Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Follow her journey at susanshain.com.
After moving apartments (yet again) earlier this year, I went to a big-box bargain store for some general supplies. And as an avid lover of grocery shopping, I couldn’t not check out its aisles of food. What I found really surprised me. Classy crackers that would automatically raise my social status! Craft sodas with trendy lettering! Sacks of milled flaxseed the size of an ostrich egg! Organic dried figs not in Fig Newton form!
“What do you do?” “Is this your first time here?” “How long have you been traveling?” I was sitting at a restaurant with some people I’d just met — which was lovely — but after traveling across Thailand for several weeks, I didn’t want to ask and answer the same questions again.
Outside Barrachina in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a bronze plaque reads: “The house where in 1963 the piña colada was created by Don Ramon Portas Mingot.” In the decades since Don Ramon’s discovery, the drink has exploded in popularity: The restaurant now serves approximately 2,200 piña coladas a day. I stopped into Barrachina on a recent visit to Puerto Rico. And, while undeniably touristy, the restaurant is the type of place where everyone’s having a good time.
The year: 1994. The scene: my elementary school lunchroom. The surroundings: kids with Lunchables. Cracker-and-cheese Lunchables, taco Lunchables, waffle Lunchables, and the Lunchables to end all Lunchables — the pizza Lunchables. For a scrawny 8-year-old girl, there’s a surprising amount of envy flowing through my body. That’s because my super-frugal parents don’t buy me Lunchables.
Because we’ll never get sick of backyard cookouts and pools and everything else that goes with summer, we’ll also never get sick of stocking up on summer supplies. And though CVS sometimes gets a bad rap as an expensive place to shop, it can actually be good for summer bargains. To take advantage of the deals, you must first have a free CVS ExtraCare card. “When it comes to shopping at CVS, loyalty does pay off,” says Christie Bisbee, founder of Wild for CVS.
Sometimes the produce section can feel overwhelming. Not only do you have to choose what’s best for your body, but you also have to buy what’s best for your budget. And there are just so many options. Those bagged apples, for example — are they really a better deal? How about those “microwaveable” potatoes? I compared prices and called up some pros in order to find the best and worst deals in the produce department.
It’s happened to everyone: You see what seems like a good price on grapes and eagerly add the bag to your cart. Then, when you get to the register, you learn with dismay that your fruity purchase came out to … $12. Say what? Because grapes are priced per pound, their total cost can often take unknowing consumers by surprise. Here’s the lowdown on when to buy grapes, what to pay, and how to pick the best ones.
I had a crush for several months before ever making a move. I’d scroll through the feeds of my favorite food bloggers, daydreaming of what the future could hold: stove-to-oven creations like eggplant Parm and mac and cheese, hearty breakfasts, cozy dinners, stories and recipes to share with the next generation. Then one day, my dreams came true. My crush entered my life, and at last I held a shiny and new (and shockingly heavy) 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet in my hands.
Whether you eat them grilled, wrapped in prosciutto, or just cut up into wedges, watermelons are one of the hallmarks of summer. And luckily, they’re considered the best value fruit on the market. Here’s how much you should plan to pay — and how to get the most bang for your watermelon buck.
I’ve moved a lot in my 31 years. Since I left home for college, I’ve had a new apartment approximately every six months — and usually, new roommates, too. In total, I’ve cohabitated with 42 different humans. Along with those humans came dozens of different kitchens — so as an avid home cook, I quickly learned to streamline the coupling and uncoupling of saucepans, spices, and spoons.
Quick! What’s the appetizer with the best ratio of effort to pleasure? You could make an argument for a cheese board, or even seven-layer dip … but if you really want your guests to know you care, bust out a shrimp cocktail tray. Juicy shrimp paired with a tangy cocktail sauce makes for a simple yet delightful way to start an evening. When it comes to buying those pre-made trays of happiness, most hosts grab the first one they see, at the first grocery store they visit.
What do you get someone who loves to cook but already has all the gadgets and gizmos she could possibly need? How about a handmade cookbook that contains recipes and anecdotes from all her friends and loved ones? It’s a great gift for milestone birthdays, going-away parties, and especially bridal showers (it’s been known to bring so many tears!). “I don’t think I received a more thoughtful or practical gift,” says Emily, a recent bride from Michigan.
You could say moving is one of my specialties: Over the past decade, I’ve lived in more than 25 different apartments. Because I don’t move with much, I’ve had to get creative when it comes to stocking my kitchen on a budget. The thrift store is almost always my first stop, although they don’t always have what I need. Not to mention, there are certain items I generally can’t (or don’t want to) buy used. So where do I go next? The dollar store.