I Shopped Walmart

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I haven’t set foot inside our local Walmart since my uber awesome sister-in-law helped me escape the doldrums of “life with a newborn” (back when he was nursing every 2 hours and I didn’t have a pump). Although it was at WallyWorld, I welcomed (with massive amounts of anxiety thrown in) my first bit of time away from the little man. Let’s consider that my annual trek.

Except, this holiday season I purchased Walmart goods. Sure, I didn’t go TO Walmart, but I shopped their online wares, which in my mind is still patronizing the place. Needless to say, I’m simply not a fan of the place these days. Their unsavory business practices and maltreatment of workers leave a nasty taste in my mouth, and I’m not in the habit of tasting yuckiness.

Anyhoo, why did I “shop” through walmart.com? After lots of searching, I found that their clothes were the cheapest option I had. See, we’re giving to a couple of kids off of our “giving tree” at school, and their wishes consisted of clothes. I went elsewhere for the (admittedly overboard) toys and activities that we gave. And since I’m sure you’re wondering (or not, hee hee), there was a girl and a younger boy (not sure if they’re in the same families or not) and I got everything for the girl, the clothes for the boy, and Dave picked out toys for the boy. She got a coat, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, and since it said her interests were “jewelry” I got some costume jewelry and a set that she can use to make her own jewelry. The boy got snow pants, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, some Batman/Joker toys, and a comic book. Oh, and they each got new crayons and a coloring book, and, of course, a container of Play-Doh — because what parent doesn’t want their kids grinding that into the carpet? Mwahaha.

Yeah, we overdid it. Not to say our son isn’t making out well this year — but he’s not even one yet, so mass amounts of toys aren’t necessary.

But, it made me think — is it okay to go against one’s principles when you’re helping someone in need (buying cheap-o stuff, be it toy or foodstuff)? Or should those in need get items that are just as…um…”at a premium”?

We also gave two full-sized meals to needy families this year. I went to Aldi and grabbed two of everything (except the protein) — 2 boxes of stuffing, 2 boxes of mashed potatoes (ick), 4 cans of veggies, 2 cans of fruit (in fruit juice!), 2 packages of gravy, 2 boxes of pudding and 2 graham cracker pie crusts (dessert!). Oh, and a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, considering not everyday is a holiday, and you still need to eat. Now, not that we’re elitist, but we wouldn’t eat any of this stuff if we were purchasing food for our house. If someone OFFERED us a meal of this, we wouldn’t say anything and would eat it happily (but probably feel yucky later — not figuratively, it’s really true what they say about feeling better when you eat better quality food), but our daily choice veers in the all-natural/organic arena. It’s just how we live.

I should probably feel happy that I was able to give at all, but it’s hard not to feel a little guilty. Heck, even when my husband’s work was sponsoring a “Stuff the Bus” campaign for toys, I stopped by with two toys — from the cheap toy section at Kmart. Mind you, they seemed like wicked fun toys (and I would know!), but does it matter that they were $5 each?

So, what do you think? Is it better to give at all? Or does equality factor into the equation?

Side note: I found ORGANIC BUTTER at Aldi yesterday!! I nearly fell over!!! (And HAD to text a picture of it to the hubs. Confused onlookers be damned.) Last time, I found Kerrygold Irish cheese (grassfed, INCREDIBLE cheese!!!) and this time organic butter! I am growing more and more impressed by the place.

I Shopped WalMart

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI haven’t set foot inside our local Walmart since my uber awesome sister-in-law helped me escape the doldrums of “life with a newborn” (back when he was nursing every 2 hours and I didn’t have a pump). Although it was at WallyWorld, I welcomed (with massive amounts of anxiety thrown in) my first bit of time away from the little man. Let’s consider that my annual trek.

Except, this holiday season I purchased Walmart goods. Sure, I didn’t go TO Walmart, but I shopped their online wares, which in my mind is still patronizing the place. Needless to say, I’m simply not a fan of the place these days. Their unsavory business practices and maltreatment of workers leave a nasty taste in my mouth, and I’m not in the habit of tasting yuckiness.

Anyhoo, why did I “shop” through walmart.com? After lots of searching, I found that their clothes were the cheapest option I had. See, we’re giving to a couple of kids off of our “giving tree” at school, and their wishes consisted of clothes. I went elsewhere for the (admittedly overboard) toys and activities that we gave. And since I’m sure you’re wondering (or not, hee hee), there was a girl and a younger boy (not sure if they’re in the same families or not) and I got everything for the girl, the clothes for the boy, and Dave picked out toys for the boy. She got a coat, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, and since it said her interests were “jewelry” I got some costume jewelry and a set that she can use to make her own jewelry. The boy got snow pants, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, some Batman/Joker toys, and a comic book. Oh, and they each got new crayons and a coloring book, and, of course, a container of Play-Doh — because what parent doesn’t want their kids grinding that into the carpet? Mwahaha.

Yeah, we overdid it. Not to say our son isn’t making out well this year — but he’s not even one yet, so mass amounts of toys aren’t necessary.

But, it made me think — is it okay to go against one’s principles when you’re helping someone in need (buying cheap-o stuff, be it toy or foodstuff)? Or should those in need get items that are just as…um…”at a premium”?

We also gave two full-sized meals to needy families this year. I went to Aldi and grabbed two of everything (except the protein) — 2 boxes of stuffing, 2 boxes of mashed potatoes (ick), 4 cans of veggies, 2 cans of fruit (in fruit juice!), 2 packages of gravy, 2 boxes of pudding and 2 graham cracker pie crusts (dessert!). Oh, and a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, considering not everyday is a holiday, and you still need to eat. Now, not that we’re elitist, but we wouldn’t eat any of this stuff if we were purchasing food for our house. If someone OFFERED us a meal of this, we wouldn’t say anything and would eat it happily (but probably feel yucky later — not figuratively, it’s really true what they say about feeling better when you eat better quality food), but our daily choice veers in the all-natural/organic arena. It’s just how we live.

I should probably feel happy that I was able to give at all, but it’s hard not to feel a little guilty. Heck, even when my husband’s work was sponsoring a “Stuff the Bus” campaign for toys, I stopped by with two toys — from the cheap toy section at Kmart. Mind you, they seemed like wicked fun toys (and I would know!), but does it matter that they were $5 each?

So, what do you think? Is it better to give at all? Or does equality factor into the equation?

Side note: I found ORGANIC BUTTER at Aldi yesterday!! I nearly fell over!!! (And HAD to text a picture of it to the hubs. Confused onlookers be damned.) Last time, I found Kerrygold Irish cheese (grassfed, INCREDIBLE cheese!!!) and this time organic butter! I am growing more and more impressed by the place.

The 3/50 Project

I was trolling around the interwebs and happened upon an inspiring blog (mostly thanks to its gorgeous design images and lack of hoity-toitiness). Through this blog, I noticed a button that took me to http://www.the350project.net/home.html. Consider me hooked.I Shopped Walmart - image 350_project_200x177 on http://megactsout.comThe concept behind the 3/50 Project is pretty simple. Their goal is to “save the brick and mortar our nation is built on”. Think of three independently owned businesses that you’d miss if they disappeared. (It’s suggested that you stop in, say ‘hello’, and purchase something that makes you smile there. Hopefully it’s not a sadist shop.) From here, it’s stated that if half of the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Wow.
It’s further explained that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. The same can’t be said for a chain store; only $43 of $100 stays in the community. Purchasing online means that NOTHING is returning home.

While I can’t say that I spend $50 monthly on things that make me smile…hey, maybe I should, but bills are the priority (sigh)…I want to consider this further and see how I can implement this concept. It’s downright rad. If I were to run an independent business someday, I’d couldn’t love it more.

To answer the initial question, it’s strange. Locally…we don’t have a lot that isn’t somehow franchised. Even our local hardware shop is an affiliate of True Value (although I still consider them “Mom and Pop”), and I’d rather not have another excuse to utilize a pizza place. That being said…

I <3 Antiques – Our local antiques center is awesome because, as with many antiques centers, lots of local sellers are available in one place. Booths are varied and chock full of wonderfulness. If I stopped at the cafe and front smelly shop (ie mostly local soaps and things) here, I’d hit all 3 places at once. There are still more local vendors of crafts and jewelry on the second floor of the center, but I often leave there empty-handed and more inspired to attempt the craft ideas at home. Wot waahhh.

So, if the antique place counts as one place…maybe a trip to our favorite restaurant, Beardslee Castle, more often would put a smile on my face and more money into locals’ pockets.

It’s hard to come up with a third without “eating out” yet again. I’ll have to consider that one more, but I’ll have to leave it at a Byrne Dairy trip by the husband. Sure, Byrne Dairy is technically a franchise of convenience stores, but we know that the milk comes from local farmers and when we purchase it, the $$$ trickles down. Plus, the milk is delish…and that makes me smile every time I pour it.

How ’bout you? Any local joints you’d patronize (in the good way) enough to join the 3/50 project? Do tell!

Hannaford v. Chobani

I Shopped Walmart - image d9369-chobani on http://megactsout.com
From healthforthewholeself.com

I’m a general fan of our local supermarket, Hannaford. Heck, you can read how much I love it here, here and here. But, upon recent trips to the store, I have become dismayed…then downtrodden…and eventually pissed enough to jot down an idea for this blog post on my shopping list. (Yes, I even called it “Hannaford v. Chobani”.)

In case you’ve never heard of it, Chobani is a locally-operated producer of high quality Greek-style yogurt. It happens to be de-lish. They’re notorious for two things: #1) Donating lots and lots of their yogurt to great causes; just two that I’m aware of were for the runners and walkers at this year’s “Heart Run and Walk” and to my high school (both to send to a school in Louisiana for a cultural exchange as well as to our school for the kids to try) and #2) Being the fastest-growing yogurt seller (and now #1! Past Dannon and Yoplait!!) in America. Seriously, they’re awesome – and all-natural – AND they support local farmers. Check out their site, it’s worth it. I discovered that they now have kid-friendly yogurt options, which is awe-some!

Clearly I’m excited about the stuff. I tend to purchase the large (32 oz.) container of strawberry (classic), which I bring to school and toss with Kashi Go Lean CrunchΒ  (thanks for teaching me about it, Missy!). Delicious.

So, why am I so upset? I was frustrated to see that the usual $1 price for a 6 oz. container of Chobani (they have so many delicious flavors!!!) has been boosted, not by a few pennies, but to $1.19. A 19% increase?!?! Man! I used to grab the occasional blueberry for Dave to enjoy (gotta be nice to our spouses, y’know…especially when we’re in the doghouse ;-D j/k)…now it’s going to have to be a huge special occasion to do so.

It became immediately clear to me what caused the jump in price: the Hannaford brand, Taste of Inspiration, had released a new Greek-style yogurt – priced at $.85. Not only did they introduce competition at an already-lower price, but they upped the always-steady $1 price of the Chobani product. Call me Communist, but this bugged the heck out of me.

I understand the concept behind competition. Well, sure, I may understand a lot of things. The rise of big business. The shift from rural to urban lifestyles. The advancement of technology. Yep, I get it all…but it doesn’t mean that I agree with it. And this is one of those cases.

A local product made by honest folks who have gotten tons of press nationally that you couldn’t keep on your shelves, and you, Hannaford, simply had to get in on the action. Seriously, there’s a sign…wait, it looks kinda like this:

I Shopped Walmart - image 23c97-chobanisign on http://megactsout.com
From mealsandmovesblog.com

This stuff is popular, as it should be. Good people doing good things, providing healthy, high-quality goods. Gee. There must be money to be made off of it. *grumbles* Sorry, that’s not a professional way to vent, but sometimes “GRRR” is all one can say.

How can I (or we?) combat it? I don’t really see a way, other than continuing to purchase my luckily-same-priced 32-oz. stuff, and possibly the occasional “whooooaaaaa, that’s ‘spensive!” 6-oz. stuff (with, perhaps, the odd coupon here and there, nudge-nudge, wink-wink). There’s a little part of me that says “Hey, cool, there’s a cheaper option for folks who can’t afford it”, but the sentiment behind what Chobani does is much grander, in my mind, than that. Hopefully the genuine fervor which has skyrocketed the company to such great heights won’t wane with the introduction of new competition. Here’s hoping!

And, if you don’t have Chobani in your stores yet, talk to the manager and write a letter to Chobani. It’s spreading like wildfire, so be proactive and a part of the “movement”. Support any company that cares about its customers and gives us high-quality, all-natural options. (Jumps off soapbox.)

Unexpected Farmers’ Market

Just writing a quick entry to let you know I didn’t fall off the planet. I’ve got a larger entry in the works, but don’t have the time to get my pictures uploaded quite yet. Ever since my wedding shower last Saturday, I’ve felt more of an urge to work on wedding planning. If you’d like to know how that’s going, check out our wedding web site at www.momentville.com/daveandmeg2010.

Last Friday, Dave and I made our annual trip to Old Forge, specifically to go to Enchanted Forest/Water Safari. As tradition, we go there for a little over half the day, then wander the town, play putt-putt golf, and stop in to some shops and incredible little cafes. This year, we bought Beardslee an organic cotton collar at the hardware store, Dave “got it in the clown’s nose” for a free game (Happy 50th Anniversary to Nutty Putty!), and we had what we like to call a “casual gourmet” meal at one of the cafes on Main Street.

While walking through town, we spotted a sign for the Old Forge Farmers’ Market — which, wouldjyabelieveit, was happening that afternoon. What luck! Plus, it was incredibly close to where we had parked the Kia. Nice! So, our final jaunt of the day would be to a backstreet parking lot filled with all types of vendors.

I think I noticed at least three Amish tents, two local wineries, several farmers selling eggs/meat/veg, and a random maple syrup seller. We ended up coming home with:

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.com
– Two bottles of wine (one “Cranberry Bog” (great for the holiday season) and a Riesling (Dave’s fave, and I do like my white wines) — both from the North Country)
– Some maple BBQ sauce (which, FAIL, has ketchup in it — 2nd ingredient, HFCS…CRAP! And they were such a nice old couple, from quite near Herkimer)
– Incredible Amish bread
– A head o’ broccoli
– 5 or 6 pounds (I think the 6th was free) of grass-fed beef (from another familiar name, a Little Falls farm close by; they even gave us tons of ice so that it’d make it home safely)
– And I’m sure something else. Dave would remember; he was the one who had to stop me from purchasing so much. *ahem*

And, it’s a good thing I didn’t get any zucchini because the next day at my shower, my lovely aunt brought enough for everyone to take…

I Shopped Walmart - image 44782_10150243821075577_599820576_14074586_7296660_n on http://megactsout.com

Local, Organic Comfort Food

Sunday was a nice, quasi-typical Sunday for us. It was highly-relaxing (after an uber-busy work week, plus a garage sale thrown in for fun), we got some stuff completed, and while it was still humid, was kind of dreary. If it had been colder, it would have felt like an autumn day — which are our FAVORITE types of days. Dave’s a “drizzly” fan and I’m an autumn fan, which is why we’re risking a possibly rainy wedding day in October.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.com
From workman.com

Regardless, I was going through several of my new “real food” cookbooks and pondering what we had to cook. My decision came down to free-range chicken soup or chili — and the newly-popping jalapenos in my garden helped me to decide.

I used the cookbook Food to Live By by Myra Goodman. It’s an enjoyable book to simply read, given that the author is a mom who raises her kids on a working farm, so I figure “If she can do it, certainly I should be able to.” Here’s my version of her recipe:

“Foggy Day Chili”
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. diced yellow onion (for me, it was 1/2 an onion)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1-1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (mine was from a Herkimer farm)
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
several good sprinklings of cinnamon (my addition)
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, undrained
1 can (15 oz.) pinto beans, undrained
1 can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 tsp. salt, or more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 minced jalapeno pepper, seeds removed (depending on how hot you like it)
A handful or two of semi-sweet chocolate morsels (optional — I added them to my bowl since Dave could “taste chocolate” — if I hadn’t told him he had it in his bowl, he wouldn’t have noticed )

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until onion and garlif are soft, not browned, about 1 minute longer. Add the beef, and break up with a wooden spoon.

2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the spices (except the red pepper flakes). Cook, stirring frequently, until the mean is cooked through; ~7 minutes.

3. Add the beans and tomatoes, with their liquids, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the chili simmer, gently stirring occasionally until thickened and the flavors are concentrated, about 45 minutes. (If it’s not thickening to your liking, remove the cover to evaporate some liquid.

4. Add the salt and taste for further seasoning (including the pepper and red pepper flakes). Add minced jalapeno and chocolate (if using) and stir. Serve with cheddar cheese or sour cream, if wanted (we didn’t).

We ate the chili with a simple corn muffin that Dave prepared — his first ever. All we did was add Jiffy corn muffin mix with a handful (give or take) of thawed frozen corn and a diced jalapeno, baked off, and enjoyed with butter. It was the perfect pairing. Delish!

Seriously, this was a pretty easy meal to make. You should try it! It’s my new go-to chili recipe. Oh, and the onion and garlic were from the Herkimer Farmers’ Market, as I said, the beef was local and grass-fed (and the jalapeno was from my backyard), the beans were organic (one wasn’t, but I felt better because it was locally-made), as was the can of tomatoes; pretty much everything except the spices and chocolate were either locally-grown or organic. Not too shabby, I think. At least, it was absolutely delicious. I foresee it being dinner tonight, as well. πŸ˜‰

*By the way, the picture is a royalty-free image from the Internet, not my stove top. I miss a gas stove, and only wish I had gorgeous pots like that, but I’m lucky to have what I do. πŸ˜‰

“V” Stands for Victory Garden :-)

This week, the Young Actors Workshop (at ILTC — if you don’t know what that stands for, read this or check out this site…er, please) had its culminating performance(s) for friends and family, so I was a little blog-distracted. Now, I’m waiting a few days to announce some HUUUUGE news (for us, anyway) which is currently being released on a semi-need-to-know basis — at least, ’til my mom finds out. No, we’re not pregnant.

So, while patiently (not) waiting to say the stagnant news, I thought, “Hmm, I should blog about something. But, what?” Then, I looked over my recent entries and smacked myself in the forehead. Dave and I planted our herb/veggie garden last weekend and I hadn’t posted it. D’oh! *smack*
Buuuut, there are pics, so it MUST be forgivable, right? RIGHT?!

Anyhoo, I’m calling it our victory garden because a) I secretly live in the 1940s and occasionally ration myself and b) our neighbor seemed strangely confident that our attempts at gardening would be battled by seed-stealing birds and rodents, among other things (apparently she hasn’t had much luck in the past). So, yeah, part of the name comes from petty “ha-ha, I-told-you-so” thinking. Something wrong with that? Heh.

While we did have to dig a bit, we had decided to take my parents’ advice and just create a frame with 2x4s to contain the garden. Dave did a great job of putting it together.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comYeah, we got overzealous on the whole digging thing. Working on getting that grass back. ANYhoo…here’s a close-up of our oh-so-professional construction technique. We bought three 2x4s at Lowe’s (under $10) and had the friendly fellows in the lumber department cut one in half — for free, might I add — which would create two short ends for the box. Genius! But, we can’t take all the credit; Jerry suggested it.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comHere I am in the oh-so-sexy work jeans leveling out the dirt. Yeah, enough of that. Next picture! Oh, wait. After I did that, I filled in s’more with topsoil.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comNow, it’s time for the eco-friendly plug! We had originally bought (for 2x the price) some good ol’ regular weed-preventing landscape fabric, but the NEXT DAY found this. It’s the same quality, made from recycled plastic bottles and works just as well. Oh, and it was around $8, a bit cheaper.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comGood stuff. So, we laid down enough to cover the bottom of the garden bed (overlapping in the middle). We poured the dirt in, then trimmed the edges down. (Found wayward garden tools to keep the fabric from blowing away on that delightfully breezy day.)

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comCheck out that stud doing his best to keep things in place. Lookin’ good, buddy!

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comClose-up of my kindergarten-level cutting ability.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comOh, yeah. This is the stuff we used. I believe we used one of the fertilizer (COW POOP! Hee hee) and 9, count ’em, 9 of the Organic Choice garden soil. Good stuff.

Now, it’s time to PLANT! Oh, wait. I forgot. This part of the project, we finished the prior week. So, at this point, we actually…um…rested.

Fast-forward to LAST weekend! (Wow. How much of a procrastinator am I that it took me 3 weeks to plant and post the story? In my defense, we still had a frost possibility for awhile there, so nyah.) We went to two local stores to find our produce: T&J’s (which also contains a yummy local grocery store) and Massaro’s (our wedding florists — we may just be lifers), and split it up pretty evenly at the two places.


I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comMwahaha. Had to include this. I foresee some verbal harassment in my near future. Eh, worth it.

So, here are our lovelies awaiting their new places in the world on that fateful morning. Well, I know I was pretty excited about it, not sure what they thought. We had the following (and, gotta tell ya, I was worried we might’ve gone overboard for the space we were allotting ourselves): tomatoes (ick…but I’ll cook with ’em), peppers, onions, Romaine, mescalin mix, red lettuce (can you see we’re salad fans?), hot peppers for the outskirts (we hear they keep pesky bugs and cats away), and my herbs: thyme, parsley, and *adoring siiiigh* basil. Here are their “before” beauty shots.

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.com“All right, Mr. DeMille. I’m ready for my close-up.”

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.com

After posing for awhile, we played with their placement while still in their containers. Then, one at a time, I showed Dave how to get his hands dirty. It was fun and relatively easy, although I’m still wondering, “are they too close? Will Mom approve? Will my neighbor try to sabotage their success?” (Naw, just kidding.) Here’s the final placement:

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI’ve got some more close-up shots, but I won’t bother you with them here. I figure I’ll give it a month or so and compare them. Leave something to the imagination. πŸ˜‰

So far, we had SWELTERING heat and BLAZING sunshine during these little guys’ first week, and they seem okay. The lettuces (particularly the two weaker) wilted, but would come back early in the morning — and seem much stronger now. I’ve already stolen some of the basil for an orzo recipe. I know, I know, but I couldn’t help myself! πŸ˜€ I’ll let you know how it all goes. I’m also planning on planting some strawberries for a container garden, and perhaps a lemon tree in one of our backyard’s “monstrous tree bush from the black lagoon used to be there” gaping holes (I’m just wondering how well it could POSSIBLY do since we don’t live in a Mediterranean environment…hmm).

I Shopped Walmart - image  on http://megactsout.comI just can’t help myself. I LOVE BASIL!!!