nature Valley bar deals aren't worth it. It looks good on paper, since there are paper coupons and deals on Stop and Shop and all the apps, but the total discount is $2 for two boxes of Nature Valley and $2.50 for two boxes of Fiber One. The shelf prices are $3.69-$3.79. Not a good deal unless these are things you buy regardless. Dollar Tree has packs of various granola bars and cereal bars and they only cost, well, you know.

Quorn vegetarian chicken patties have been free for the past month or so. They're on sale for $2.50, iBotta has $1.25 off, and Checkout 51 has $1.50 off. You can only buy one per week with these apps, unfortunately, but hey, free stuff.

Old El Paso enchilada sauce is also free. Shelf price is $1.20, has a 30-cent coupon that gets doubled, Stop and Shop card has 30 cents off, and SavingStar has 30 cents off. iBotta has $1 off two Old El Paso products as well, so you could also toss in a seasoning packet or beans or something and get those for free. The iBotta deal says that purchase price of items must be at least one dollar, and I didn't know if they meant per item or total, so I didn't bother. All Old El Paso products are a percentage off this week (I think 30%?), so the seasoning packets are under a dollar. The rest of their products are closer to $2 or $3, so they don't work so well in these coupon deals and it's usually cheaper to just get store brand or Goya.

Speaking of, the SavingStar Goya products deal is back. You get $5 back if you spend $25 on Goya products. The $25 is based on shelf price, so feel free to use Goya coupons, which are readily available online. Last time this deal came up, I just made sure to buy Goya brand of staples (rice, beans, spices, oil, etc.) and got to the $25 quickly just buying things I would already be buying.

There's also a Purex SavingStar deal that's $5 off of $25. Purex large jugs and small jugs are both on sale at Stop and Shop this week. There are substantial coupons for Purex readily available online by googling. Remember, the $25 is based on shelf price, not what you paid. The shelf price for 150 oz is $9.99 (on sale for $8.99 this week) and the shelf price for 43.5 oz is $4.99 (on sale for $1.99 this week). Two of each gets you to $25 on SavingStar. I used $2 off coupons on each large jug and $1 off on the small ones. So after SavingStar, I'll end up paying about $11 for 387 ounces. It ends up being cheaper than even any store brand detergent I've found.

Stop and Shop has a great deal that ends on Friday where if you buy $20 worth of certain frozen items, you save $10. SuperPretzel and Outshine have coupons available right now, which it let me use in addition to the store deal. SuperPretzel is also on SavingStar this week. Outshine has been on various coupon deals before, particularly at Target. For a while, they only made huge bars that came six to a pack. They were good, but they were kind of ridiculous. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they now make small cylindrical pops that come 12 to a box.

Tic-Tacs are nearly free. There's a BOGO coupon on, then iBotta has 50 cents off of some flavors and 75 cents off others. Shelf price is $1.49. Make sure you get two different flavors, like I failed to do, so you can redeem two different iBotta rebates.

Larabar (excuse me, Lärabar) multipacks of five bars are $4.99. There are $1 off deals on, Stop and Shop, Checkout51, and SavingStar. Which means the packs cost less than one bar. Make sure you get the 5-pack, not the 16-pack, which is $22 or something.

Glade has amazing stackable deals as always. Wax melts and small jar candles are $3.14 each through November 3. Stop and Shop has $2 off 3 items and iBotta has 75 cents of wax melts and 75 cents off two jar candles. The items end up being $1.97 each, which is cheaper than IKEA or store brand candles pretty much anywhere, except for Dollar Tree, but theirs are tiny and they usually only have this awful fake vanilla scent. Thanks, Glade, for making my kids' rooms not smell like armpits and the bathroom not smell like cat whiz.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AdSense "insufficient content" rejections when the content is just fine

AdSense finally approved me! For anyone who's getting the "insufficient content" rejection on a real blog with real content, the issue is probably that you need a "contact us" page and a privacy policy. I added some barebones pages, including a privacy policy that I found through a quick google search, and this time they approved me. Don't bother asking on the AdSense forums why you're getting this rejection; the "experts" will tell you that it's because your content is plagiarized, your English isn't great, or the content isn't real content that anyone would want to read. When I tried this, I then replied to them that I've done plenty of professional writing and this isn't the case, and they were just rude and told me to learn to write better. Um, thanks? No one told me it was the privacy policy and contact page. I managed to find this out from another blogger. Try adding these pages, and you'll likely get approved.

While we're on the subject, please consider turning off adblockers. I used to use one all the time. But I then realized that more than half of the pages I visit are independent writers and people who are starting home businesses. I want to support these people. When we block the ads on their pages, they don't get paid for the ad impression, and there's no change we will ever surf on through to the advertiser's page, because we can't see the ad. Right now I'm only using the adblocker on a few major corporate pages (Facebook, I'm talking to you), but not using it as a default, because I don't want to take away income from small pages owned by individuals. I don't have a lot of money to donate to people, and I generally can't afford to shop local small businesses like I'd like to, but I can support them for free by not blocking their ads. Please consider doing this as well. Please and thank you!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Harvard has even more museums than I knew about, and you can visit for free. Be careful if you like your flesh intact though.

My family and I have recently discovered the Harvard museums. We had been to Natural History and one of the art museums, each as part of a free one-time event, but I had no idea about the museums that don't charge admission at all, or that they have free days that are more than the hour or so once a month that most of the museums offer. I also didn't know that the others existed outside of Natural History and two art museums.

So, here's my roundup of the museums:

Harvard Museum of Natural History

It mainly features taxidermied animals. It also has dinosaur and other prehistoric skeletons and models, a huge whale skeleton, blown glass models of marine life, and an interactive ecology forest geared toward toddlers and preschoolers. It's $12 for adults, $8 for kids, free under 3. So, like half as much as most of the museums in the area. Admission to this museum gets you into the Peabody Museum as well. They have two free days for Massachusetts residents, Sunday 9am-12pm and Wednesday 3pm-5pm. It's also free for K-12 teachers and active duty military families. Passes are also available at public libraries, which admit up to 4 people for $6.

They also offer classes on various topics for children and families (some are drop-off, others are not), which are all either free or reasonably priced. A child in my household attended a free class on spiders last year, which was fabulous, and was taught by female scientists, which I thought was great. 

Can we talk about this pin though? It's got teeth. Not only did it stay on my clothes without sliding around whatsoever, but it also bore down and refused to move at all. I had to pry the jaws open, several times since the first few times it snapped back shut, threatening to take my finger with it, and delicately slide my shirt out of it one tooth at a time so it didn't rip any flesh fabric. I give the museum an extremely positive rating. It's great for kids and adults alike. This pin though. 

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

This one has weapons from various cultures and eras, amazing ancient pottery from various regions of the world, an exhibit on ocarinas, several exhibits on Native American (north, central, and south Americas) history and culture, and a Dio de Los Muertos altar. It's pretty captivating for all ages.

Same admission rates and same free days at Natural History. They're adjoining, and getting into one via any rate gets you into both. Unsure whether this museum involves vicious maneating pins.

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

Just what it says. It's always free. Doesn't require any pins, demonically possessed or otherwise.

Semitic Museum

Has a model of a mud house from Ancient Israel, Ancient Egyptian funerary arts (but not actual mummies -- the MFA has some if you need to get a fix), pottery from various locations and eras in the Middle East. Nice explanations of how these cultures (and Ancient Roman and Greek cultures to an extent) intersected in ancient times. Probably not quite as interesting for preschool kids unless they're specifically interested in the topic, though the house might interest them. Always free, doesn't involve any attempts to slash flesh or rip clothing (which, while we're on the subject of ancient Israelites, tearing clothing is part of an ancient Hebrew mourning tradition called Kriah. The more you know.™)

Harvard Art Museums: Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, Sackler

Admission covers all three museums. $15 for adults, free under 18. Free for Massachusetts residents Saturdays from 10am-12pm. The museums all feature a lot of modern art, and collections that change frequently. Check the website for specific information, or just go visit. I don't recall whether these museums involve being maimed by angry bloodthirsty pins.

Warren Anatomical Museum (in the Longwood area)

Free. Has instruments, photos, human remains. Really cool. Has photos of people flaying open bodies, but no pins that do so.

Membership to the museums

$85 for a family, can be less if you have a Harvard ID (I believe you can use any type, including folks who work at Children's Hospital and so forth). I could have sworn that it gives admission to the art museums and the history/cultural museums, but now it's looking like they're two memberships? Might be worth a call.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Got free lunch and a bunch of other free stuff yesterday

I really should have posted about this before the fact, so people could hit it up, but it's been crazy around here and it slipped my mind, so, sorry about that. However, the Boston Vegetarian Festival happens every year, so sign up for their social media or e-mails and be reminded next year.

For those who haven't been, the major downside is that it's packed. A few years ago they started running it for two days instead of one, which cuts down on the crowds, but it's still pretty crazy. It also unfortunately attracts a lot of young self-absorbed types who block aisles, don't say excuse me when they shove through your space, and swing their bags (generally covered in homemade patches about various radical views they'll hold deeply for a couple years until they get married and have a kid and move to the suburbs) into people.

If you can get past this though, it's a great event, and you get a ton of free stuff. Our family got a free huge lunch by walking around and taking samples. Some of the vendors give out little toothpicks of things, but others give out nearly a whole portion of what they have. Many of the vendors sampling South Asian and African food gave us sizeable amounts of curries and other dishes. So Delicious had full-size coconut milk ice cream bars. We also got many packaged samples -- containers of hummus, packages of seitan jerky, trial size soaps and lotions. Oh, and coupons! Most of the vendors of large national brands (Lightlife, Follow Your Heart, Cedar's, So Delicious, Dr. Bronner's) had coupons for a dollar off a product. And speaking of Dr. Bronner's, their table was covered in the same hilarious bizarrely punctuated and capitalized propaganda that's all over the bottles of soap. I couldn't get a very good picture, because the place was packed, but I present for your amusement the photos that I did manage:

All-One! Exceptions Eternally? Absolute None!
We loved the number of women-owned and people-of-color-owned businesses we saw this year. This has been quite a welcome change from the first time we went several years ago. We met some great folks who own local businesses. Three of our favorite -- all three Black-owned, the first two woman-owned, the third woman-co-owned -- were Saffiyah Botanicals from Roslindale, Lyndigo Spice from Dorchester, and Global Village Cuisine, from Vermont but sold at Whole Foods.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Calories per dollar chart

This article and accompanying chart is an interesting way to think about eating cheaply. I think I would have guessed the highest was rice or peanut butter, or possibly ramen, not flour or white bread. I was also surprised that pasta and oats were so high up there on the list. Of course, some of these things require cooking, so there's labor and energy costs that aren't factored in; you can't really eat flour and would have to at the very least mix it with water and cook it to make it into noodles or flatbread. Still, the list is useful. I imagine I'll refer to it when I get anxious about finances, and remind myself that it is in fact possible to stay alive on a couple hundred dollars a year. Assuming we're in the urban U.S. or somewhere similar, we would surely get enough other foods even if all we were purchasing was rice or white bread. Think about all the places the average person eats for free -- samples at stores, work events where food is provided, free talks that have a snack table, and so forth. It wouldn't be optimal nutrition, but it would be enough to keep us from getting scurvy or whatever it is people who only eat one food get.

Of course, anyone who's looked at my blog before knows that there are better ways to get cheap (and tastier, and healthier) food than buying just full-price flour or rice. There's Fair Foods, couponing, food banks, and so forth. If you're in the Boston area, you could actually go to Fair Foods every week or every other week, then buy some combination of rice and flour, and have some pretty decent (if a little boring) eating, with produce served with rice or flatbreads. This would allow you to eat for a couple hundred dollars per person per year.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

WTHDIDWTV: OK, not really

When I brought this Fair Foods haul home, someone in my household immediately said, "apparently today they gave us stew." (That yellow item is a yellow tomato, not an orange.) So, yeah, this wasn't a hard one to figure out what to do with. I'm tagging it as WTHDIDWTV anyway though, because it's still something we figured out to make with produce that was available at Fair Foods, rather than something we decided to make and then acquired ingredients for.

We chopped everything up, added a bag of lentils from WIC, and put it in the slow cooker with some seasonings for most of the day. We got several meals out of the pot of stew, and actually had a kid who was aggravated to find that they'd been beaten to the leftovers. I wouldn't have expected that with something so seemingly boring, but it was surprisingly popular.

This was a particularly great Fair Foods bag, because we literally didn't have to add anything to the vegetables to make a desirable meal, except for the lentils that I chose to add to make it more filling. The bag included enough tomatoes that I didn't need to add any tomato products, and enough onions and potatoes to make a nice well-rounded stew. The bag also included a bunch of bananas and some crusty bread, which we ate with the stew. Not bad, getting several meals for $2, with bananas to spare.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

An easy way to sell more stuff on eBay: Know your first-class shipping rates

Much of what I've been selling on eBay is single items of clothing, single or small lots of household items (many of which I'm flipping from Dollar Tree or Savers), books, and so forth. Most of these are 16 ounces or under, which means you can send them first class if you buy the postage through a commercial account, which eBay's postage portal is. (FYI, books, CDs, sheet music, and similar can be sent via media mail, but it isn't cheaper until you hit a pound, and I don't believe eBay discounts it.)

For whatever reason, eBay doesn't account for the steeply discounted postage rates they give you. Especially for first-class mail, the commercial account is substantially cheaper than the retail price. But when you enter the size and weight of your item, the price it shows (and charges the customer...) is the higher price you'd pay at the post office counter.

For the clothing item I just sold, which is 14 ounces, eBay listed the shipping at $6.45. The actual price I paid for shipping was $3.55. This is an item I listed a month ago, before I really thought about the shipping rates, so someone did eventually buy it and I got to pocket the difference.

This item did sell, and someone was willing to pay the rather high shipping rate. However it would have likely sold more quickly had I listed the shipping at $3.55. So what I did today was create more shipping policies. See the chart I made? The commercial rate is what eBay charges for first-class packages if you buy the postage through the eBay website, and the retail rate is what you'd pay at the post office, and also what eBay charges the buyer.

The only way I could figure out to reflect the shipping discounts other than manually entering it on every listing was to create shipping policies. I didn't want to make nine separate shipping polices (I might next time I get bored...), but I created two policies, one called "1-8 ounces, $2.60 flat" and one called "9-16 ounces, $3.65 flat." Now, the buyer is paying considerably less for shipping at most weights. (Nine ounces seems to be an anomaly. I'll work on more policies eventually.) For shipping prices like $2.60 vs. $2.62 or $3.65 vs. $3.78, I doubt most buyers notice or care. But at some weights, my items are now listed at $3.65 shipping instead of $6.45, or $2.60 instead of $3.40, which is surely going to make my items sell faster.