I don’t normally shop at Ralph’s (one of the local big chain supermarkets).
I think I was just out of college when I figured out that I spent much less if I shopped at the local farmer’s markets for produce and got everything else at Trader Joe’s (the local ‘specialty foods’ market which is a hell of a lot cheaper – especially for booze). Sure, I couldn’t get the brand name stuff at TJ’s but once I got used to the weird chewy pasta and panda-flavored crackers, there was no turning back. I became a happy supermarket exile.
I lived like this for years, supplementing my diet with the occasional expedition into the local funny-smelling health food store for bulk items like rice and beans which worked out to be cheaper even though trips to said store were a guarantee that I’d run into at least one hippy. It’s not that I dislike hippies per se, it’s just that the majority of them annoy the hell out of me and I want to beat them with a rolled up copy of, well, anything that’s been published this century until they regain their senses and wash off that nasty patchouli.
Even after I started making enough money to buy the overpriced crap at Whole Foods (yuppies bother me too, but they’re easier to scare and sometimes don’t smell as bad) just on the off chance it might possibly be healthy, I never went back to the regular supermarkets. I continued to buy produce from a hippy at a farm stand (remember, only most of them annoy me) and get just about everything else from Trader Joes.
No, I haven’t finally embraced fluorescent lighting, soft Muzak(tm), and corporate cereal stocked in a non-threatening environment.
I have gift cards. $200 worth – and I’m too broke to turn down free food.
A week ago, I filled out an application for a Motion Picture and Television Fund assistance grant – I figured they’d string me along for a few weeks and then give me the sad face as they hit me with a list of restrictions on grants that excluded damn near everybody (like the WGA grants – supposedly for non-writers affected by the strike, but just try and get one).
I had my in-person interview today, and much to my surprise, the extra wonderful social worker cut me a check for next month’s rent right there on the spot. Right after I’d finished spelling my landlady’s last name for her, she asked if I wanted some grocery store gift cards.
Why, of course I did. It’s food, right? She then handed me four $50 cards and apologized because she didn’t have larger denominations available. Perhaps she mistook my stunned misty-eyed gratitude for pique.
I thanked her profusely, dried my eyes, promised I’d pay them the amount of the rent check back when I started working again (“you don’t have to- just if you can eventually. It’s a grant, not a loan”) and made a beeline for Ralph’s.
Really, now. There’s overkill and then there’s overkill.
I will be enjoying my free food, though – it will also nice to be able to buy the good toothpaste and not have to agonize over it (“really, do my teeth need to be all that white? I’m kind of old anyways”).
I love you, Motion Picture and Television Fund. If I ever start working again, I’ll donate as heavily as I can.
Plus, if I ever manage to accumulate enough crap to justify my bothering with a will, you’ll be in it (don’t even start with me about it. Right now, the sum total of my assets are an old car that leaks oil like it’s going out of style, not nearly enough cash to stuff a mattress, and a soon to be obsolete television set that may or may not turn on when asked. Oh, and a 20+ year old busted up saddle that’s unsafe to use because the billets need to be replaced. Yeah, that’s worth fighting over).