Maybe I’ll See You at the Grocery Store

Grocery shopping conceptLet’s talk about grocery shopping. That was the subject of a workshop at the Newport 60+ Center on Saturday. Dropping in between playing piano for a funeral and a regular Mass, I was a little overdressed in velvet and jewels. But can you be too overdressed to talk about strawberries and broccoli?

Mike Stephenson, who spent many years as a produce manager at Safeway and Savemart stores, shared some of the backroom secrets grocery store owners may not want us to know.

Do you know why the meat and dairy are usually in the back? That’s so shoppers have to walk past all the other items and be tempted to buy things they hadn’t planned to buy. That’s also why you often find the bakery next to the produce. You’re loading up on healthy greens and fruits, but the smell of fresh bread or donuts is driving you crazy. Right? That’s what they’re hoping.

The stores are like a giant Monopoly game. Some aisles are big-ticket spots like Boardwalk and Park Place while others are the lowly Baltic Avenue. Stephenson estimated stores make 30 to 40 percent profit off produce, 20 to 25 off meat, and 45-60 percent off non-food items.

Did you know that companies like Pepsi and Starbucks pay for the shelf space where their items appear? Double profits.

Have you noticed the security cameras everywhere? Theft is a big problem at grocery stores. It’s hard to catch the culprits and they cannot be legally apprehended until they leave the store.

Being a produce expert, Stephenson had lots of advice about buying and storing fruits and vegetables.

For example:

  • Buy what’s in season. Right now, it’s things like grapefruit, avocados, kiwi, oranges, pears, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and yams. You might find peaches and strawberries in the stores, but they won’t be as good, especially here on the Oregon coast where all the produce comes from other places.
  • Buy organic berries grown without pesticides. It’s nearly impossible to wash the regular ones well enough to be safe.
  • Wash everything before you eat it, even fruits like oranges that seem to be safe in their heavy peels. As soon as you cut into them, whatever is on the outside goes in.
  • Take your berries out of the container and spread them out. Otherwise, if one gets furry in the middle, they’ll all go bad.
  • Those bags of mixed greens (like the one in my refrigerator) are already on their way out when we buy them because they’ve been cut up and separated from the nutrient-giving base that holds the leaves together. Make your own salad. The ingredients will last longer.
  • If you shop when you’re hungry, you will buy more. Eat first and stick to your list. But you knew that, right?

For years, I hated shopping because I didn’t have enough money. Now the challenge is buying enough but not too much for just one person. Package of six pork chops? Why would I need that? One crab? That just sounds sad. I want some cake but not a whole one. God bless the stores that offer single slices and smaller servings.

Do you use coupons? I don’t. They’re never for what I want to buy. I do try to time things so I get the J.C. Market’s Tuesday senior discount, 10 percent off the entire bill. Fred Meyer stores offer a senior discount too, but only on their own Kroger brand merchandise.

My mom and now my dad were strictly once a week shoppers. Always in the morning. For the most part, I shop weekly, too. When Fred was alive, he loved to do the grocery shopping. I made him an aisle-by-aisle checkoff list. How often do you shop? Do you use a list or decide as you go along?

What’s the biggest challenge for you at the grocery store? Can you find everything you want at the same store or do you have to shop around? Do you stock up at Costco or stick to local stores? Do you love grocery shopping or hate it?

Let’s talk about groceries. And then let’s have a snack.

***************

The clever photo is from pixelbliss via 123rt.com stock photos

 

 

Advertisements

Your roadside garbage is Annie’s treasure

IMG_20180608_112332585_HDR[1]When Annie and I walk, we have different purposes. I want to exercise, explore and clear my mind of everything happening at my desk. Annie wants to relieve herself and eat, mostly eat. To her, our woodsy roads and trails are a buffet. No doubt she remembers fondly the day she scored half a burrito. Let’s go walking. There might be another one!

Trash abounds, especially on garbage day when stuff gets spilled on its way from the carts to the Thompson’s Sanitary trucks. Some people seem to overestimate the capacity of their carts. On Friday, I watched a crow eating from the garbage overflowing at least a foot above a neighbor’s open cart. Wrappers and scraps lay all over the ground. It’s hard to keep an 80-pound dog from making a party of it.

Bears compound the problem. Not only do they cause Annie to bark into the wee hours, but they dump the trash all over the streets, making it easier for Annie to grab a bite while I drag her away, yelling, “Leave it!” and wondering what she’s chewing on.

Annie 72915I say, “Leave it!” a lot. Up and down the road, we find candy wrappers, McDonald’s leftovers, Starbucks and Dutch Brothers coffee cups, Skoal containers, cigar butts, and cigarette packs, whiskey bottles and beer cans galore. In the endless months when crews had our roads torn up to replace the water pipes, workers ate their lunches beside their trucks and tossed the leftovers into the bushes. Party time for Annie. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, hot damn.

People food is not good for dogs (and other animals). Onions, chocolate, and coffee are all toxic. Meat that doesn’t start out toxic becomes so after sitting around for a few days. Not to mention that we’re both always on a diet, with minimal success. I try to keep her from eating her roadside finds, but sometimes she’s faster than I am. She gets her treat before I even see what it was.

Annie can smell food a block away, no exaggeration. As the one who has gotten dragged halfway down the street so she can plunge her head deep into the salal and salmonberries, I can testify that there’s always something there. It could be a sandwich, a candy bar, or the leavings from fishermen cleaning their fish or hunters gutting their deer. How I wish people would not toss their garbage wherever they are, as if it doesn’t matter.

Mother Nature provides its share of edible attractions, too. Annie loves berries, especially blackberries. She knows which ones are ripe and can suck them off the vine without getting stuck in the thorns. And they’re good for her.

The roads are full of smashed mice, squirrels, snakes and frogs that didn’t make it across the road. Also feces. These, my dogs like to roll in. Inevitably, she does her drop and roll just as someone drives by. I stand embarrassed, chanting, “Get up, get up, get up,” as she rolls on her back, feet in the air, rubbing herself in ecstasy. Then she rises, smiling, weeds sticking out of her collar, and we go on.

This week we may have company on our walks. A neighbor called this morning to warm me that her next door neighbor captured a bear on his outdoor camera while the guy next door to him said the bear walked right through his front yard at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Annie spent several nights last week barking at what we suspect are bears. Do bears like burritos?

Maybe we’ll trade the trails for the beach today.

Please put your trash in the garbage can. Don’t toss it wherever you are. It could kill my dog.

***

Watch this clever segue: Bears, elk, cougars and other critters are common sights up Beaver Creek Road, the setting for my new novel, Up Beaver Creek, on sale now at Amazon.com. Read it and find how how P.D. and her friends cope with Mother Nature, especially when the tsunami comes.