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. If you or someone you know would like to be featured, shoot an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “What’s In Your Cart.”
This week, we traded emails with Mitchell Schwartz, a first team All-Pro offensive tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs, and author of Mitch In the Kitch, where he shares his passion for food, and his latest recipes. He also co-wrote Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith with his brother, Geoff. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, and you should absolutely follow his Pomeranian, Cupcake, who has an Instagram of his own.
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 would say in general I’m a value conscious consumer. I don’t have any problems spending money on things that are important to me or that I get use out of, but ideally I do like to get the best price possible on those items. As such I’m always looking for a good deal, so it’s pretty handy to follow Kinja Deals. Usually I hone in on a product I want, and then do all the research to make sure it’s the right one for me. Read reviews, things like that, and then from there I look for deals, and sometimes source Kinja for that. If I have something bigger I know I’m getting, I’ll wait to see the compiled lists of Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, times when I know you are going to put together a list of all the best deals, and then I’ll start there and work backwards to see which of the deals is the best product for me. I rarely buy something because I saw the deal unless it’s something smaller and I think it could be good for me, like chargers or cables or cell phone car mounts. Clothing sales are usually a universal no-go from the get go because of my size, so even if they do have sizes that are big enough, typically they don’t fit correctly anyway.
What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?
Probably my most recent TV for Black Friday. Got a nice TV for over 50% MSRP, but of course, those aren’t the true prices anyway. But it is nice getting items like that for such a discount.
Favorite place to shop online? How about in person?
Amazon is the easy one for online shopping. But for particular items it’s nice to source them first from the website of the product, because they’ll have the best pictures and descriptions. And then if the prices are similar and they ship for free, then I prefer to buy through the original vendor, but will default to Amazon if the cost is that much better. I do like shopping in person, it’s still fun to walk around and be able to see and hold things, especially ones that are used that way.
In Kansas City the best two shops are Scheels and Nebraska Furniture Mart. Scheels is a sporting goods and outdoor store. I’ll go there to look at sports stuff, but also for grilling. They have both Traeger and Big Green Egg products, plus lots of other grilling items, and also golf stuff.
Nebraska Furniture Mart is what it sounds like, but also like a Best Buy, with a massive electronics sections of all sorts of products. They have great deals there as well, they’re more like a wholesaler for some items. We got a few of our TVs when we first moved from them. We got a great deal on one, and then bought the floor model of the same version for an even better deal. We can get lost in there.
What’s the biggest purchase you’ve ever made online? Was it worth it?
Probably a computer or some sort of electronic like a computer or TV or something of that sort. I’d say they’ve all been worth it, I can’t remember ever truly getting burned on something that wasn’t returnable.
You seem to have a real passion for cooking and developing your own recipes. What are some of the kitchen products you use that you find the most helpful?
I do love cooking and all the fun items that go along with it. A chef’s knife is a must, I primarily use the Victorinox 8 inch chef knives that everyone loves. I don’t enjoy heavy knives, so I prefer the weight and feel of it. Also cutting boards if you’re using your knives; I go with those OXO Good Grips plastic ones. I’ve got a few in the different sizes.
A good garlic press is nice—I love my garlic—I have a Williams Sonoma one. I’ve also grown to love using gloves when I handle raw meat or am doing prep, it makes cleanup easier and is more sanitary. I use AMMEX XXL gloves and they actually fit my big hands and work well.
A lot of pro athletes have personal chefs, or at least work closely with team nutritionists. Do you, or did you, and did they contribute to your knowledge in the kitchen? Or did you always want to cook for yourself?
I don’t have a chef, I enjoy cooking too much to outsource it and am to cheap to anyway, hah. At some point before my teens I stopped watching cartoons and migrated to Food Network. I watched Emeril and Wolfgang Puck a lot, but learned most of my cooking skills from Alton Brown and Good Eats. So it’s been a pretty natural progression to making and being in charge of my own food, and having the knowledge behind it. Most teams work with nutritionists to provide healthy and balanced meals for the players. Hands on work is typically on an as-needed basis, or if you’re having problems staying at the proper weight. Then the team will step in. It works differently at different places, but that’s typically how it goes. It’s nice to know the answers are there though if you want to ask for them.
Beyond the help you get from team doctors and trainers, are there any techniques or products you use at home to stay healthy during the season?
Staying healthy is all about portion control and balance. A lot of guys have tried crazy diets, but at the end of the day it’s really just how many calories you’re putting into your body in 24 hours vs. how many you burn off. Obviously, it helps when it’s healthy stuff, but in terms of weight management, it’s just about consumption.
When I’m in healthy mode, I try to focus on the protein and veggies first, and then carbs last, if we’re making any. We’ll stay away from white rice or regular potatoes or traditional, filler carbs. During the season, I don’t cook too much because I’m usually too tired to spend that much more time on my feet cooking, so we’ll go out more. Food is also somewhat of a release for me so if I get too strict, with the natural stressors of football, it’s not as good for me. I’m lucky in that my weight doesn’t fluctuate too much, and if I over-eat one meal, I’ll reign it in the next, so I have a pretty good system. I don’t always eat as “clean” as I should, because I know if I indulge every now and again, it’ll get burned off practicing, but it’s worked so far.
What’s something you bought recently that really exceeded your expectations?
It’s snowed a lot in KC this winter, and every time I do the driveway with a traditional shovel it’s a pain. Takes an hour and it’s pure manual labor. I finally said screw it and tried to find a good solution, without buying a full on snow blower. I found an Ohuhu Snow Pusher, that’s a hand held plow with big wheels, and it’s revolutionized my snow removal process. It took only 15-20 minutes last time and didn’t even break a sweat. So easy, actually quite fun, and it performed really well.
Also I bought some plastic squirt bottles for items around the kitchen, and I’ve had a lot of fun with those. The honey we use doesn’t have a squirt thing, so you end up using too much, so I bought it mostly for that. Now I’ve got ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, and water in them. Water I use to facilitate steaming when I’m cooking and need a little squirt of water. It’s been fun.
On the flipside, what was the worst purchase you’ve made recently? Anything you had to return?
Nothing too bad lately that I’ve had to return. I buy those Amazon books of the month or First Reads when the description looks good, and have gotten some pretty bad books that I don’t finish reading, but they’re only a buck or two so I don’t feel fully obligated to finish them.
What’s the best gift you’ve received recently?
It’s a little difficult to buy for me since I mostly buy the things in my life that I think I’ll use. My wife gets creative for my birthday though, she’s able to come up with some fun stuff. She’s gotten cool action shots framed and hung in the basement, that was really cool.
If you can remember, what’s the last purchase you made through Kinja Deals or The Inventory?
Recently bought a Suave wallet but haven’t received it yet. It looked to be the best combination of different things that I’m always looking for so I decided to take the plunge. Usually I like to see them in person and be able to judge for myself but this one looked too good to pass up.
Do you like to collect credit card points when you shop? What are your go-to cards?
I’m not big on farming credit card stuff, I don’t like the idea of opening up new cards all the time to capitalize on those initial boosts. I just get 2% on every purchase, redeemable for travel purchases, but we’ll always have those to get our money back on. I feel like trying to figure out the conversion of points to miles booked through airlines and such is just too time consuming for me and not worth the hassle. I’m sure there’s a little meat on the bone, but I’m ok with my current set up.
Do you subscribe to any physical subscription services? Amazon Subscribe & Save? Meal kits? Wine of the month?
No subscription services. I got gifted a Root Beer of the Month club membership, I’m not a big beer or alcohol drinker. So that would be the only thing but I didn’t sign up for it myself.
What are three items that you couldn’t live without?
Three items I can’t live without: internet, air conditioning, and my wife. But really, I’d say my Traeger Timberline 850, my Baking Steel Griddle, and an 8 inch chef’s knife. Obviously, this skews towards food, but a lot of my free time is spent thinking about, planning, or cooking the next meal! There’s not much you can’t cook with those items. You can do pizzas as quick as 3-4 minutes in the oven with the Baking Steel, then flip it over and cook steaks, breakfast, smashed burgers. The Traeger is great for low and slow BBQ which we love in Kansas City, and gets up to 500-550 degree itself. Those two items and a good knife are the basis for a lot of my meals!
What’s something you buy a lot of for your work that might seem strange to an outside observer?
Luckily, I don’t have to buy too much for work; most things are provided. I do have a laptop that I keep in my locker which not many guys use. I think it’s so much easier for emails and communication, and for web browsing when needed. You don’t get too much time throughout the day to be on it, but especially in the mornings when you’re catching up on news and other stuff it’s really helpful.
Are there any items that you want to buy, but just can’t pull the trigger on? Anything you keep abandoning in your cart?
At the moment there isn’t too much I’m itching to buy. The last thing I was debating for a while and finally took the plunge on was a portable light studio, and a tripod. With my cooking blog and my wife’s Instagram, I thought that would be a really good way to photograph some of the things we were already going to shoot. Turns out it’s pretty awesome, and the lighting and background advantages are worth it for taking pics of those things. It’s been fun to play around with for sure.
What are the last three items in your Amazon order history? Bonus points if you include a screenshot.
My last three items were a swimsuit my wife purchased for our last vacation from a company she’s had good experiences with in the past, a couple of books she got for the flights and for hanging out by the pool, and then grain free Greenies for our little puppy, Cupcake, who’s Instagram famous in his own right. He’s at @cupcake.the.pom and he’s got 105,000 followers!!
Okay, now what are the last three items in your Amazon browsing history that you didn’t end up buying?
The last 3 items are all waterproof cameras, because we went snorkeling with the fish in Tahiti and Bora Bora, and thought it would have been awesome to have had a waterproof camera. So I was doing my research, looking to find the best underwater camera. I haven’t gotten anything yet, probably going to hold off until the next beach trip and then try to find the best one then.