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College, ahoy: Picking a meal plan

Recently lovely reader Teresa sent in a great question:

Have you written about selecting college meal plans? We are close to having that quandary er… privilege. Son in question is a quesocarbotarian if we don’t keep an eye on him. He’s been vegetarian for close to 10 years, he easily eats veggies, fruits and plant proteins lovingly placed on the table before him, but I fear he may have difficulty finding balanced food court style choices. And how do you select an appropriate number of meals per term? We do have Amazon Prime for any emergencies. If you have sage advice (and you surely do!) I bet lots of folks would love to know how you broke this down?

Rather than just answering it here, I actually sent it along to Alpha Mom because it fits in with other college-related posts I’ve been writing over there, but if you have a kid leaving for college in a few months, you should go check it out.

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Dorm Deets: What to buy for college freshmen

Lovely reader Dena wrote in and said:

Could you do a “what to buy for college/dorms list”? With links to good stuff, maybe?

My daughter is actually a 2017 but I’m trying to get a head start on dorm shopping as sales come up (and soften the financial blow of next year) and have absolutely NO idea what she will need. For instance: how many sets of monogrammed towels (deep south colleges; all things must be monogrammed, right?) do most people send with their little darling? Does she really need that toaster oven she has been quietly coveting since 8th grade? Paper, plastic, or china? Will she need a memory foam topper for that dorm mattress? How about a bedbug bag for the mattress? She’s ocd neat -– will she need a vacuum? Cord or corded?

Are you sending your kid with a car to keep herself in things like paper towels and toilet paper? Should I just consider providing mine with an Amazon Dash button for necessities?

Help a sister out, please.

I love this, because my oldest is graduating in just a few months (*gulp*) and her younger brother is just a year behind, which means I’ve been hip-deep in dorm shopping/research for a few months, already. I’ll cover your questions as best I can and then I bet some other folks will chime in, too. Buckle up! (more…)

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The generic-but-not group gift dilemma

About a month ago, pretty reader Jean sent me the following question, and I was all, “Yes, I would love to tackle that! Stay tuned!” And then I saw something shiny and wandered off. My apologies for taking so long, Jean. Forgive me? Here we go:

Last year was my first year at a new job. In past jobs, we always did a Kris Kringle type of thing so you only had to purchase one gift for one co-worker. Well last Christmas, everyone was giving gifts to everybody! This was not in my budget so I wound up getting cards and a small bag of Lindt chocolates for everyone. It was fine but not super creative.

This year, I have budgeted about $10 per person (not including cards because I bought those at the end of the year sale last year). Any ideas of what I could get coworkers? Most are female and are aged between 30 and 50 (I have one male co-worker in his 40’s). I could go a bit higher per person if need be.

My knee-jerk response to this is abject horror. Times are tough and budgets are tight; I don’t know how many people there are in Jean’s office, but this seems excessive. Yikes. What if you couldn’t afford to participate? (I could go on and on, here. I’ll stop now.)

But with a budget of $10/person, I think you can probably go a few different ways. (more…)

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Special occasion dresses?

The ever-lovely Allison writes:

So. I need a dress for my niece’s wedding in Baltimore in August.

Where are your (or your readers’) staple stores for looking for a special event dress? I am not talking haute couture – but I would be willing to spend a few hundred dollars if I have to on the outfit. (But of course, I’d preferably like to get everything on sale….) FWIW, I think I am looking for an A-line cocktail-type dress. I have the upper body structure of an emaciated sparrow combined with less emaciated hips. A lines are my friend.

(Allison also included a picture of her delicious baby, but I am not sharing it here because it will make your heart explode. She’s a redhead, y’all. Swoon.)

So, first things first: A-lines are a very flattering cut on almost everyone, but your “emaciated sparrow” description made me both cringe and laugh. Also, for those of us with a similar body structure (pears, represent!), bear in mind that the Mad-Men-eque styles with full skirts are a great option, too.

On to the suggestions! Personally, I have scored a number of really lovely dresses from 6pm.com, but prices go up and down and the selection oftentimes isn’t great. That’s a if-you-luck-out kind of place, for sure, though the price will certainly always be right. Similarly, I’ve gotten a couple of killer pieces from Rue La La, but you have to register and check the boutiques every day and it ends up being a matter of timing.

For less aggravating shopping, Bluefly is a hotbed of designer goodies, though the prices will reflect that (even the discounts there still make for spendy shopping). I would say the next price tier down from there—but still fancy-schmancy—would be Last Call, and from there I’d probably go down to the good department stores like Dillards and Macy’s (maybe even Bon-Ton, too). The department store advantage, of course, is wide selection, frequent sales, and maybe even a local store for returns if you have trouble finding what you want.

Readers, where else would you look?

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Freezer storage?

Frank writes:

I know you like the Lock and Lock stuff.

What I need is some sort of container that I can store food in the freezer for longer than, say, 3 weeks without them getting burned, longer the better. I am pretty sure you use them… do you use them for this purpose, and if so, do you find them acceptable for use this way? Trying for convenience here.. i have a vacuum sealer but its expensive and not so convenient to use often (unpack and repack), and Freezer bags dont work well for things that are not 100% solid, or a well defined shape.

Thoughts? I know you are busy and stuff… A word or 2 at your convenience would be much appreciated, as I find myself trusting your judgment on such things.

PS.. this question brought to you by Home.Woot, where these popped up today.

Frank is right, I do love the Lock & Lock stuff. And that Home.Woot set is a great one I’d definitely recommend. But you know I can’t resist a few words about food storage, because I’m a geek like that. Come with me…. (more…)

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So I thought I should mention…

… that a lot of you have noticed that posting here has been very sporadic the last few weeks, and a few folks have asked what’s going on, and I kept hoping everything would even out and I’d never have to answer. Tralala! Everything’s fine! Back to normal! I have no idea what you’re talking about! Unfortunately I think that bit of wishful thinking has expired by now.

So. Nobody panic, Want Not isn’t going anywhere. But one of my kids has been extremely ill, and between her being in the hospital for a couple of weeks and the care she now requires back at home, work is just taking a major backseat right now. I’m doing what I can, when I can. I hope we’ll return to our regular programming soon, both because I take this place seriously and because having a sick kid is really, really awful.

Bear with me, please? Thank you. And might I add that you all look very pretty today.

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Another angle on time vs. money

Over the next few weeks I hope to 1) get back into the groove of working normally (before the holidays = working crazy and post-holidays has = not working enough) and 2) get to the backlog of advice requests y’all have sent my way.

Let’s start with the following from lovely reader Caty:

Could you possibly, sometime after the holidays maybe, share with us how you weigh the time you save shopping online versus (maybe/sort of) saving a few bucks in store? For example, according to the Target flier this week, there’s a particular toy I want to give my 3 year-old that is $10 cheaper than the Amazon price. It’s sold out on target.com and while our Target had the toy last week, there’s no guarantee it will be there when I get a chance to stop by/after I call to see they have it and the last one sells before I get there. To me, it’s totally worth spending the 10 extra bucks on Amazon considering a) Free Prime (thank you very much!) b) the time I would spend actually going to the store and c) I am physically and mentally incapable of spending less than $100 in the bricks and mortar Target store. Spending $10 extra is not exactly frugal money-wise. But it’s frugal time-wise. Which is better when you’re already crazy and have neither much time nor money? WWMD?

I think you’re especially pretty today.

I’m happy to share my thoughts on this, though I think Caty is so very pretty she actually already answered her own question. Let’s get to it. (more…)

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Best bread machines?

The lovely Alicia writes:

The Husband loves bread and I will periodically stun and amaze him by making some on a rare, slow weekend. But he cleans without being asked so I’d like him to have homemade bread more often! A full time job and 2 kids makes it difficult though. Any recommendatons on a good bread machine…it would be heavily used since he can consume a whole loaf by himself (and maintain his 32″ waist, for which I’ve not yet forgiven him).

A deal would be nice too but I’m willing to pay more for easier to use!

I’m sorry, I’m stuck back on the part where your husband can eat an entire loaf of bread and stay skinny. I hate him a little, now. (Kidding!)

Here’s the thing about making bread: While I’m happy to talk bread machines, I also feel the urge to point out that baking bread doesn’t have to be a time/labor intensive endeavor. A good heavy-duty mixer (such as my beloved KitchenAid Pro) can do all the kneading, and if you really want ease, check out Jeff Hertzberg’s Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (possibly the greatest bread baking cookbook ever).

But machines are good, too. Let’s take a look. (more…)

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Saving money vs. saving sanity

Oh man, I love this. The very pretty Sarah just wrote the following to me:

I realize that you probably have a TON of time between now and Christmas to sit around and reply to your readers (have I mentioned that you are VERY pretty?), but I was wondering if you could answer a quick question for me.

With Christmas nearing and the arrival of 16 family members and 8 children looming (where the heck are we gonna stick all these people??), my washing machine decides that it is time to die. This happens the day after both kids and I decided to start feeling better from the cold we have had for the last week and the day after my husband arrives home after a week long work trip. Needless to say, I have laundry coming out of my ears. Here’s my question….do I use a neighbors washer and wait until after Christmas for a good deal or do I run out to Sears and pick one up today? I am unsure if washers and dryers go on sale after Christmas. Do they have amazing deals on sets like on Black Friday? In your opinion, can I save enough money by waiting that would make it worthwhile?

If you get a chance, let me know what you think. If not, NO WORRIES!! Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday and a long life to your washing machine!!

To clarify, I do not love that poor Sarah’s washing machine chose this moment to die. I just love that she wrote to me about it, and also that this is—to me—kind of the crux of this whole money-saving thing. Let me explain. (more…)

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Getting the best bed

The lovely Dallas writes:

Dear pretty Mir —

I’m a longtime reader and finally moving into an apartment with no roommates (holler for being a grown up, even in a recession!)… I’m upsizing from a twin bed (I’m 27, it’s time) to a queen bed. Any suggestions on how to pull off getting a good deal on a mattress, quality tips, etc? I’m totally clueless… and you know everything 🙂

Love,
Dallas

You know what? I do love Dallas! She’s exceptionally pretty. And that’s not even just because she’s also an accomplished suck-up.

Speaking as someone who enjoys researching products before I buy them and then finding the best deal, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the mattress industry is in cahoots with the liquor industry. That is, even the most savvy and conscientious among us want to drink when we have to shop for a new bed. That’s because it’s confusing, time consuming, and there’s no possible way to find a “standard” for pricing. But let’s see what we can do. (more…)

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