Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rules of Couponing and Building a Stockpile

I was a lucky kid. I had 3 sets of grandparents. This was because one of my biological parents died when I was very young and I got to be adopted by another parent. So, I had 3 sets of grandparents. Two of those sets of grandparents were active preparedness and self sufficiency practitioners. Meaning that two sets of my grandparents, not ironically the two sets I was most familiar with, did things like garden, can their own food, and practice food storage and stockpiling.

Today, when we hear the word "stockpile", we think of hoarders. That's because this lifestyle went out in the early 80's with modern convenience. But, some of us still practice it. FEMA now recommends that you have at least 3 days of food and water in your house. I think that's a pathetically low estimate to shoot for. After 3 days, if the disaster is bad enough, you're screwed. Have a 72 hour kit, you say? Okay, I'll admit, I've got a 72 hour kit. Wanna know what it's for? It's for me getting the hell out of dodge, as they say. If I'm relying on that 72 hours worth that FEMA recommends, it means that shit has gotten bad enough for me to GTFO, so to speak.

No, my grandparents would never have sat back on their laurels with only 72 hours of supplies on hand. I can imagine the panic attacks they would have had just being that low on supplies. The apples don't fall far from the trees as they say, and my brother and I both practice preparedness and stockpiling. We don't hoard, we can actually walk through our homes and if you were to enter one of them you wouldn't really know we actually had food storage or stockpiles.

I don't do couponing the way that you see on reality TV. I don't go into the CVS, mainly because we don't even have a CVS, and come out with 17 lugs of Arm and Hammer. I don't walk into the store and load up a cart with $300 worth of groceries and walk out after paying only $11. First of all, you can't even do that here. We don't have enough grocery stores and places to shop to do that. We have Walmart, United and Dollar General. And, we stay the hell out of Dollar General, more on that later.

Here are my rules and ways of couponing and stockpiling.

1. Don't Shop During Peak Hours

Nothing pisses off an entire checkout line full of people like a woman and her coupons. Couponers are second class citizens these days. The reason for that is all the trash TV like Extreme Couponing that give honest couponers a bad name. It's all good if you take up people's time because your debit card magnetic strip is worn out and it won't read your card. Or if you take up other people's time freaking out over your EBT card, or even having them do a price check on all 400 items in your cart at the cashier. But, if you pull out a wad of coupons here, you might as well have announced to the entire store that Jesus Christ never existed. And, by the way, the machine never wants to scan the coupons. It takes the cashier like a minute and a half on each coupon to get the shitty machine to scan it. How do you make that worse? Shop at 5 o'clock on a Friday night. Or at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon.

Hell on Earth.

I shop during non peak hours only. Lately, that's been 9am on Thursday mornings. However, that's about to change because apparently there are more unemployed people hanging out in the stores than usual lately. It was packed today. That ain't right. I've also shopped after 9pm on a Sunday. By far the best time, I'll probably return to that. Bottom line is, the only time I consider it okay to even enter a store during a peak time or during any kind of rush event, is when it's an emergency.

2. Only Two Coupons For the Same Item Per Trip

We don't have extremers here in my neck of the woods. It's not possible to do that here, so I've never seen one. However, I can only imagine that gnashing of teeth involved with being behind a person in a checkout line who's got 70 coupons for the same item. Not only that, but shelf clearing is not okay, ever. I buy two like items with coupons at one time, never more than that. If I've got more coupons and it's a great deal, I do back later for two more. Never more than two.

3. Don't.Buy.Coupons!

Most of the coupon fraud going on right now is a direct result of people purchasing coupons from clipping services and ebay. I don't do it and I don't condone it. I print my coupons (this might be changing since coupons printed at home are even harder to scan than the regular newspaper coupons) and get them from the Sunday paper. I pay for 3 Sunday papers a week. This is more than enough coupons for me.

4. Don't Stress About My Percentage Saved

Times are tough. I know that. But, you know what? Adults were saying this when I was 6. That was in 1977. Times have always been tough. That's part of life. My goal is to save money. However, my goal is not to reduce my grocery bill 90%. In fact, I almost consider that highway robbery. I'm not opposed to paying for my groceries, I would just like a moderate discount.

That said, if I happen to end up getting free stuff along the way, I consider that a win. But, I am in no way aiming for free anything. It's not really even possible here, except for maybe once in a blue moon, so, I don't sweat it.

5. Buy Only What Is On Sale

This takes time. If I had more stores to pick from, this would have been easier to do. There is an initial investment to build a stockpile. And, until you actually have a stockpile, you will be paying full price for almost everything. Meal planning based on sales works, but it can work better if you have a stockpile. Today, my shopping list is built on 85% sale items. But, I didn't start out that way. I started out buying extras of everything we use. 

If I was buying toothpaste that week, I bought two. Sometimes three. If I was buying cans of tomato sauce, I bought 5. After awhile, I noticed that since I had been building the stockpile based on our menus, I had a store built up and I could add more sale items to the list. Now, I build the list almost entirely out of sale items. The items on it that aren't on sale are usually on one of my prep lists and I need to start getting them.

I do my sale lists a bit differently. I can't just write down a sale item on a list and go buy it from the store it's on sale at. If I did that, I would not be saving the maximum amount of money that I could save. Instead, I add whatever is on the United Supermarket sale ad to my list. I also write down on it the price. If I can get a better deal at Walmart, then I get it there. Sometimes, I don't get the brand name that's even on sale. I get something cheaper. I was going to get the item anyway, now I'm going to get it the cheapest way I can.

Once in awhile, it happens that something is on sale and I happen to have a coupon for it. I love those times and that's the only way I use coupons. I don't use them on any full priced items. Sale items only. This means I have a lot of expired coupons that I don't get to use, but it also means that I saved when I could. Rarely, I can get cheaper store brand items for even cheaper than sale items plus the coupon. 

6. Stay the Hell Out of the Dollar General!

I used to love Dollar stores. I used to love them because everything in them was a dollar. No so anymore. Most things at Dollar General are not even as cheap as I can get them in Walmart unless they're on sale. Dollar General is like Walmart-Lite.

Secondly, our Dollar General used to occupy a large industrial type building. Then they rebuilt another building for it and moved. That building is like a match box. It's tiny! The aisle shelves are so close together that you feel like you're in the trash compactor in Star Wars! Seriously, the building isn't even 1/4th as big as the last building they were in. Why they moved, I have no idea. It was a bad idea, to say the very least. 

Did I mention they're sitting on top of a hill? And, that the parking lot is on a very steep incline? Yeah, there's that.

The third reason is the most polarizing. I mean no disrespect with what I'm about to say, but, some will no doubt take offense. Dollar General, at least here where I live, is the EBT mecha of my town. It is full of food stamp recipients from the minute the doors open until they close at night. This is not automatically a bad thing.

The thing is, once you get there for their sales, there's nothing left there. It's usually wiped out on sale items about 4 hours after their new sale ad comes out. The store isn't big enough to stock for even the population of this town. So, it sort of means, that by default, it's not worth it to go there because the food stamps have wiped out the sale. On top of that, I dare you to pull out even one coupon in my Dollar General. The slant ways looks you get are mind boggling. It's okay to pull out EBT cards in there, no one even looks at you cross eyed. Take out coupons and suddenly you're wearing a t-shirt that says, "I'm a baby eating Satanist! RAWRRRRR!". Saving money is on par with Satanism, here.

So far we have:

It's not cheaper than Walmart. It's not even a dollar!

It's a tiny building, are we about to die in here?!

What is this, the apocalypse?!

Waste of time, cats, waste.of.time.

7. Only Buy Stuff You Use or Can Donate

The bone that I have to pick with extreme couponing is that most of the time I see people just buying random shit simply because they can get it for free. I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to those people and assume they're donating it. But, I watched a video of a girl buying Glucerna shakes and admitting she's not diabetic. I can't imagine why she just had to buy those shakes, but I'm going to assume she donated them to the nursing homes. Please. Let that be a reality.

I donate some items every week to my son's day-habilitation center. This week it's two twelvers of lime soda. Sometimes it's giant bottles of Germ-X. My son has Down Syndrome, so he goes to a day hab two days a week. These people are a great place to donate sale items. If I ever do score anything I can't use, it will go to either the day hab, his former teachers and aides at the high school, or one of our nursing homes.

Other than that, I do not buy anything that we don't use. I don't buy 15 bottles of laundry detergent simply because I make my own. I might buy 1 bottle and donate it. If there ever comes a time when I can actually do a CVS sale and take advantage of what they have to offer, I will end up buying things just to donate them.

My stockpile took me months to accumulate. And, none of it, so far, has been free. It's all cost me money, as well as, gas and time. I save about 20% on my bill right now. That will change as my stock grows and changes. There will come a time when I only spend half of what we spend right now. I look forward to that day.

So, there you have it. Those are my 7 basic rules for practicing what I consider to be basic fundamentals of cottage witchcraft. Stockpiling and preparedness. This was more about stockpiling today, but I will get into preparedness later on in another entry.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Family, Food and Football Day

Thanksgiving has always bothered me. The reasons that it bothers me have piled up, one on top of the other, over the years.

Let's cover the elephant in the room, first. Thanksgiving is one big, giant, American lie. The pilgrims and American Indians didn't share a Thanksgiving meal in 1621. Thanksgiving was first introduced in 1637, by then Massachusetts Governor Winthrop, to celebrate the troops returning from massacring 700 Pequot Indians. Gov. Winthrop decreed that their safe return from the massacre was "God's will" and therefore, they would observe a day of Thanksgiving to God for it. America as tried to whitewash that event since the 1930's and school children are taught a giant lie. All of those symbols we've seen with happy pilgrims sharing a meal with happy native indians, all bs.

Now, this is only the most recent reason I wrestle with Thanksgiving Day. I only found out the truth about this in the last 5 years. Ain't the internet a wonderful thing? But, this one is probably the strongest reason, for me. In the last 7 years, I've also learned that I have ties to two different American Indian tribes. Lakota Sioux and Cherokee. Cherokee from the 1700's, and my grandfather was 1/2 Sioux Indian. So, naturally, the symbolism that comes with Thanksgiving hits a raw nerve with me. Couple that with the fact that my damned relatives denied that we had American Indian heritage my entire life, resulting in myself and my kids never being exposed to traditions, and I get rather testy about the subject. I feel robbed, quite frankly.

Then, there's the subject of Thanksgiving food. Maybe it's just the family I grew up in, but there wasn't anything appetizing about Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe the stuffing. Maybe. Perhaps the pumpkin pie, something I almost worship as sacred, perhaps. Other than that, Thanksgiving has nothing to offer me in the fine dining department. This is how I see Thanksgiving dinner.

I don't know those people, I got this image from Wikipedia. There's probably food on that table somewhere, there appears to be a turkey up there by the man at the head of the table. But, "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner doesn't get much more interesting than this. And, these people appear to be praying to God. But, for what?? For all the "blessings" we **Washichu have been given?? Oh, that's right, this.

Lastly, how about the Thanksgiving themed PTSD? Just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner sends my anxiety into the stratosphere and I don't even live in the same state as the people who made that the case! Thanksgiving dinner in my family was the day that all my clinically insane relatives from one side of the family congregated in the same house for an entire day to argue and fight and subject my brother and I to hour after hour of crazy and lunacy. Or, alternately, the mostly normal relatives from the other side of the family congregated to make us eat all the stuff we didn't like. Like Waldorf salad and minced meat pie. From what I hear, this is the norm at Thanksgiving in more households than just my relatives, but that sort of begs the question. Why do we do this every year?! What's the point???

For the last 10 years, Thanksgiving has been nothing to me but Family, Food and Football. Five years ago, I gave up the cutesy symbols associated with what everyone else was "supposedly there to celebrate and just concentrated on the three Fs. But.......some people, Native Americans included, say that that really isn't enough. Why do you still bother with the day at all? Don't you understand that it's really just as bad as if we had a day to celebrate Adolf Hitler or the Holocaust? They have a point, but in my head, I still struggle with the issue.

A lot of people gave me endless crap over still celebrating Christmas even though I wasn't a Christian. Why do you bother with Christmas? That's a Christian holiday! You're still eating a big meal during the Christmas season, and you're pagan! Why would you do such a thing if you're not really celebrating Christmas?

The thing is, no one has a corner on the holiday market. Getting people to see this is like herding cats. Just because Christmas happens to take place in December, that doesn't negate everything else that takes place in December. Not only that, but holidays evolve. Sure, Christmas started out as a Christian holiday, but today it is anything but. Today, Christmas as a commerical holiday, mostly secular. How many people actually even mention Jesus on Christmas? Not as many as you think. Are you going to tell the majority of Christmas revelers that they can't celebrate family and giving and Santa and reindeer and trees with lights on them? I doubt it. Moreover, are you going to tell Christians that by not abandoning December 25th, which has become something else entirely from what they'd envisioned, they're showing just how secular they really are? No, you're not. No one has a corner on December 25th.

So, why can't people who aren't really celebrating genocide have a nice meal with a turkey in it on Thanksgiving Day? Why is eating a turkey on the 4th Thursday in November seen as such an egregious affront to the suffering of the Native Americans? What matters is in your head and in your actions toward others, not in what you choose to eat, or even that you chose to eat that day! Some of us really aren't giving a nod to genocide.

When you give up the symbolism, finally accept and digest the truth, the injustice, the tragedy of the whole thing, you're still left with a national holiday. The holiday isn't going to go away because people finally know the truth. It will evolve, into something else. It's still a day off of work, when family still expect us to actually be social, eat food and watch football. At some point, the day just becomes a day about eating and sitting on a couch in a food coma!

I wrestle with Thanksgiving. I was raised as a white kid. I was raised as a white kid with absolutely NO culture to identify with. My parents shunned the German heritage, they shunned the English heritage, they downright denied the Native American heritage. I had, and still have, no real culture to identify with. I have to identify with a black and white Thanksgiving dinner. I'll never get to really know my heritage. As you can probably tell, I'm pretty bitter about this.

And, don't tell me that I can identify with "American culture". There hasn't been one person, yet, who has been able to even tell me what American culture is, exactly. It's like saying, "Oh, you can just identify with European culture." Which one?? Europe is made up of many cultures.....all of which my family gave up. American culture? We don't have one. We are a giant salad bowl full of different cultures, except my family shunned all theirs and we grew up like those people in the black and white photo. It's hard to explain.

A couple years ago, my husband and I ate our last black and white Thanksgiving meal. We haven't had another since then, much to my in laws' dismay. Every year, our meal isn't even Thanksgiving traditional. This year, we're having lasagna. We also stopped calling it Thanksgiving. We give thanks everyday. I, especially, do. Much like Valentine's Day, we feel like setting aside a day to feel thankful for your personal blessings or appreciate your loved ones means that you're too wrapped up in materialism and commercialism. We don't schedule days of "thanks".

This year, I'm going one further. I'm calling it what it is. We haven't associated it with pilgrims and indians since grade school. That's just the truth of the matter. The day has already evolved into something entirely different. We are actually going to observe two days, Thursday and Friday. Friday also has significance. While most people know it as Black Friday, it's also Native American Heritage Day. How many people knew that? Signed into law by George W. Bush.

And, since I hate "Black Friday" and everything it stands for....
(I don't know who made this, I found it. But, he/she owns it and I thank them cus it's damned funny!)

.......I'd much rather eat lasagna and Indian fry bread (I'm adding this!).

People will ask, "..but, what are you naming and celebrating on that day, if not celebrating a lie and genocide??". We aren't "celebrating" anything. We're eating food and watching football with family.

That's how it works. I know some people just won't accept that some of us aren't going to celebrate genocide, but we just aren't. Some will also think that just because we are eating on that day we're still celebrating genocide. But....again, we just aren't.

The Friday after is Black Friday for a great portion of the U.S. population. For me, it's Native American Heritage Day. Similarly, the 4th Thursday in November is American Thanksgiving. For me, it's Family, Food and Football Day.

P.S. There will inevitably be that "one guy" who takes issue with my comments about Black Friday and how I despise it and everything it stands for and will mention that I'm perfectly content to buy a bunch of food to eat that day. Here is my response to "that guy".

I buy the food 3 weeks in advance. Shut up, I was going to eat on that day anyway!

**Washichu is the Lakota word for "non indian" or "he who takes the best meat for himself".