Thursday, July 28, 2011

hungry?/thirsty?:Starbucks Gold Loyalty Program

it's a long running joke that i run solely on caffeine and unicorn blood (....5 points to whoever gets the latter reference).  in college, since i commuted from home, i was on campus or en route to campus between 16-20 hours a day, 5 days a week....and even more in high times of stress (sleeping?  what's that?)  as a way to make sure i don't fall asleep at my desk or at the wheel and to save money on food (since their food IS delicious, have you TRIED their hummus?!  so good.), my dad would send me a starbucks card, preloaded, and then told me to refill when i got low on my balance.  he still tells me to refill my card and i've been out of school a year.  so after i registered my card and literally lived in starbucks, i was sent a shiny gold card with all the perks-free soy milk (which i don't drink but it's a nice thought), free syrups (YESSSSS), and every 15 drinks, i get a free drink, not to mention other little perks in the mail/email.

needless to say, i pay for starbucks' light bill every month, but it's nice to be given a reward for being their best customer ;)  BARGAINISTA TIP: loyalty programs, guys.  even if you just buy yourself a card and load it, you can keep track of how much money you spend a month on coffee, and where you can cut costs (i.e. do you REALLY WANT to pay 50-70 cents for soy milk and syrups?  no?  okay good.)

....they're on every corner. // twitter: @Starbucks

hungry?: M Cafe

in my hunt for some of the best vegetarian/vegan/flexitarian cuisine, i've found some hits (hugo's!  real food daily!) and some misses (....we won't name them.)  but lately, all i think about is M Cafe.  before about a month ago, i had only stopped into the beverly hills location one time forever ago to get a coffee but that was it.  so when my manager and i went to lunch last month, she needed some place close to the office but something DELICIOUS and healthy.  so we went to the M Cafe on melrose....and my life had never been the same since.  i fell in love with their vegan (or regular) sushi, their soups, THE SPICY PEANUT KALE OH MY GOD, their juice bar, their food in general....and i SOLELY blame margot for my addiction to their vegan chocolate chip cookies.  like, i am needing a major intervention here.

so the other day i was off to an acting class and i wanted m cafe for dinner before.  i couldn't decide WHAT EXACTLY i wanted, so i went in there and thought "why don't i just mix and match?"  so i got a plate of the spicy peanut kale (a MUST.), a piece of lotus root inari, two pieces spicy tuna roll (when a girl needs real sushi, A GIRL NEEDS REAL SUSHI), a mini chocolate chip cookie (....did you expect me to just PASS on that?), and their green tea.  now, m cafe isn't cheap (you know, that whole LOCAL ORGANIC RAW CUISINE thing) but let me show you how much food i got and we'll play the "HOW MUCH DID THIS COST?!" game.

LOTS OF FOOD, RIGHT?!  seriously, i was full for about 12 hours HOW MUCH DID THIS COST?!?!?!

*drum roll* ....$14.
yep.  all of this lovely deliciousness cost $14.  the reason why?  everything was a la carte/side prices!  BARGAINISTA TIP: can't decide what you want because everything looks so great?  see if there is an a la carte menu or pick multiple sides to create a meal.  you can always bring home the leftovers :)

M Cafe de Chaya
two locations:
7119 Melrose Ave, Hollywood
and 9433 Brighton Way, Beverly Hills // twitter: @iLoveMCafe

Thursday, July 7, 2011

brokesesh: beverly hills with katie

as part of girl code, one must constantly have meals/hang out time with friends.  it's gossip, fashion, bitchery, and camaraderie all rolled into one.  violate girl code and you find yourself alone and becoming a dog lady.

so a week ago or so, my dear dear dear friend from college, the lovely katie, FINALLY came back home from her native chicago, and we decided to grab an early dinner at urth caffe in beverly hills.  now, urth is pretty expensive as is, but when you were pinching pennies all day (not to mention STARVING), you'll ignore it and go for broke.  i got a lovely small almond milk latte (with a heart!  the cutest.) and the urth caffe salad with no dressing, olives, tomatoes and side of bread (sorry bout it, i'm picky.), with added grilled chicken.  while my bill at urth came out to $22, i can safely say that is one of my FAVORITE salads in town.  it's mixed greens with feta, pine nuts, garbanzo beans, hearts of palm, and the grilled chicken has a pesto rub on it.  heaven and incredibly filling.  katie got the roast turkey salad and a medium almond milk latte (in a tall mug!  so cozy.) and let me tell you, we tried each others salads and their roast turkey is A+.  didn't need salt, wasn't dry....delicious.

while we were chatting about typical girl things (going out, boys, work, life, etc.), katie looks across the street and says "wanna get manis?!" she pointed to a little hole-in-the-wall nail salon, and we immediately decided we should.  for $12 (plus tip, so $14), i got an awesome manicure.

BARGAINISTA TIP: need your nails done in a quick fix but not sure of that corner nail salon?  go look inside, ask how long the wait is for walk ins, and look around and make sure they have their cosmetology licenses out in full display along with a bright atmosphere.  if you feel secure, it's probably a steal!

While our nails were drying, we decided to head to anthropologie to look at clothes on the sales racks, and katie needed new knobs for her furniture in her room for the year.  so we went, and while i did find a couple of cute shirts and a skirt on sale.....i found the most excellent pair of J Brand Jeans ever on the sale rack.  i nearly died of joy.

these are trouser fit, semi-bell flare jeans (and yes, this is my closet door.  suspend disbelief for a second here).  and they were awesome.  problem is, they were too big.  but then i looked at the price tag.
IF YOU CAN'T READ THAT, THAT SAYS $29.95.  FOR A PAIR OF J BRANDS.  THESE JEANS RETAIL FOR NEARLY $200.  THIS IS ABOUT 1/6 THE PRICE.  #SERIOUSBUSINESS.  so i call up a master seamstress who will give me a five finger discount.
"hey quickly can you tailor a pair of pants down a size or two?  by tuesday?  you can?  thanks."  "YEAH I'LL TAKE THEM."

i bought three other items, and my total bill at anthro was $115.  which is about the price for 1 item there.  four for the price of one?!  i'll take it.

BARGAINISTA TIP: if something is super irresistible on that sales rack but it's in the wrong size, buy it anyway and tailor it!  especially if you buy jeans that retail for $200 and you get them for $30!

so yeah, i was a little broke by the end of the day, but what's a good brokesesh unless the objective is to go into debt?

urth caffe
4 locations in los angeles (including 267 s. beverly drive, beverly hills)

nail salon across the street from urth caffe: manicure $12, combo mani/pedi $17

anthropologie: for locations.

hungry?: Ralph's Loyalty Program

We gotta eat.  I mean, hello, can you survive on caffeine and adrenaline alone?  (well, I can because I’m awesome but that’s besides the point.)  So of course, we go to the inevitable topic: Grocery Shopping.  I prefer to shop at Whole Foods, but since it’s also known as WHOLE PAYCHECK, I can only go so often for staples I can’t find anywhere else.  Trader Joe’s is hit and miss, Gelson’s is overpriced for what they have (5 BUCKS FOR A HALF GALLON OF ALMONDMILK?!?!?! NO COMPRENDE TERRIBLE LOGIC) and while I also like Vons/Pavilions/Safeway and Albertsons, the store that never lets me down is Ralph’s (for you non-California folk, that would be Kroger and the Kroger Brand across the nation.)  Why do I like Ralph’s?  They tend to have everything mainstream and a ton of things you could only find at Whole Foods, and the best thing ever….the Ralph’s Club Card.  The Ralph’s Club Card is the crème de la crème of Grocery Loyalty Programs.  Sure, some chains send terrible coupons and maybe markdown some prices for you, but Ralph’s will be a cut above the rest when it comes to sales and their coupon selection, especially when they send you coupons tailored to your frequent buys….as well as double points and HUGE discounts/savings.  Take for instance the end of the last points period.  This is what I got.

YEP.  How awesome is that?!  So I go and I do my grocery shopping (or should I say GROCERY HAUL) and I end up spending a godawful amount….until my coupons kicked in.  this is the result.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

hungry?: .....BOA STEAKHOUSE?!

OK, we know i love BOA.  it's my favorite steakhouse in LA....and you don't even have to get steak.  their grilled chilean sea bass is my FAVORITE fish on the planet....holy god, my mouth is watering thinking about it....but it's not cheap.  at all.  however, my best friend, the fabulous beka, was in town and before she left, we decided to try BOA for lunch as a splurge.  we thought the bill would be outrageous....we were surprised.

we both ordered a salad-Beka got their caesar ($11) and i got their mixed greens ($10).  we then decided to get the creme de la creme of burgers: the BOA Kobe Burger.  I requested mine plain.  they gave me a bunless burger (i'm guessing the waiter took one look at me and thought "oh, she doesn't need carbs, just let her have the fruit....")
let me tell you though....for $17, all of the greatness that is a BOA steak was in that delicious Kobe burger.   BARGAINISTA TIP: if you ever want to go to a fancy restaurant, go for lunch.  typically the prices are lower and still worth every bite.

....okay so i should admit we went with my mother (who got the petit filet and mac and cheese, and a caesar) and beka and my mother also got dessert (i got tea and rude of them!) and no one at our table paid for the meal....that one was courtesy of one bill sparks, attorney at law....but STILL.  if you need a fancy restaurant that you can splurge on a budget and either impress or feel like a real housewife of beverly hills, BOA at lunch is a great find.

to recap:
BOA Steakhouse
9200 Sunset Blvd (West Hollywood) and 101 Santa Monica Blvd (Santa Monica)

hungry?: Malo Mondays

we have a weekly(ish) tradition in my group of friends.  my pal mary kate invited me to taco night at malo a while back, and i became instantly hooked.  i mean, take a look at their monday menu:

SERIOUSLY.  every monday, they have their taco night where you order each taco individually, each ranging from $1-$5, and with nightly drink specials as well as their chips and salsa ($4) and a side of guacamole for the avocado lovers at the table ($4), it was a done deal.  so my friends maddie, braden, and ingrid decided to come join evans and i (unfortunately our fearless leader couldn't attend this particular day) on a monday at malo, and i have documented the evidence.

 exhibit A: chips (crispy and chewy....the chewy are difficult to explain...
but one bite will leave you hooked!), 
serrano salsa, and guacamole.

we then ordered our tacos:
i cleaned off two soyrizo and was working on a chicken-jack cheese hardshell

maddie was working on a chicken hardshell and two soft chicken tacos

braden selected two beef and pickle hardshells with a carne asada.

my total price?  $6  there is a catch at Malo though-the service can be terrible, the attitude of the hostess was completely uncalled for on this day, and the parking situation is tricky.  street parking is a bitch and valet is now $4 and you MUST get it validated....this is new and a terrible process.  i was severely disappointed the last time i went.  however, do not be discouraged, readers....i'm hoping they get the system fixed soon, because the tacos really are delicious and one of LA's best deals.

to recap:
4326 West Sunset Boulevard (Silverlake)
twitter: @MaloRestaurant

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bargainista Buy: Betsey Johnson

i'm a girl who loves to shop.  i mean, everyone loves new clothes, right?  my style is very collegiate indie chic.  i'm a little indie, a little preppy, a little edgy, black/patterns/lots of color and i love me some utilitarian pieces that i can dress up and down (more bang for your buck!)  one of my favorite lines is Betsey Johnson because it embodies me in a nutshell.  however, girlfriend's line isn't on the cheap.  for some reason lately, though, the fashion gods have blessed me with my girl B and her sales.

Dress #1: New Years Eve Sparkles.
i had been saving my pennies to buy some cute dresses for NYE and my birthday at the end of january, and NYE i needed a dress that would POP but not break the bank.  during their after-christmas sale, i found this (ignore my face, focus on the clothes, people.):
 (in case you can't tell, i'm the tall one with the boa and happy new year crown)

needless to say, that dress turned some heads....
and some other things..... 

Dress #2: Birthday Glam.
as i mentioned, my birthday is less than a month after NYE, and i turned......24 (*screams and runs out the building*) but i needed the FANCIEST birthday dress for my birthday party at Geisha House my parents so graciously helped me out on as well as my first after-party (or of the many birthday season nights out that occurred, but enough about that) of my birthday week but also a dress i could wear for other fancy occasions, and since i was also getting a capelet for the dress above, it needed to go with the fancy party dress.  here is my other find of this trip:

(we were reenacting a real housewives episode...obviously.)

TOTAL FOR ALL THREE ITEMS: LESS THAN $300.  each dress RETAILS FOR $300.  so essentially i got three items for ALMOST the price of one.  BARGAINISTA TIP: as much of as a pain in the ass as it is, after-holiday sales provide BETTER prices than pre-holiday sales (this goes for all holidays) and that proves perfect for me because if there is one unofficial holiday i avoid like the plague, it's black friday.  ew.

Dress #3: The Stumble-Upon Sale:
four months later, i realized hadn't gotten my mailing list/phone call about betsey johnson sales in a while because i was too lazy to tell them i was moving (BARGAINISTA TIP: mailing lists/sales reps will ALWAYS give you the heads up  before the public on major sales, so don't be shy and sign up!) and i had to go to the mall because i needed some spanx (hey, you laugh, but they make my abs look like jillian michaels.)  i decided to traipse through the mall and i see my girl betsey's store with a sign SELECTED DRESSES TAKE 40% OFF.  WELL.  you don't just put cute dresses in the window with that sign and expect me to just walk by.  hell no, i walked in and as usual, most of the sale things were the crap no one wants in a size zero....incredibly charming....until i find THIS BITCH:

ISN'T THIS THE CUTEST DRESS EVER?! timeless, utilitarian....

yes dear readers.  i discovered that the original price tag (retailing at 398 before tax) had a tag on top of it (160) and THAT had been marked out and was on the 40% off i asked the sales girl, who was a complete sweetheart, if this super adorable dress was included in the 40% off sale even though it had been marked down....and she immediately squealed saying "OMG YES, IT'S THE CUTEST AND I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU FOUND THIS IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THE OTHER NOT SO CUTE THINGS!  IT LOOKS SO GREAT ON YOU AND YOU FOUND THE STEAL OF THE CENTURY!" (seriously, she was adorable).  so the grand total for this dress was $89 + tax = $98.  seriously.

so to recap:
Bargainista Sales Tips:
-post-holiday sales >>>>> pre-holiday sales
-make your sales rep your BFF and ask questions.  you never know if that $500-but-gotta-have-it dress is ACTUALLY $500 unless you ask!
-sign up for the mailing list/sales rep call.  while it does occur, stumbling upon a sale is an art that i'm still perfecting and even the best bargainistas have to keep their sales radar from going south, so that extra leg up from your friendly store rep only helps you in the long run.  this also goes for "liking" a line/store on facebook as well as following them on twitter.

Betsey Johnson
Twitter: @xoBetseyJohnson
boutique locations throughout the US, Canada, and the UK 
(LA flagship boutique-8050 Melrose Ave, as well as locations in Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, Westfield Topanga, Santa Monica Place, Westfield Century City, etc.)