Coffee heat rising

Is that bargain food safe to eat?

You find a gallon of juice at the grocery on megasale. Only problem is, the “sell by” date is the day after tomorrow; the stuff that’s not on sale has a sell-by date sometime in the middle of next week. Will you have to throw out whatever juice you can’t gulp down in a day and a half? Over at Scribbit, a lively discussion of the pros and cons of Costco is going on; blog proprietor Michelle observes that Costco’s milk often has an expiration date so close to the purchase date she ends up throwing sketchy stuff away.

Depends on what the date actually is. Take a close look at it: does it say “sell by,” “use by,” or “expiration”? Or something else?

Food is not slated to spoil by its “sell by” or “use by” date. Truth to tell, if it’s been stored properly it may be OK even after its “expiration” date, though you might not want to give it to infants or folks with serious health problems. According to Consumer Reports, here’s what those dates mean:

Use by, best if used by, or quality assurance: These estimate the period in which a product is at the height of its delectability. After the date given, it may be less flavorful, but it’s still safe to eat.

Sell by or pull: This tells the retailer when the product should be taken off the shelf. But it’s still safe to eat by the “sell by” date. This date figures in the amount of time most people might be expected to store the product at home. According to CR, milk is usable for a good seven days after the sell-by date.

Package or pack date: The date the product was packaged. It has no direct relationship to the date the product is likely to spoil. Comparing package dates of products on the shelf may allow you to buy the most recently processed item, which is nice, but the older one is not necessarily about to spoil.

Expiration date: For food, this is the term that indicates food may be spoiled. CR says an exception is eggs, which can be used three to five weeks after the stamped-on expiration date. Remember, too, that for other products the “expiration date” is often just a marketing gimmick to induce you to buy new packages of perfectly OK products (such as sunscreen) at regular intervals.

The way a food is stored is crucially important to how long it stays edible. And you may not know. For example, last summer I made an emergency run to the nearby Albertson’s to buy some butter. What should I find but that the cooler where the butter and margarine were stored was out of order! It clearly had been out of order for quite some time: the room-temperature butter was soft, and the other dairy products in the case were warm and kept that way under the display case’s lights.

I didn’t buy it, and on the way out (annoyed that now I would have to burn gas to make a six-mile round-trip traipse to buy a single package of butter) I mentioned the broken case and room-temperature dairy products to the store manager. She just shrugged and said a repairman was supposed to show up that day. It was clear she had no intention of removing the products—as soon as the cooler was repaired, shoppers would have no idea the butter, margarine, sour cream, cream cheese and other products had been sitting at 80 degrees for many hours.

So, as in most cases, we’re reduced to having to use common sense. Give any food item the sniff test, no matter when it’s dated. Does it smell fresh? Any whiff of the rancid about it? And do you see any sign of mildew or dried-up spots? Does the can bulge? Is the can dented? If so, out it goes.

Don’t assume the dates on a product necessarily mean you have to consume it by that date, or that it’s still safe by that date, either. When in doubt, throw it out.

Multitasking: A young person’s game?

This morning NPR ran a feature about a neuroscientist whose research shows that people reach their peak ability to multitask—defined as doing more than one thing at once—in their twenties, that young children are incapable of multitasking, and that as we age we lose the knack of handling several trains of thought or attention at the same time.

It’s an interesting proposition. One thing is for sure: it goes a long way toward explaining why I feel more and more hostile toward conflicting demands on my attention, and why contemporaries often say the same thing. Two things happen as you age, of which either or both may be related to this issue:

  1. When you put something down to attend to something else, you tend to forget the first task and wander off into new realms.
  2. When you are trying to perform a given task, it begins to look to you as not one task but a whole series of tasks. For example, doing the laundry = a) gathering clothes and toweling, b) hauling laundry to the washer, c) treating stains, d) setting the washer to soak, e) adding soap and bleach, f) going back out to the washer to run the rest of the cycle, g) going back out to put the wet clothes in the dryer or hang them on the line, h) going back out to haul the clothes out of the dryer or off the line, i) hanging and folding clothes, k) putting the clothes away. “One” task is actually eleven tasks!

Each of these eleven tasks interrupts something else that you’re doing: housecleaning, yardwork, blogging, child care, paying work, whatever. Even if the subtasks of a given activity happen all in one chunk of time, rather than spreading out over minutes or hours as the laundry chore does, as you get older you still see X job not as X but as a + b + c + d . . . and so on to infinity.

The point I’m trying to make (I think) is that “multitasking” is not doing several things at once. It’s actually a conflicting tangle of interruptions. It may be, in fact, that at times in your life you’re better equipped to stay focused during a series of interruptions: your attention wanders less, or you’re less conscious of the annoyance factor inflicted by gestalt activities. But I would argue that proceeding forward by interruption is not an efficient or effective way to function. Certainly there’s nothing new about that thought: researchers have known this for years.

So What Can We Do about It?

Plenty. First off, we can recognize that as 21st-century Americans we’re subjected to far more concurrent demands on our attention than humans are evolved to cope with. Knowing that, we can consciously engineer our activities to enhance focus and cut out distractions.

For example: Working on your computer? Turn off the e-mail programs. If there’s no burning need to know when every minuscule, generally meaningless message comes in, then you’re justified in checking your e-mail three times a day, two times…or even less than that!

Oh, revolutionary!

Extending the rebellion: Get rid of telephone features that distract your attention or interrupt a phone conversation. Do you really need call-waiting? Can anything be ruder than interrupting a phone conversation with the remark that you’ve got to put the person on hold to answer an incoming call (probably from someone sooooo much more important than the person you’re speaking with)? Give each telephone call your undivided attention, and don’t brook any electronic interruptions. Do you really need caller ID, for that matter? Why do you need to interrupt what you’re doing check the identity of every caller and make a decision as to whether to answer the phone? Just let the call go through to your voicemail and decide, at your convenience, which caller you will talk to, and when.

Turn off the television if it’s just running as background noise to an intellectual activity. You’re not really listening to it as you do your homework or office work—you’re interrupting your train of thought to pick up on something that attracts your attention. Switching back and forth, even at a subliminal level, is inefficient, time-consuming, and stressful.

Make a conscious decision to focus on one thing at a time. Recently, for example, I realized that I tend to start things, drop them to do something else, and then delay or never finish the them, especially in the morning. I get up, wash my face, and brush my teeth. While I’m brushing my teeth I turn on the e-mail or the blog program. Then I stumble out and feed the dog. I throw on some clothes and race out to meet La Maya for a morning walk. Then I fix and eat breakfast, trying to read the paper while eating, without much luck. Maybe I water the garden or add water or chemicals to the pool. Then I’m back at the computer. Then I realize I’m late for work. I bathe, wash my hair, throw on some presentable-in-public clothes, bolt toward the door and realize…
…I haven’t put my makeup on;
…I haven’t made the bed;
…I haven’t put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, possibly because
…I haven’t unloaded the clean dishes;
…I haven’t put together the paperwork I need to carry to the credit union today;
…I haven’t put the work I needed to return to the office back in the car;
…I haven’t turned off the water on some plant;
…I haven’t put water or iced leftover coffee in the car for the long drive across the city;
…DAMMIT, I’m not ready to go!!!!!

So as I’m trying to get out the door, I’m racing around tying up a great frayed fringe of loose ends.

There’s a way around this, and it’s simple: Finish every action that gets started before starting a new action. That means finish the WHOLE action. Recognize the entire series of subtasks that constitute an action and get them all done at once. This morning after I washed my face, I put on the light make-up I need to appear more or less alive at the office (i.e., brushing-teeth-and-washing-face also includes painting face). Before leaving the bedroom, I made the bed (getting out of bed entails making the bed). Before wandering out of the kitchen after breakfast, I put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher (preparing and eating a meal includes putting the dishes away).

The gestalt atmosphere that we live in today tends to unlink a given activity’s subactions, so that we leave things undone or get distracted in the middle of a series of actions that really should be regarded as one action. We need to relink the parts of each activity, so we can resist the blandishments of “multitasking” and live our lives in a more coherent, efficient—and dare one say it? meaningful—way.

The Strategy

  1. Dispense with as many distractions as possible.
  2. Be conscious of all the activities an action entails, link them together, and think of them as a single action.
  3. Try to complete each whole action before moving on to something else.

Of course, if you’re a young parent, this is easier said than done: children require attention, and they generally require it sooner than later. Maybe that’s why, so the scientists say, young adults are better able to “multitask” than the rest of us. But maybe what we should do is simply pay full attention to the children. I suspect that at any time of life, we’re likely to be happier and less stressed if we make it a habit to do one thing—one whole thing—at a time.

Qwest redux: How do these companies stay in business?

Oh, God, I hate Qwest!!!!!

How in the name of heaven do these outfits stay in business? I thought the whole idea of breaking the Ma Bell monopoly was to bring us better service! Man. Talk about your unintended consequences.

Well, I do have to admit that Ma Bell’s service was bad. Awful. Though at least a human being answered the phone, it was the biggest pain to have to get on the phone and deal with those people. They were arrogant beyond description, because they didn’t have to treat you decently. You had no recourse. They were the only game in town.

Today you have no recourse, either. I called the Arizona Corporation Commission earlier in the present Qwest fiasco to urge that the company not be granted the rate hike it’s requesting, because the service it provides (or fails to provide) to customers does not justify increasing our bills. I was told that DSL services are completely unregulated. Period. There’s no regulation for DSL! And that, my chickadees, is why you get shafted every time you turn around if you have the temerity to buy in to one of these systems.

Yesterday I opened an envelope from Qworst, expecting the usual monthly statement.


It was a nasty collection letter claiming my bank had bounced a payment for $155.46 (!!!!!) and announcing that Qwest is about to disconnect my phone.

Say what?

In the first place, this charge is incorrect. It includes about $100 for a modem that was never installed but instead was taken back to Qwest by the serviceman whose time was wasted while Qwest was engaged in wasting my time over the DSL flap. One of the endless series of customer disservice people I spoke with over the phone determined that this was an incorrect charge and, after learning that my bill is automatically paid, deleted the $155.46 charge, posted the real amount due (which was $55) to my American Express card, and arranged for regular billing to restart next month. She said no charge was due this month.

In the second place, had Qwest actually billed the credit union, any amount they chose to ask for would have been paid. My account contained $1,600 on the day the monthly charge goes through. Furthermore, because of the late, great PeopleSoft fiasco, in which My Beloved Employer’s newly outsourced payroll contractor took to failing to pay people’s salaries (oops!), I arranged for check-bouncing protection in the amount of a full month’s pay: $3,000. So, Qwest had access to $4,600 on the day its $155 bill was allegedly bounced.

Hm. Considering Qwest’s rampant incompetence, that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

In the third place, had an automatic charge not gone through, the credit union would have informed me.

The speciousness of Qwest’s statement, then, was even more infuriating than its nasty tone.

So once again I had to get past Qwest’s enraging phone-answering robot, whose “voice” I would very much like NEVER to hear again.

Finally a human answers, a gent who identifies himself as “Brad.”

“Brad” says the bill was cut on the September 16 and I talked with “Amy,” the last Qwest human who deigned to speak with me, on the 23rd. While this may have been true, it skirted the fact that the credit union would have disgorged the $155 automatically had a charge been sent through on the billing date, around October 1. At first he thought maybe they had an incorrect bank routing number, but after some study, he couldn’t see why a bounced transaction notice would have been sent out at all.

He says one of the modems wasn’t credited because John, the dreadlocked but charming repairman, failed to provide a return authorization number. Thus the return didn’t register in the system.

“Brad” finds the $155.46 was deleted on 9/23 and then remarks, about what he’s seeing on the system, “This doesn’t make sense.” He says no late fee should have been issued.

He now adjusts the account and concludes that the account balance is 0 and nothing is owing this month.

I ask if the regular bill would be $86. Amazingly, to figure that out he has to manually add up all the charges. He says the regular bill will now be the same as it was before this time-wasting comedy of errors began.

Dollars to donuts, that isn’t the last we’ll hear of it.

If Qworst paid me for the amount of my time it has wasted, it would owe me about $240. And interestingly, Qworst may not actually be the worst of them all. Go online and check out the reviews of just about any telecom company you choose. Sunday I was at the Sprint store with a friend, where I overheard two women engaged in endless discussion with the staff (one of them had been relegated to a phone—even going in person to the store doesn’t guarantee that you can speak to a human being face to face). Neither of them was getting much satisfaction, though one at least managed to stay calm. The other was furious, and pointed out in barely measured tones that something was wrong with the way Sprint was treating a loyal customer who had paid her bills on time for many a year. As though Sprint gives one thin damn about loyal customers, any more than Qwest does!

We have only our own stupidity to blame for this set of affairs. If “loyal customers” would wise up to the fact that none of us needs a Blackberry or a cell phone or any of this other junk, telecommunication companies would be reduced to having to treat us like human beings to get our business. But because, like the herd of morons telecom executives evidently believe us to be, we stampede to buy every gadget that comes on the market the instant it hits the stores, we get gouged for services and treated like cows.

We should be as ashamed of ourselves as the telecommunications executives and our defanged, castrated government regulators should be.
The Continuing Saga of Qworst
(Notice that this stupid stuff started in August!)

Back again—temporarily?
“We value your business”
Unbundled: Qwest strikes again
What happens when a live Qwest guy shows up
Tune in next week: same time, same place!

Consumer-proof Packaging: A Modest Proposal

Yuk. Still suffering from the diarrhea I picked up at a restaurant last Sunday, I drove over to the local Albertson’s at 5:30 this a.m. to restock the generic Imodium.

Both the brand-name and the Albertson’s knock-off versions come in those damned consumer-proof packages, where each pill is individually sealed, like an insect frozen in amber, between a layer of stiff plastic and a layer of tinfoil-coated cardboard. I no longer have enough strength in my hands to push the pills through either of these substances. Whenever I get pills packaged in child-proof containers, I put them into a bottle or other container that I can get open, since I find the consumer-proof packaging well-nigh impossible to get into when I need the stuff.

You can’t slice these bubble-packs open with a box-cutter. The ditzy little pill bubbles are too small and sealed in too tightly, so that when you take a box-cutter to the flicking packaging you cut up the 25-cent-apiece pills. So you have to take a pair of scissors and cut each and every pill out. One at a time.

But cutting along the sides of the pills doesn’t break into the bubbles. Again, they’re too tightly packaged for a couple of slices to break them fully open. So now you have to get a knife and pick each pill out through the slices you’ve made along the edges of the bubbles.

So to get a couple of pills for your upset belly, you have to break out the following tools

  1. box-cutter
  2. scissors
  3. knife
  4. broken fingernail
  5. cut fingers

Fighting with consumer-proof packaging is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re sick.

Now I realize that many people are too stupid to store pharmaceuticals out of children’s reach (although believe me, a three-year-old could get into these things a lot easier than an old lady with arthritic fingers). And I realize that many people’s children are too dumb to distinguish between pills and candy. But “takes a village” or not, I believe that’s the parent’s problem, not every consumer on the planet’s.

If we must protect parents from their own carelessness or stupidity, how’s about we require manufacturers to market medications in two kinds of packages: child-proof and human-accessible. We could then legislate that if a parent who buys human-accessible meds allows a child to eat the stuff, the parent will be subject to prosecution for manslaughter and child abuse, and prohibited from suing the pharmaceutical manufacturer. That’s easy. Retailers could be required to post a sign to that effect, and manufacturers could be required to put a warning on every pill bottle, just as wine, beer, and liquor makers have to threaten every woman who ventures near an an alcoholic drink.

There’s a limit to how much we should protect people from themselves.

consumerism, consumer safety, packaging, pharmaceuticals, child-proof packaging

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

1 Comment

Mrs. Micah

That makes sense. Like they have those more accessible caps on Advil bottles and the like for seniors. Of course someone could get in trouble for letting a kid near one of those. *hugs*

Wednesday, June 11, 200804:03 PM


So I make a run on the Safeway on the way home from work, neatly combining a shopping trip with the commute. As I’m forking over $68 and thinking the prices have gone through the roof since my last visit, several weeks ago, the cashier hands me a coupon book.

Excellent, I think. This will be my introduction to couponing, a feature of my month of (not-quite-)extreme frugality.

Other bloggers sing the praises of coupons and swear you can get out of CVS with free products by combining cents-off coupons with sales. The purse-stuffing little pieces of paper evidently save costs in many stores, such as Safeway. I’ve never made a habit of using them, mostly because I think they’re a nuisance-I have enough paper to keep track of, thanks-and also because I rarely find a coupon for anything I want. To get the cents off, you either have to buy a product you ordinarily would not buy or switch brands. And when I select a brand, it’s usually for a reason.

Home at last, the groceries put away, and a glass of orange juice poured. Let’s take a look at what we have in the coupon book:

  • Spend fifty bucks at Safeway and you get a free reusable, environmentally friendly shopping bag, advertising Safeway. Unclear whether it’s canvas or just heavy-duty paper. If the former, sure; I’d buy $50 worth of groceries at Safeway for the privilege of carrying around its billboard. If the latter: I have enough paper to keep track of, thanks.
  • Two bucks off O Organics salad mix. Okay, I use that stuff and would be happy to…you have to buy a pound of it? Who do they think they are, Costco? If I buy a pound of cut-up lettuce, half of it will spoil before I can eat it. Penny-wise, pound-foolish.
  • Three bucks off a foliage plant. That’s nice. But my house is full of plants. They’re the only part of the clutter I didn’t get rid of during the Late Great Decluttering Campaign, because I can’t bring myself to do in a living thing. So I have enough houseplants to water, thanks.
  • One dollah off two Contessa Green Cuisine Meals. I don’t eat processed, prepackaged food. So this one doesn’t count. Two of them don’t count times two.
  • A dollar off two 12-packs of Diet Pepsi. Ick!!! Wonder if they have a coupon for orange juice?
  • A dollar off a bag of cheddar-flavored or vinegar-flavored potato chips. Uhm…I don’t suppose I could just have the cheddar cheese (real cheddar cheese, OK? not a “flavor”) or a nice bottle of vinegar? I don’t eat potato chips, unless forced to it by famine.
  • Two bucks off Yuban canned coffee. I don’t care for preground canned coffee. They put the cheapest, ickiest, most muddy-tasting coffee beans they can find in that stuff. Moving on…
  • A buck off two SunChips snacks. “Snacks”? No clue what the stuff is, but apparently it’s made at a factory where they use solar energy. There’s a good reason to buy it. Whatever it is, it doesn’t appear to be food.
  • A dollar off Miracle Whip. Ecchhh! What is the appeal of that stuff? I’ve never been able to figure it out.
  • A dollar off Back to Nature Granola. Why? Why would anybody buy granola? I make my own for a tiny fraction of the cost. It tastes better (a lot better), I control the ingredients, and it’s way, way lower in fat.
  • A dollar off four Campbell’s condensed salt licks…oh, sorry, condensed canned soup. Here’s a Warholesque image of a can of tomato soup. Campbell’s soup is another of those processed products that palely imitate real food. And the stuff is absurdly expensive, especially considering that many varieties are little more than “flavored” flour paste. Swanson’s is significantly better and that company offers low-salt chicken and beef broth. It’s mighty easy to make your own tomato soup with a can of tomatoes and half an onion. The stuff tastes ten times better and doesn’t leave your mouth puckered up.
  • Speaking of thirst, you get a buck off two six-packs of Nestle’s bottled water, in The Eco-Shape Bottle. Thirty percent less plastic than the average half-liter. “A little natural does a lot of good.” Haw haw haw haw haw! Funniest darn thing I’ve read in weeks. A plastic bottle is a plastic bottle, dear Nestle’s. Water is water. Most bottled water is tap water. Bottling it in plastic does nothing to improve it. Water sold in any plastic bottles still dumps zillions of unnecessary plastic bottles into the land fills, there to stay for all eternity, until the earth is a frigid cinder circling a burnt-out dwarf star. “A little natural does a lot of good,” eh? A little natural what?
  • Speaking of salt, as we were a moment ago, you can get another dollah off Annie Chun’s Soup Bowl or Noodle Bowl. Yum. To assuage the resulting thirst, pick up a 24-pack of Coca-Cola, rotting your teeth and fattening your belly for a buck off.
  • If you like your sugar intake organic, get yourself two 12-ounce jars of organic fruit “spreads” (and what would that be? we’re not allowed to call it jam or jelly?) or 16 ounces of natural (as opposed to “unnatural”) or organic (as opposed, one figures, to “inorganic”) peanut butter. Could be worse, I suppose. Could be the salted soup or noodle bowls.
  • Buy some “pure goodness”TM for a buck off two packages of Cascadian Farm products. Several strange-looking boxes are pictured, labeled “strawberry,” “oats and honey,” and “organic” somethingorother. Whatever it is, I don’t think I want to put it in my mouth.
  • Fifty-five cents off 64 or more ounces of Silk soymilk. Well, OK, if you think it helps your menopausal symptoms, more power to you. Me, I’ll take a glass of nice, cold water. Tap water. Hold the plastic, please.
  • Fifty cents off Clif, Luna, or Builder’s Bar. “Moving toward Sustainability” is this manufacturer’s motto: we’re told this outfit uses 70% organic ingredients (as opposed to inorganic ingredients), 30% to 50% less fossil fuels than conventional farming (but where does it say here that the company is a farm? it makes candy bars!), 450,000 pounds of shrink-wrap eliminated through redesign of packaging (good, good), 20,000 miles of shipping using bio-diesel fuel (oh, please, please, please smarten up, dear corporate executives!). Bars. It’s bars. Bars of what, we don’t know, but whatever it is, 30% of it ain’t organic. One of them has chocolate chips. Your kids can wash them down with some of that Coke and Pepsi you saved on above.
  • Make your soy Westsoy!” A dollar off four Westsoy, soy, or rice drinks. Urp!

Soylent Green is people!

  • Well, here we have the opiate of the masses: yes, yes, yes!!!!!! FREE (with coupon) BEN & JERRY’S MINI CUP. Yes. Three-point-six ounces of Ben & Jerry’s! I knew these coupons were good for something. We will be dropping by the Safeway on th’way home from work tomorrow.
  • “Organic Herbal Teas for Self Care”” a buck off a couple of ersatz nutraceuticals, teas that allege to sooth your sore throat and stimulate your bowels. For a buck off, you, too, can start a practice as your own snake-oil quack! No nuisancey medical school required!
  • A dollar off two packages of “Nature’s Balance Bath Tissue.” Ah! I used “nature’s balance bath tissue” during that time SDXB and I spent three months sleeping on the ground in the outback of Alaska and Canada. It was called “leaves.” Didn’t cost anything, so we didn’t need to ask for cents off.
  • Fifty cents off a bottle of astronomically expensive Tide high-efficiency detergent. Every penny counts, I guess.
  • A buck off Planet 2x Ultra Laundry Detergent. Take that, Tide!
  • A buck off any Green Works item. Hm. I’ve heard this stuff actually functions. I might try that. Now we have two reasons to go back to Safeway, the Ben & Jerry’s and…waitminit. The stuff is made by Clorox? Clorox is making “natural” cleaners (as though any household cleansers were not unnatural)? Well. No wonder it works. “Made from plant- and mineral-based ingredients.” That explains why it “contains no harsh chemical fumes or residue.” Heaven only knows mineral-based ingredients like petroleum products are gentle, and so are plant-based ingredients like, oh…cocaine.
  • A buck off Purex Natural Elements Liquid Detergent. To their credit, Purex’s ad designers refrain from ridiculous sloganeering, double-talk, and empty phrases.
  • A dollar off All Small & Mighty Laundry Detergent. It’s concentrated. According to the ad copy in the front of the coupon book, concentrated is good. Very good. But I have a lifetime supply of Kirkland out by the washer.
  • Suave has also cooked up a design alleged to use less plastic: 13,863,828 fewer plastic bottles each year! Dang! Could we see the math on that, please? And how do the stockholders feel about your selling that much less shampoo?
  • Method handwash chemical-gel, creamy, or foaming: 75 cents off. Personally, I prefer bar soap. It has less wetting agent, so when you wash your face with ordinary soap, it doesn’t flow right straight into your eyes. Is there a reason we need different products to wash our faces and our hands? What is it?
  • Free box of o.b. tampons. Thank God I’ll never have to use those little gems again.
  • And finally, two bucks off a package of Duracell rechrgeable batteries, or a charger. Duracell has figured out that “rechargeable” justifies printing the word on the batteries in a green label. Green, rechargeable. Rechargeble, green. What’s inside one of those things, anyway?

Now we have three objects to get on the next shopping trip:

  • 1. 1 free 3.6-ounce container of Ben & Jerry’s (which I would never have thought about without this fine offer)
  • 2. 1 Clorox product, alleged to be, uhm, not unnatural
  • 3. 3 Brita filters. Or maybe a pitcher for the office.

Notice what’s happening here. Though we’ve rejected most of the blandishments, a few of which are come-ons for some truly noxious-sounding (and two or three proven noxious) products, we still propose a trip to the store for three new products, two of which we do not need. One is free. But after the free sample, how many of us will get out of the store without buying a pint (at least!) of Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream? Or maybe that double-whammy chocolate stuff? I need the Brita filters, the better to make our tap water potable. But free calories? Another Clorox chemical? In any event, the coupons save six dollars, but I spend whatever the Clorox product costs and whatever the Brita filters cost (plenty, as I recall).

Because you have to buy the Clorox product before May 26 and I already own two gallon bottles of Simple Green, I’m required to buy a product that I don’t need and won’t need for many months…possibly not for a year or two. Come to think of it, three Brita filters are sitting in the kitchen cabinet.

With the exception of a few household products, most of this stuff is junk food or highly processed food “products” that are full of salt, sugar, and weird chemicals. Exactly one item of fresh food appears: prewashed, precut lettuce that a) costs more than a head of lettuce and b) is likely to spoil before one person (moi) can consume it all.

We’ve spent a quarter of an hour leafing through and contemplating this pack of coupons, only one of which really is worth anything. That is, at $30/hour, we’ve spent about $7.50 of my time to save $6 on products that I already have. And…why are these coupons are good for us again?