You Get What You Pay For

Although I’m single, I’ve had several long relationships with Ziploc bags I rinse and reuse. You could say that in some circuitous way, my grandma has set me up for these questionable couplings.

She was an outspoken woman whose kitchen at any point in time was an abstract art gallery of repurposed and pilfered goods—washed and dried paper plates, aluminum foil smoothed out and reused until the tears couldn’t be (off-brand) taped up, and sugar and salt packets slipped in her purse from the local Juicy Lucy (two burgers for $1!)

This was a woman who believed that once meat was cooked, it didn’t need to be refrigerated and could be left out on the hot countertop until it was either consumed or it disintegrated.

(I once arrived at her condo, Florida sun blazing down, to find a picnic basket on her porch from her neighbor, the contents of which being potato salad, roast beef and cheesecake. “I found my dinner!” she triumphantly cried.)

What did need to be refrigerated—or more specifically, kept in large (off-brand) plastic zipper bags in the freezer—were ketchup and mustard packets from various fast food establishments that always gave out “free condiments.”

For most people, the assumption would be that a packet of sugar or ketchup was available for your convenience to use at that time. My grandma wasn’t “most people.”

I clearly recall an instance when I was younger in which we went to McDonald’s for ice cream. As we pulled up to the pick-up window, she leaned over the driver’s seat and gave strict orders to the window worker to include the condiments, which I naively assumed to be the optional nuts for her sundae.

In retrospect, I should have been prepared to hear her demand not the nuts, but the free packets of ketchup and mustard to add to her collection back home.

“Free condiments means free condiments,” she said with a chortle. “When you’re paying (99 cents) for each ice cream, you better get what you pay for.”

She wasn’t alone in her frugality though. These sundaes were purchased after a dinner during “Early Happy Hour” when drinks were 2-for-1 at most chain restaurants—as long as you ordered both drinks at the same time.

That meant when you walked into the restaurant during that time, you would be greeted with senior citizens pushing their oxygen tanks off to the side of their booths to make room for their two Rum and Cokes.

I never witnessed anyone slipping a few extra limes into their bags to take home, but there were rumors that Gram’s neighbor snuck out a steak knife from Outback.

I guess you get what you pay for.

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21 responses to “You Get What You Pay For

  1. Andrea Isiminger

    Feeling your pain… My piece was also rejected (sigh). Three people out of 620 Global Humor entries got chosen, so we can have a glass of wine (or 2) and tell ourselves the odds were against us. After another glass or two, we can get angry at whoever decided to reduce the Honorable Mentions to two. And when it all blows over, we can get to work on our entry for 2016.

  2. I love this essay! Their loss.

  3. Damn, I missed the Erma Bombeck writer’s contest? Just as well – the workshop falls on my birthday and I don’t particularly care to drive to the University of Dayton that weekend. And, the non-winners are probably more fun anyway. (See, there’s always an up side!)

  4. that could be said of this blog, I always get a lot for each trip. 😉
    You bring the funny my friend.
    (And our grandmothers were friends, I just know it)

  5. I’ve an obsession with brown paper bags (curtsey of my gran) which I flatten and fold and stack to be refused. I’ve not got to the stage of ironing them smooth…yet…but its only a matter of time 😃

    Nice blog Abby

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one who washes ziploc bags! My mother is terrible, though: she grabs fistfuls of paper napkins and when you eat at her house she brings out the “fancy” napkins – those that don’t have fast food logos on them. She washes paper plates, plastic silverware, paper cups, and did I already mention the piles of paper napkins nabbed from restaurants?!

  7. I didn’t even know about the workshop, now I feel left out.

  8. If they rejected you, they would have rejected me, and then we could have gone to MacDonalds together and got all the ketchup we could cram into our pockets. I think I would have got on with your Grandma !

  9. This totally should have won! I am going to choose to believe that they simply overlooked it by accident – and boy are they going to be kicking themselves when they finally see it!

  10. OMG, my mother who is 86 does this with all condiments. I cringe when we go to EatnPark, because she believes that the jellies on the tables are for her to stocked up. Along with the sugar packages(even tho she diabetic and you never know when she may need them, which she proceeds to tell me. I try to draw the line with the little creamers being jammed into her purse. I know weeks later she will have forgotten about them and I will fine a real mess of smells, from fermented creamers leaking onto coupons she wants me to find in the black hole of that giant purse.

  11. It all sounds quite normal to me. Maybe I’m getting old 🙂

  12. See, I consider you and this blog a value related item. It costs me nothing but I get SOOOOOO much.

  13. I love my Grandma to pieces. She was a depression baby and times were really tough growing up for her and her ten siblings.

    When she’s done with a box of cereal, she saves the inside bag, cuts it up so it’s flat, and stores it away. The woman hasn’t bought wax paper in decades.

    • My grandma used to drive a Cadillac and had a young grocery bagger help her take out her groceries (a couple of decades ago.) She bent over to pick up a penny and the kid said, “Why do you pick up pennies? What’s the point?” She said, “You see that Cadillac over there? That’s the point.”

  14. One time, I was visiting my grandpa. I used up all of his toilet paper (of course), so I asked him where he keeps the rest of his TP. He directed me to a cabinet. Next to the toilet appear were boxes upon boxes of razors. He said, “The Costco had a great sale.” I’ll never understand that one. Old people love a bargain, even if it doesn’t make much sense.

  15. from where I live, fastfood chains only give out at least 2 packets of catsup for every meal & more than that is charged to your order. One time, when I asked for more, the crew insisted that’s enough for my fries, damn it i want catsup on my burger too.

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