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Reading Labels

The other day I picked up a pack of taco seasoning in the grocery store and made the mistake of reading the label. If you love your taco seasoning, don’t do this, because it is a shock to discover what is inside it. Be prepared to get a degree in “what-the-hell-is that-doing-in-my-taco?” At least that was what I thought and then I did another look at the price and put it back on the shelf with my nose wrinkled and two fingers held at a distance, you know that, “Egads, what did I just pick up?”

I became a label reader mostly because I love to read–it started with cereal boxes as a child. I’d read my way around the box as I happily crunched on Quest, not caring that what I was digesting was probably going to lead to a lifetime of expectations that something sugary and wonderful had to be nutritious and healthy.  I’m still working on that one.

But when the kids arrived, grocery shopping became sort of a hurried march through the aisles, chanting the mother mantra, “get me out of here without killing one of these whiny little monsters.” Why is it that your nearly perfect children grow horns, small tails and their voices rise to alarming levels the moment they cross that threshold and enter the grocery store zone? I am sure there is a PhD level study out there just waiting to be done. Rather like the waste of money study recently done by the University of Washington that discovered–get ready to be shocked–that mothers of children with autism have higher levels of stress than mothers of normally developing children. I bet they were high-fiving each other in the lab when they tallied those results. All they really had to do was take Matthew grocery shopping and they could have completed the study for about $97.00 worth of groceries.

Still, the other day I had about two seconds where I was positive he wasn’t going to double-back to the bakery and convince the lady he needed a second free cookie, and I actually looked at my taco seasoning label and the price. Putting the two together, I realized there had to be a better way. Besides, I like to save money where I can. Writers have to work that way–we live on budgets because we get paid so sporadically. No, there isn’t some change dispenser in my house that deposits royalties immediately upon a sale completed–like the bell that rings in It’s a Wonderful Life. A book sold today will send a royalty to my accounts which I would get, if I am lucky, the end of next April.

So after creativity, a writer must also be a master at the budget. So I clip coupons and we do-it-ourselves as much as we can. And now I can add taco seasoning mixing master to my list of accomplishments. I came home from the grocery store determined to put together my own seasoning packet that was healthier and cheaper. Thank goodness for Google–because my first search hit gold. And I want to share it with you: Taco Seasoning.

This makes a great mix and the family declared it delicious. Don’t be put off by all the ingredients–this takes about a minute or two to mix up. I just stood in front of my spices and measured into a cup. Best of all, I actually had all the ingredients on hand, and can now shun the mix aisle. One less thing to pick up at the store. That is, until I run out of cumin.

What is your favorite way to pinch a few pennies at the grocery store?

6 comments to “Reading Labels”

  1. Bev Abbott
    July 14th, 2009 at 9:37 am · Link

    I just finished your book “Love Letters from a Duke”. I greatly enjoyed the humor, wit and story line. This is the first time I have come across one of your books and from now own I will keep a lookout for any new work. I will soon read the two books in this series. I read a great deal and listen to audio books while I paint. It always makes me happy to add a new author to my list of favorites.

  2. LynneW
    July 14th, 2009 at 11:07 am · Link

    Quest! I loved that stuff! (Sadly, we’re probably the only two people who still remember its sugary goodness …)

    And AllRecipes.com is one of my favorite go-to websites; I often learn even more from the comments than from the recipes.

    Glad to see you’re up and moving around, Elizabeth. Just don’t dive in wholeheartedly until you’re *totally* recovered!

    LynneW in Ohio

  3. Jamie
    July 14th, 2009 at 1:27 pm · Link

    I, too, liked Quest cereal. Funny how some of the things we loved as children, we don’t care that much as adults. I loved those candy necklaces and a little while back I brought one for old times sake and YUCK!

    I did the same with Teriyaki Seasoning. I make this stir fry and the first time I made it I put in the powdered Teriyaki Seasoning and didn’t like it. Now I make my own with soy sauce, corn starch and a little worechestershire sauce. It is salty, so don’t add extra salt to the stir fry.

    I absolute LOVE All Recipes website. They have everything you need and you can also make the recipes to fit two people or twenty, which is very handy. I like also to hear what people think of the dishes. Your taco seasoning link makes me want to try it.

  4. Jamie
    July 14th, 2009 at 1:29 pm · Link

    Oh and if you want to try that Teriyaki seasoning thing, I forgot to add the water. You add about 1/2 cup of water to it. I am not that great at measuring things. I usually just eye them.

  5. Diane
    July 14th, 2009 at 3:25 pm · Link

    Congrats on the new contract! I’m looking forward to your next book in particular because if I read the release day right, I might be able to go to a signing! Because in all the years I’ve known you I’m not sure I’ve ever been to one of your signings, have I?

    My favorite way of saving money at the grocery store is to make my own instant oatmeal. I buy a box of quick oats, add cinnamon and Splenda. It’s much cheaper than buying Quaker instant oatmeal. I did this by way of necessity. I bought the Australian version of instant oatmeal and the texture was awful. So I bought quick oats and made my own. Now I need to buy some dried apples to make it like apple-cinnamon oatmeal.

  6. terri
    July 14th, 2009 at 8:40 pm · Link

    I’m not as into pinching pennies now there are no kids to feed, but what I learned when I was in those days is – anything prepackaged is more expensive – not as tasty as homemade – usually contains a bunch of nasty stuff.

    I know I’m older than you, and I don’t remember Quest cereal but was madly in love with Johnny Quest when it was one of the forerunners in adventure cartoons.


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