Single Wanderers in the Grocery Desert

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shopperLately, I’ve started to pay more attention to my kin at the grocery store – those of us who wander in single-shopping mode, often perplexed by things like the overwhelming choices in the orange juice section. Pulp? Some Pulp? No Pulp with Calcium? Good Lord.

We don’t often make eye contact, we solo shoppers. We’re on a mission. In my case, it’s get it done and get out fast. But a recent mailing of $1 off coupons from Giant Eagle had me all over the damn store. I normally buy store brands, but w/ a buck off, I bought Kellogg’s Mini Wheats in Cinnamon Roll flavor. Seriously. But I’m digressing. (Hey, I saved nine bucks.)

There is a certain camaraderie between the singles when confronted w/couples who are not only arguing about some unresolved issue and taking it out on innocent produce, but also blocking any passage in their self-absorbed oblivion. I’ve caught many an eye-roll and exasperated sigh from fellow singletons when trying to negotiate around these folks. I’m fairly certain I recently had a silent communion w/ a guy as we said in our thought bubbles, “Thank God I don’t have to deal w/ that cra*anymore!”

We do peek in each other’s carts. I’ve learned to bite my tongue when about to comment on another single person’s items. Early on in fresh post-divorce mode, I talked to anyone and didn’t have much of a filter. I’d point out my 20 cans of Fancy Feast and case of wine and laugh while gazing at their head of lettuce, light bulb and cheese singles. It usually didn’t go over well.

I continue to chat w/ people in the wine department, advising them on a good red or nice Chenin Blanc. Most people like to talk about wine and some look petrified they’ll make a wrong choice, elevating a wine purchase to that of a new vehicle. So perhaps I offer them some comfort. I certainly enjoy myself.

Maybe we should have a secret handshake or club? Single People’s Grocery List Outpost #35. Come and share your grocery list and pet peeves. I’ll pour you a glass of wine.

Love Me Some Paper Products

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Inspired by some daffy experiences in consumerism lately (Dear God, Christmas shoID-100149804pping!? I’m never doing that again. Ever.), I decided to bring back the SPGL blog. Honestly for me, single-person grocery shopping hasn’t gotten any easier or fun, but I make an effort to record some of my weirder thoughts for possible use later. Like a recent trip to Sam’s. I went for calcium. You know, the kind that comes in the huge barrel that may still be going strong after my demise. But here’s what else I ended up buying. Keep in mind that the budget’s very tight right now, but I avoided reality nonetheless and I had a $5 coupon to use…

  • Calcium 600 mg. + Vitamin D3, 600 tablets  – I have no idea what “D3″ is but I did read that it’s good to have D along for the ride.
  • Charmin, 36 rolls – I believe that’s self-explanatory.
  • Paper Towels – Lots of rolls. See above.
  • Kleenex, cute designer size, assorted colors, 10 boxes - Yes, of course I know there are cheaper, generic brands and  the bigger, boring boxes have a higher tissue content, but I don’t give a damn. I like my little boxes of the super-soft line. Right now you can blow your cute designer nose in every room in my house.
  • 2 lbs. strawberries – I hate it when fresh fruit isn’t in season and seriously expensive, but these were reasonably priced.
  • Set of three non-stick skillets, 8″, 10″ and 12″ – “He Who No Longer Inhabits” took most of the good cookware and tools. I began to worry that the peeling coating from the “Teflon” pans he rejected might be killing me. Plus they were a gorgeous orange and $24.95 for the set.

Paper Product Love
After she reported her Sam’s trip, my pal and I actually had a 10-15 minute convo about how excited we both were that we now had multiple rolls of TP and paper towels. Remember when you lived in a college apartment or your first place and toilet paper was almost a luxury? Another friend, who I would never suspect of such nefarious deeds, recently admitted she used to steal TP from a hotel that was near her apartment. (She “paid them back” years later, in kind. Seriously.)

When you get down to one roll of toilet paper for two bathrooms, don’t you start to feel all poor again? I do. So when I brought my new package of Charmin into the house, it was a good day. Similar feelings arose for the Bounty paper towels, but it’s not as deep a love.

No Food
Notice there was only one edible item in that Sam’s run? So I spent $71.65 and could make a grilled strawberry sandwich in my new skillet.

But I still have 34 rolls of the good stuff left.

Big Box Grocery vs. Single Peeps

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Don’t you hate it when you start reading and following a blog and they don’t update it for months or even years? Me, too. But I’m guilty as charged – my last post was in early May and we’re cruising into August. Bad blogger, bad blogger! I thought I’d squeeze in an update before taking a hiatus. More on that later…

Mr. Sam’s Big Bulk Extravaganza

I hadn’t belonged to the Big Grocery since He Who No Longer Inhabits was around. Couldn’t afford the membership and didn’t think a single person benefits much from the bulk theory. But a Groupon lured me in, especially since it came w/ a free rotisserie chicken, pizza and cookies. My first trip, I bought:

  • 14 lbs. of large Milk-Bones – The only issue I have is storage. I have them stashed all over the house in weird containers.
  • 36 rolls or toilet paper – If you’ve never been near poverty, you don’t know the joys of buying that much TP at once. As I’ve mentioned before, paper products wreak hell on single people’s budgets, but going w/o is not really an option.
  • A zillion rolls of paper towels – See above, except the the ecstasy of TP abundance part – I can’t get that excited about Bounty. But I hate to run out.
  • Comfort bras – Hey, they came in a two-pack at a good price.
  • Some food items – Maybe a couple hundred tomatoes in a package, the free cookies, etc. I was suddenly in a “Big Box Introvert-Response Mode” and had to leave the warehouse and decompress.

Recently, I added my pal Sarah to my membership. They allow other people at your address to be on your account. We don’t live together, but I doubt they care. We did tell them we were “heterosexual life partners” just to give them something to talk about on a cig. break. Sarah and I split a 2-pack of Cheerios and a package of TP. If we were dating, we decided these trips could be a Friday Night Date Night activity.peaches 812

Moving on…

I mentioned the hiatus above. This blog’s been super fun and I’ve loved the reader response. But it’s kind of life-stage specific, as least for me. I’m fairly used to being single now and my grocery-buying habits are becoming sort of mainstream and not worth sharing. SO…I’m giving this blog a long break. I may pop back on just to see if you’re paying attention. But I’m going to start one from one of the topics and zillion domain names I’ve felt the need to register.

I’ll let you know when it debuts and hope you’ll come along for the next leg of the ride!

Thanks for reading!

I couldn’t hang up the grocery list w/o a shout out to my WA state pal who gave me the original idea for this blog. You know, the one who had gum, bag o’ lettuce and banjo picks on her single people’s grocery list? Thanks, J!

N.

P.S. I added the peach pic because it’s that time of year and it’s one of the best pix I’ve ever taken!

Wine Dinner Night Out

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red wineMy blog just asked, “Was it something I said?” because I’ve not posted since 3/31! No, Blog, it’s me. I’ve been blogging for others. For money. But I’m back to report on a very special event I attended at the end of April – a wine dinner. That’s right. I sometimes actually leave the house and do something social. I haven’t done one of these dinners in years and now I remember why they’re so appealing. Wonderful food paired with amazing wines, presented by people who really understand the concept.

Spagio’s Wine Dinner
Spagio’s is a restaurant in Grandview, Ohio that’s been open for close to 30 years. It’s one of those places that maintains an impossibly high standard of creative food preparation due to Chef Hubert Seifert’s talent and experience.

In addition to a chance to make a trip back to Spagio’s, my friend Colin Gregory recently became the restaurant’s Wine & Spirits Director (don’t you just love that title?) and presides over the Wine Lounge. It’s in the lounge that the wine dinner took place. I went with pal Ali, who happens to be Colin’s girlfriend. So, enough intro. On to the dinner!

Triumph Cellars Hosts
Calistoga, California’s Triumph Cellars owner Roger Louer hosted the event with Colin and Chef Hubert. It’s always a treat to meet the person that oversees creation of the wines. Here’s what was on the menu:

Amuse Bouche
Crisp Feuille De Brie

Filled with olives, goat cheese and almonds. This was a phyllo dough filled with those goodies. It was passed around as we mingled with other guests and met Roger.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Sauvignon Blanc.

The tasty treat was as good as it sounds and the richness of it was countered by the crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc. I often find this wine to be too grassy and lightweight, but this one was bigger, fruitier and nicely balanced.

Shrimp Bisque
Garnished with creme fraiche & spicy shrimp.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Chardonnay.

I have to say I’m in the “ABC” contingent – Anything But Chardonnay, so keep that in mind. But this was wonderful. So much so that I was tempted to buy a couple bottles. Again, what stood out was the balance – not too oak-y or over-orchestrated, like someone tried too hard. Nice!

Arugula Salad
With roasted red peppers, feta cheese, tomato, red onion & sherry vinaigette.
Paired with the Sauvignon Blanc.

First of all, I’m a huge fan of arugula and this was a standout salad. Not one I’d immediately think of having with that wine. But it worked, even with the sherry dressing.  OK, on to the BIG wines…

Grilled Diver Scallops Wrapped in Thurns Double-Smoked Bacon
Served over celery root puree and finished with chipotle beurre blanc.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.

OMG, this was incredible! Diver scallops are one of my faves. What surprised me was the Cab did not overwhelm the scallops. The bacon was probably partly responsible for the nice complement. Have to say I’m also not a Cab fan. I love reds, but most Cabs are too big and alcoholic for me. This one was really wonderful and fruit forward.

Wait, there’s MORE! Ikr?

Oven Roasted Veal Loin
Served with risotto cake, caramelized carrots & a light porcini reduction.
Paired with Triumph Cellars Reserve Cabernet.

Who doesn’t love a porcini reduction with red meat? Yikes. It was fantastic. The wine was a perfect example of why a reserve gets the big bucks. There was an extra element that made this wine incredibly jammy, balanced and perfect with the veal.

Are you counting? That’s five courses so far and five wines. The finale was fun AND there was more wine…But before dessert, we were served a nice bonus – a very special red. 2007 Roberts and Rogers Howell Mountain Cab Napa Valley. Wow! This is an $80 wine and they were pouring generous glasses. I’ve had more expensive wines (and as you know if you read this blog, much less expensive wines I’ve loved), but this was sensational. Now keep in mind, this is technically wine #6, but we had the Sauvignon Blanc twice. I would love to try this red another time when I’m not in a semi-coma from food and really feeling the other wines.

Key Lime Tart
This was served with a “Surprise Wine Selection.” Colin, Roger and Chef chose a local Ohio wine – white, off-dry, not quite a dessert wine but it paired well with the tartness of the key lime.

Although this was officially the dinner’s end, we were treated to a Port after-dinner wine – NV Calistoga Port. I like Port, but I’m not going to buy and open a bottle just for me. It was a nice finish to the evening.

So – great night, fabulous food, new wines  and great company. Maybe I’ll try to get out more…

Trader Joe’s Field Trip

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I know I talk a lot about Trader Joe’s. I don’t have any vested interest in the company other than buying their goodies. But I promised a Facebook pal I’d post some of my fave things from there, including wine. Duh. Wine is one of the main reasons to make a TJ’s field trip. No permission slip needed.

Late last week, I headed over there forgetting that it was both Fri. and a holiday. Teeny parking lot and an F-150 do not a cute couple make. I bought a case of wine and some essentials like smoked salmon…Some of the items are TJ faves.

Wine:

  • Three bottles of Tres Pinos white – it’s a nice white blend w/ fruit forward, dry, but not too – $6.49/ea.
  • Three bottles of  Green Fin – similar to the 3 Pines, but less fruit – $4.99/ea. (This is where the TBC – Two Buck Chuck crowd gets it wrong. TBC is actually close to $4 in my store and not very good.)
  • Found Object Malbec – I like all the Found Objects I’ve had – Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc and this one – $7.49
  • Trader Joe’s Coastal Zinfandel – I don’t usually buy Zin, but this is a nice, inexpensive one – $6.99
  • La Finca Tempranillo – Same as Found Object, the Malbec and others are good, too – $5.99
  • 3 new reds I can’t recall, one was a Coppola. If you’ve not tried this vineyard, most are great. And yes, it’s the director of GodFather fame. I’ll let you know how they are.

Food:

  • TJ’s Maple Frosted Shredded Wheat – this is a new one for me but I could possibly live on it.
  • Crumbly gorgonzola
  • Honey-flavored Greek yogurt
  • Dixie Peach juice – I love all their juices
  • Dark chocolate covered ginger – a fave
  • Frozen pizzas and flatbreads – These are amazing. If someone served this to you after hiding the box, you’d swear it was from an upscale eatery. Try the ham, gruyere and carmelized onion flatbread. Ignore the portion suggestions of 1/3 of the flatbread and eat the whole thing. It’s small. I tried a new pizza – BBQ chicken, red onion and smoked gouda. Wow!
  • Seltzer – plain. It’s .79 here and .99 at reg. grocery store
  • Organic chicken breasts – Pricier than the pale versions at the big grocery stores, but flavor is better. Probably the absence of formaldehyde or something.
  • Maple syrup – What a difference the real deal is from that pseudo syrup stuff!
  • Spanish extra virgin olive oil – I like TJ’s prices on oils, salad dressings, etc., although I usually make my own dressing.

I bought a bunch more stuff I can’t recall, but my total was $168. Not bad if you consider that includes a case of wine!

I’m Not Cat-Food Munching Lady…Yet

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I bought the pup some new, fancy treats when I went to Whole Foods. They’re natural, organic peanut-butter flavored cookies. I realized as I was doling out a couple that they are made “for you to share w/ your buddy.” Uh, no, I don’t think so. I’ll admit the cookies look kind of tasty compared to the liver-flavored blobs I use for training, but I’m not going to eat them. I’m trying to raise my dog to not eat or beg for human food, so why would I encourage us sitting down and enjoying a treat together? It’s weird enough that we’re sharing a bottle of fish oil caps.

Grilling Out

As I sit here hoping blizzard-y winds don’t blow my house down, it’s amazing that just four days ago, it was in the 60s and I grilled out. Before you say, “Well, I grill out all winter!” I can assure you that out here on the tundra you wouldn’t get a charcoal grill lit, take the time to let it burn down and then attend to it while the food cooks. Your nasty bits would freeze off.  Trust me.

Here’s what I grilled:

Parboiled redskin potatoes ahead. Sliced them in thick slices and added leftover roasted carrots. Later I took the onion slices from the marinade on the pork and sautéed them. Took a sheet of foil, sprayed it w/ olive oil spray and made a packet w/ the vegetables. Placed it on the cooler side of the grill.

I marinated a pork tenderloin in:

  • soy sauce
  • 6 oz. of chocolate stout (drank the rest while grilling)
  • lemon slices
  • thyme (still had some in my herb bed)
  • 3 lg. smashed garlic cloves
  • onion sliced into thick rings
  • honey

I wish I’d been able to marinate the meat overnight, but I did it for about 6 hours. Then poured out the marinade and grilled it. I like to get a good seared crust on all sides and then move it to a cooler spot. It’s usually a bit underdone, but I don’t have a problem w/ pink pork.

Grocery List Oddities

It’s been forever since I did a big trip to the store since I was sick for three weeks. I mostly ran out to Dollar General to grab o.j. or some take-out somewhere. I have filled in some of the gaps, like creamer, tomatoes, fruit, etc. But I really need to buy tons of stuff.

Some of the odder items on the list include:

  • Milk-Bones (always!)
  • 9V batteries – I’ve been in chirping, dying smoke alarm battery hell for several days. I know I should have replaced them all at once, but only had a couple on hand. Don’t run out and have one go nuts at 4 a.m. Just don’t. Stock up.
  • Shoelaces for running shoes – my shoes look like something I found in a dumpster.
  • Pepto-Bismol tabs
  • frozen stuff – Supposed to get a big work assignment the last two weeks and I need to have frozen meals on hand because I usually don’t have time to cook.
  • unscented baby wipes – No, no surprise baby announcement. I use them on the dog’s feet after she rearranges my mulch in the flower beds.
  • parchment paper – I’ve transferred this item to five successive grocery lists. Can’t find it at a couple of the usual places. I mostly use it for homemade pizza.

OK, that’s enough minutiae for all of us. The dog is even rolling her eyes about my lack of a life…

It’s Not Speed, It’s Medication…

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My last entry was on 2/23 and I lamented that my cold was demanding salty, sugary, fat-laden fare. That was week two of being sick, which has now morphed into the fourth week and the sinus infection from hell. So, I’m on my second week of antibiotics and the OTC decongestant. I did notice a surprise benefit from the OTC drug – it’s kind of like speed (for those of you too young or innocent to remember – like legal diet pills, etc. Yeah, let’s go w/ that)  as far as curbing the appetite for the above mentioned demon foods.

Craving Veggies

I found myself craving vegetables and turned off by the idea of pizza.  I actually threw out some cookies. I know! So I had the following for dinner Tues. night:

  • Grilled chicken breast – I’ve grown to like my little Forman grill, although I hate cleaning it. My friend who gave it to me said, “That’s what the dog is for.”
  • Roasted carrots – If you’ve never roasted vegetables, you’re missing an easy, tasty way to get that pyramid in your body. I toss sliced carrots (an inch thick or use baby carrots) w/ olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20 min. at 400.
  • Swiss chard w/ pine nuts – This is a new veg. for me. I recently made a soup w/ it, but chopped the leftover swiss chard into 1″ ribbons, sauteed them in olive oil w/ garlic, then tossed w/ toasted pine nuts.

I’m amazed at how healthy and tasty it was!

Fresh Roasted Coffee

Budgetary concerns have me buying grocery-store brand coffee lately. Boo. It sucks. If you read this blog, you know I’m a coffee snob. After my dr. appt. this week, I stopped at Whole Foods for real, freshly roasted coffee. WF is where I’d shop if I were rich. I love that store, but can only afford short, infrequent forays or my house would be in foreclosure.

I made a pot of El Canto Espresso (Mexican) this morning. OMG, what a difference! This coffee was roasted on 3/4. That’s right, ROASTED earlier this week. Not in 2011 and sitting in a warehouse somewhere.

I made it out of WF spending less than $100, which never happens. Of course I avoided the wine dept. and only bought the “bargain bin” cheese. They’ve started cutting small pieces of the cheeses that go for $16.99/lb. into tiny chunks so you can try them. Great idea. I got a Spanish bleu.

That’s all I have. Being sick is incredibly boring, so I’ll spare you.

Feed a Cold, but Not THAT Much…

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Poor neglected blog. But readers, I’ve spared you what would no doubt have been the ramblings of my jam-packed sinuses and you don’t want to hear anything they have to say. Ten days of this and I’m ready to surrender to Western medicine and get some antibiotics from the doc. Aside from feeling like crap, I’ve developed some scary eating habits. Fast food and mostly foods from the four food groups – salt, fat, sugar and chocolate.

Very rarely do I darken the drive-thru of the Golden Arches, but I’ve been there, Wendy’s, Tim Horton, pizza land and a lousy Chinese place in the last week and a half. I don’t do fast food, or at least haven’t for the past three years. Today, I tried the Fish McBites. Scary, but I liked them, especially w/ extra tartar. Someone, please do an intervention…

This is what my grocery list has looked like lately:

  • pretzel thins – Who are we kidding w/ the “thins?”
  • mini ice creams – I rationalize that the individual servings are not as fattening. Maybe not, unless you eat two…
  • salt & vinegar chips – I NEVER bring these missives from Satan into my home. But now that they’re here, I have to eat them. At least these are baked.
  • triple fudge brownie mix – Oh, it doesn’t stop there. I’m obsessing about making a Trader Joe’s Crunchy Cookie Butter frosting for these bad boys. Like I said, please call Dr. Drew.
  • milk-bones - At least I’ve drawn the line and won’t be dipping them in onion dip. 
  • assorted cheeses – Evidently, there’s no limit to the things that taste better w/ melted cheese.

So I’m picking up an OTC drug today at the grocery pharmacy that sometimes has to have a ‘script. Confusing, but I hope it works before I outgrow my clothes, couch and house…

My nurse pal says that craving salt is often an indicator that your electrolytes are out of balance. I guess I’ll have to add Gatorade to my diet.

Now why didn’t I freeze some of these bacon cookies when we made them?

If I had bacon, I'd be making these.

If I had bacon, I’d be making these.

Super Bowl, Party of One

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Vera JamsOh please, don’t think for one minute that headline is sad! That poor woman – alone on Super Bowl night… Seriously, since when is Super Bowl Sunday a romantic holiday for couples? I suppose maybe it could be if your idea of date night is crap beer and some sad nachos. If so, you might want to set the bar higher.

 

(This is a pic of the fab Vera Wang jams I wore to my own Super Bowl party. What can I say, I have innate style.)

I really didn’t mind watching the Super Bowl alone. Didn’t have to clean my house, make food for anyone, worry about people having enough to drink or too much (or drinking all my GOOD beer). These events are especially easy without “He Who No Longer Inhabits” who felt the need to reinvent chicken wings or foof up some simple appetizer. Very tiring. Not a chance. The pup got a couple extra Milk-Bones and I had a plate of Trader Joe’s frozen shrimp pot stickers w/ their bottled goyza sauce. (Highly recommend!)

Since it seems I’ve gotten away from listing GROCERY LISTS on here, I’ll share a combo of two I’ve carried around lately. A two-week work project left zero shopping time so I didn’t get to any stores until last Fri. Then I forgot to buy most things on the list except wine, of course.

Here’s the list:

  • Drain cleaner – My puppy, Shedding Sister, has the potential to clog every drain pipe in my county. This pup never shed until about 3 weeks ago and then it was insane. Fortunately, it seems to have slowed down a bit.
  • 3-way light bulbs – Is it just me or do you blow out one setting on a 3-way bulb all the time? I use the 50 watt and 100 watt settings on different lamps. I’ve had this item on a list for 2 months
  • Wine – Although my normal cold weather choice is red, I also buy whites. I just don’t want wimpy whites that I might drink in the summer. Finding interesting, full-bodied, affordable whites is tough.
  • Frozen – That’s my shorthand for “lazy-ass food” I buy so when I’m working 10/11- hour days, I just heat the oven or throw in micro.
  • Creamer – Again with the “fat-free” half and half – such a concept!

So, did you notice there’s really nothing to eat on that list except for the frozen category? That’s right. It’s why I call this “single people’s grocery lists.”

Cheers.

Chicken Sausage Pizza? Yes, Really.

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Unfortunately, I haven’t curtailed my holiday level eating. So unless I’m going to become a sumo wrestler or try out for a new reality show, “Bariatric Place,” I better cool it. I think I’ll start by not buying whatever pops in my head or see at the grocery store. But still on a food austerity program, I try to use up what I have on hand and only buy essentials like bread, wine and dog food.

Chipotle Chicken Sausage

I’ve talked before about my affinity for gourmet chicken sausages. Ideally, I like to grill them on charcoal, but I’m not firing up that grill in the snow drifts. So having a couple left over from a dinner earlier in the week, I decided to make that main attraction on a pizza. Yes, I know it’s not pepperoni or “real” sausage, but it’s a decent substitute and more interesting.

As you’ll recall, I don’t mess around making my own dough/crust. That’s what the gourmet cook “who no longer inhabits” used to do and I see no reason for it. But I do get creative and all gourmet on your a** w/ toppings. Here’s what I put on this one:

  • Store brand spaghetti sauce – not much, just enough to coat the crust
  • Sautéed fresh spinach and shallots
  • Sliced chipotle sausage w/ cheese
  • Bagged mozzarella
  • Fresh mozzarella – cut in 1/2 in. cubes
  • Chopped fresh Greek oregano ( under the snow in my herb bed – It Lives!)
  • Toasted pine nuts

I popped the oregano and pine nuts on top when I pulled it out of the oven. Just follow the directions on the prepackaged crust for time/temp it’s usually 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

OT RED ALERT: Pal Sarah just told me Trader Joe’s now has CRUNCHY Cookie Butter!! I couldn’t concentrate on anything after I heard that. I felt like Keith Richards when he finds a new supplier! Yowzer. I bet Sarah will work her magic w/ that stuff.