Recently I flew to Anchorage, Alaska for a 10-week housesitting gig/visit. I generally go with just a carry-on bag, but my new neck-supporting pillow takes up a big chunk of that bag. I couldn’t stuff much Stuff into the small space where the pillow wasn’t.
A real frugalist just hates to pay checked-bag fees. Were this to have been a short trip I’d have simply used a rolled-up towel under my neck. But 10 weeks is a little long to subject my creaky neck to a tube o’terrycloth. Into the bag went the pillow and into another bag went a bunch of my stuff.
Plus some birthday presents, and some mayonnaise.
If it cost me $15 each way to check the bag, that bag darned well better pull its own weight. So to speak.
It’s hard to pack lightly for a trip up here. I wanted layers in case I go hiking, an extra pair of slacks, and some shorts and flip-flops because I’m just optimistic enough to think it will get hot. (“Hot” in Anchorage means anything past 70 degrees.)
Even so, I considered cramming just a few basics into the carry-on and buying a new pillow here. Ditched that idea, for two reasons:
- The famous “Alaska gouge” – everything has to be flown or barged up – would ensure that even a cheap neck pillow wouldn’t be cheap.
- Toiletries larger than 3 ounces are prohibited from carry-on bags, so for such a long trip I’d need to buy new ones. That wouldn’t be cheap either.
All right, then: If I were going to pay an extra $30 round-trip, then I was going to get as close to the 50-pound suitcase limit as possible. Hence the gifts, a gallon-sized Ziploc bag full of toiletries, and some food from my pantry.
Kris from the Cheap Healthy Good blog is probably striking my name from her Christmas-card list right about now. One of her goals is to “eradicate mayonnaise from the face of the Earth.” Myself, I love the stuff. To paraphrase an old Russian saying: “If we must die, let us do it with mayo.”
It’s in the bag
I figure to eat as many of my meals at home as I can, to keep this trip fairly frugal. That means grocery-shopping (see “Alaska gouge,” above). I already had four jars of mayonnaise stashed in my pantry, so why not bring one?
I also put in a jar of jam made with free wild blackberries and a number of items obtained cheaply or free with double coupons: five pouches of tuna (to go with the mayonnaise), shelf-stable summer sausage (a good light lunch served with crackers, cheese and fruit), several good-sized dark chocolate bars (my friend and I will pick off little pieces while we watch the Discovery Channel and “Torchwood”), three boxes of granola bars and some dried plums (prunes apparently got a better agent).
For my great-nephews: Half a dozen packs of sugarless gum, also free with double coupons, and several boxes of “fruit snacks,” which are fruit the way that Cheez Whiz is cheese. But the boys love them, and yesterday I took over two pounds of red grapes to help atone for the lack of nutritive value in the little Spider-Man-shaped fruit composites.
Toiletries: Shampoo and conditioner; a mild facial cleanser and a moisturizer with sunscreen (doctor’s orders, because I have had skin cancer); deodorant; toothpaste and dental floss; extra toothbrush; sunscreen.
Gifts: Two birthday and one Christmas, for the kids (and for extra frugal credit, wrapped in the Sunday funnies); a couple of Spider-Man digital watches from the dollar store; a book for my friend/hostess; a children’s activities book for my niece, who’s a teacher as well as a mom.
Weird, yes, but a cost-effective kind of weird
I’m sure the TSA agents were scratching their heads over the X-ray of my bag – which, incidentally, weighed 43.7 pounds.
And I’m sure that some of you think that I need to get a life. Allow me to point out that the extra suitcase more than paid for itself. To wit:
The mayonnaise would have cost $5.49 up here. I paid about $1.25 thanks to a coupon/rebate combo. Savings: $4.24
Store-brand blackberry jam, $3.89. Homemade jam, approximately 62 cents. Savings: $3.27
The two kinds of sausage would have cost $12.68. I paid $2.49 because of double coupons. Savings: $10.19
The dried plums were $5.99. I paid $3. Savings: $2.99
Five pouches of tuna were $1.59 each. I got them for free with double coupons. Savings: $7.95
Granola bars run $3.79 a box. I paid a dime per box – yes, a dime – because of a double coupon/rebate deal. Savings: $11.07
We’re already well up past $30 and I haven’t counted the cost savings for the toiletries, or the postage I would have paid to send those gifts by mail.
Filling the cupboard
My hostess, bless her heart, did not actually guffaw when I started putting things away. She did make a gentle observation: “I have mayonnaise and I have jelly.”
But I don’t want to eat up her stuff. She’s incredibly generous to let me stay here for another six weeks after I’m done house-sitting for her. In fact, Linda has hosted me regularly since I left Alaska in 2001.
She won’t take any money for expenses; in fact, she once tried to pay me back when I brought home some ice cream to share. (Heck, she wanted to pay me for house-sitting!) I have to wrestle her for the check when we go out to Harley’s Old Thyme Café. The only way I can give a hostess gift is to leave it in the room when I depart or mail it to her afterwards. (And even then she fusses, “You didn’t have to do that!”)
Of course, I know how she feels. I want my visitors to help themselves to whatever I have. But I’m a better host than guest; I want to provide my own food.
Besides, she doesn’t have mayo. She has Miracle Whip. If Kris has a grudge against emulsions, she ought to start with that one.