Grocery Shopping Tips to Save Money and Still Get the Best

I love grocery shopping. I know…I am a weirdo. Wandering the aisles, seeing what’s new, looking for bargains in the mark down bins, and sometimes running into neighbors in my local Smith’s is fun for me.  I have my local supermarket, but I don’t stop there with my grocery list. I have learned through trial and error, and happy accidents, that many of the things on my grocery list can be found at better prices, oftentimes fresher, if I am willing to shop in more than one store.

Read on for some of my biggest money saving tips.

We all get into a rut when it comes to routine tasks in our everyday lives. This includes grocery shopping. Sometimes, knowing the layout of the store makes for an easy, quick, and manageable task. I say throw caution to the wind and try another grocery store! It could be the same chain or a different one, but because the layout will be different, you MAY find grocery items you overlook in your regular store, or you may find that elusive ingredient from your childhood that you never seem to be able to find. For me, that item is Gravy Master – no, I am not buying 3 jars on Amazon for $25 and no, Kitchen Bouquet is NOT the same. It’s just NOT. And no, I don’t shop in W-Mart so I rarely see my beloved Gravy Master.

Everyone knows about their local Chinese grocery store, or Asian grocery store in general. You know you can get chicken feet for broth and stock. Of course you can get the freshest fish, wonton wrappers, premade lumpia and egg rolls. You want an abundance of gorgeous fresh mushrooms? They’ve got it! And because the turnover in the cases is a lot faster and more frequent, you are bound to get fresher product than you will at a traditional grocery store. There is so much more to international grocery stores and cuisines out there! And believe me when I say they overlap a LOT.

This is a “happy place” for me. The entire right side of the store is filled with grocery items from several countries across Europe and the Middle East. The entire left side of the store is every flavor of Asian you could imagine from Hawaiian to Japanese, Thai, Korean and everything in between. What makes this grocery store so great? Fresh fish at a fraction of what you pay at a traditonal grocery store. Because of the high turnover rate, their phyllo and puff pastry are better, fresher, and less likely to have freezer burn. The Bulgarian feta in the dairy case is outstanding.

They are so small and intimate they don’t even have a website! I love this place because when I go in, the owner is there and greets me. He is fantastic at helping me find what I think I want and offers suggestions on new things to try, and the herbs…seriously! Gigantic bunches for a lot less than a traditional grocery store. A few other things I love about this store – the amazing mortadella with pistachios at the deli counter. It’s $7.99/lb as opposed to $11.99/lb for the Boar’s Head version which no longer has pistachios in it. And let’s face it, mortadella without pistachios is basically fucking bologna! The freshest pita, and flat breads in various sizes all at great prices. And the French feta! It’s so creamy & smooth and Aladdin has the best prices I have seen.

Again, no website! When I first started experimenting with Indian cuisine, I was so confused and the folks here were AMAZING! Stepping into a new culture’s cuisine often involves unfamiliar grocery items and I was completely at a loss. Besan flour? WTF, and who knew there was more than one kind? I didn’t know what curry leaf looked like, let alone smelled like, but they helpfully showed it to me and taught me how to select good specimens. You want beautiful okra? Hit up this grocery store for the most gorgeous okra I have ever seen outside the south and at a fantastic price too!

Additionally, their spices are all priced extremely well and can be bought in multiple sizes of pkgs. Best of all, the spices are sold whole, not ground, so they will last a lot longer in your pantry (think cumin, coriander seed, star anise, cinnamon, etc.). Get yourself an inexpensive spice grinder like this one from Amazon so you are ready to roll when you load your cart with these whole spice beauties.

I know a lot of people use online shopping to streamline a task that for them may be enervating. I get it. Keep in mind you are in some cases paying a premium to NOT go in the store. Pay attention to delivery fees, pick up charges, and higher prices than if you actually go in the store.

During the pandemic, I used Misfit Market, Imperfect Foods, and the like. I felt like I was helping the planet with a food rescue situation, and it stopped me from going into the grocery store with a bunch of people that I didn’t know and probably didn’t want to be around. I have since stopped that practice because they aren’t cheaper, it wasn’t saving me money, I LIKE going to the store, and too often produce would arrive damaged or worse. In the end I had to go to the grocery store anyway to replace the unusable food items.

We love chili crisp (thanks Gemini & Kim for cluing me in on this condiment). The Hubs got so excited he ordered it online thru Amazon for $10…I pleasantly told him to stop grocery shopping unless I ask him to get something. The large jar at the Asian grocery store is less than $5. Keep in mind as well at the Mexican grocery stores, cilantro and green onions are typically 2 or 3 bunches for a dollar instead of a dollar each. And again, high demand and turnover make items like these fresher than at a conventional grocery store.

Final tip. If you are shopping in a traditional mass market grocery store, be sure to have their frequent shopper card and download their app. Lately I have found coupons through the apps that save big bucks on meat, dairy, and produce.

The Giftmas Guide 2021

It’s Giftmas again and time for the Holiday Gift List. A few of these will be repeats because they have either updated their products or now offer free shipping or just because I love them and think if you missed it the first time, a gentle reminder will help. And it’s just in time for the first night of Chanukah and Cyber Monday. And everything on the list is under $100

Plymouth Artisan Cheese

What I love about Plymouth Artisan Cheese is that it is small batch, family owned, and the product is great. Based in Vermont, they only use local dairies for their milk, so purchasing from them is supporting more than one independent business. They now offer free shipping on orders $65 and above. My faves are the Hunter and the East Meadow and the gift set comes in this awesome crate!

Assorted Cheese Box – you choose which flavors to include – $98 and free shipping – Image from their website above

My Favorite Uni-tasker

Like Alton Brown, I can’t stand a tool that only has one use…but I make an exception for this one. If you have watched any of my cooking demos, you will have seen me use this and it’s in the top drawer in my kitchen because I reach for it ALL THE TIME. It makes fast work out of several cloves of garlic, dishwasher safe, and a breeze to use, even if you have arthritis. Under $12 and comes with a few other useless tools, this garlic rocker is a fab stocking stuffer.

The Vermont Country Store

There is so much to love about this catalog/online store! First of all it’s family owned & operated. They carry gorgeous wreaths and garland from hand tipped Vermont trees. And OH! the weird stuff you thought they didn’t make any more. Hard to find nostalgic items, like ribbon candy that no one eats, it just looks pretty. But these are two items in my kitchen that everyone on your gift list should have.

Toaster Tongs

One of John’s clients happily gifted us a set of these toaster tongs that he hand made and I LOVE them. Because not everyone has access to someone who works with wood on their friend list, I went in search of them for you. The little magnet that helps it stay RIGHT where you need them is the perfect touch.

Maple toaster tongs – image from the link above $13 – Vermont Country Store

Butter Bell

I have had one of these for years and I have gifted them to folks as well. One of the things about eating toast is that the hard butter always tears it up, or when making grilled cheese, you want spreadable butter to coat the outside of the sandWISH, right? This little doohickey keeps the butter at room temp and safe from bacteria with a water seal. Buy two, one to keep and one to give away.

French Butter Crock $30 – image from the link above – Vermont Country Store

Instant Read Thermometer

It doesn’t matter what you are cooking, sometimes you just need to know the exact temp. Roasting that holiday bird? The correct temp is 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh. Making fudge? The correct temp is 115 (the soft ball stage). It’s so much better to know exactly than have to guess. This tool from The Pampered Chef will handle it for you. It’s digital, easy to use and compact in your drawers. And you support an independent sales consultant when you click the link above.

Instant-Read Food Thermometer
Pampered Chef Instant Read Thermometer $51 – photo from the link above.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day

Let’s face facts, NO ONE (except Friend Karen B) likes to do dishes. But what if it at least smelled great while you were doing them? This product line is the answer. Yes, they are a little more expensive, but I think the scents alone are worth it. They have fantastic seasonal scents like this Orange Clove, Apple Cider, Snowdrop, and others that are just the pick me up you need when you have to tackle a sink full of dishes. $4 at Target. And try their hand soap and room fresheners too!

Mrs. Meyer’s Orange Clove Dish Soap

Anything from Blue Q

If you know me at all, you know I love a snarky dish towel, a funky apron, or anything that truly shows my personality in the kitchen. This apron does it for me! In fact, just about anything from Blue Q makes a great gift. I crack up when I get one as a gift. Here’s a bonus – free shipping on orders $40 or more and they frequently have “free stuff” they toss into your order. Little magical surprises you didn’t know you needed!

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Fuck Off Apron –
Image from Blue Q $35

Mexican Hot Chocolate

If you have never had this treat, you don’t know what you are missing! Just trust me on this one. There are loads of options out there, but this one is as pretty as it is functional and it arrives in a sturdy box that you can wrap and give as a gift immediately. Bespoke Post has all sorts of gifts geared for men, but I find just as much cool stuff on the site for me. (Disclosure – this is my referral link to Bespoke Post, so I get a bonus if you join up).

Image from Bespoke Post – Mexican Hot Chocolate set $45

My Cookbook Choice This Year

Friend Christine gave me this as a gift and I love it. Six Seasons focuses on produce, but there is plenty in there for the omnivores in your life as well. This is perfect for folks who get veggies from a co-op when everything is seasonal and they don’t know what to do with some of the stuff they get. My fave dish in there is the pumpkin bolognese (pg 384). This book is based, and laid out, with the seasons and it will definitely challenge the cook in your life to include, try, or adopt new favorite veggie forward recipes. And while you are at it, buy from your local bookstore and support a small business. This is the link is to MY local – The Writer’s Block, and they ship!

Six Seasons

What you can get ME…

So here’s the thing, like everyone else, I like to be liked. to show me how much you like me, follow me on Instagram or Facebook and subscribe to this blog (scroll to the bottom and put your address in – no, I don’t share your info!) and my YouTube page so you don’t miss a spoonful! When you choose to subscribe, you’ll only hear from me when there is new content on either site.

Holiday Gift Guide – 2020 The COVID Edition

The Holiday Season is going to be very different this year. Thinking of having a Holiday open house? Fuggetaboutit. Holiday office party? Nixed. Traveling to be with family? Do it at your own peril. I am expecting the remainder of 2020 to be more of the same. Because many people are staying home as much as possible, all but one of the following gifts can be ordered and shipped, so you can shop in your PJ’s.

Let’s be honest 2020 has sucked

A. LOT. It has been one stress inducing thing after another. To help blow away the Holiday Blues that COVID has brought, this is my annual Holiday Gift List, just in time for Cyber Monday. This year, nothing on the list is a splurge. Every item is under $75 each. In fact, you could buy one of everything on this list for under $200. Because we have all been cooking at home more than in the past, this year’s list features the things that I have found useful, entertaining, been obsessed with, or would like to have for myself again. When possible I have shared links to small stores, local stores, or the manufacturers rather than the “big box” retailers. COVID has hit the small business owners harder than ever, support them when you can.

This Cookbook

Right now I am obsessed with Chinese cooking. In particular, THIS book, all about wok cooking. There is something totally meditative about the required prep work that makes this style of cooking great for tuning out stress and tuning into the here and now for me. The author was kind enough to get on a Zoom call with my cookbook club and she is just as amazing as the book itself. The recipes themselves cook up FAST – most in under 10 minutes – the prep is the step that takes the time. Bonus – true wok cooking uses very little oil, so it’s a healthier option in many ways. $35 – available at The Writer’s Block (they ship too).

Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge – my fave cookbook purchased all year

Now that you have the book…

To make the above book the perfect gift, pick up this wok set. It has everything you need to get started. It’s the perfect gift for the budding cook, a cook dipping their toes into Chinese cooking waters (like me), or the experienced cook who needs an upgrade. I am obsessed with this pan. I am using it as much as possible to get a great seasoning on it (think cast iron). Of course, the woks are available individually as well. Per Grace Young‘s recommendation, get the flat bottomed vs. the round bottomed. I also suggest you add the flax seed oil to your order for seasoning. BONUS – the carbon steel woks are made in the USA! The wok comes with complete instructions for seasoning like a pro. $60 (HOLIDAY SPECIAL) – The Wok Shop, San Francisco.

The kit makes a great “get started now!” Holiday gift, but if you’re buying for someone who already has decent cookware, just pick up the wok itself. Photo from The Wok Shop

Grow Your Own Holiday Magic

For the cook you know that has a green thumb OR wants to try their hand at something new, get a mushroom growing kit. I was gifted one years ago by Friend Rev Kane (Ministry of Happiness) and I LOVED it! ‘Shrooms are easy to grow and if there are kids in the house, they’ll get a kick out of it too. Try Sundown Mushrooms right here in the Vegas valley to support a small company. Various varieties at $33 with free shipping.

This variety is called Blue Oyster, but there are others available. Photo from Sundown Mushrooms website

Small Batches and Limited Editions

I am a sucker for anything that is “small batch”, “limited edition”, “only available for a limited time” and so on. These sauces by Artful Saucier make the perfect Holiday gift for that saucy as hell friend or family member. Made with love by dear Friend Gemini, each is a complete and total flavor bomb. Available online only at this time and a great way to support a small business. Starting at $10. Sign up for the newsletter so you know when new batches are available and when there is a sale!

A sampling of the small batch sauces available from Artful Saucier. Photo from their website.

And THIS Holiday Ornament Sums it Up

A little humor goes a long way in 2020. Especially when it is spot on AND is decorative. Find this ornament and others like it on Etsy. I seriously think everyone on my Holiday gift list may be getting one of these. #Fuck2020

Photo from the linked seller’s site on Etsy

Everyone Needs this…Yes, REALLY

The Hubs found this by accident one day while on a mission to Total Wine after we had come back from a European River Cruise. It is perfect in tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, and utterly delicious on ice cream. Of course this is not for the kids, or anyone who abstains from alcohol. This is one of those things you MUST buy when you see it in the store because they don’t ship it, and it is in limited quantities. When you see it, buy 2. One for you, one for a friend. If you have ever had a Stroopwaffel, you KNOW how delish they are, so wrap your head around your fave hot beverage tasting like all of that goodness…yeah, that. If you have never had a Stroopwaffel, it’s everything you ever dreamed of in a waffle, a cookie, and caramel rolled into one delightful mouthful. Van Meers Stroopwaffel liqueur $13 from Total Wine.

Photo from Total Wine website.

The Holiday Gift that Keeps on Giving

December 1st is Giving Tuesday – Make a donation to your loved one’s favorite charity in their name. My suggestion is to always choose something local to their community or a local chapter of a national organization.

What to Get Me

In case you didn’t know, I started teaching my sister Nancy to cook via online videos. One camera, one take, no editing. Some are better than others, quality wise, as you can guess. As a gift to me, subscribe to my YouTube channel (and watch the cooking videos) and/or my blog (there’s a place for your address at the bottom, and NO I don’t share your info). Follow me on Instagram and Facebook. And once you do, comment and interact with me. It makes my day so much more interesting than just seeing “likes”.

Holiday Foodie Gift Guide – 2016

It’s Giving Tuesday (I didn’t know that was a real thing) and it’s that time of year again. You know, the “What do I get for <fill in the blank>?” time of year. We all struggle with that one, so here’s my annual Holiday Gift Guide for all the foodies on your list.

Last year Sister Nancy gifted me with Try the World and I loved it! You can choose an individual month, or select a gift of the month option for a series of gifts. Each box comes themed by country with products fitting that country’s cuisine and recipe ideas to use them. Gifts start at $39

This pic of their Holiday Box borrowed from Try the World

This pic of their Holiday Box borrowed from Try the World

Here is the perfect gift for the cocktail lovers on your list

I am a fan of “Gift of the Month”, so here is another one for the cocktail lovers on your list. Shaker & Spoon sends everything you need to make great cocktails except the liquor, so you can choose your favorite brand. Each box revolves around one spirit and includes recipe cards, bitters, custom made syrups and produce for garnish. One standard bottle makes 12 cocktails based on the three recipes in each box. Gifts start at $50

Shaker & Spoon sample gift box

Shaker & Spoon sample gift box. Photo by Shaker & Spoon

Make your own Advent Calendar! Do you have a chocoholic, cookie monster, stationery whore, toy hoarder, etc. on your gift list? Create your own unique, customized advent calendar just for them. You’ll need 24 small gifts, numbered stickers and mini bags, boxes or other receptacle to put them all in for gifting. You can pick up an empty wine or beer box at your local liquor store to get you started. 24 beers in a case = 24 openings for your Advent Calendar. If you start today, you still have time to gift this on the first! Prices will vary.

Give a gift from your kitchen

Anything from your kitchen. I LOVE it when people grace me with something homemade. The fact that they took their precious time to create something for me means the world. Gift homemade banana bread or cookies on a fun or quirky thrift shop plate. Last year I made Bloody Mary bags with my own canned Bloody Mary mix and pickled garnishes to go with it. I added a bottle of vodka to finish it off. I think the recipients were pleased. Prices will vary.

Last year's Bloody Mary Bags. I even made the cute hang tag with my Cricut!

Last year’s Bloody Mary Bags. I even made the cute hang tag with my Cricut!

Every cook needs the right apparel and Lost Car Chef does it right! Aprons and Custom made Chef Coats are the perfect gift for the serious cook on your list. Aprons start at $40 and Jackets start at $100. Add your own logo, name, company and other embellishments to make it personal for your Chef or home cook. I own the Lillian jacket and it is my fave of all of my jackets. Smart detailing like magnetic cuff holders on the sleeves and an angled thermometer pocket on the front placket make all the difference in the world. Don’t settle for impostors. Most fun part? They do them in the back of a repurposed food truck that travels around to various locations. For the most up to date info check their website Lost Car Chef Apparel.

Photo Courtesy of Lost Car Chef Apparel

The Lillian Jacket – my fave! Photo Courtesy of Lost Car Chef Apparel

The trendy and tough Grenade Apron. Photo courtesy of Lost Car Chef Apparel.

The trendy and tough Grenade Apron. Photo courtesy of Lost Car Chef Apparel.

Sister Tina gifted me with a Yeti 30 oz Rambler tumbler this spring and I am officially in love! There are other ones on the market at a lower price point, but I’ll stick with my Yeti thanks. No matter how hot the Las Vegas desert gets, my drink stays cold inside the stainless tumbler while the exterior remains sweat free. In the winter, hot beverages stay truly hot while the outside remains comfortable to your hand. No coozie needed. If you REALLY want to splurge, they also make full sized coolers. Just a note when buying on Amazon – check the ship and arrival dates. Some of their participating merchants TAKE FOREVER to arrive. MY order was place on Nov 11th and I have yet to receive it…Prices on Amazon start around $30

Rambler - 30 oz stainless steel tumbler

Rambler – 30 oz stainless steel tumbler


Anthony Bourdain is my spirit animal.

I feel we may have been separated at birth. Of course his new cookbook is on my gift list this year! Appetites is GORGEOUS from the cover art by Ralph Steadman to the photographs and the recipes within. I love the way Bourdain “talks” to you when you read the recipes. You can hear his voice in your head. Filled with tips and tricks and recipes to fit nearly every palate, you won’t be disappointed. Because I bought this for myself AND the hubs bought it for me too, I’ll be giving one away next week. All you have to do is be a subscriber. Not a subscriber? Hit the SIGN ME UP button above on the right to be included in this giveaway. (US and Canada only – winner announced on my FB page and will be contacted by me for shipping info.) Retail value – $37.50

Appetites by Anthony Bourdain. Cover art by Ralph Steadman

Appetites by Anthony Bourdain. Cover art by Ralph Steadman

It’s On Me digital gift cards are the perfect answer to what to get just about anyone on your list if they live in Vegas, SoCal or New York. Choose from a carefully curated list of locally owned bars, restaurants and merchants, choose your dollar value and send it to any internet enabled mobile device. Android and Apple are both supported, so if the recipient has a phone, VOILA! Holiday Gifts DONE! Check their website often for expanding markets and promos. Be sure to check their blog for new additions and featured merchants.

So there you have it! Gift giving made easy…Enjoy the Holidays! You are welcome to post your cooking, entertaining or dining questions on my Facebook page at any time! To follow along with my dining adventures through the season be sure to follow me on Facebook or Instagram.




Closed for Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. In 29 years of marriage, John and I have only had Thanksgiving with extended family a handful of times. As a military family, it just wasn’t possible financially or logistically, but that has been changing in the past few years. My cousin Christine and my SILs from San Francisco have made the trip a few times and for me, it makes the holiday all the brighter.

There are a few friends who I wish would join us for Thanksgiving

We usually have about 20 for Thanksgiving, but last year got out of control. We had 42 people for dinner. Three turkeys and all that goes with it, wine, desserts. Basically The Works. It was too much even for me. I didn’t really get to visit with ANYONE because I was so busy visiting with everyone for a few minutes at a time. We have decided never to repeat that and have trimmed everything back to the 20 again. A few will drop in for drinks and apps and a few will show up for dessert. There are some friends who I wish would join us for the holiday. Several can’t because they host their own “Friendsgiving”, a few can’t because of family obligations and a few won’t because we have a “no football” policy. The TV goes on for the Macy’s  Parade and then it is off for the rest of the day. It is all about music and laughter and conversation. IMHO, you can stare at the TV any other day of the year.

Don’t you think EVERYONE should be able to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones?

Because I feel so strongly about Thanksgiving being a “family” day, whether you spend it with bio-family or chosen family, I encourage you to NOT shop on Thanksgiving. Of course there is the inevitable, “Oh shit! I forgot the cranberries!” “Dammit! I was supposed to bring wine with me!” “For fuck’s sake! Who ate all of the stuff for the antipasto?” And off to the grocery store you must run. I am not talking about that. I am talking about SHOPPING. The so called Black Friday sales start ON Thanksgiving now. WHY? Isn’t spending time with your loved ones more important than the few dollars you save by shopping on Thanksgiving? Don’t you think EVERYONE should be able to spend the day with their loved ones? I do, and that’s why I encourage all of you to stay home. If folks stop showing up, the stores will stay closed and allow their employees to enjoy the day with their peeps before the mad holiday shopping season rush.

To that end, here is a list of retailers honoring family traditions and staying closed on Thanksgiving. Show them a little love this shopping season when you are choosing where to spend your hard earned dollars. For the record, I will be at Dillard’s at 8 am on Friday to show them some love! Thanks to Forbes online for the graphic and info. These are just he national chains and bog box stores. Of course, most of the Mom & Pop shops will be closed and you can show them the love on Small Business SaturdayClosed for Thanksgiving

So here’s my game plan:

  • Watch the Macy’s Parade (even though they are open on Thanksgiving) while I am doing prep
  • Eat, drink and be merry with friends, music, laughter and maybe some games
  • Black Friday Shopping with my pal Lynn – Dillard’s always has the best handbags on sale!
  • Shop Local on Saturday
  • Sleep on Sunday

Years ago, we started “adopting” Airmen from the dorms to our Thanksgiving table and thus the “Island of Lost Toys Thanksgiving” was born. When I look back and think of everyone sitting on the floor, couches and any place they could perch to eat, I chuckle. It was probably one of the craziest ideas I ever had. We didn’t have a table big enough, we only had a four top table and because I have always done Thanksgiving buffet style, that’s where the food went! I know each and every Airman that has joined us has loved it. I know as humble as my home was and is, it is better than any chow hall on the planet, plus there is camaraderie from others they don’t know. If you want to “adopt” a service member to your Thanksgiving celebration, contact your local military installation.

War on Thanksgiving – Updated

I know everyone keeps bitching about a “War on Christmas”, but I can assure you there is not. Even before the Halloween decorations were down, the Christmas stuff started going up. How in the hell is that a war against a holiday? To promote it so vividly and early constitutes an act of war? It has been getting earlier and earlier; in fact I saw the first candies on the shelf when back-to-school stuff was on display. I applaud and honor Nordstrom’s who stated in a press release that their holiday deco wouldn’t be on display until Black Friday.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, Festivus, Human Light Day and Saturnalia. I will celebrate anything if you teach me how. The real holiday with a war on is Thanksgiving (here after Tgiving for brevity and because I suck at typing).

Have you ever noticed that the Halloween (Hween) commercials magically morph into Christmas (Xmas) commercials seemingly overnight? Immediately following Hween there are about 2 minutes of specifically Tgiving commercials before we start seeing the Xmas and holiday commercials. It’s almost like folks forget about Tgiving; like it’s an afterthought or “that holiday between Hween and Xmas”. Now true, Tgiving is based on religious separatists being given safe harbor from a completely different culture (Puritans and Native Americans respectively) after a treacherous journey (aka refugees) and taught how to live in their new land. And maybe some folks conveniently forget that, but I don’t. It is a celebration of acceptance, friendship, and abundance. It’s my favorite holiday of the year and there is a war going on people!

I never thought I would be one of those people who would say, “When I was younger…” but I do. When I was younger everything was closed on Tgiving except gas stations, hotels and the grocery store that closed at 2 pm so EVERYONE was able to spend the holiday with their loved ones. Then more than hotel restaurants started being open to accommodate travelers. And now retailers are open. As a former retail employee I can assure you if I had to work on Tgiving I would be livid and in tears at the same time. Why is it that our lowest paid population doesn’t deserve to spend a day off with their loved ones before things get REALLY crazy?

So here, I beg you, DO NOT SHOP ON THANKSGIVING! If the people don’t shop, the retailers won’t be open and EVERYONE gets to spend a day with their loved ones. Stay home, eat seconds and watch f-ball if you must, but don’t go shopping! Don’t skip dessert to spend money. If you HAVE to shop, do it online or Black Friday or Cyber Monday when the sales will be different, but just as good. I can promise you I will be out early on Black Friday with Thursday’s make up on! Do you REALLY NEED those towels that are on sale? Is the small amount of savings worth it to you to have someone work when they SHOULD be home spending it with loved ones? Trust me, retailers will get your money, but you might not get back the time you miss with loved ones. Being a military family, we have spent Tgiving with bio-family 4 times in 28 years. If I could have Tgiving with my Grandmother one more time and sit at the “kids table”, I would skip a LOT.

And if you REALLY want to make a difference in someone’s day, invite a dorm resident from your local military installation to YOUR Tgiving celebration (search “adopt an airman/soldier/sailor and the name of your closest military installation to find out how). They are away from home and the chow hall isn’t as welcoming as YOUR table. FYI – our Island of Lost Toys Tgiving started in JUST that way! And to make a BIGGER impact, donate what you would have spent shopping on Tgiving to your local food bank and help provide meals to people in need in YOUR neighborhood.

These retailers won’t be open on Tgiving – show them some love on Black Friday and be sure to support your LOCAL businesses by shopping with them on Small Business Saturday.

Murray’s Cheese Shop

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE cheese. In a small secret circle I am known as Sister Silver Hair, Goddess of the Cheeses. I once tried a diet that had me eliminate dairy. Yeah, that lasted about 48 hours. I will put cheese on just about anything and I literally have a drawer in the fridge specifically relegated to cheese which contains no less than 6 varieties for different uses. My husband recently remarked that I was not allowed to buy any more cheese until I finished what was in the fridge. Let’s just say I am working on it. So you can just imagine how delighted I was when my local Smith’s became home to the latest Murray’s Cheese Shop in Vegas. Finally Centennial Hills gets something before Summerlin does!

Inside the Montecito  Smith's at 7130 N Durango Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89149

Inside the Montecito Smith’s at 7130 N Durango Dr, Las Vegas, NV 89149

Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street in NYC has been around since 1940 and in recent years they have expanded slowly so other parts of the country can enjoy great cheeses from around the world and across the country. Believe it or not, we have some fantastic artisanal cheese makers right here in the USA. The majority of the nationwide Murray’s are located in Kroger stores (Ralph’s, Smith’s, and King Supermarkets) and many of them are in the Midwest. Each Murray’s throughout the country has a bonafide cheese monger that receives training at the original Murray’s and from local  or regional experts. Here in Vegas we have two Murray’s outposts, both in Smith’s Stores, one at LV Blvd and Windmill and the other in Centennial Hills at the Montecito Smith’s. My local cheese monger is Charles.

Recently I was invited to a personal tasting and chat session with Charles (sadly none of the pics of Charles turned out the way I would have liked, but ask him for him at the counter), and I learned a few things about Murray’s that I didn’t know. For example, each one across the country is client and regionally driven in what they offer. The location in Centennial Hills offers different cheeses and other items like crackers, charcuterie and Bloody Mary mixes than the one in Henderson. And some of the items available here in Vegas are not available in the Midwest or California and vice versa.

clockwise from upper left: Stilton, Manchego, Aged English Cheddar, Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, Parrano on a slate board. Everything and the board available for sale!

Clockwise from upper left: Stilton, Manchego, Aged English Cheddar, Robiola Bosina, Taleggio, Parrano on a slate board. Everything and the board available for sale!

When you go, expect to have a tough time deciding on what to get because there are nearly 200 cheeses available, but KNOW there will be help in selecting and setting up your cheese board for your next get-together. In case you didn’t know, there is SO much more out there than the pre-cut cheese cube tray offered by your local grocer (fine for tailgating or football games, but HARDLY what I want when entertaining at my home). Let’s say, for example, you want to feature all sheep’s milk, or all California, or all Italian cheeses. Charles can hook you up! Tallegio? Check! P’tit Basque? Check! Aged Manchego? Check! Burrata? Check! And so much more! What I really love about this counter is that it is divided by the style of cheese – crumbly, creamy, rind style, etc. Can’t find what you are looking for? Don’t know EXACTLY what you are looking for? Don’t worry!  Charles or one of his capable staff is there to help you! They love cheese and they want you to love it too! And seriously, don’t be afraid to ask for a sample! They have samplings every day of featured offerings, but also will offer a taste if you are unsure on MOST of the cheeses in the case, but don’t be THAT GUY and ask for a sample of several and walk away with none in your basket.

Note the labels in red guiding you to the styles and flavor profiles of the cheeses.

Note the labels in red guiding you to the styles and flavor profiles of the cheeses.

Always remember, you get what you pay for. If blocks of yellow cheddar and bland Monterey Jack are what you and your friends think is good cheese…you may want to walk on by (as Dionne Warwick would say); but, if like me, you view cheese as particularly as you view wine or beer…well then, slow down, take a minute and a sample and ENJOY!


Grocery Shopping

Remember that July is the Month of the Bitch?  Yeah, well here’s some more.

I love shopping, I even love grocery shopping.  What I can’t stand about grocery shopping are three main things:

  1. The way the stores are laid out
  2. The other shoppers
  3. Coupons

Let’s take them one at a time, shall we?

The way the stores are laid out (Moment of Truth – there is a tip in here for you) – There is no standardization! The only thing that is standard in all store lay outs, no matter where you go, is that the stuff that is good for you is on the outer edges.  Think about it, produce, meat, dairy, bakery…all along the walls right? Even when you go to an ethnic market like Cardenas it is the same. For the most part I shop mainly the perimeter of the store, venturing into the center infrequently. When I do, for example, need Dijon mustard, I walk up and down aisle after aisle trying to find what I need. A small part of my brain believes the store managers intentionally move shit around and deliberately don’t change the hanging signs so people like me wander thus giving the security folks something to laugh at on tape. Comic relief must be part of the security team’s perk package.

The other shoppers – It doesn’t matter which lane I get in, it always turns into the “I don’t know what the fuck I am doing lane”. If I am in the self-checkout, I will be behind the person who has never used it before and is maxing out the 15 item limit. If I am in the regular checkout I will get behind the solitary person on the planet who still writes CHECKS or behind the SUPER COUPONER. So, a quick word of advice, if you see me in line, don’t get in line behind me.  It doesn’t matter where, bank, grocery, Target…just choose another lane.  Which brings us to #3…

Coupons – For years I was the one at the checkout that had all the damn coupons, not any more.  And it isn’t because I don’t want to save money, because I do.  It’s because most of the coupons are for things in the MIDDLE of the store.  Prepackaged, prepared, processed foods.  Yeah, you’ll find some for cleaning products, bricks of Kraft cheese and occasionally bagged produce, but for the amount of time I have to spend hunting for those few coupons, I’d rather just pay the regular retail and save myself the headache and save the 25 cents elsewhere.

On a more pleasant note – there are two things I’d like to share:

Longtime friend and author of Ministry of Happiness asked me to be a guest blogger for him this week.  Topic?  Happiness and Food! Go read it and subscribe to his blog – it’s good stuff.  As I tried to narrow the focus for him, I realized there are a LOT of aspects about food that make me happy.  August will explore THOSE happy things! (see, I am not ALWAYS a bitch).

My final demo with the Springs Preserve is this Saturday at 10 am in the Café.  There are always seats available and this month I will be joined by my friend Chef Beni Velazquez.  Together we are doing cocktails and desserts to feed a crowd!  Beni will be sharing his Peach Sangria recipe with us. And just on the off chance that you haven’t seen the video, here is a shameless plug.