Tuesday, August 30

Grocery Shopping in Boston

Finding good deals on grocery items isn't an easy task in Boston. I have definitely learned a lot about how to be a smart shopper in just a few weeks. Here's how the process went.

-First stop: Stop & Shop -- this is owned by Giant, so I thought the prices would be pretty decent. Attempting to stock up my fridge since I had nothing, I went to one close by. I came home with juice, 3 bananas, and a loaf of bread... not exactly "stocking up". Everything was way more expensive than back home! Even ramen noodles were more expensive! I did find out that you can use a Giant card at the Stop & Shop, and it works just fine.

-Attempt #2: Shaw's -- this must be a northern thing. Their prices were better... if things were on sale, then they were prices that I would be willing to pay when I was living in D.C., but they weren't sales that rivaled the "good" sales in D.C. They do double coupons up to 99 cents, though!

-Third try: Target -- their food prices seem pretty stable to what you'd see in other areas. Their sales on food are nationwide, so that is another advantage. I found a few great buys on clearance items, but not everything at Target is always a great deal.

-Numero Quatro: Market Basket -- finally!! I was talking with my landlord and his wife about the best place to buy groceries. They highly recommended Market Basket as having the most reasonable prices in town, and although I have to drive a bit of a ways to get there (meaning it is a weekend-only kind of place), I was actually able to stock up on food! Some of their prices are even lower than what I have seen in D.C. (although some are still higher). At least I will now be able to eat more than just PB&J all the time!

-#5: Trader Joe's -- I can walk there, and there are always a few staples that I like to get: 100% durum semolina pasta for 99 cents a package, their tasty minestrone soup, frozen naan, and jarred masala simmer sauce.

So, it took a while, but I finally found some places in Boston that will be able to serve my needs as a poor graduate student while still eating semi-healthily. Now the challenge is to see whether I will have the time to actually eat once I am loaded down with law school classes!

Sunday, August 28


For my birthday weekend, Michael and I took Sonja to Virginia Beach. We met up with my parents and had a great time at the ocean. The most exciting part about the weekend was that we had the opportunity to take Sonja to the beach for the first time!

Virginia Beach
If you've spent time at Virginia Beach, you probably know that the beach is lined with highrise hotels, and it can be really hard to find a spot to lay on the beach among so many people. The water also tends to be pretty brown and murky from lots of sediment perturbation. Not exactly the most ideal beach for me (if I'm going to a beach with lots of highrises, I'd much rather be in South Beach Miami),  but much closer to me than nicer beaches like the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Since there are rules against bringing dogs to Virginia Beach during the busier times of the year, we decided to make the short 15-20 minute drive over to Sandbridge. Although technically dogs are apparently not allowed there either, the rules are much more relaxed, and there were other dogs on the beach too. It was so exciting to see Sonja on the beach, because she absolutely loved it! Seeing her so excited and running up and down the beach with Michael made me really wish we could have had her off of the leash. She wasn't even scared of the water! I am definitely looking forward to taking her back to the beach again.

I had heard good things about Sandbridge before, I was so glad to be able to see it myself; it reminded me of a much smaller Outer Banks. It doesn't have all of those highrise hotels, and there are streets of cute beach houses lining the shore. The best part for me, though, is that you get a large area of the beach to yourself! No fighting other beach-goers for the best spots. No annoying lifeguards blowing a whistle ever 10 minutes. And free parking on the neighborhood streets!  If you are in Virginia Beach and want a more secluded feel, I would definitely recommend hopping down to Sandbridge. Michael even found me a great birthday treat - we bought some blue crabs and had them for dinner -- one of my favorite memories from going to the beach when I was growing up!

Friday, August 26

Truck Rental

For my 9+ hour journey to Boston from D.C., I figured that I needed a rental truck to haul all my stuff from the condo to the new apartment - I definitely can't fit all of my belongings into a Prius! Now that I've had this experience with rental truck companies, I think I have some helpful advice for others who may be considering this option for a move.

1) Look up different companies online to find out their best prices -- they will vary company to company. Since I was doing an inter-city move, the options were fewer than if you are just moving within one city. Most companies won't rent you a moving van in lieu of a truck if you are returning it to a different location.

2) Make the reservation a couple of weeks in advance if possible -- there'll probably be fine print when you make the reservation saying that you can only change or cancel it up to a day or two in advance. Here's what I learned that can really save you money: After you've made the reservation, call back and say you want to cancel to use another company. They want your business, and they don't want to give it to a competitor, so they will reduce your price. I had a 12' Penske truck reserved for $450 (the most competitive online price), and called to tell them to cancel because I found a better offer on a Uhaul van. They reduced the price to $250 -- a huge difference! If I hadn't done this, I never would have known that you can haggle with these rental truck companies.

3) Be prepared to pay dearly for some gas. Ouch. We made it all the way from D.C. to Connecticut on one tank of gas, but I paid $175 to fill it back up (gas was ~ $4/gallon at the time).

4) When you make a reservation for a certain-sized truck, you may in fact receive a larger one. My reservation for a 12' ended up with 16' truck -- way more than I needed! But when I expressed dissatisfaction to the manager, he threw in some extra tape and other supplies, which was nice. And supposedly, the 16' gets the same gas mileage as the 12'.

5) I never realized before just how many roads there are that do not allow trucks. These rental trucks qualify as real trucks, so you have to stop at the weigh stations and can't go on roads that say "no trucks". I also had never noticed the road signs before limiting trucks to only certain lanes of the highway.

Thursday, August 25

Arrival in Bean Town

So, I'll admit it. I was trying really hard to stay blog-active this month, but it really didn't work out. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the primary one is that I just picked up and moved to Boston!

I'll post a little more about the area of the city I'm in during another post, but I would like to say that I'm very excited that I am fully moved in, except for 3 boxes! My dad helped me move up here on the 15th, and since then I have been working really hard to get everything organized and put away -- while at the same time working my full-time job remotely.

I can tell just from my few experiences at the grocery stores in Boston that food is going to be a real challenge for me here. Since I have prices for a lot of products memorized for what was a "good" price is in Virginia, there will need to be some change in expectations. I'm used to going through the weekly circular and picking out items that are about 50% off, and then using a coupon on top of that when I can. Here, it seems like food sales are not actually a bargain, and not much is on sale. It will definitely be an adventure figuring out where to shop.

My apartment situation is a bit unorthodox (in a good way!), and thankfully one of my first meals was made by my landlord's wife. She is an Italian-born immigrant, so her pasta was amazing! :) Plus, I didn't have any food yet, so I really appreciated a home-cooked meal.


Wednesday, August 10


I just found out about a new deal website!

Check out Yipit. It is a deal aggregator that collects daily deals from hundreds of different sites and recommends the best ones for you based on your preferences. From the sound of it, this could save a lot of time looking through all of the daily deals at so many deal websites, and it could provide you with deals from ones you might not know about yet.

Tuesday, August 9

Pollo Guisado

One of my absolute favorite foods in the whole world is pollo guisado. It is delicious, fall-off-the-bone tender chicken in an amazingly flavorful broth. You can look up a bunch of authentic recipes online, but this is how I make my own version in the slow cooker, in somewhat of a "healthified" way. All the ingredients you may not have, you should be able to easily buy in the international section of most supermarkets or definitely in a Latino supermarket, for very little. They are also good ingredients to have around to flavor other dishes (especially the adobo).

  • 2-4 heaping spoonfuls of sofrito (either buy the can or make it using a recipe online)
  • 1-2 packets of sazon goya
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • A few tablespoons of adobo seasoning (buy or make your own blend with seasonings you already have)
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 onion (yellow or white)
  • Chicken (any cut) equivalent to 4 chicken leg quarters, with or without skin/bones

Start out by locating your slow cooker/crock pot. If you have a small one, you can always halve the recipe, but I have a large one so I like to make a lot at a time. Add the water, sofrito, and sazon to the pot and mix them up to combine. Smell the broth. If you want more flavor, add some. At this point, you can crank up your crock pot to get it heating up. Generally, go with the high setting if you are leaving it for half a day, or the low setting if it can cook all day.

Next, prepare the chicken. I used bone-in chicken leg quarters and cut them up to separate thighs and drumsticks.  I took the skin off to make it healthier, but it will be more flavorful if you leave the skin on. You can also do this with more lean cuts of chicken (like boneless skinless chicken breasts), but just remember that fat adds flavor! Once you have the chicken prepared, sprinkle each piece with adobo on all sides, and add the chicken to the slow cooker.

 I prefer to add the pepper, onion, and carrot towards the end of the cooking process (about 2 hours before I'm going to eat it) so that they aren't too soft, but that's personal preference. Cut the veggies up into bite-sized pieces before adding them in. You can always add them sooner if you won't be around until you're ready to eat it, too. If you get around to it, stir the contents of the crock pot every so often to get all the flavors melded together.

 At this point, your home will smell like heaven... Yum. About 20 or so minutes before you're ready to eat, cook up some white rice (just not the sticky kind) in your rice cooker. I went with basmati rice, because I had some around. Now add some rice to your plate or bowl, and top it with the pollo guisado (don't forget to add some of the broth!). Eat up.

A more authentic variation on this recipe would be to add chunks of potato in with the chicken to cook, but I was trying to reduce the number of carbs in this meal. Make this recipe your own by adding different veggies (red pepper, etc). Enjoy!

Friday, August 5


I wasn't one of those kids who didn't eat their vegetables. I actually like most vegetables, and always have. During the holidays, we always had seaweed salad, california rolls, and other foods you wouldn't normally see next to the turkey and mashed potatoes. My parents always encouraged me to try any kind of food. Eating is something of an adventure, and I consider myself to have had a pretty broad range of experiences with food -- raw beef, pork, egg, lobster, and shrimp; sea cucumber, snake, alligator, etc. I think these experiences are the reason why I am so bothered that after all of these years without any food allergies, one suddenly crops up.

Knowing that I have a food allergy kind of scares me as far as trying other new foods in the future. What if the next time I try a food that I happen to be allergic to, the reaction is much more severe? What if I am allergic to all the other fruits in the same genus? I'm still going to try new and different foods, but I probably won't be quite as uninhibited about it. This new-found allergy is to jackfruit. The national fruit of Bangladesh, in case you were wondering. After chomping down on a few morsels, I was thinking "yum, how tasty"... and then these weird sensations started happening. My throat started getting itchy. I started experiencing discomfort when swallowing. Then it felt like there were needles in my throat. Not a good sign, obviously.

I swallowed a few antihistamine tablets, took a nap, and felt better once I woke up. Let's hope this same thing doesn't happen with any future food adventures.