Dumpster Oatmeal

When you think of dumpster diving, what comes to mind? Old couches, slightly tarnished chairs? Random junk? What about unopened food packages, huge bags of rice, pots and pans, frozen vegetables? I have found all of these while going through students’ leavings, and eaten them too. It’s amazing the edible things privileged (and even not so privileged) students will throw away. One of the most common items? Instant oatmeal.

Since I’m by myself all week, and money is almost nonexistent until I get paid, this week I’ve been trying to spend as little as possible on new food while using up everything I can of what I have already. Which led to today’s post-work snack, which had only three ingredients, two of which were on clearance and one of which was scavenged. Here’s the recipe, if you want to barely survive and feed yourself in style.

dumpster oatmeal

And by “style” I mean the same slightly bland-looking style that instant oatmeal typically provides.

Dumpster Oatmeal – Serves 1

1. Find a microwave-safe bowl that will hold two instant oatmeal packets with room to spare.

2. Grab two packets of Quaker Instant Oatmeal from the variety pack you got out of a local university’s dumpster a few weeks ago. Sure, you could have just one, but we both know that’s not filling at all. Also two allows you to combine flavors- I like to pair apple cinnamon with maple brown sugar.

3. Before you put the oatmeal in the bowl, grab some of the  organic Thompson raisins you got on clearance at Target last week. A handful is probably enough. Then dump in the oatmeal.

4. You could mix with water, although for a little more of a creamy texture, add some of the last of the organic rice milk you also got at Target. Maybe that was the same shopping trip? Anyway, just enough to get all the oatmeal wet is enough. Don’t add too much or it will be watery.

5. Microwave for 1-2 minutes. Don’t stir it first, that doesn’t really help until it starts to cook. Stir it when it’s done.

6. Eat it a pathetic number of bites. If you’re still hungry, follow with a sandwich made out of your last two pieces of Udi’s bread and the last of your Wisconsin cheddar. Which is technically a different recipe, so those ingredients (Udi’s whole grain bread and cheddar) do not count in the original 3.

7. Next time you make oatmeal, consider adding more protein. Flax seed maybe. Flax seed is filling and cheap.

Really though, I get paid this Friday and this is the first check since I started working five shifts a week, which I started doing when the department got depressingly short-staffed just as the summer weather finally showed up.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping to apply to some jobs this week and work on some training that I have access to through a temp agency, so here’s hoping that dumpster oatmeal continues to be more of an option than a necessity.

I miss the dog.



I miss the dog. She’s not even my dog, she’s my roommate’s dog, or ‘the’ dog. She’s not here this week and I am sad.

Actually, neither of them are. My roommate is at a camp thing for work, and because she was going to be gone for several days she took her dog to her mother’s house (“taking her to grandma’s”) until she gets back. So I have the apartment to myself, which is great and boring and fun and terrible.

It’s nice to get home from work and not have to let out the dog, or feed her, or refill her water. It’s nice to come and go without hearing her sad lonely crate noises (I”Im dying! I’m dying! You’re leaving me! I’m your dog! Don’t leave me!”). However it’s kind of lonely to not have a weird little creature jumping onto the couch or barking at me or wanting to share my food (I never give her any, she still always tries). It’s nice to wake up and not have to make sure she didn’t destroy anything since my roommate left, and to be able to do whatever without a little dog trying to trip me. But it’s also kind of boring to sit by yourself after awhile.


I mean, I like cats. I probably still like them more than dogs. But the thing about a dog is that it is just so devoted. Dogs always want to know what you’re doing, and they never stop wanting to be part of whatever that is. Cats lose interest in you from time to time, coming back when they’re hungry or cold, but otherwise lots of cats can be by themselves. I’ve known and had a couple who were really into people and being with them, but for the most part a cat can be by itself. But dogs, at least the ones I’ve spent the most time with, can’t.

When my roommate and I go places together and have to lock up the dog, the first thing she wants to do when we get back is have at least on of us sit in the living room. She’ll cry until at least one person is near her. But it’s not because she wants to play- half the time she just wants to sit somewhere and chew on a bone or sleep, but she obviously can’t do that without us, so someone had to be near her while she does these things. Which is ridiculous, but for a dog I guess it’s so important- “Sit with me.” It’s kind of refreshing after cats. “Feed me” and “Pet me” and other commands are replaced with “It would be nice if you would sit with me, friend, we’re all much better friends when we’re all sitting together”. It’s kind of weird, but like I said, refreshing.

Of course, she still can’t purr, but overall having a dog is better than not having one. Having a pet in general, really- I worry sometimes that I can’t relate at all to people who choose not to have pets. I like having a little friend to sit on the couch with me or go for walks or whatever else. it’s nice having something to take care of.

The dog is gone until Thursday. Also the roommate, although that isn’t nearly so depressing.turi2


On sunscreen.

…Also on stupid people. Why send your kids to school if the school is run by idiots?

Sometimes I feel lucky to be living now- I feel like I know so much more about health and prevention than any other generation. Even people born a couple of decades before me didn’t know nearly as much as preventing skin and lung cancer as I do, about physical fitness, and everything else. And then I read something about, for example, a school banning sunscreen.
And I realize that the world is still pretty scary, and that either I am the smartest person in the world, or everyone currently in charge is very, very stupid.
If you read this article, you will learn that a school in San Antonio, TX has banned sunscreen, and they’re not the only ones. According to the school mentioned- where a mother is angry because her daughter got a burn on a field trip- sunscreen is “like medicine”. A very, very small number of students have allergies to some sunscreens, and if they share the sunscreen then they could have a reaction. So obviously the solution is to send all of the kids out for field days, trips, and other outside activities without it. The mother is angry because even if she puts sunscreen on her daughter she goes to school, you have to reapply every couple of hours. Yes reapplying sunscreen. Remember that? How many kids even do that in schools where sunscreen is permitted?

This stuff is super dangerous.

My mom always had sunscreen for vacations and outside sports. I learned about it early. but even then, we didn’t put on sunscreen for everyday activities, and it wasn’t until I was in high school that i understood about things like reapplying and having sunscreen on even on a cloudy day.
I learned all this the hard way during a big day at camp-international day- the summer before sophomore year. The Minnesota woods on a cloudy morning- everyone actually thought it would rain and that our whole event would be cancelled. I don’t remember if I forgot my sunscreen or just decided not to put it on, but either way I put on a tank top and went without, hiking a mile or so to the next camp site over for a day of singing, dancing, and being outside. Around late morning the sun started to peek out, and soon there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It hadn’t rained at all- weather can change like that, but if you’re like me and don’t typically spend whole days outdoors, you don’t know this. I started to burn. And then I kept burning. The worst is that I didn’t notice for several hours until someone else pointed to my shoulders, which by then were peeling. I bought a t shirt just to cover my shoulders, which by then were itching, and someone else lent me their sunblock to help prevent further damage; I can’t remember now if it was a counselor, a kid, or a nurse. But there were plenty of people around who were happy to give me some when I realized I needed it. And as it was, everything from my face to my elbows had burned worse than it’s ever burned since. Believe me, I never forgot to bring it with me to something like again.

The latest research suggests that even one bad burn as a child can raise your cancer risk- while that is the only really serious burn I had, I can’t imagine how many more I would have suffered as a kid if there hadn’t always been some available when I went places. I understand that kids have allergies. But how is that some other kid’s- and by extension some other parent’s- responsibility?

Also, believe it or not, dangerous.


This comes up with food allergies too, peanuts of course always being the biggest priority. And while I understand that banning peanuts in a classroom is probably easier than risking a bunch of kids who aren’t great at cleanliness, is it better in long term? And yes, I have been told there are kids who could get sick even from the smell of something, and while I’ve never met one, I’m inclined to believe it. But the world isn’t going to bend for them in the long run. Children deserve to be trusted with their own health- if your child has an allergy, whether it is peanuts or shellfish or an additive in sunscreen, you need to educate them. Every so often there’s another incident of a teenager or college student who eats contaminated food because they don’t understand the severity of their own allergies, or someone else near to them who gets them sick because they haven’t been told either- but at that age, how can anyone else be expected to know? The reality of allergies is that, like any other illness, no one is going to understand it unless you tell them. And you can’t tell them if you don’t know yourself. It goes back to the parents…who should be protecting their kids with information and safe alternatives, not pushes to ban things and placing of blame on schools.

Because really, no matter how allergic your child is, it shouldn’t stop other kids from being able to use sunscreen, or lip balm, or anything else that works as a preventative that schools are insistent on banning these days. Which leads me to once again believing I could never send a fake future child of mine to a public school, although that’s probably a topic for another day.

There are no words for some people.

Today, while getting carts together at work, a car backed into me.
I wasn’t seriously injured- I think it gave me a crick in my leg, although even that has now passed- but that isn’t really the point, is it. I was absolutely where I was supposed to be, and I was wearing a very attractive reflective yellow vest, and it was still bright daylight outside. And they backed into me slightly, freaked me out completely, and drove off.

I shouted WHAT THE CRAP? and turned around, made a “WHAT?” kind of gesture at them..and they didn’t even stop to see if I was okay. A couple in another car saw the whole thing, and the guy actually rolled down his window to ask if I was all right. But nothing from the perpetrators. For shame…

i would like to know what kind of person can hit someone with their car and not even stop to see if that person is all right. I would like to know what kind of person that is, and then I would like to turn all such people into indentured servants until they have earned enough money to replace someone’s legs after they are hit by a car, and take away their licenses.

Not jinxing it. I think.

So I didn’t announce it right away, in fear of jinxing it, but if you are one of the 4 or so people who has actually read this blog since the beginning of June, you may have noticed something- four days into June, and I’ve actually posted…every day. So far.
I’ve decided that, since June is yet another 30 day month, I would give it another go at writing every day in June and blogging every day as well. It’s a little embarrassing, when I think about it, how little I’ve really dont creatively, yet again, so far this year. I was hoping to get more accomplished. OR anything accomplished. Or maybe even a lot accomplished.

But so far I’ve been writing every day this month (all four days of it), practicing my German, even trying to get a little more sleep than usual. I think we’re headed somewhere good with this, really.

I’ll end today with some things to file under Mildly Interesting:

-There is a raccoon that lives nearby. It is huge and most enjoys raiding the next door garbage.
-Some other people on this street have an outdoor cat named Cookie. According to my roommate, the cat’s collar says, “I am an outside cat, my name is Cookie.”

-this one actually strikes me as mildly infuriating: at work, you can buy a four-pack of little Perrier water bottles for $3.99. They also have individual bar codes that you can scan accidentally, and those ring up for $.99. Which means that four of these sold individually would only be $3.96; so, for 3 cents more, you get extra cardboard. Annoying.

Failures of Adulthood: Cooking is hard.

Who buys all of this?

Who buys all of this?

People shopping at fancier, more “natural” grocery stores buy all sorts of things. They especially buy all sorts of produce. In my new job as being That-girl-who-rings-up-your-groceries-and-seems-to-talk-a-lot-about-the-cheese-you-buy, I’ve learned about dozens of items I hadn’t heard of before, or at least didn’t know enough about to imagine using. A lot of things are still a mystery to me. Some just sound funny. Jicama. Tamarind. Gold nugget. Bok choy. Baby bok choy, which is obviously totally different. Plantain. Celery root. Dandelion greens. Lemongrass. Aloe leaves. Sunchoke. Turmeric. Red kale. Daikon. Crimini. Rutabaga. What the heck are all of these things?

I don’t know how to be an adult. I really don’t. I mean I try, but my current idea of a “grown up” dinner cooked for one is usually cook some quinoa or rice, open a can of beans, throw in some spinach, top with cheese, and warm up to melt said cheese. Bam! Vegetables, carbs, protein, and cheese. All the essentials. Wait, you mean, some people prepare more than one dish?

I also sell tons of cooking magazines. A lady came in today who lives out of town, and she bought hundreds of dollars’ worth of cooking magazines and cookbooks. I wonder sometimes if people who buy all this stuff have families, or if they are just people who like to cook. Because I can imagine if cooking for my family was a daily routine then I would get tired of figuring out how to use my celery root before it goes bad- okay, here’s some guacamole, nachos for everyone!

And it isn’t that I don’t like to eat healthy food. I do. I love watermelon, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, kale. Seasonal citrus fruits. I actually have come to really appreciate squash. Peppers are often delicious, and potatoes are awesome. I will gladly eat all of these things. But I just don’t have the energy to make something elaborate with them.
I love soups because you can cook down some garlic and onions, add water, add other vegetables and spices, and then you have something delicious and healthy that probably took about as much effort as it took you to just cut everything up.
Pasta used to be a great easy dinner thing for me too, until I gave up wheat in search of fewer stomach pains. And the difference is significant enough that I’m not going to go back, even if the “science” doesn’t support my beliefs. Maybe it really is just a placebo, it’s a placebo that I like. But either way, pasta night is a thing in my past- gluten free varieties are just almost never any good, and they can be prohibitively expensive for something that can go from perfection to soggy mess in fifteen seconds of extra cooking.
Smoothies can be easy. Just soy milk, fruit, a banana, and some flax seeds, and spinach if you’re a fan, and it can be healthy and filling. Unfortunately even the effort of maintaining smoothie ingredients can slip my mind. I feel like the most forgetful person in the world sometimes. But anyway, I often imagine my mother, my aunt, and all my other adult, good-cook relatives (many of whom are female- what’s up with that? If I were a guy, would this failure be normal?) looking at my dinners and lunches, reading my sad attempts at meal plans, and shaking their heads. You need a starch, a protein, and at least two vegetables, dear, I can imagine them saying. How many times do we have to tell you that cheese is not a balanced meal?

Really though, sometimes I worry that my generation will become the ultimate group that can’t cook. We don’t want to put in the time, and even if we do want healthy home cooked food, we’re all about finding an easy way to do it that actually requires very little cooking from us. I know a lot of people these days will buy things like rotisserie chicken instead of fresh, so they can use it for things without actually cooking the meat. Or buying pizza dough instead of making it, or any other way to “cook” without actually getting many pans dirty. I don’t even know if this is bad, I just think it means we won’t know how to do things. It will go the way of sewing your own clothes and growing your own gardens- most people won’t have a clue, and people working in restaurants or writing the food blogs will become totally revered (for all I know, that is happening already…I’m not sure how else to explain restaurants devoted to cereal buffets and artisan toast).

What can be done? How do we, the common people, defend ourselves from be taken over by our chef and foodie overlords? I guess I don’t know, although I imagine it involves eating something other than ice cream for dinner.

In which I get upset about shopping and food

Today I decided that I’m not shopping at one of the local grocery chains anymore- at least, not the one nearest to my apartment.
When I moved into my new apartment this spring, the location, just a block away, seemed like a great place to shop. It’s so close, why not use it to stop and grab a few things when they’re on sale? I mean I work at a grocery store so I buy nearly everything there, but once in awhile I would want something I couldn’t get there, or that this other store would have a good sale on.  At this point, though, I’ve had three different awkward encounters with three different employees, and three times is a charm, as they say.

Before I continue I feel like I need to reiterate that I work in retail myself. I’ve been working as a cashier for a little over a month now, and at the same company for over a year. Further engaging customers, yes, yes, yes, I get it. I do it all day. Ask them how their day is going, if they have any plans or did anything fun. Ask if they found everything. Find something they bought to comment on (that one is great! Have you tried that before? Which of these do you like best? What do you do with your  [insert weird vegetable here]?). Have a conversation. But I feel like there are good and bad ways to do this, and this is the story of three bad ways.

The first was over a month ago now. I stopped in for a couple of things in the evening, and I was using a reusable bag I got at the Disney store last year. I like this bag- it has Merida from Brave on it, and it’s a good size and is made of that recycled plastic that a lot of bags are made out of now that reusable bags are a “thing”. Well, I get to the register and the cashier is a girl close in age to me. Maybe a little older or younger. She’s ringing me up and I tell her I have a bag, and show her. I forget if she said something about it being Disney first or I did, but I explained I got it at Earth Day and it was basically free, and she says, “right, and then you’re advertising them for free whenever you use it!….just kidding.”  

I actually didn’t tell anyone this story when it first happened, because it felt so awkward. Like an inappropriate joke backfiring. I mean I don’t *think* she was trying to offend me, although I guess in a way that isn’t really the point. It didn’t feel, to me, like something that a cashier needed to comment on. I feel that, for better or worse, as a cashier the saying “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” applies to everything. Don’t let customers be mean to you, but don’t be mean or rude or nosy to them. And this felt like a joke that was…rude.

The second story was a couple of weeks ago. Now, if you know anything about me, you will know that I like ice cream. One of the main thing I buy at this store is ice cream, because they have a lot of buy one, get one free sales on it. Of course I’m going to buy two! On the day in question, the Kemp’s brand, a big favorite here in Minnesota, was on sale. I also saw that they had their ‘mini donut’ flavor, which I can’t eat but my roommate really loves and had been looking for the week before. So I buy that and some other flavor, grab whatever else I wanted to get that day, and head to the checkout. I forget who my cashier was, which the way my experiences at this store are going, is probably for the best. They said something like, “Oh, mini donut!” to my ice cream, to which I simply said yes, it’s good. Then comes my bagger, a guy I see there almost every time I go in. “Oh, mini donut ice cream! Your kids are gonna love you!”
…What? I don’t have kids, thanks. I’m buying that for my presumably grown up roommate and myself. Again, while not intended to be rude…I don’t think it’s a good tactic to make assumptions about strangers. You have no idea if I have kids or not, or want them, or even can’t have them. And I don’t think that it’s even more likely I am buying ice cream for kids (in fact, I think that ice cream tastes far better when you are an employed person buying it for yourself, but I digress) and it also felt rude because really? Are my forehead lines that bad? Do I really look like a mom to you? It just felt weird. And I didn’t know what to say in response, so I didn’t say anything, and wondered the whole way home if I was overreacting, or if I was looking really old that day, so again I didn’t tell anyone this story until now.

The third story, then, was today. It’s watermelon season, and I was buying one there because they’re hard to take home on a bike. I also saw that ice cream was on sale again, two for one, so I bought some-two, in fact, because again, of course I’m going to buy two if they’re half price. So I get to the front, and my cashier doesn’t notice I’m there at first. One of the other people working tries to get her attention, and she finally sees me and says hello, starts getting out all of my stuff, and says, “Are you having a party?” Maybe it was her tone. Maybe it was the fact that I’m tired. Maybe it was because I don’t think that, for a vegetarian who avoids wheat and doesn’t drink, a little ice cream is that much of a vice. So after a moment of uncomfortable silence I responded, “No, actually. I just wanted ice cream. And watermelon.” Pause. “Oh. Well, that watermelon sure looks…good…” and I waited in silence until she was done, left as quickly as I could, and fumed.
Now, here is what I think is wrong with asking someone if they’re having a party. If they’re not, what does that say about your opinion of their purchases? And why do you even think you get an opinion?  If I buy a pie and ice cream and four kinds of cheese, and you ask if I’m having a party, and I’m not, that tells me you think I’m either frivolous with money or a greedy pig (or, as my roommate would say, a “fatty”). It tells me that you think someone like me should be buying nothing but fruits and vegetables and lean protein, and that someone whose diet includes chips, ice cream, and full-fat cheeses must be either fat or on the way there. Because isn’t that what we think fat people eat? Fox “news” is full of pundits judging the shopping of people who use EBT cards, the internet is full of stories and jokes about what we see fat people eating and lists of food that are “why America is fat”, as though that reason is the same for everyone. And while I am probably overreacting just a little bit, the fact remains that I am a young woman in America. I am constantly judged for how I act, how I dress(today I wore a shirt dress covered in cats. I love it, but I got at least a half a dozen comments on it, mostly positive, a couple confused), how I look (a co-worker with facial piercings was recently asked by a customer if her mother had seen her lately). I don’t need to be judged on my downtime, when I’m just trying to shop. It’s annoying. It even borders on hurting my feelings when I’m having a bad day, like when my dad would say to me as a kid, “you’re eating all that?” Yes, I am, because I’m hungry. Because this is what I want. Because most of my diet consists of fruits, vegetables, and protein bars. And because the older I get the less right I feel we have to take note of what other people are eating…and because really, if you think two cartons of ice cream at a time is a lot, well then you should stop working someplace where they’re always putting it on sale for half price.

Being a cashier can be a lame job (I know I’m trying to get out of it), and it can take a lot of energy. But you have the ability to make someone really happy with what you say- or the ability to really make someone question themselves. I don’t need to shop somewhere that judges me, awkwardly insults me, or generally makes my day a little worse. And I will eat all the ice cream I please.