Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November and Nandina

Ah, November.

We needed long sleeves today, the high being a cool 67 degrees. Clouds were moving in by the time we set off on our shopping spree, but we were still glad to have an insulated bag in which to carry meat groceries.

A shopping spree of groceries? Oh, yes.

With our now-limited income, shopping for food has become an interesting puzzle of how to best feed ourselves and preserve our bank account. Fortunately, Modesto is actually closer to us than Manteca, and Modesto has some interesting places for food procurement.

Now it is a fact that we're within walking distance (albeit a stretch) of our city's supermarket. However...

Proximity does not always equal savings.

Our local SaveMart does have tomatoes "on-the-vine" -- but at $2.99/pound. Sprouts Farmers' Market had them at $1.88/pound, and since we had to go there for white American cheese (local SM stopped carrying a tasty brand) we got the superior-tasting-sourced tomatoes for less, and stumbled into a great sale on green bell peppers, too. And cranberries, for less than half the price at our market here in town.

We were in Modesto for a doctor's appointment, so why not use the gas for shopping?

Proximity does not always equal taste.

While our local SM does have some decent meat, I cannot deny that -- Winco in Modesto carries Hormel brand pork, which is so flavorful and tender that you can just about faint from the first bite of it ... and it's cheaper, which, I guess sounds like an irresistible force. We bought pork chops for two dollars less a pound, and ground pork, which Bernie will mix up with spices into a superb sausage blend. Also, Winco carries beef heart at $1.68/pound, and you would not believe how rich and delicious beef heart stew is, especially with Bernie's home-made pasta noodles (which also save us some $$).

Oh, and then there was the Harris Ranch Beef issue. We were introduced to Harris Ranch beef through a sweepstakes by our local SM -- I won $50 in coupons for the stuff -- and we never looked back. By and large, we don't eat any beef unless it is Harris Ranch. We even took a HR Choice New York strip steak and matched it against a USDA Prime NY strip steak -- not even close. The Harris Ranch steak was incredibly better, for $9 less a pound. Sadly, our local SaveMart has stopped carrying HR beef, so we had to go source it elsewhere. Grocery Outlet in Modesto at least carries the ground beef, so we went there for our opportunity for hamburgers later this week.

Proximity does not equal value.

We bought eggs for years at the place out the road, Den Dulk Poultry, because the eggs were super-fresh, super-tasty, and cheap. Six bucks got us five dozen eggs. Then something happened out there, and suddenly, the eggs were ... not so good. Thin shells, watery whites, flabby yolks. Also, customer service went downhill like a speed slalom. Today's shopping included Trader Joe's, where the eggs have been a little more expensive, but a lot better in quality. And when we mentioned that we'd had some cracked eggs in our first dozen from them a couple of weeks ago, Trader Joe's practically threw an extra carton of free eggs into our shopping bag in apology. Wow. Sharp contrast compared to Den Dulk, who, when we once had a couple damaged eggs in a flat, said we'd have had to bring the rotten eggs (have you ever smelled a rotten egg, and if you have, would you ride in the same car with it? No.) back to get replacement eggs. Trader Joe's wins; plus, their lettuce and bagged greens last longer in the fridge than the local supermarket's do. Unspoiled goods means more bang for the buck.

That said, I still love shopping for the everyday stuff at our SaveMart. I really like the employees there, and we were able to pick up sale beef for canning at about $2.50/pound, which is nothing to sneer at. And I like their store brand stuff better than brand name stuff.

So, Nandina, pictured above. Winter color in its berries, and evergreen grace in its foliage. I really like Central California in the fall.

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