Two new grocery stores opened in my town last week. Normally, I would not have visited them because their target clientele is what some folks call “Volvo liberals.” (Although many of my friends are liberals, and I qualify as “half” a liberal, none of them drive Volvos…time to update that term.)
But I did check them out because both offered an…incentive…to show up. And I like incentives!
One new store is Trader Joe’s, which isn’t really a grocery store but more of a “specialty” food item purveyor. Its incentive was a free tote bag. (Tote bags are the new T-shirt.)
I wasn’t impressed with Trader Joe’s. Almost no deals. Maybe they feel they have no competition and so don’t need to offer deals.
Their coffee section confused me. There was a variety of gourmet coffee but they all appeared to be ground coffee in cannisters. Anyone who buys gourmet coffee presumably knows that once you open a sealed container of ground coffee its quality quickly deteriorates. That’s why you should buy whole bean coffee, store it in a zip lock bag, put that bag in as airtight a container as you can find, and then grind only enough coffee for immediate brewing.
Upon closer examination, I realized that the coffee was actually whole bean. That was the first time I’d seen whole bean coffee in a cannister.
After about an hour in the store, I did find three items that I could justify purchasing on a “value” basis. One was their own brand of spiced cider, which was cheaper than their apple juice and about 50 cents more than apple juice at my regular grocery. I also found a two pound bag of tortilla chips for three dollars. Finally, “light” coconut milk which I’d not seen before.
I noted that Trader Joe’s has no plastic bags, only paper bags… of course. (I also only use paper bags and bring them to all stores to use.) I used their tote bag to carry out my purchase.
The other new store is Whole Foods. We already have two similar “green / organic” grocery stores in town: Earth Fare and Fresh Market. I checked both out and their prices are not what I want to pay.
I was surprised that Whole Foods thinks it can do well here when we already have two similar stores and there are only about 350,000 folks in the county. But their store is in mid-town, where I live, and the other two similar stores are in the north and in the south sections of town, so maybe each store will have it’s own territory.
I immediately noticed two things about Whole foods’ exterior. First, most of its frontage is taken up by dining tables so that folks who avail themselves of its cafe and food bars can dine “al fresco.” Second, the two parking spaces closest to the entrance are electric vehicle charging stations. How very “green”…
Whole Foods’ incentive was my favorite…cash, in the form of a “$10 off $50 purchase” coupon. But I knew from the other two stores that it doesn’t take much to hit $50 at these types of stores.
But the grocery deal gods were with me. The store had numerous BOGO (buy one, get one free) offers and with that coupon I’d be getting another 20% discount. So between the BOGOs, sale prices, and the coupon, the prices became reasonable.
Of course, the discount would be 20% only if my purchases ended up right at $50. By keeping a running total as I shopped, I ended up at $62 and my discount was a still respectable 16%. The “base price” of my items (which filled only two paper bags) was about $100, so my total discount came to about 50%.
Enquiring minds are wondering what I bought and I am happy to satisfy that curiosity. Mostly, it was “munchie” items.
I make my own salsa, which is in great demand at social gatherings. Nevertheless, one needs some variety in life so I… scooped…up some “different” dips. I’m not too enthusiastic about hummus but I found roasted red pepper variety appealing, especially since it was BOGO because I’d never pay $5.50 for a 16-ounce container. As I suspected, that red pepper added some “flavor” to the hummus.
Also appealing was date and honey cream cheese. And Kalamata Olive dip. Both also BOGO.
Dips need chips and so I scooped up some black bean chips and pinto bean chips. Also, some tortilla chips which the package assured me are kosher and from non-genetically modified corn. Of course all were BOGO!
Two types of tortas (a thin, round crisp pastry about five inches across) were on sale at three packages of six for $5. The package proclaimed that they were handmade in Spain. I bought two orange and one rosemary/ thyme. The former is good as a snack as is or maybe with coffee or tea. The rosemary / thyme one will be good with cheese.
I like coconut water and they were offering organic coconut water in one liter containers. Since it was BOGO, I decided to try it. (I was not aware that coconuts are grown in a way that is not “organic.”) Unlike the coconut water I normally buy, this one has no added sugar and so it has less calories.
I found Korean noodle bowls featuring Hokkien noodles in a sweet and spicy chili sauce. The bowls were a reusable microwave type and since it was BOGO I added it to the cart. (The noodles were good but it’ll be cheaper for my to buy the noodles and sauce at the Asian store and make my own.)
I only bought one meat…a sausage with Amsterdam Gouda cheese in it. Regularly $7 a pound but on sale for $4. I did sample “grass fed only” beef. Pretty bland because it lacked fat.
I was tempted by their ground bison, which I’ve had in Montana and at the local Ted’s Montana Grill. It was on sale for $7 (normally $10). While bison is also lean, it has an interesting flavor to it that I did not find with the grass fed beef. But I was trying to stay with that $50 total. (At $7 a pound, that’d be less than two bucks per quarter pound bison burger, which compares favorably on a “quality” basis to what a Whopper costs.)
I did allow myself three indulgences. First was some white cheddar cheese with New Mexico hatch chili peppers. This cheese was on a sampling table and I found it had just enough of the chili pepper to give it a mild bite. It was $11 a pound.
I love olives. They had an olive bar which at $10 a pound was only a dollar more than my grocery store’s olive bar. So I picked up a pound of garlic and herb marinated olives. Delicious!
Finally, I came upon a cookie bar in the bakery section. No way was I going to pay $13 a pound for cookies! Until I came upon the “side” end of the bar and discovered what in my opinion is one of the finest pastries in the world – the Jewish pastry known as rugelach. They had about four varieties, including raisin and nut.
My paternal grandmother made a divine raisin and nut rugelach. I’ve had rugelach from my grocery, which sometimes features it during Jewish holidays, and also at a Jewish food festival. I could taste that corners had been cut in making those rugelach. Culinary blasphemy!
I could tell by the appearance of that raisin and nut rugelach that it was very high quality. Still, in keeping with the “trust but verify” dictum, I bought only eight. And they were excellent! At a quarter per piece, I’ll be back for more!
I’ll also be visiting Whole Foods for brewed coffee. For $1, they’ll refill your own mug up to 22 ounces with any of three daily gourmet coffees.
I tried the organic Mexico Zaragosa and it is a smooth light roast. At half the price of Starbucks’ brew of the day (which always seems to be their “Pike’s Place” mystery blend), it’s the obvious choice for folks like me who live close by and want something different now and then. (Currently, I’m brewing Peruvian dark roast and “fair trade”organic Ethiopian city roast at home.) All their coffee is the Allegro brand, a high end specialty coffee company founded in Colorado in 1985 and then acquired in 1997 by Whole Foods.
And if they give me another “$10 off $50” coupon, I’ll be happy to come by for more than rugelach and coffee! Because shopping “green” is better when you have some green…