Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shop Wisely Young Grasshopper

There are currently 3 stores I'm in love with right now (food-wise), and should I ever be forced to move away from them, I think I'd cry. Boo hoo hoo. Sad face.

Numero uno doesn't have a website, so I can't share that with you. However, what I can tell you is this: Google produce markets in your area and see what comes up. Me? I've got 2 within 1-2 miles of each other about 10-15 minutes away (which in these parts is nothin'). I definitely prefer J's Produce and have only visited the other once, on my first trip to check them both out. One day I decided to search the 'net for farmer's markets in my area, and low and behold, the produce markets popped up in my search too. J's Produce is fantastic, and it's not super seasonal and only open certain days like farmer's markets. They have an abundance of locally grown fruits and veggies, as well as imported goodies I've never heard of. Prices are almost always much, much lower than grocery stores, unless a grocery store is having a super sale on a particular item. And not only is it affordable, but the quality of the produce is wonderful too. On my sister's last visit here, I took her along knowing she'd love it; she opened my eyes to all sorts of other stuff they carry too, which I'd never paid attention to (red lentils, whole wheat pita bread, etc.). I make a trip there every 1-2 weeks and spend, on average, $11-$17. That nets me what I likely would have paid at least $40 for in a regular grocery store. And for a girl who likes to save money while still enjoying fresh food, it makes my day.

Favorite store #2: Food Lion. Not just any FL though. The one closest to my house has recently started running "manager's specials" in their deli department. Since we eat a lot of deli meat around here, it's awesome. They change daily, and you never know what you'll get (unless you call ahead), but it's worth it to pop in there 1-2 times a week just to check things out. FL stores in general usually have the best deli meat prices in the area I've found, but this makes it even more affordable. I picked up a pound of rotisserie chicken breast the other day for $2.99/lb. It otherwise sells for $7.99/lb. Turkey pastrami was also on sale last week for $2.99/lb. and normally retails for $4.99/lb. Lastly, I found pit ham on sale for $2.99/lb., which at full price would have cost me $6.99/lb. And if all else fails when I drop in, they usually have cooked ham (my standby deli meat) on sale for $2.99/lb. too. My point here is: check things out! Pay attention when you're up at the counter, look around, take notice. Oh, and these aren't the advertised weekly specials I'm referring to here; these are daily specials, and once they sell out, it's erased from their little board. On that note, it pays to get there early to peruse the selection.

Lastly, I love Weis Markets. These little gems have 1 thing that makes them really stand out --- a fantastic specialty cheese section. Who doesn't love cheese?! Now that's all well and good if a girl can shell out $19.99/lb. for stilton, right? Wrong-o! This store marks down certain cheeses daily depending on how many days they've been on the shelf. And those markdowns are almost always 50% off (occassionally 30%). That makes a small piece of havarti, smoked gouda or gruyere much more affordable for those of us who aren't made o' money (and who don't have a stellar cheese house in our midst, as my sister does). Gruyere is fantastic in fondues and potatoes au gratin, so when it's marked down, I always pick some up. On Saturday, Buppy and I picked up some havarti (which I haven't had in ages but love-love-love!) and some white stilton with lemon (tasted pre-buy), which is absolutely delish. The cheese lady is really nice, and anyone can try anything they want before buying (provided it's cut there and not pre-packed), which would have been nice to know before I learned I hate all sheep's milk cheeses. But hey, you live, you learn, and recently I learned that I enjoy stilton with lemon. (I hear the mango-ginger is good too, so I'll have to watch for some of that to be marked down!) Once in a while, we find specialty cheese spreads, hummus and pricey meats (think sopressata, prosciutto, etc.) on sale too, but the cheeses are my faves.

So why the heck did I dwell on this subject today? Well, I hope to help you branch out, to look around and discover new (affordable!) things, and to ask questions if necessary ("can I try this particular cheese?"). It's taken me awhile to find these little treasures in my area, but I couldn't live without them now. Check your local grocery stores and look up produce markets. Big payoffs.

And no, none of the stores I'm mentioning today are paying me to do so, just FYI. Be nice if they were though! Enjoy!

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