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Hunting and Gathering

November 25, 2009

It’s time to batten down the hatches.  People get crazy in the days before and after Thanksgiving.  My plan is to stay in the house for the next few days and emerge on Saturday to a world that has gotten the first panicked frenzy of holiday shopping out of its system.

If you are going out grocery shopping today or tomorrow, God help you.

Hopefully after the past two days of food and beverage shopping my larder is all stocked up for the holiday meal and any potential contingencies.  Because there is little I hate more than crowds.

There were a few things I learned while out shopping that I wanted to share.

First, it’s important to state that I am very value-conscious in everything I do.  I’m happy to spend money on the things that are worthwhile.  But finding a deal always makes me smile.

So here are a few tidbits from the hunting and gathering I have done over the past few days.

Wine & Spirits
The stuffing recipe requires brandy.  And I didn’t have any in the house.  But the spirit has crossed my mind in the past several weeks as I have contemplated the Sazerac.  It turns out that F. Paul Pacult of The Spirit Journal does not recommend a lot of inexpensive brandies.  However, there is one from France that he does.  It’s Raynal VSOP, and they generally have giant bottles of it in the BJ’s liquor cage for just over $20.

While I was at BJ’s on Monday night, I also happened to spy a bottle of Carmenere that John and Dottie wrote up in this past week’s tasting column.  They paid over $12, but said $10 was more representative of the retail price.  BJ’s sells it for $7.49.  And you don’t have to be a member to buy wine and spirits either.  Sweet.

What stunk was that BJ’s was all out of the brandy.  Apparently it’s brandy season, and Raynal VSOP must not be as big a secret as I had thought.  Because while it was all gone, there was a palate of less expensive E&J brandy that was barely touched.

Luckily, Empire Wine & Spirits is right around the corner.  It cost a couple of dollars more there.  But I was able to get what I needed.  Someone needs to tell them that selling things for more money than the store around the corner is not a discount.

I am not buying my chicken at Walmart.  But packaged national brands that are identical to the items on the shelves of local grocery stores are totally fair game.

That means Land O’Lakes butter, Swanson’s low-sodium chicken broth, and Arnold 100% whole wheat bread, among other things, all come from Walmart.  And they really went all out on making sure their prices on key staples were ridiculously low.

A pound of Land O’Lakes salted butter for $2?

We don’t use it as much anymore, but I bought an extra pound to keep in the freezer.  When I saw the price, I couldn’t resist the urge to hoard.  And I’m half regretting I didn’t buy more.  The same goes for the chicken broth.

Yes, I know I should make my own.  I REALLY should.  But I do have a trick for coaxing a better flavor out of the boxed broth.

Price Chopper was able to compete on some items, like canned cranberry sauce.  And I was there to pick up the few things I couldn’t get at Walmart: my relatively happy chicken, “Certified Humane” eggs, Central Market Classics buckwheat honey, and a few other odds and ends.

But I have relegated P-Chops to the status of C-Store.  I go there to pick up a few items that I need and know will be there.  Sure, it will be more expensive, but I am willing to pay for the convenience.

Specialty Items
The Honest Weight Food Co-op, on the other hand, is crazy expensive.  And while they may carry quality merchandise, the prices are still out of line.

Had I not been a savvy shopper, the two small reused-plastic-bags of non-meat items would have set me back $60.  Instead, I got my organic items, fancy cheese, good chocolate, and other non-GMO items for $33.

Impossible, you say?  It’s my no-fail three-step strategy for shopping at the co-op.
1)    Only buy things that are on sale – if they are full price wait or don’t buy.
2)    Use the $10 off $40 purchase coupon available online.
3)    Limit the overall purchase to just above $40.

Let’s keep that our little secret.

But the best part of all my shopping was my last stop at Rolf’s Pork Store.  I came for ham hocks and sausage, but left with a tub of rendered goose fat ($4).  Roasted goose fat potatoes are insanely good.  And I still have some potatoes on hand from my potato guy.  This may not be for our dinner.  I might just make this for myself and eat it when no one is looking.

Happy cooking.  Be safe.  Watch out for the crazies.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 25, 2009 1:24 pm

    Did you totally love Rolf’s? I sure do.

  2. Ellen Whitby permalink
    November 26, 2009 11:35 pm

    “certified humane” eggs?!!?

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