Welcome back to What’s In Your Cart, where we ask noteworthy readers and followers on @KinjaDeals and @ItsTheInventory about their favorite products, their shopping habits, and their deal hunting acumen.
This week, we traded emails with Justin Warner, host of Marvel’s Eat the Universe on Marvel.com and YouTube. He’s also a frequent judge and competitor on Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network, he wrote The Laws of Cooking and How to Break Them, and has a new book coming out this year about the Ninja Foodi, which he helped design.
You follow Kinja Deals on Twitter, but do you consider yourself a deal hunter? Do you look for deals on products that you’ve decided to buy, or do you buy most products because you saw a deal?
I am an opportunist, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actively hunt deals. I live in an RV at this juncture, so there is only so much stuff I can acquire. But back in the sticks and bricks iteration of my life, I would keep a pretty long mental list of things I desired, and if they popped up as a deal I’d smash that purchase button.
What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?
I like to say that my wife and I bought our first house in New York for $7,000. It’s a 1995 Itasca Sunrise, and I’m writing this under sunny skies and mid 70s weather which is a deal one doesn’t find every day. Scott’s Cheap Flights is also a very good deal, if you can make it work for you. I’ve saved many thousands of dollars because of Scott.
Favorite place to shop online? How about in person?
Irl, I love going to Walmart. I love that I can get as-seen-on-TV Flex Tape, and also beef cheeks. I’m currently writing a cookbook from the road and Walmart does a pretty good job of capturing local flavors. When I’m in New York, I’m obsessed with Whisk, SOS Chefs, and Kalustyan’s. JB Prince is also a real gem.
What’s the biggest purchase you’ve ever made online? Was it worth it?
I bought an infrared sauna off of Amazon to help with some winter blues. It was totally worth it, especially when you cost it out vs going to an infrared sauna clinic or whatever they are called.
What’s something you bought recently that really exceeded your expectations?
Flex Tape, as long as you don’t let it stick to itself, is kind of a miracle. It’s worth the price, and its stickiness feels more permanent than most things in society. The book I’m currently writing is for the Ninja Foodi (full disclosure, I helped to design it) and that thing has really been pushed to its limits by me yet refuses to buckle. I will try harder. I have a Yeti tumbler that Guy Fieri gave to me and it’s really taken some abuse too. Rubbermaid has come out with these no-spill containers that are very clear and compact that have helped me cope with my lack of refrigerator space. Back in the day I’d tell people to use deli containers to store food, as that’s what I did as a recovering restaurateur and home cook. That just doesn’t fly in the RV, so I hesitantly purchased them. They are excellent.
On the flipside, what was the worst purchase you’ve made recently? Anything you had to return?
I bought some “Lo Mein” noodles that were bound with sodium alginate (don’t get me started) as opposed to egg. This should be illegal here, and may actually be in China. I could not return their sad and misshapen mess because I disposed of them in disgust. I won’t mention the brand here as I believe a harsher fate is in their works.
What’s the best gift you’ve received recently?
What are some obscure kitchen tools that you think more people should own?
Say I want to start upgrading from the kitchen gear I bought back in college. Where you think spending a little more money makes the biggest difference? Knives? Pans? Fancy olive oils?
I don’t recommend nice knives to someone just beginning to cook as nice knives need to be maintained and used properly. Ask any pro cook and they won’t let other people wash their knives and sometimes even use them. One broken tip of a paring knife is like losing a pet to a cook. I think PANS are the most important thing and I think that’s where a lot of people mess up. I recommend— one nonstick pan with a clear lid for eggs and only eggs, one cast iron pan for daily use, one large stainless steel pot with a lid for soups and pasta, and then one small stainless steel saucepan for you guessed it. Aside from a steamer pot for seafood or tamales I do not like aluminum cookware (no heat retention, flimsy) and aside from eggs I do not care for non-stick. Everything in the world is non-stick with the right lubrication. Maybe not Flex Tape though.
Other than buying your book, of course, what advice would you give to people who want to get more experimental in the kitchen, but don’t know how to start?
I think people could benefit from paying more attention to flavors. Strawberries taste like strawberries, but when you dive deep and try to describe that flavor there are plenty of other things you can say— they have a unique balance of sweetness and acidity, have a kind of floral olfactory thing going on, they have a juicy yet somewhat granular texture, blah blah blah. I think that learning to talk about ingredients in terms of their flavor and textural parts is the key to unlocking better and more experimental cooking. Right now you should want to make a strawberry caprese salad because strawberries are in season soon and because tomatoes are not, but also because you have now seen that the tomato and strawberry have some overlap in the ways in which they could be described. See above if you don’t believe me.
If you can remember, what’s the last purchase you made through Kinja Deals or The Inventory?
ANKER BATTERIES BABY I LOVE THOSE THINGS.
Do you like to collect credit card points when you shop? What are your go-to cards?
I think they are nice, but I can’t be bothered to pay attention to them. I have something with Chase and something with Amazo or maybe those aren’t two different things. But yeah, it’s nice to buy a Lego Overwatch Bastion using a non-real currency because I use a certain amount of real currency for things like rapidly-dissolving toilet paper.
Do you subscribe to any physical subscription services? Amazon Subscribe & Save? Meal kits? Wine of the month?
No, although I have been greatly tempted by Curdbox.
What are three items that you couldn’t live without?
60s on 6 on SiriusXM, although that is not exactly tangible. I don’t like music streaming because they don’t have good DJs or any DJs at all. I really like all the dudes on 60s on 6. Phlash Phelps is a national treasure. You’d think I would say cooking stuff, but I fancy myself to be a good cook without any tools. I guess I really like shoes and hats. Yeah let’s go with my patent leather Dansko clogs in size 43, and New Era Fitted hats in size 8 with Marvel Comics characters on them. Just send them to me whenever.
What’s something you buy a lot of for your work that might seem strange to an outside observer?
Are there any items that you want to buy, but just can’t pull the trigger on? Anything you keep abandoning in your cart?
I put my 3DS in storage, which I deeply regret, and hope will not make it on to my Wikipedia page under “Personal Life”. That was a very dumb thing to do. I foolishly thought the Switch would replace it as they are both portable, but it’s just not the same, and the library is totally different. So yeah, I keep wanting to get another, but I don’t, I guess because it seems excessive and not very adult of me, but also because it’ll be like Christmas morning when I get it back.
What are the last three items in your Amazon order history?
I am in to startin fires and makin bolo ties:
Okay, now what are the last three items in your Amazon browsing history that you didn’t end up buying?
I like purple and cooking. I do a show for Marvel wherein I cook food inspired by different characters, and I was going to make a superconductive levitational lazy susan in honor of Magneto, but there isn’t enough time to get all that together.
I also stubbed my toe the other day and went down a wormhole of what sorts of things are available to treat pain in an anesthetic sort of way. There really isn’t much out there. I understand why there are safeguards to prevent one from doing surgery on themselves, but I do believe I have the basics down and would like the ability to administer local anesthetic if the situation demanded it.