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.

 

the corona chronicles, day 14: a lot of walking, but nowhere to go

It’s been two weeks since the governor issued stay-at-home orders. I have to admit, it’s a lifestyle I can get into. I’ve worked from home for thirty years, and although I work twenty-five hours outside the house now, I still work from home when there are publishing projects. In fact, being at my desk at home is still my happy (work)place.

woman walking toward black sedan parked in front of colorful houses
                                                              walking is the new everything                                                                                                                                              Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

But we need to exercise, to get out and get some fresh air and sunshine. So we walk. And we walk. And we walk some more. We can’t walk in parks. We can’t walk on the beaches. We can’t hike in the mountains or even on hills, for that matter. But still, those of us who are mobile will strap on our sneakers and get outside, even for a ten-minute trek. I have always wished to own acres of land, a private place where I could walk all the time.  Wouldn’t that be nice right about now?

I’m just thankful to have a small backyard and an even smaller front yard. There’s a swimming pool in the back, which I will be ever so grateful for this summer, and I do believe this thing is going to drag into the summer months. I feel sorry for people who are crammed into tiny apartments, trailers, or living outdoors. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head where I can wait out this virus.

Yesterday, I had to pick up my dog’s insulin at a Walmart pharmacy inside a Walmart Neighborhood Market. I hadn’t been out to any store in two weeks. My last grocery run was actually run to to me. I had placed an order from Target and it was delivered to my door.

But Walmart pharmacy doesn’t have a delivery service, so I braved the store. There were fewer people than the last time I ventured in three weeks ago. Some items were still totally removed from shelves, namely toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes. But paper towels, a few packs anyway, were in the store. I grabbed one, which is the limit.

I am anxious now when shopping for groceries, so I tend to rush through. I got about 90 percent of what I had come in for and grabbed a few items I didn’t. I’ve been making dinner every night lately, and it’s actually something I look forward to–the cooking routine as well as the eating. And I want to make food we all really like. Fresh meat and chicken are still in stores, thankfully, and so are fresh vegetables. I can make plenty of good meals out of what I brought home yesterday.

It’s very likely Governor Newsom may ask us all to not leave the house without a face covering. He is doing everything in his power to tamp down the spread of this disease. He was fast to act initially, and we are benefiting from it. I will probably have to wear a mask to get my groceries next time. I will put on gloves as well. Heck, I will wear a hazmat suit if that’s what it takes to keep myself and my family healthy. Even if I have to wear it on a walk.

my first grocery delivery (or, i could get used to this)

I just placed my first grocery delivery order, and I could get very, very used to this concept.

cart

 

I’ve been laid up for the past week. Six days ago I had hand surgery, and two days after that I came down with the absolute worst stomach bug of my entire life. I will spare readers the gory details, but let me say when I was done using the bathroom, a Civil War battlefield would have looked more pleasing.

The violent episodes lasted a good twelve hours straight, with no feeling of that semi-relief one usually gets in between. I contracted the illness from my son, who came down with it just an hour or so after my husband and I returned from my surgery with a fast-food dinner. I’d had my favorite sandwich of all, an original chicken; my currently pescatarian husband had fish; and we picked up a whopper of a burger for the twenty-year-old. About a half hour after eating, my son became sick. He was so bad, my husband took him to the ER, where he was given an anti-nausea drug, morphine for the pain he was experiencing in his back, and then an IV drip when he wasn’t getting any better.

Thinking it was food poisoning and that food poisoning wasn’t contagious, I didn’t worry too much as I helped him the next day, my dominant hand in a cast and all. Then without warning and with about a half dozen chicken wings in my belly, my body got to experience the nasty virus for itself. Needless to say, it ranks as one of the worst weeks of my life.

Being unable to fend for myself, which is just awful for a perfectionist who runs the household, I had to have my older son make quick runs to the pharmacy and the store for me. When I thought of more things we needed when he wasn’t here, I asked my husband to get a few items yesterday. My husband can do many things well. He’s a hard worker, he is a good friend, he keeps the yard up, and he is conscientious, but he doesn’t run many of the household errands. Therefore, the list I gave him got a bit tweaked, shall we say? Coconut milk came home as coconut water (yuck), medical tape came home as the impossible-to-tear type (I have one hand here. Come on), and a rotisserie chicken was substituted with overpriced, gluten-free-bread-crusted shrimp. What? But I’m used to disappointment.

So, this morning, knowing I had to place an order for a mega bag of dog food from Target, I added on a few grocery items: actual coconut milk (for the curry I envision making sometime this week, when I magically get better and feel like eating), a loaf of sourdough bread that isn’t falling apart (as my husband informed me yesterday of the one loaf I’d purchased ten days ago), fresh vegetables, a pack of extra large bandages to cover my wound, Gatorade, and a few other items.

My order was placed around 8:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. drop-off. I received a cheery text when the food was purchased and loaded into the shopper’s vehicle and she was on her way. Within ten minutes, the bags were unloaded and placed on my doorstep. I grabbed the few items and put them away. It was by far the easiest grocery shopping experience of my lifetime. I love you, Internet! I love you, Target! I love you, first person to think this was a great idea!

Will I grocery shop online again? By golly, yes! I may even try my local grocery stores or Amazon, though I was pleased with the promptness and service of Target, and the fact that I could also add on a few non-grocery items that the shopper could grab as well. The delivery fee, because I didn’t spend a certain amount, was a bit steep (about $10). I thought it was worth it, though, given the time I would have wasted going to the store and the gas money to get there and back. Plus, I’m still very under the weather.

Science and technology can’t do everything. They certainly can’t free us from pain, illness, and suffering, but they can deliver our groceries when we’re in need. My hat’s off to that.

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.