Consumer affairs: It's a bargain

These days we could all use advice on how to economize, so here are some tips on where to go in town to cut some financial corners.

With the uncertain economic situation, everyone is feeling the pinch of higher prices. Being relatively new returnees to the country, my husband and I have had a field day doing comparison shopping on everything! We love to have brewed coffee in the morning; when our supply of ground decaf ran out, we asked our friends, "Where do you buy coffee if you don't like instant?" They suggested we try The Coffee Mill on Emek Refaim, so one Saturday evening that became our destination. Imagine our surprise to find 500-gr. bags selling for NIS 70 to NIS 80. We then strolled down the street and asked at every cafe if they had their own brands bagged, ground and decaf. Sure enough, 500 gr. sold for NIS 80. Bargain shopper that I am, we then tried Mahaneh Yehuda, where we found a coffee and spice vendor who had Brazilian ground decaf coffee in 250-gr. bags for NIS 22, so 500 gr. would be NIS 44. We bought it and were very pleased with the taste. Then one day we happened to be in Supersol Deal supermarket. There, not on sale, was the same coffee, 250 gr. for NIS 16.50. It certainly pays to shop around. My friend Batya heard about my quest for decaf for my coffee maker and contributed this idea. Experiment with Turkish coffee - decaf or regular. A superheaping tablespoon works for six cups of water as measured on the side of the coffee maker. Want to make your own vanilla-flavored coffee? Batya suggests buying a medium-priced bottle of vodka. Add two or three vanilla sticks, splitting the pods open lengthwise. Close the bottle and place in a dark corner of a cupboard. Wait two to three weeks. When making coffee, add one tablespoon to the water for a nicely flavored treat. Some of the things that people living in Israel cannot bring from abroad are light bulbs, plugs, extension cords and multiple plugs. A careful investigation of the Rehov Agrippas stores that sell these items shows that prices vary, so shop carefully on this street. The Rehov Yoel Salomon store in Nahalat Shiva also sells these items, in most cases at the same price as the Agrippas stores. A few doors down on Yoel Salomon is a store that sells Japanese lanterns at very good prices for the large white and smaller colored ones. Business lunches at downtown restaurants range from about NIS 35 and up. However, my friend Miriam says to go to Ma'adanei Hakikar in Kikar Safra, where municipality workers have lunch in its cafeteria, Sunday through Thursday. The entrance is on the right and is open to the public. Fish, chicken or meat, two side dishes, bread and a salad bar are NIS 28; soup and drinks are extra. The portions are so large that take-out boxes are available. On Fridays, you can purchase take-out food by weight. Marvad Haksamim, the restaurant in the square next to Hamashbir, is a good oriental restaurant. Here, too, on Fridays it and its branch next to Heichal Shlomo on King George Avenue offer a wide variety of take-out. Appetizers, main dishes, side dishes and some desserts are sold by weight at very reasonable prices. Looking for a quick, inexpensive lunch? The Thai restaurant or noodle bar at 25 Jaffa Road, next to the main post office, is kosher and offers a big bowl of soup for NIS 10; an order of vegetarian Pad Thai, enough for two people, is NIS 29. My friend Malka asked me if I had been to Big Deal on Rehov Luntz. The main and upper floor have household items, stationery, toys, kitchenware and more. For NIS 11 you can become a card-carrying member, which entitles you to a 5 percent discount on every purchase. We bought some lovely towel racks for one-fifth the price that other stores sell them. A friend informed me that the store Yesh Shivuk in the Bukharan market at Rehov Bezalel Ashkenazi 1 carries disposable tableware such as tablecloths, napkins, dishes, cutlery, cups, Kiddush cups, aluminum containers, soaps and cleaning supplies at discount prices. Is your computer causing you problems? Need a cartridge refilled? 3U4U on Rehov Bezalel, just above Hamashbir, is owned by a very helpful and knowledgeable Frenchman. Prices are reasonable, but its customer service is what counts. Have some old clothes and don't know where to donate them? Enjoy shopping in thrift shops? Between Bezalel and Agrippas off Rehov Shomron at Rabbi Aryeh 1 is a charity shop. The tiny store is open from 10:30 a.m. to between 1 and 3 p.m.. Coats cost NIS 20 to NIS 30; women's clothes are NIS 5 to NIS 15; children's clothes are NIS 1 to NIS 5. There are men's clothes as well. If someone who needs clothes comes in but doesn't have money or if a family needs baby clothes, the owner will give them to the customer for free.