Groceries: What The Hell Do You Even Need?

We’re in the process of re-teaching a co-worker how to shop for groceries after years of bringing fast food to work every day. So I thought this would be a good time to make up a grocery list for myself. I do this semi-regularly. It’s not like I shop entirely from a list, or have one of those pre-printed lists on the fridge that lets me check things off as we run out of them. And I’ll never be one of those people who always seems to have the well-stocked pantry, with all the ingredients for a three course meal ready at the drop of a hat. Truth be told, I’m trying to chose between semi-stale granola and toast made from bread the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s parents bought for us to go with my coffee this morning. I don’t think I could handle the responsibility of having one of those Insta-worthy pantries.

Still, I like to have a nicely stocked cupboard and fridge. There are some things I just need to keep in stock, like milk for coffee, or bread and cheese slices for emergency sandwiches. For some reason the other night, though, while making a grocery list so I don’t forget cat food and bacon, I thought “Gee, I wonder if there’s other things I should be stocking, to really up my cooking game”. So, off to the Googles!

A quick search for “Grocery List Essentials” pulled up article  after  article  of   pre-made  grocery  lists.  There was everything from slide shows of sleek-looking produce, clean eating walkthroughs, and  how to live on an extremely tight budget while still enjoying pancakes and pineapple. While the lists were a great ready (although sometimes overwhelming and huge), and each one was unique, they all had one thing in common: they were full of crap I don’t want or need.

Neither AAB or I are big on fruit. I keep some bananas and berries in the freezer for smoothies on Sunday morning, and he buys the occasional apples for his lunch. So why would we need to stock apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and pomegranates in our kitchen? All that’s going to do turn into some mighty expensive compost. Things like yogurt and feta cheese would just go bad in the fridge, since we hardly ever use either one. And there is no way in hell I would EVER keep avocados  stocked in my kitchen. As the video says, those things can kill a damn horse!

You’re probably think, “Well shit Sunshine, how the hell will I know how to stock my damn kitchen if all these lists are full of crap I don’t even need?”

Well, sit your ass down and look at what you actually like to eat. Then, imagine eating it. Sounds crazy, right? Hear me out though: I love eggs. I love spinach. I love grains and carbs of all kinds. And I love salads. Before I make a grocery list, I have to figure out which of these things I need, and what I can do with them. One of my favourite things to pack for a quick lunch at work is quinoa, boiled spinach, and a poached egg. So if I know I’ll be getting shifts with lunch breaks this week, I’ll make sure I have those three things on my list. I never eat that at home, though, so I won’t keep all that in stock as much if I’m on evenings and nights. Also when I’m on nights and evenings, I need simple things to make for dinner since AAB doesn’t cook a whole hell of a lot. So, I’ll throw a few frozen pizzas and some crock pot friendly foods on my list.

Another great way to make a kick-ass grocery list is to look at recipes and store flyers. I like to look through Flipp on my phone and see what proteins are on sale at the two grocery stores near my work. Then, I’ll look up a few quick recipes for those: one in the oven, one crockpot, and one more complicated one for nights I’m not working. Then I’ll go through the recipes and make my list based on that, with a few changes. Depending on what is on sale, I’ll substitute a few ingredients here and there (why shell out for organic kale to sautee when you can get a bag of spinach on sale for $1?). This is great because now I have meals planned out in my head, and can shop for other things accordingly. Making spicy chicken on Monday night? Grab some peppers and onions, bust out the tortillas, and the leftovers become fajitas on Tuesday. Want to get that bag of discount spinach but only have it down in one recipe for the week? Boil or sautee some a bunch to add to omelettes, throw in with a bit of pasta, or eat as a side dish with breakfasts and lunches. Bunches of tomatoes are on sale, and you want them for pizza one night, but hate them in your salad? Make some salsa, bruschetta, or pico de gallo to snack on for the week with the leftovers.

So Sunshine, don’t think that you need to follow some sort of pre-made list to stock your kitchen right. I don’t care of Oprah or Gwyneth or Dr. Oz makes the damn list: if it doesn’t work with you, your tastes, and your lifestyle, then don’t bother with it. That’s not to say you can’t take inspiration from them. Check out the spice section of their lists, see if there’s anything there you could use but constantly overlook when shopping. Use things like lists as suggestions, not as can-never-stray-from-guides. You do you Sunshine, whether it’s in the kitchen or the boardroom. Stay golden!

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Stomach Flu Woes.

So that stomach bug that’s going around hit me HARD this week! I’m starting to feel better now, but it’s been rough.

Sunday night after work, I had a meeting with some coworkers. Had some pizza and two glasses of wine while I was there. Felt fine, just a little run down. Got home, curled up on the bed to watch some old school Gordon Ramsay reruns with the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend. Poured another glass of wine, since I had the next day off anyway. About half way through, it felt like I had just chugged two bottles. The room started spinning a bit, my balance was off, and my stomach felt weird. Dumped out my wine, chugged some water, felt a bit better. I just figured, with the stress of the last few weeks, my body had enough of everything and wanted to sleep. So, I curled up in bed.

About an hour later, the room was spinning like crazy. I tried the old “put one foot flat on  the floor” trick, and that did nothing. Decided to go to the bathroom just in case, and that when the trouble really started.

I stayed up, stumbling from the bedroom to the bathroom, for the next few hours. It looked and felt like everything I had consumed in the last three days was shooting out of my body through one exit or another.

The next morning, AAB made sure my water bottle was full, the kettle was full, and there was soup in the cupboard before he went to work. And I somehow slept until almost 1pm (for comparison, today I slept in a lot more than usual and was awake before 10am). For the first time since the three days I spent in quarantine years ago, I spent the entire day in bed. I tried to stay hydrated, eat some soup and toast, but nothing stayed in me long.

And this lasted for days.

On Tuesday I did a little online training for work, and threw on Sims3 for the rest of the day (and yes, I’m one of those people who kills of random Sims for fun). By Wednesday I had some energy back enough to deal with the student loan people on the phone, and to get laundry done (mainly because I threw up in the dirty clothes basket).

Thursday I had to go back to work for a half shift, and barely made it through. Friday I had ALL the energy and spent the day cleaning, and only threw up once. By Saturday the vomiting seemed to have stopped, although I’ve felt pretty queasy on and off all day today.

In all of this, I started about 8 different blog posts, but didn’t have the energy or focus to follow through with any of them. So hopefully today, I can go through the bits and pieces of what I wrote and find some semblance of a storyline in there somewhere.

Hope you’re staying healthy out there, Sunshine!

The schedule at work dropped of quite a bit. I went from my 40 hours a week before New Years, to 37 hours the week after. The following week I was down to 23 hours. And this week, I am scheduled for 5 whole hours.  I could always get called in to cover a shift, or possibly pick up a shift at another location. But for the most part, I’m SOL.

So, I thought I would make the most of this time. I have books to read, things to clean, make-up brushes to wash, laundry to do, crafts to craft……..which can only mean one thing: I wound up with the stomach flu.

So for the better part of this week, if my posts come out looking or sounding a little bit wonky, there’s good reason for it. Not only am I forced to be within 25 feet of a toilet at all times, I’m really wear and light headed from not being able to keep food in my body for very long. Also, I usually blog from my desktop computer, which I can’t exactly bring into the bathroom with me. So, I’ll be trying to get my WordPress app to work on the new iPad, or possibly on my phone.

The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend made sure I have plenty of soup, and there’s Law & Order SVU on Netflix. My little Bowser Kitten is keeping a close eye on me, and naps next to me. Hopefully this all passes quickly. I’m really not good at just relaxing. I need to find little things to do at least to stay busy. But it’s damn near impossible to do laundry and wash the kitchen floor when you’re chained to a toilet.

Doing Some Very Grown-Up Things

So as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been trying to do some very grown-up things. Among those things are:

  • getting through to the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend that his debts can hold us back in getting the things we want in life.
  • taking a serious look at my own debts (which I admit, I let get way out of hand)
  • talking to someone about my debts who is in a position to help me (debt counsellor , bank loan officer), instead of just my mother and AAB
  • look at what I can do in my current job to help advance myself AND add to my resume
  • learn to use the new iPad AAB got me for Christmas for something other than Mario Run (which I refuse to pay for more than the basic starter levels right now) and Pokemon Go.

So, since the first of the month, I’ve been doing some Very Grown-Up Things. I laid out to AAB how his debt and credit score affects our future. If I’m working towards fixing my credit, and he’s not, then it makes no financial sense for us to ever become common-law or think of getting married. I know that sounds horrible, and it really does tear me up inside to say it. But I’m taking steps towards someday owning a house, or a condo, and want to at the very least get out of this house in the very near future. If I get my credit score up to a level that will get me a mortgage, or a good loan, then we can’t really do anything that would link us together financially. Doing that would mesh our credit together, and his score would affect mine. I think he’s finally starting to see that.

Also, just this week I had an appointment at my bank. Even though I am in a less-than-ideal position for a bank to lend me money, I have handled my debts well enough that there is a very good chance I may be able to get a consolidation loan to help take care of my credit card debts. I’ll have some tips on how to handle your credit like I did later. For now, I’m just focusing on getting my paperwork together to work on this loan, and get my other paperwork together to send off to the student loan people for my Repayment Assistance Plan (otherwise they just take $700 out of my account each month, which I really can never afford).

Well wouldn’t you know, right after my bank appointment I dropped into work to eat and study my new Wine Folly book before my shift, and my former manager was there to do our appraisals! It seems I’m a bit of an overachiever when it comes to the online training. He showed me how much training someone with my seniority would normally have if they only did what they had to. Then he showed me mine. It’s like twice as long! So what did I do when I got home? I signed up for more training. I’m going to do my shift leader training, some extra customer service training, a whole lot of extra product knowledge training, and some mentorship training. Then, the next time the District Manager is in our store, I want to ask him if there is any sort of mentorship programs in place with the company. Even if I have to be the mentee of the Weird BowTie Guy from our flagship store, or Cute Asshole who used to work at my store, it would totally be worth it for the opportunity.

In all of this busy-ness though, I haven’t picked up the iPad once! Hopefully once AAB’s birthday present is all set up (got a nice TV package for him), we will be chilling in the office a bit more, and I will have more of an excuse to pull it out and use it.

So there’s my current foray into the Grown-Up World I’ve failed at so far, Sunshine. I have a lot of big plans coming up, which will hopefully bring some big lessons and experiences you all can learn from (so you don’t have to screw up as bad as I did).

Roommates From Hell: You Don’t Even Live Here!

I think I’ve mentioned before that our bedroom is just off the kitchen in this house. That means that if you’re standing in the kitchen and talking loudly to be heard over the running water in the sink, I can hear what you’re saying too. If you are yelling over the sound of running water, then yes I can hear you only a few feet away in my bedroom. This is not a hard concept to understand.

Or is it?

So Guy Upstairs has his girlfriend over, pretty much constantly. She seems like a nice enough girl the odd time I see her. They mostly stay in his room, hiding out and watching movies and Netflix. He’s pretty great, for a random roommate, and I’ve never really had a problem with her.

Now, our kitchen is a bit of a clustered disaster at the moment. We’ve had people moving out, and new people moving in, and the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I have a lot of stuff. I try to keep a rather large area of counter clean for cooking, but have the  bad habit of not putting away our Tupperware. It will pile up for a few weeks, and then I’ll do a massive overhaul of the Tupperware shelf and put it all away. The stuff piled up on the counter is clean, and out of the way. It’s just sort of…… piled.

Now, Guy Upstairs doesn’t have a hell  of a lot of stuff in the common areas. He has food in the fridge, and in his cupboard, and a bit of cookware. That’s pretty much it. He makes his dinners, feeds her when she’s here, and keeps his things in his cupboard and in a pile on the counter (right by  Mount Tupperware). We have never had a problem with each other, not even when it comes to cleaning and sharing the kitchen. He is nice and kind and respectful, and we both understand that this kitchen will never be something out of a Martha Stewart Living article. There’s far too many people, all with their own stuff, who come and go here for that to ever happen.

Guy’s Girlfriend seriously needs to realize that though!

Now I won’t complain about her being here all the time. AAB was here constantly before he moved in. And for the most part, as I said, we don’t see much of her. This is not her house, though. She rents a room in a house a few blocks from here: she just doesn’t like her roommates. They’re loud and dirty, and have no respect for anyone else living there. I totally get that. I’ve been in similar situations before. And my heart really went out to her when she was complaining about her roommates loudly partying when they knew she had to be up early the next morning.

Still, she doesn’t live here.

That didn’t stop her today from standing at the sink beside Guy Upstairs while he did his dishes. Over the sound of the running hot water, she was LOUDLY complaining about Mount Tupperware and how NO ONE in this house ever does any cleaning. She made it sound like they were surrounded by filth, like this house should be condemned for the state it’s in.

And while she was loudly complaining, she knew I was sitting in my bedroom, eating a sandwich while I watched an old Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares episode while I took a break from my day.

Now I have been cooking, cleaning, and dealing with the student loans folks all day. It’s my day off from work, and I’ve been going since 9am (forced myself to stay in bed late today and relax). I threw some stew in the crockpot, cleaned up my mess in the kitchen, did all our dishes, swept and mopped, took down all the Christmas decorations,  cleaned out the front hallway (the floors get nasty pretty fast this time of year in there), cleaned out our fridge, sorted through a pile of things I wanted to donate. This was on top of dealing with student loan people for almost 3 hours. Oh, and I finally tackled Mount Tupperware, too. I’ve done a hell of a lot around here today, even if it isn’t noticeable right away.

The nerve of that precious little turd to complain! If she was running around cleaning up after people here, that would be one thing. But I’ve never seen her do more than rinse out her tea mug before though! I mean, I’ve had to scrub skid marks out of the toilet before that are NOT mine or AAB’s! I have cleaned up her poop, dammit! She doesn’t clean up after herself, lets Guy Upstairs basically wait on her hand and foot, doesn’t help him clean up after them. Hell, when I even just tried to say hello to her today, she just turned her back on me and pretended she didn’t hear me! She is becoming intolerable in those rare moments that I have to interact with her (or hear her complaining outside our room).

It’s days like this that push us forward though, Sunshine. While I was talking to AAB about this, and talking about the other Incredibly Grown-Up Things I did this week to try and get us out of here (more on that later), he realized that we DO need to leave this place. This house has served me well for almost 4 whole years now. Since high school, this is the longest I’ve ever lived in one house. But it’s just not practical for us to live with all of these roommates, especially when their precious little turd girlfriends do things like this that set me off.

So Sunshine, what should I do while we get all our ducks in a row? Should I talk to Guy Upstairs about his girlfriend’s attitude? Should I ignore this? Should I talk to her?

Believe Me: I Know My Job!

So I can’t say exactly where I work, but it deals with selling alcohol in a store run by a provincial government. Now, we are trained to a ridiculous degree! I met the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend after I had been hired on here, and showed him the training booklets I got just to be a seasonal worker. And then the books for the tests to be a casual worker. And my Service Knowledge book. And Product Knowledge books. And my Customer Service training books. And the notes from my in-class training. And the online modules for my mandatory training. In short, I am constantly either in training, about to start training, or just finishing training.

And one thing we’re trained on constantly is the ID laws for our province.

Here’s the gist of it all: in order to buy alcohol at my store, you need to have valid government photo ID with you. I can ask anyone at any time to produce their ID, and deny a sale if they don’t have that. Yes, the legal drinking age here is 19. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 20 you don’t need your ID. We are legally obliged to ID anyone who appears to be under 25. And that’s not all.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not the one paying for it. If you touch it, talk about it, point to it, offer money for it, pass money to someone in the store, or say something like “Thanks man, I’ll pay you back for this later” in front of us or our security staff, you’re getting ID’d. We have this little thing called a Second Party Purchase, where we know someone is buying alcohol for someone else. If you carry it up to the counter for someone, you’re getting ID’d. Yes, there are a few exceptions: if you’re a child carrying it up for a parent on crutches, or you lift it up onto the counter for a wheelchair bound friend who can’t do so themselves, we will most likely let that slide. You are allowed to help, as long as it is clear you  are only helping.

We get this training drilled into us. Do you know how much of a fine we can face PERSONALLY if we serve an underage person? $250,000!!! So we are damn sure to ID everyone we need to! Not only that, but we look out for each other. If I see a group of customers all picking things out together, I’ll be sure to tell my co-workers to make sure they ID the whole group. You are damn right we’ve all got each other’s backs!

All of this being said, it amazes me that amount of people who come through my store and seem to think that either the rules don’t apply to them, or that they know our jobs better than we do.

Case in point: last week, I walked by a group of three young men in the vodka aisle discussing what brand of vodka to buy. All three of them were pointing at bottles, and were talking about how they would pay their friend back later for buying the vodka. When they came up to the register, I motioned for my coworker to ID the whole group.

Well, the young lad who was paying went off! Apparently his dad is a cop, which means he knows the law inside and out, because the first responsibility of being a cop is to make sure your son knows exactly which laws don’t apply to him. According to this boy, even though him and the cloud of cheap Axe body spray he called friends had all decided together which bottle to buy, we couldn’t legally ID his friends because they didn’t touch the bottle.

Normally, our story would end here. Child Who Is Not Smoll would yell and scream, and then leave without his bottle. But not this time!

No! After being denied once because his friends didn’t have ID, Boy Child came back in the store to try and buy the bottle again! Now, since we just saw him in there trying to buy for his friends, and it’s recorded on the store’s security camera that he was denied for his friends not having ID, we can’t sell him this bottle. The only way we can sell him the alcohol is if his friends both come back with their ID. But he wasn’t hearing any of this!

No! His dad is a cop! He knows the law! His friends didn’t touch the bottle! And he came back in alone!

Needless to say, he was rejected again. As he slowly meandered on out the door, he had some very loud choice words for my coworkers and I. Out shift leader told him that since he had already created a scene twice in a span of less than 15 minutes, he was not allowed back in the store for the rest of the night. If he did show up again, he would be denied service and asked to leave.

Did that stop him from coming back?

Well, if it did, would I still be writing this?

He came back with his friends a while later, claiming that because they all had ID now we had to not only serve them, but APOLOGIZE to them for not serving them earlier!

Needless to say (even if I am saying it here), they did not get served. Even better, we had police on sight for a separate incident later that night. You know what? They had no clue who this Boy Child was, and had no officers on the force with his last name!

Want to know the worst part of all of this? His two friends seemed pretty apologetic throughout the whole thing. If they had just come back with their ID, we would’ve served them. Even if the Boy Child had flipped out a little tiny bit at first like he did, but they all came back with ID and apologized, I would’ve served them.

But after all of that, the three of them left empty handed.

The moral of the story Sunshine? While you may think you know customer service, the people in each position get specific training for their job like you would not believe! So don’t be THAT customer that tries to teach employees about return policies, or ID laws, or anything else.

Customer Service Representatives get a shit rep, and take a lot of shit from people. We are all people, and we all deserve the respect you would give any other person in any other job. So be kinds, be polite, and don’t be that asshole who thinks they know our job better than we do!

Why My Credit Sucks, But Not Totally

Ok so when I talk about my credit, I don’t even include the student loans I have. Thanks to laws and bills here, I don’t have to pay back anything until I make over $25,000 a year.  Sadly, I make well under that, even in gross pay right now. This also means I’m safe from huge payments, and can chip away at my loans slowly for now. this is a big plus for me right now.

A huge negative is my credit cards. You see, while I was looking for work, I still needed to live. I managed to work enough odd jobs and get enough benefits to cover my rent. But things like food, clothes for interviews (all second-hand stuff, mind you), and transportation (busses for the most part) still needed to be taken care of. Then, after I found work, I found out that my hours drop DRASTICALLY in the new year (from 40 hours a week plus Sunday overtime, to zero hours scheduled for two weeks straight). If I scrimp and save my paychecks, I can pay my rent and credit card minimums. But there’s no money left for food (unless I get called in for shifts, which look pretty likely this year!). In the past, I took a temp job at the University, but the last few months there hasn’t been anything available for me.

So, I put things on credit. It’s not like I’m out buying Gucci handbags and Fendi wallets. I’m buying on sale Mr. Noodle and some “priced to sell TODAY” veggies to throw in with them. I’m buying “Buy tonight, cook tomorrow” meats at a huge discount. Basically, I’m buying bargain groceries. This stuff adds up over time though. And there’s always a little something else you need to get. New interview pants because yours ripped or you lost some weight (from not being able to afford food). A bottle of the cheapest wine you can find to give to a friend for her birthday. A package of bus tickets you try to stretch as long as possible.  And this just adds up even more.

So, I’ve dug myself a pretty sizeable hole. Between 4 credit card and a line of credit, I’m looking at hitting the $30,000 mark this year if I don’t do something about it.

My biggest problem is the interest. I’ve read all the books, I’ve watched the shows (Gail Vaz-Oxlade you are my Queen!!!), I know that interest is a what kills you in the end. I really had no idea how bad it was until recently.

On my largest credit card balance, I owe a minimum of around $250 a month. Of that, $240 is just the interest accrued that month. That means I’m only paying off $10 of my debt each month!

So, I spoke to a financial advisor. At my job, I’m only classified as part-time, which is not a good thing when you’re looking to borrow money. Actually, that is the kiss of death for most people. But in my case, she is hopeful that we can at least get a large chunk of my debt consolidated into one payment with a lower interest rate. Why?

1. I MAKE PAYMENTS ON-TIME

The last time I was late on a payment was 8 years ago. Even then, I notified my bank that there was a problem with my paycheck and my credit card payment would be a week late. I’ve only ever missed one phone bill payment, which I paid in full the moment I I realized it and talked to my phone company about as soon as I could (my mother was in the hospital, the doctor told her she was going to die, and I was more than a little pre-occupied at the time). My point? I made my payments! And the rare time I didn’t make them on time? I made sure to apologize, explain myself, and beg for mercy. A lender doesn’t HAVE to keep lending you money. Legally (and laws vary depending on state/province, so be sure to know yours) you can miss or be late on X amount of payments before you suffer any true consequences.

I make sure to have my payments in on-time each and every month. And the credit companies take note of that.

2. I PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM

No, I’m not paying my balance in full, like all the experts tell me to. But if my payment is $50 for the month, I’m throwing down at least $75-$100 on there. Not only does that free up more credit if I need it later in the month, but it also shows commitment. My lending companies know that I want to pay things off, and I’m not going to just sit around doing the bare minimum to do it.

When I spoke to a financial advisor this week, on thing she emphasised was that I was paying a good $100 more a month than the minimum on my largest debt, in an effort to make it go away. This is a huge factor in determining what I CAN pay and what I WILL pay if my debts are consolidated, which affects the amount they are willing to lend me to do this.

3. I STOPPED SPENDING WHEN I DIDN’T NEED TO

Coming up closer to Christmas, my online spending increases (hello Amazon deals, you saved me TONNES for Christmas). BUT, what I spend on other credit cards decreases (I have on card dedicated to online purchases). I didn’t touch two of my cards for a month and a half! And this is huge for your credit score!

To bump up your credit score, on thing you need to do is show that you don’t need to spend your available credit. I tried to do my in-person spending (clothes, shoes, things someone needs to try on or physically test before they buy) in the warmer months. Then, when I know I’ll be spending money online in the colder months, I put away the cards in my wallet. Now, if I don’t have the cash, I don’t buy it. Yes, it sucks. Big time. I went hungry more than a few times, had to live on ramen noodles again at times. But giving those cards a break shows that I’m not dependant on them. This is huge when it comes to determining your credit score.

Basically Sunshine, I’ve messed up my finances pretty damn bad. Once, when I was really drunk, I ordered 60 pairs of false eyelashes from China. Thankfully that only set me back like $20, but that’s the kind of stupid thing we all do from time to time. I’ve tried to show, especially in the last few years, that while I’ve been entirely stupid with my credit, I get it. I need to pay it back, I want to pay it back, and I’ve put some effort into paying back.

As I said, I have multiple cards. Sometimes, just paying off one card (while keeping up payments on the others) is enough to put a huge boost in your credit score. And your credit score determines a lot. Right now, my score is low enough that i can get a mortgage, but at a horrible rate. My goal is to bring that up to a decent rate by the end of the year, and be looking to buy a home just after next Christmas.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things you can do to help your credit score, but it’s a start. Talk to a financial advisor if you’re in a bind. Trust me, Sunshine, it helps.