Monday, July 25, 2011

Can you do 'Extreme Couponing' in NYC?

Posted by The REAL Carrie B. at 1:42 PM 0 comments
TLC's new show Extreme Couponing is causing a ruckus.  With a second season on the way, grocery stores nationwide are altering coupon policies, people are stealing coupon inserts from inside stores, and women and men have found a new place for their children's playdates:  the recycling dumpsters.  Extreme Couponing is a pupu platter featuring aspects from nearly all of TLC's programming.  Midwestern people with a bizarre habits(My Strange Addiction), tons of children running around(19 Kids.., Kate Plus 8), houses with so much dry pasta that is has to be stored under beds and in dresser drawers(Hoarding: Buried Alive), and I've never seen this show but it sounds like it relates(Kitchen Boss).

With each episode of TLC's Extreme Couponing, my horror slowly turned into excitement.  This was my answer.  I would save thousands of dollars each month, and my savings account would grow.  My Hell's Kitchen apartment cupboards would be bursting with glossy, name brand dry goods.  With a twinkle in my eye, I would laugh off my incredulous friends asking how I do it.  (While reapplying my lip gloss, of which I have 55 more in a shoebox at home.)  The only catch?  Could extreme couponing, or any couponing at all, be possible in New York City?

This is not my apartment.  Yet.  My roommate would love & hate me, with all that TP everywhere..
Grocery shopping is an entirely different expensive beast in NYC.  A box of cereal at a bodega in Harlem:  $6.50.  A package of chicken breasts at a Midtown Manhattan Food Emporium:  $11.  You get the picture.  Although I had to roll my eyes when watching the SATC episode when Carrie Bradshaw mentions using her oven as storage for winter sweaters, she does have a point.  In general eating out in NYC can be cheaper than cooking and grocery shopping.  (Disclaimer: I'm not counting opting for nightly venison and a glass of red.  My version of eating out in NYC includes getting hearty breakfast sandwiches & coffee for 3 bucks, and catching the Thai restaurants 6 buck lunch specials.)

Extreme Couponing turned me into a maniac; I was determined to prove that couponing was possible in Manhattan.  My blood coursed with a yen for things I never knew I so desperately needed: cases of dental floss & Oscar Meyer weiners.  I gleaned everything I could from all the episodes, and then turned to Youtube for even more homemade(and truly unreal) coupon tutorials.  I bought my binder and my baseball card sleeves.  When my boyfriend was away for several days in Michigan and asked what I'd like as a little souvenir, I replied with "coupons" in a sharp, monotonous tone.  It was my mission to call a large stack of dish washing detergent my own.  I don't own a dishwasher.

My "coupon binder".  I probably should have just gone with filing the whole coupon inserts, as I am organizationally challenged.  And coupons expire in the blink of an eye.  Whoops.
I'll save you the blow by blow of my "extreme couponing" week-and-a-half.  There were highs, there were lows, there were paper cuts.  Some aspects were disheartening, BUT I did walk away with a few tips that really are helpful for the New Yorker looking to save some money on the groceries.

  • You can't find huge piles of coupons in NYC like you seemingly can on the TV show locations.  I suppose you can order them online, but fortunately I have yet to reach that level of crazy.  It's okay though, no grocery stores double them here anyway.
  • Food Emporium is the devil.  Most grocery stores in NYC are, and ALL of them do not DOUBLE coupons.  Doubling is the main part of the coupon game plan, so just forget about the stores that don't.  (I think some stores in the boroughs might, and Shop Rite's do as well.)
  • Your best bet is CVS.  Do a search on youtube for CVS'ing, CVS Extra Bucks.  This is an amazing program that can save the diligent shopper 90 percent or more each month.  I planned one trip, utilized coupons & Extra Bucks, and literally spent 4.50 on 7 high end hair & makeup products.  The cashier gave me props.  Garnier Fructis is now my bitch.  Anyhow, head to the youtube tutorials, the gals from the middle of the country do a way better job of explaining this than I do.  
  • Farmer's Market- everyone complains that coupons don't provide savings for healthy foods anyway.  Stiles Farmer's Market behind the Port Authority is absolutely amazing, cheap, and beyond coupon worthy.
  • Trader Joe's- Is also beyond coupon worthy.  Besides being whole and healthy foods, many people don't realize it is cost effective as well. TJ Brand products & name brands alike.  (Luna bars cost .99 cents here a piece.)  And while they don't double, they DO accept coupons.  Just be sure to visit the store early in the day, Monday-Wednesday.  The rush hour lines are unbelievable. 
So to sum up, the time honored advice still holds true:  plan meals ahead for the week, don't shop on an empty stomach, price compare, shop the perimeter, etc. If you have a couple hours a week for your own bizarre shopping rituals, try some "CVS'ing".   Why not.  But try to maintain a sense of normalcy.  If you're boyfriend ever asks what you'd like from a trip away, you should probably just ask for something with an alcohol percentage, not coupons.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mission close to impossible: Beat the summer heat in Midtown, NYC

Posted by The REAL Carrie B. at 2:59 PM 0 comments
I woke up this morning crying.  Oh wait, no.  That's just sweat.  My large fan hovering 1 foot away from my face doesn't really do much in the hottest months of Manhattan summer weather.  My sheet clings to my body like saran wrap.  What can I say?  Welcome to summer in New York City, also known as Satan's Playground.

The exclusive Soho House Members Only Pool Club.  Remember the SATC episode when Samantha , so desperate to avoid the heat and get in, donned a British accent liberated someone else's identity?  It's good to know that everyone dies in the NYC heat, even the girls.  (Side note:  Those are NOT my feet, for so many reasons.  Get a grip.)

I have an air conditioner in my living room, which I try to use as little as possible(and isn't that powerful, anyway.)  My strategy for the summer months is to head out and make various Starbucks and hotel lobbies my satellite offices.  I know my little Hell's Kitchen / Theatre District -ey quite well, so I thought I'd share the BEST places to stay cool and hide from the heat in my hood.  Whether you're a tourist or a resident, chances are you will be made to kill time in Midtown at any point in time.  Without further adieu,

Places to hide from the heat and get some work done in Midtown West, Manhattan
  • Mariott Marquee- 1535 Broadway, bet. 45th & 46th. 8th Floor.  This is by far my favorite hangout to read and be inspired.  This lobby is a mashup of Space Mountain and  Denny's:  exciting and comforting.  Just note they do NOT have accessible wifi, but if you like you can mosey right down into to Broadway's Marquis Theatre and pretend you're Sutton Foster.  Not that I do that.  At all.  
  • Lenny's- on 9th Ave, cross street 43rd.  Alright so this Lenny's has a SUPER Huge, SUPER COLD AIR CONDITIONED, back eating area.  This is a great way to avoid the hoards loitering in the more obvious Starbucks'.  There is free wireless at this one and tons of outlets.  The only downside?  No free refills on coffee.  
  • Starbucks- 825 8th Ave, at 52nd St.  You will see a ton, obviously, but this is the best one.  Tons of room, freezing cold, clean bathroom, nice baristas, and... a secret nook!  It feels like the King & Queen of Starbucks should be sitting there.  It's totally private wrapped around the end of the store; it really feels like my own satellite office at times.  Oh, and don't forget to get their "Starbucks Membership Card" for the free coffee refills and free syrups.

How to amuse yourself in the gross city Heat
  • All done working?  Go to the movies.  Just go.  It's so cold in there.  When the sun sets the Hudson River near the Intrepid is nice to walk around.  But the best idea of all??  Visit your friends who live on the East Side: newer apartment buildings with central air.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Review: the Look Better Naked 2-Day Cleanse Detox

Posted by The REAL Carrie B. at 2:19 PM 5 comments
My body felt like a lava lamp. Okay, I'll explain that. Living the NYC dream is an emotional roller coaster, and with that ride comes emotional eating. And emotional eating in Manhattan means authentic pizza, $7 pints of Ben & Jerry, croissants the size of your face, microbrews, and cocktails. Oh, the cocktails. So after a particularly tough week on said roller coaster, I stepped off to feel not nauseous, but puffy. My body had taken on an extra layer and I know this makes no grammatical sense but my body felt like shapes. Like never-solidifying shapes in a lava lamp.

I decided to try a short, healthy, detox. (Not like that cayenne-maple-syrup-Beyonce deal.) I went to my favorite trusted source for women's health & fitness info, Women's Health Magazine, and came across the Look Better Naked 2-day Cleanse, by Michele Promaulayko.

"A simple meal plan that will hit your body's reset button! ...You'll feel healthy, drop some water weight and we promise, you won't feel deprived or hungry!"
Ooh! Well, don't mind if I do! What could be wrong with the images of a tighty-whitey clad skinny woman and a huge fresh cut lime staring back at me?

I'll tell you what's wrong: This is not an appropriate detox for an active, on-the-go NY woman! Michele, you promised I wouldn't feel deprived or hungry. You pppprrrrommmissseed! (yelled in a rage-filled yet super tired voice.) And by the way? There are NO limes called for on this 48 hour detox. No lemons, either.

I think it's understood that you shouldn't be running marathons while on a detox, but nowhere does it advise you to cut activities out of your average day because this is an under a thousand calorie per day detox.

In short, my 2-day cleanse turned into a 1 day cleanse.. I went to bed and woke up completely famished after day 1. Nowhere on the cleanse webpage did it say what to do if you were hungry. Nowhere did it say to plan your day around a low-calorie detox. A magazine like Women's Health should understand that their readers are a highly ambitious, extremely active bunch-- let us know to cool down our perfection-driven psyches and calm down for the 2 days!

"It's important to eat exactly what's listed on both days of the cleanse-- but note that there's more variety here than meets the eye in terms of which foods you choose to eat and how you prepare them."

What variety, Michelle? Finding 'more variety here than meets the eye' and figuring out new ways to prepare foods makes me feel like I've signed up for a Gordon Ramsey show. And I don't cook. I think it's safe to say that most of the Women's Health readership isn't exactly Master Chef material. Regardless, I'm pretty sure there's no creativity in the world that would have made me find those 10 blanched asparagus spears appetizing.

All in all I give this detox plan a 5 out of 10. The points off being for not catering to the Women's Health demographic & misleading claims. (And no, I didn't take off any points for the inevitable detox farts.) Would I try it again? Maybe, if I could keep myself in an air-conditioned portal with on demand tv and no interactions with the outside world.


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