“Z” You Later:The Takeover of Zellers by Target

If you’re Canadian, “Zed” you later sounds odd, but I know a lot of people from the US read this blog, so “Zee” you later is pretty fitting for the title of this post.

As I was driving into the mall last week, I happened to notice the Target sign over the former Zellers. Zellers is just one of the many stores that has been taken over by an American counterpart, with the majority of them being closed down.  I am quite excited for Target to becoming out, but at the same time sad. We are losing yet ANOTHER Canadian brand. No offense to Zellers, but I almost never got anything from that store. It was just a mere gateway to the rest of the mall and well, you can’t beat the prices at Wal-Mart for a lot of things. Zellers always seemed to be filled with more employees than shoppers. With one of the Zellers in the city I live  in, I noticed it was mainly senior citizens who shopped there. Perhaps they had a strong brand loyalty to big red Z (Zee, Zed, potato, pah-tato).

In addition to takeover of Canadian retail stores, there is the expansion of US stores into Canada. So Canadians are being bombarded with American brands left, right and centre. I am not against American brands(I am falling so head over heels in love with Starbucks it’s not even funny. I have shares in the company),  but the introduction of more American stores, may threaten the life of our existing Canadian stores. Call me patriotic but  sometimes its nice knowing its a Canadian company and whoa, get this it’s made in Canada still??!?!(Errrr…here and there). I still think Canadian Tire money is fun!!

What doesn’t make sense to me are the new rules for duty-free shopping. Check out this article in moneyville: New duty-free rules to fuel cross-border stampede. It mentions that: The duty-free limit for stays of more than 24 hours will be boosted to $200 from $50. Limits for visits longer than 48 hours will be increased to $800. The previous limits were $400 for a week and $750 for more than a week. Now I’m no retail strategist expert or economist buff, but wouldn’t you want Canadians to spend most of their money in Canada?

Growing up, my family used to go border shopping in the outlet stores in Buffalo. This was long before stores such as Old Navy, the Children’s Place, and Marshall’s made their way to the Canadian side. I remember getting clothes and my parents telling me to rip the tags off, crinkle the clothes up and change into them in the washroom to pretend that they were old and we had worn them already coming into the US. I remember being very excited about going to the States, not so much for the deals, but more for the back to school shopping. This lessened the chances of me having the same outfits as the other kids, unless they also happened to border shop at the same store and get the exact same thing. Which never happened.

I love going on vacation, but I don’t love the idea of going on vacation to shop. As I got older and more aware of my spending when we went border shopping, I almost felt pressure to find something because we drove all this way, spent this much money on food, gas and sometimes hotel. I know some people who enjoy shopping in the US and will travel the distance just to go to a certain outlet mall. That’s fine by me, but there are so many stores right here in my neighbourhood. Best thing of all? It’s a 15 min drive away. Ok, maybe they don’t have certain brands or there are certain stores that are only in the US, but its only a matter of time till almost all our Canadian stores are gone. But that’s fine, cause bye, bye, bye will still mean buy, buy, buy.

Canadian readers, do you feel we’re being Americanized too much?

American readers, do you ever go cross-border shopping to Canada for certain stores? Are there certain Canadian brands you prefer? The only Canadian expansions (not even a takeover, just an expansion) that spring to mind are Tim Horton’s (whose coffee I think is pretty gross. Sorry) and Lululemon.


Remembering the DJ (Desk Jockey) Days

Remembering the DJI have been out of the office environment for over four years now.  Long gone are the days in a cubicle, answering phone calls, e-mails, teleconferences, 5 meetings in a day and preparing reports for review and approval. Do I miss it? I’d be lying through my teeth if I said yes. The only things I miss about it are the going out for lunch and waking up at a normal hour. I have always been an active kid growing up, so maybe being restricted to sitting down 8 hrs/day, 5 days/week was killing me inside. I would stare at the computer, hammering away at reports till my eyes got dry and my brain got numb. I found it difficult to sit still and pay attention to what went on in the meetings. Let’s just say my notes weren’t the greatest and I had no desire to get better at note taking.

I have to hand it you readers who do have the desk job and have had it for years. I am even more impressed if you have a desk job you actually enjoy. I don’t know how you guys do it. I’ve had two desk jobs within a two-year span and was somewhat unsatisfied with both. They were the jobs that I thought were okay for the time being.When asked during my review as to what my goals were and what is my five plan, all I thought was I didn’t want to move up in the department or the company.  I couldn’t see myself doing this long-term. So I quit. There were other reasons I quit, many of them stress-related, eventually taking a toll on my health.  Although I had applied to hundreds of jobs afterward, every job I managed to get an offer for just somehow ended up being a non-desk job. I got the interviews for the desk jobs but never the offer. Maybe I wasn’t meant to work a desk type job.

Without going too much into detail about my job, I’ll narrow it done somewhat for you. I work in the public sector, along with thousands of other public servants, who are responsible for a certain type safety of Canadians. I wear a hard hat, uniform and safety shoes. I have a badge, which I must admit is pretty cool and I do enjoy showing it when asked to provide identification. The only time I’m at a desk is during my breaks checking emails and the odd day I’m assigned administrative duties. They encourage job shadowing for different job positions to find out what your potential interests are, so there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow. How great is that?

It took me almost four years to get this job.  I’m not a very patient person to begin with, but I guess good things come to those who wait. I’ve finally landed a job within an organization that a meaningful purpose and is a place where I see my career developing into something worthwhile. I’m actually motivated to work hard and learn as much as I can.

I still have a part-time desk job though. Except the YOU’RE the one reviewing  my report. I hope I have your approval.


The Joy of Cooking….For One

 Cooking For OneWe all try to grocery shop and cook meals at home because we know how eating out can be so expensive if you do it often enough. It takes a bit of time and effort to plan your meals, make the list and cook the meals. I try to base my meals on what already exists in my fridge and pantry  and whatever is on sale at the grocery store. I’m not a big fan of those meals that require a lot of prep work and have 20 ingredients, some ingredients which I most likely will never use again unless I make that particular dish. Once in a while I’ll do that type of meal, but that’s usually reserved for the weekend.

As of now, my bf and I do not live together. Whenever I make a big batch of something, I make my bf come over and eat some of it during his lunch (His work is a 5 min drive from my place. Why don’t we live together you ask? We have completely different schedules. I start work at 6:30 am and he starts at 8:30 am. I live in a one bedroom apartment. Would YOU want to wake up mon-fri at 5:15 am, knowing that you actually don’t have to get up until 7:45 am? Exactly).

I try to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner for several days, but I can only do that so many times. I need a little bit of variety. I could cook more than one type of meal to have that variety though…just never got around to doing it. I don’t really like cooking, I prefer baking. It’s probably due to the smell of it and the fact you can decorate them. Now you ask, “MTB, why don’t you just cook every night or every other night?”  Between my full-time job and teaching group fitness classes several times a week, there isn’t enough time to make a meal. Once I get home from class, I’m pretty exhausted (My full-time job is physical as well) and the last thing I want to do is cook. I have just enough energy to take the food out of the fridge, pop it into the microwave and shove it down my throat.

So I spend either a chunk or my saturday or sunday grocery shopping and cooking for myself. Grocery shopping for yourself is a bit of a pain.  Not to mention lugging those groceries from your car to the elevator and then to your apartment. Its my extra workout. My produce sometimes rots faster than I can eat it.  I was so excited yesterday when I managed to get through an entire container of strawberries and not one was close to rotting. But now I am sick of strawberries and will not buy them for a while. Maybe I should look into buying frozen fruits and veggies. Or just freezing the fresh ones. I know its cheaper to buy in bulk , but bulk doesn’t really work out in your favour when you are just one person.  I know smaller servings aren’t cost-effective,  but its more definite that I will eat it and it won’t go to waste.

The joys of cooking for two: you can make meals, go grocery shopping and eat together. Or you can alternate making meals or going grocery shopping but still eat TOGETHER. The biggest thing of all: you’re not the only one always cleaning up. I hate doing dishes and I don’t have a dishwasher. :(  It seems I use a lot of cookware and dishes when I cook….and I make somewhat of a mess. :)


Rockin’ the Potluck

Pot LuckWe all know eating out is expensive. But its easy, hassle-free, something to do and no cleaning up involved.

Ever since I started cooking and baking more, I find eating out to be such a luxury now. I look at the menu sometimes and think I can make more of that for way less. Sometimes the portion isn’t very much either and I’m still hungry! I have two trains of thought when I go out to eat: I try to get something, I wouldn’t normally make at home or I get something on the cheaper side like a sandwich. The second thought pretty much contradicts the first thought, cause clearly I can make a sandwich at home! So eating out can actually be a hassle! Interesting.

I try not to eat out unless it’s a special occasion, but even then if it’s a special occasion, why do you have to eat out? Why not a potluck? I love potlucks! They’re a fun, great way to get together with friends. I had a potluck party for my birthday last year and it was a hit. There was a ton of food. I didn’t have to do much cooking and my sister helped with the clean-up.

Usually people go out to eat at restaurants for special occasions, especially birthdays, but I find it so hard to enjoy it. You’re stuck at one spot and you can’t really converse with everyone. You’re trying to talk to someone across the table, but it’s almost impossible  to hear them with all the other conversations and background noise in the air. With potlucks, you have the freedom to move around and mingle, while stuffing your face with the great variety of delicious food. It’s like your own private buffet. You get to share recipes and end up with a TON of leftovers. Have a lot of margarine/yogurt/sour cream containers handy so your guests can take home some food as well. I hate wasting food and you should too!

You can’t cook? Sure you can. If you can read, you can cook. If you’re not a very good cook or just starting out and don’t want to risk poisoning anyone or you don’t like cooking period, you can still contribute to the potluck. Bring drinks, cutlery, plates, napkins, fruit and veggie trays or any store bought stuff . One of the best things about potlucks: You don’t have to go through the agonizing exercise of how to split the bill “x” number of ways (THAT is one of my biggest pet peeves for eating out. I often ask for separate bills, because a lot of the times they won’t give it to you separately if you don’t ask. Sometimes people don’t carry enough cash and sometimes people prefer to pay with credit card) so people don’t overpay or underpay, which I find always happens in a big group. People don’t have change, don’t feel like asking for change and just throw down a few $20 bills.

With the popularity of celebrity chefs, cooking shows, recipes available at the click of a button and an entire tv network devoted to food, one would think potlucks should be at the top of everyone’s list for fun entertainment. The next time you are planning to go out to eat for whatever occasion, why not suggest a potluck? You can’t go wrong with good food, good convo and good company at a decent cost.


The Mall Can Be A Temptation Island

Shopping at the mall

Let me rephrase that. The Mall IS a Temptation Island. It beckons you with all your favourite stores, the sales, and fun, bright displays. Of course, it has a Starbucks too! Stores tempting you to cheat on your bank account and max out  your credit card.

Have you noticed how all retailers have merchandise displayed at the check out? Impulse Buy Central. Last minute purchases to add on to you what you are already buying. They are something for you to look at and examine while you wait in line to pay. Hey, I could use an extra pair of socks. I’m always losing them in the dryer. Or, this hairband will go great with my new outfit. Wal-Mart and Winners are a couple of stores who have created  what I like to call an Impulse Buy Line Up. As you are waiting in line, the impulse buys are lined up right beside you before you are at cash. As you move further along the line, you are still constantly looking at merchandise.  I didn’t think I needed gum, but now that its right here in front of me, I can add it to my cart.  When I go through these lines, I usually try and block it out of my peripheral vision.

When I walk into a store, I often make a beeline for the sale rack., which is often at the back of the room. That means you have to manuever your way through the tempting new arrivals priced at regular price Again, block it out of your peripheral vision and focus on your target. The red sale sign.

Just like they say never shop for groceries when you’re hungry, that saying should also go for when you go to the mall. Since I shop like a guy, I try to be in and out of the store as quick as possible. But sometimes the satisfying your craving monster takes over. I can understand if people are in the mall for a couple of hours, they can get hungry. The food court is there for them and also the people who work in the mall. There are just too many added food temptations. Smoothie bars, pretzel stands, coffee shops, frozen yogurt. This post is making me hungry! I sometimes try and bring a granola bar and water bottle with me to tie me down till I get home. I can’t justify paying for water when I know I can get it for free. There should be more water fountains available in the mall.

When it comes to the mall, I would suggest a plan of attack. If possible, arrive at the mall with a full stomach.  This may seem like too much effort, but do your research. Almost all retailers nowadays have an online website. I tend to browse the sites before I go to the mall to get an idea of what they have, how much they cost. Like grocery shopping, come with a list and stick to it. Buy only what you need. Call me a shopping  drill sargeant, but maybe you need to whip your finances into shape. How many times have you or someone you know has said they walked into the mall with the intention of buying only “blank”, but ended up getting “blank” and a whole crapload of other “blank, blank, blank, blank, blank?”