Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken, Again

Yesterday was very unusual. A trip to the grocery store actually cast a sunny glow on my otherwise unremarkable, and even somewhat gloomy, day. I scrounged through the freezer and, on account of the appalling lack of options: chicken? chicken? or chicken? reluctantly set about making a cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole for dinner. After I had covered the casserole in tin foil and tucked it away in the fridge, Dominic was still asleep, so determined to find some deal on meat, I surfed the internet looking at our various grocery stores circulars. For some reason, I get them very sporadically here at the apartment. Looks like Pathmark has the best sales this week. So, despite my hatred of that grocery store (last time I waited 35 minutes in line to check out...), I bundled Dominic up after his nap, strapped him into his carseat, and went off to Pathmark with my grocery list and accordion-style coupon folder.

I was just shopping 5 days ago, so I am on a hunt, not a leisurely browse for my grocery items. Why, you ask, didn't I buy any meat last time I was at the grocery store? Simple. It was ungodly expensive. I refused. So chicken we ate. (And some ground beef I had left in the freezer became chili).

First, through the produce section. Grapes were on sale for $.99/lb (normally $2.99/lb), so I loaded up on those. I threw in two cantaloupes on a similar discount and a few bananas to restock Dominic's breakfast foods. Then I whisked my cart away, back to the meat and poultry section, always against the far wall. Marketing simply amazes me. They have placed all the staple food items again the far walls of the grocery store so that you must walk through at least one aisle to get there. Think about it: milk, eggs, cheese, meat, bread. In the meat department I scan the sale signs and know what I'm looking for round roast, top roast, maybe a pork shoulder, and maybe a whole chicken. Man, did I score. The "Manager's Special" treated me rather well.

Let me give you a little list of what I came away with:
  • Whole roaster chicken $.59/lb (normally $1.29/lb)
  • Angus beef london broil $1.88/lb (normally $4.99/lb)
  • Top round roast $1.99/lb (normally $5.39/lb)
  • Pork shoulder $ .89/lb
Let's be honest. These are sweet deals.

I was feeling pretty smug as Dominic and I exuberantly wheeled our cart to the check-out. We had 20 pounds of meat in our cart, all on super sale. My mouth was watering at the very thought of all that savory, guilt-free beef, chicken, and pork. A sweet deal makes everything sweeter.

Thinking that my trip to Pathmark couldn't really get any better (well, except for the check-out line not taking forever...), I saunter to the front, ready to wait in line. Something on one of those clever marketing end displays caught my attention. Canned, whole peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice--a staple in my Italian-American food pantry. I mean, I use them in sauce, soup, casserole, taco pie, chili, you name it, I've used whole peeled plum tomatoes in it. I prefer these to the diced or crushed tomatoes (and obviously to tomato sauce) because they are fresher when I chop them myself and have better texture.

Whoa! $.59 for a 28 oz can! UNBELIEVABLE! Oh my gosh, well, how many can I get? Twelve. Okay, I'm getting a whole case then. At regular price these would be $22.68. On sale now I pay $7.08. Quick math, I save $15.60 (although, to be honest, I never buy them at regular price, so my real savings were $4.92, but I normally buy a cheaper brand...these should be better, right?). Sweet. And then, right next to the ever-needed tomatoes was extra virgin olive oil! A huge jug of it, like the ones that turpentine comes in, fifty percent off (and a better deal to begin with because it was a bulk item). So, I picked up one of those to go along with my case of tomatoes. Even sweeter.

Frugality, it seems, is just an integral part of my personality, and I have come to embrace that. I simply love sales, consignment, and coupons. In fact, I even feel guilty if I pay over my preset mental price for any item. Apparently other people have caught on to this. I was amused to realize that when some people buy unexpected things for us, they'll usually excuse the gift with a phrase something like, "they were just having such a good sale...."

Sweet deals do exist, you just have to have the time to wait or search for them. Perhaps another time I will let you in on my tips for finding them.

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