I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 103 - Koupons

Daily Kup (What I Did On My Reality Vacation)
Attila the Son is now back to working on his school prep work, a feat accomplished only through sitting on him ... almost literally. Math, Chinese, and writing today, reading tomorrow. The threat of having to weed the garden was an untapped resource of enormous power. Wonder what I'm going to do in the winter!

I'm looking forward to the writing class tomorrow afternoon. The topic is converting business writers and helping them transition to something that someone wants to read.

Slow Roasted
To conclude my take on the perils and rewards of cheap grocery shopping, no discussion would be complete without the coupon. Coupons issued by the grocery stores are most often for the loss leader items, products sold for little profit to entice the consumer into the store.

This is particularly true for grocery stores that use the 'high/low' pricing model. In my geographic area, the largest chains to use this model are Cub Foods and Rainbow. The other contenders are those with the 'everyday low price' business model -- few to no coupons, less selection overall, diversification to lines other than food; that is, discount superstores SuperTarget and Wal-Mart. Studies indicate that Wal-Mart has prices between 13 and 20% below the traditional supermarkets. Most agree that Target's pricing is very close to Wal-Mart's. I'm personally not inclined to shop at Wal-Mart for some social reasons but largely because they smell funny and because the house I lived in from ages 7 to 12 was removed to build a Wal-Mart parking lot.

One can shop quite well at discount superstores without store coupons even though the stores tend to be weak in deli and bakery departments. If you have a solid handle on the average prices of what you usually buy, you can optimize your money and still not waste a ton of time by shopping one of each type of store in turn.

By using manufacturers' coupons and taking advantage of doubling, the pricing at traditional grocery stores can be much better than superstores for selected products. The problem with manufacturers' coupons is that 95% of the food ones are for things that are not very good for you. When was the last time you saw a manufacturers' coupon for a bag of apples? Those people who buy $100 of groceries for $3.49 using multiple coupons are feeding their families Hamburger Helper and Velveeta.

A coupon box like the one I got from my mother and sister as a wedding gift (about nine hundred years and two husbands ago) can be very handy. Coupons are filed behind tabs labeled with categories like 'bread', 'condiments', and 'desserts/toppings.' The box fits nicely into the seat on shopping carts and is used to make quick decisions between brands on products that I was going to buy in the first place. The supershopper people in magazine articles thrive on cascading coupons to obtain some item cheaply that they might not even want except for the price. That's really losing sight of the objective, unless your objective is bragging rights with other people who now also have four bags of artichoke-flavored potato chips.

So coupons for most healthy, basic food items are a nice-to-have/manna from heaven deal; coupons for non-foods yield significant savings if you aren't hung up on brand names. Every detergent, toothpaste, paper product, and cleaning solution has coupons. Just by dragging the box along, I save an average of 11% of the total purchase by using coupons with almost no effort. If I spent more time or ate more processed food, the percentage would be higher.

What's the last element? Oh, yeah, meal planning. I have a form -- this is something that Porkus did to my mind; I'm feeling much better now, thank you very much. I don't usually bother with the sheet anymore unless I share cooking responsibility with someone else during the week. Otherwise, I group the dinner components into meals written on the back of the grocery list and then write the name of a day above each one. I stick the rough list beneath a magnet on the side of the refrigerator and then do a little happy dance that shopping is all over.

I'm not as interested in grocery shopping as all this verbiage would suggest. I'm interested in solving problems as painlessly and systematically as possible. Remember that thing in the pit that Jabba the Hut was going to feed Luke to in The Empire Strikes Back? You know, the giant mouth with the rows and rows of teeth (in the re-released version that George meddled with in a vain attempt to live life in the rear view window). Anyhow, that's a lot like my family at mealtime. They'll leave the table DURING a meal to see what else might be in the refrigerator. This process is my way of cheaply fixing the problem without a light saber.

Good To The Last Drop
Thanks to Sherry, who emailed this great joke:

Subject: Amazing Grace

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a fireman. The service was to be at a small cemetery in the Kentucky back country. As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and, being a typical man, I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this fireman. I played like I've never played before for him. And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished, I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

Apparently I'm still lost...

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