the corona chronicles, day 20: where has all the flour gone?

Supplies of flour, yeast, and toilet paper are still scarce online, and price gouging is in full force during the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like a 12-pack of cans of mixed Coke and Pepsi flavors (I mean, what are these, the leftovers no one drank at the last summer barbecue at the Bezos house in 2019?), you will be set back by $24.99 on Amazon.com. And if you choose to spend that much on soda, you’d better not be all that thirsty, because you’re likely to get those mismatched cans  (all with sugar, nothing diet) by May if you’re lucky.

If you’re not willing to wait, you could place an Amazon Fresh order or one through Amazon affiliate, Whole Foods Market. Go ahead, look through the bounty of products offered through Fresh and Whole Foods. Why, you would be able to buy your entire week’s worth of groceries, even getting fresh produce, meat, and dairy products delivered right to your door. Or would you?grocery

I have more than 90 items in my Amazon cart divided up between Fresh and Whole Foods, and yet I cannot check out or even select a delivery time from either one. Every delivery day offered is filled every time I go on the site to purchase. This has been ongoing for the past five days. At first, I was elated to be able to select fresh foods on Amazon and have them brought to my house. Now I realize that I can order all I want; they’ll just not get delivered to me. Ever.

I could try Target.com again and have someone from Shipt do the shopping and deliver the food to me. But the last time I did that a few weeks back, I received two-thirds of the items I had selected. The reduced load had brought my free shipping fee up to $9.99, without my knowing it, and I threw in a $20 tip to the Shipt person. So, I basically paid $30 to get an inferior selection of food (the Shipt worker substituted cheese sticks for mozzarella, for instance, and two bags of mixed cauliflower and broccoli florets that were turning brown for fresh broccoli).

Not wanting to relive that experience and knowing that Shipt workers are feeling undervalued by Target and demanding better working conditions, I braved a local grocery store. I chose the one closest to my home, just a mile away, which is an independent grocer. This store has gotten me through tough times before, namely the Great Grocery Strike of 2003 (it’s a union shop, but on a different contract than what governed employees at the Big 3 grocers at the time).

asparagusI knew this store would come through again. And boy, did it! I was able to find everything I needed, only having to sub another yogurt for my preferred brand, which was out. Still, I was able to find my favorite sourdough bread, all the veggies I needed, fresh chicken breast and beef (which I’ve taken up eating again since it’s sometimes easier to find than chicken or fish), the elusive flour and, hallelujah, toilet paper! There weren’t bundles of Charmin or Angel Soft, mind you, but rather hundreds of individually wrapped commercial-grade toilet paper rolls. Shoppers are limited to four single rolls, and I came home with all four along with knowing that if everyone takes the maximum, the amount on the shelves still should last another couple weeks.

I got everything I’ll need for Easter dinner as well: a spiral ham, cabbage, and a 10-pound bag of potatoes. And I threw in a bottle of rosé to boot, because nothing makes cooking every night more pleasurable than imbibing in a bottle of wine.keils

What my local grocer did was not only give me the food and non-perishables I needed, but restore my faith by reassuring me I won’t go hungry–or without toilet paper–during this pandemic unless, that is, I solely place my orders through Amazon.com.

 

konmari in reverse (or, when is it collecting and not hoarding?)

I began to embrace the KonMari method of decluttering back in the winter, after reading one of Marie Kondo’s books and watching her brief but uber-popular Netflix series Tidying Up.

konmari

I learned to fold like a pro, transforming my sloppy T-shirts, pants, and underwear drawers into happy, organized things of beauty. Gone were piles of shirts of all sizes, shapes, and colors smothering one another. In their place are uniform rows of items folded the exact same way. Now when I open my T-shirt drawers (one for short-sleeved tops and the other for long- and three-quarter-sleeved shirts) I can spy with my little eye everything I own.

I also attacked my closet and kept what sparked joy, of course, and discarded what didn’t. I KonMari-ed my bookshelves too and finally freed myself of all those small-type, yellowed paperbacks from college lit classes that I just “knew” I’d read again and again but never did. Goodbye, Sister Carrie. So long, Madame Bovary. And take David Copperfield with you too, please.

I attempted to free the house of DVDs as well, but this is one category I’m stuck on as I visualize my future grandkids popping in Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or any one of the Harry Potter series. I have no grandchildren yet, and all my own kids are no longer that. So the DVDs from their childhood sit idle on the shelves these days, except, of course, at the holidays, when  Charlie Brown and Linus as well as the Grinch come to life once again.

As for the adult DVDs, there are a handful I’ll watch again and again. Sleepless in Seattle, Dan in Real Life, and Steel Magnolias come to mind. But since I love these films as much as I do, of course I’ve purchased digital copies from Amazon, making them accessible anytime on every electronic device imaginable.

So why then do I hang on to the DVDs? I could argue that the boxes’ art and descriptions are as cherished as the films themselves, kind of like album covers of old. Or I could say that they don’t take up much space at all since they’re so thin. Okay, these are reasonable arguments for hanging on to the greats, but what about all the rest?

And more importantly, why am I adding to the collection?dvds

That’s right. Since quitting my library job in December, where thousands of DVDs were at my fingertips, I have been going to thrift stores and book sales at neighborhood libraries and purchasing not only books I’ll likely never read, but DVDs too, many of which I have already seen or, like the books, will never take advantage of. But there are some movies that I was very fond of in the past and hadn’t seen in so long that I just had to have a copy. I’ve watched a few. Roxanne, for one, was as good as I remember it; Say Anything, not so much.

My daughter who tends to be more like her dad in the clutter department suggested I purchase the movies, watch them, and re-donate. What a great, practical idea! If only I could. I’m afraid once the Terminator has entered the building, there’s not much I can do to make him leave. I’ve thought of reselling my DVDs on Craigslist or eBay or etsy, and I may do this with the duplicates because–woe is me–there have been times I’ve purchased a second copy of a movie I had just bought a few weeks back, not recalling whether I had it!

Anyway, they are slim, they’re good for a couple hours of entertainment, and they’re cheap. Some things, Marie Kondo will agree, are worth keeping because they spark joy again and again.

Poll: If you were stuck on a desert island, assuming there was electricity and plenty of shade and popcorn, which movies would you bring with you (chances are I have them on my shelves)?

 

why so much? figuring out why certain everyday items cost a small fortune

I was in a charity thrift store today picking up a small table lamp, when I had, shall we say, a light bulb moment: Being that there were none at the thrift store, I realized I would have to buy a shade for the lamp elsewhere that would probably cost me three times as much as the lamp itself.

Why is that? Why are lampshades so expensive? They are made of paper or cloth and are attached by aluminum spokes. What’s the big deal there?

The cheapest shade I can find at Target for my small iron lamp is $9.99–or $4 more than I paid for the lamp. And the least expensive at Pottery Barn runs $28–more than four times the cost of the lamp!

I am at times befuddled by the price of certain items. It defies logic, for instance, that a hand towel would cost just a little less than a bath towel that is many times larger. And sometimes (see my example from Kohl’s below) hand towels cost even more than bath towels:

bath towl

hand towel

 

Even with the buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, two 16- by 28-inch hand towels would be $12, while two 30- by 54-inch bath towels of the same brand would be $10. Say what?

Printer ink is another example. The cost of a Canon all-in-one printer on Amazon currently runs at $69.99.

canon printer

The ink to put in that very printer, however, costs $56.99 for a pack of color ink and one black cartridge.

color ink

If you want to add in another black–because don’t we always run out of black ink before color?—that’ll set you back another $22.

black ink

Any dummy could see it would be less expensive to throw out the printer when the ink runs dry and buy a new one. For the sake of the environment, I don’t advocate such a move, but manufacturers have consumers over a barrel by charging exorbitant prices for the materials that make the technology useful.

There are other items as well that are uber cheap to make and dispense but cost a small fortune for the sake of convenience. Movie theater popcorn and soda and wine at restaurants are some examples. Since most people don’t (shouldn’t?) bring in their own popcorn or Coke to see the latest blockbuster, it kind of makes sense that theaters would sell a bucket of popcorn costing $0.20 to make for $8.50. It’s simply good economic sense when considering the overhead.

But these other items, like printer ink, make very little sense at all. I mean, do people buy that many more bath towels than hand towels and, therefore, making the smaller items is not as cost effective for companies? I doubt it. Or do people really go without lampshades, making them a luxury item? I think not.

If anyone can tell me why some things cost so much–and if you can provide more examples–please comment below. In the meantime, I’ll be busy cutting my 1,620-square-inch bath towels into 448-square-inch hand towels.