Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pro's Ranch Market - Location matters

I was waxing enthusiastic about Ranch Market the other day and the person I was talking to mentioned she'd been there and didn't think the produce was very nice.

Excuse me? We eat their produce by the barrel.

Turned out the lady went to the Indian School Road location. I stopped in there a few days after our conversation and I didn't think the produce there was very nice either. Nothing like how nice it is at the Glendale and 35th Avenue store, especially on Wednesday, Produce Day.

So if you go to Pro's Ranch Market and you don't like the store, try another location. Glendale and 35th Ave is the newest store in the area and it has a varied customer base. That means it has a larger variety of products, such as a section for Indian foods.

I'm away this week, but wanted to pop on  to mention that Pro's Ranch has Fresh Pork Shoulder Picnic Roast on sale for 75c/lb at it's Glendale Ave location. If I had space in my freezer, I'd stock up. Pro's Ranch has beautiful pork with a lovely taste. These roasts are wonderful for pulled pork. I still have some in my freezer from when there were 98c/lb. The current price is not one I expect to see repeated. Now is the time to fill your freezer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Weekend Dining with WinCo

My son forced me to WinCo this morning with the sad news that his twin sister hid all the chocolate pretzels in her backpack and took them to school where she was probably handing them out to STRANGERS.

I decided to table the HOSPITALITY and GENEROSITY discussion with him for another time and hied myself off to WinCo to restock the chocolate covered pretzel supply ($2.29/lb Bulk Food Section).

I wandered into the deli and found this:
The goat cheese with fines herbes is also $2.98/4oz.

My Atkins-addled brain immediately recalled an elegant, easy and economical dish I can recommend for those times your husband calls you at noon to tell you his old fraternity brothers, Eddie, Teddy, and Freddie are in town and he's invited them to your house, along with their wives, Bitsy, Betsy, and Boopsie, for dinner and an evening of reminiscing.

I don't care if you're a SAHM, a doctor, or a corporate raider, you can make this meal in minutes, have it on the table without any fuss and your guests will be so impressed, they will sing your praises for years to come. And don't give me any foolishness about how you can't cook, because all you really need to be able to do is boil water, stir a skillet and toss a salad.

Here's what I call the dish: Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach. Yeah, it's not imaginative and the recipe isn't even mine. It's from one of my cookbooks and if I could remember which one and give credit where credit is due, I would.

Get to WinCo and get cooking:

Ingredients for the Pasta:

Goat Cheese mentioned above, plain or fines herbes, whichever you prefer
Spinach, 78c/bunch today along the back wall of the produce section. Get three bunches to be on the safe side.
Whole Wheat Spaghetti. $1.08/lb in the bulk foods section. You'll need 2 pounds for 8 people.
Soy Sauce, Hy-Top, $1.15/bottle in the Asian Foods Aisle
Sundried tomatoes - $4.50/lb in bulk foods. 1/4 pound should be plenty. This adds a nice color and a little sweetness to an otherwise green and brown and somewhat salty entree,

Ingredients for the accompanying salad:

Spring Mix - 98c bags or the larger $1.98 tubs in the back wall of the produce section
Bleu Cheese - In the Deli a couple of shelves down from the goat cheese, $2.48 for a container of crumbled. (Crumbled plain goat cheese is also there for $2.28/container)
Glazed Walnuts - $6.75 in the Bulk Foods Aisle 3 - a half pound should be more than enough. It might even be overkill.
Raisins - $1.78/lb right near the walnuts - quarter pound should be fine.

A nice loaf of freshly baked Whole Wheat French Bread ($1.48) from the Bakery department, for wiping up the Goat Cheese/Spinach sauce rounds out the main meal nicely.

How to cook the dinner:

Get the water heating for the pasta. You need a great big pot for this. Don't skimp. Add some salt to the water. Pasta water should be like the sea. Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to the water so the pasta doesn't stick.

While the water heats:
1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees so you can heat the bread. then;
2. set your table, then;
3. compose the salad by tossing all the above salad ingredients in a bowl and tossing it. Or you could layer it with Spring mix on the bottom, then the bleu cheese, then the glazed walnuts and raisins. I suggest a raspberry vinaigrette for this salad, but olive oil and balsamic vinegar works well. You want the sweetness of the dressing, the walnuts and the raisins to balance the saltiness of the cheese and soy sauce in the meal. Wait until just before you serve to dress the salad so the ingredients don't wilt. then;
4. Wash the spinach well. Don't dry it. You need the water on the leaves so it will wilt properly when you make the sauce.

When the pasta water is boiling, add the pasta and give it a stir to prevent clumping. Set the timer to 11 to 13 minutes. When it dings you'll test the pasta. You want it al dente, with a little bit of resistence, not mushy.

Time to make the sauce:

Heat the skillet to medium. Add the still damp spinach leaves. Add a tablespoon or two or soy sauce. Add  the goat cheese. Turn heat to low and cover for a few seconds and give everything time to wilt down. Then remove the lid and stir with a wooden spoon or a spoonula, one of those spatula/spoon hybrid utensils. Keep the mixture moving because you don't want it to burn or stick. You could even remove it from the heat all together and let it finish cooking off the burner.

Get the salad and the bread on the table and call your guests to the table.

Test the pasta for doneness. Drain. Toss in a big bowl with the sauce mixture and bring it to the table to serve.

Hopefully, your husband has already cracked a bottle of good wine to accompany the meal.

Eat Happy. Collect accolades.

This meal basically takes the time needed to get the water boiling and cook the pasta.

Consider serving sliced strawberries (98c/carton) and whipped cream (I didn't price this, but how expensive could it be?) as a light finish to this rich and wonderful meal.

Don't worry about storing leftovers. There won't be any.


Test this dish at home before serving to guests. Goat cheese and soy sauce are both salty, and you'll want to experiment with amounts to get a combo that is pleasing to you. Fortunately, at WinCo prices, this is a cheap and delicious experiment.

Also, while the ingredients of this dish are mother's milk to a person of meditteranean ancestry, such as I, you may want to check first to ensure that Eddie, Teddy and Freddy and their wives all eat bleu cheese and goat cheese. I learned the hard way that this is not necessarily true.

And make sure nobody is on Atkins.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WinCo - Salad Days

I again power-walked my Atkins-committed self through WinCo, today. Regular readers of this blog know that the harder I'm dieting, the more time I spend in groceries staring at food. Today, at WinCo, however, I got to do more than stare. I got to eat.

Um, after I got home and brought in the groceries.

It was the salad display, the one I mentioned yesterday. The one in the deli section right next to a mouth-watering array of enormous Take and Bake pizzas ($6.98 ea).

An aside, WinCo also has a pile of Take and Pizza Deep-Dish Pizza shells for $1.98, a steal for those days you have a refrigerator full of pizza type toppings, but you're just not into kneading the dough or letting it rest. 

Shred whatever cheese you have lying around, top with whatever leftover veggies and bits of chicken or hamburger lurking in your fridge, then pour a can of Del Monte Spaghetti Sauce over it (78c/can at the moment, a full 10c lower than the 88c/can I snagged at Fry's on their last Senior Discount Day.
(And it's my HUSBAND who's the senior, not me, thankyouverymuch. I like to think of myself as his much younger, much more unwrinkled, and still somewhat sort of nubile, um...trophy wife).
The advantage of buying the sauce at WinCo, aside from the 10c/can savings? You don't have to fight grandma for the Garlic and Onion variety.

I digress.

Heat for 15 minutes or so at 350 degrees.

Back to the salads. I found out that next to the $3.48 Cobb and Chef Salads, there are $2.98 Seafood or Crispy Chicken Salads, $2.48, Chicken Ceaser or Spinach Salads, $1.98 Garden Salads. It's an explosion of antioxidant-packed eating, about 7 oz net weight each and you don't even have to make it yourself.

I bought a Family Sized House Salad chock full off Chef/Cobb goodies over romaine (25 oz total) for $5.98. I checked at the deli counter before making my final decision to check their 'Nutrition Facts' book. There are 3 servings in the container, 320 calories/servings, 3 net carbs per serving.

Oh will you listen to me? I sound like those Atkins people who make me crazy nattering on about net carbs and sugar alcohols. Next thing you know I'll be picketing Domino, and hiding Slim Jims in my bra.

Bear with me, only another mumble...mumble pounds to goal weight.

BTW, the salad is SCRUMPTIOUS.

Other deals of note, today:

 In Wall of Values:

Cheese Nips, 88c, 8 oz box
Pepsodent or Aims toothpate, 6 oz tube, 68c
Can of Tuna 58c each


Gala Apples 48c/lb
Hy-Top OJ Concentrate (Frozen) $1.08 - makes 48 ounces. Great price! Now that it's warming up, I want to try it in frozen smoothies.
Hy-Top milk, 1 gallon, $1.57

Yesterday's super-duper cheap Bell Peppers are up to 68c/ea. That's still a really good deal for peppers, but goes to show how quickly the prices can change.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Walk and Win with Winco

Please excuse the title of this blog post. I know I'm going to have so much fun with Winco's name going forward.

So this morning under the guise of getting my daily exercise, I again headed to the new Winco store at 7th Ave and Bell. Here is what I bought for exactly five dollars:

10 pounds of potatoes - 48c. That's 48c for 10 pounds of potatoes, not 48c/lb.
about 5 pounds of red seedless grapes for 48c/lb - you read that price correctly
12-pak of Shasta Diet Root Beer - $1.98.

Hmmm...Potato-Grape Casserole in a Diet Root Beer reduction, anyone?

Don't laugh. That'll be the next signature dish on Top Chef.

Other rock bottom prices I noticed were 48c/lb for Green Beans and 68c/bunch for fresh spinach. But if you were thinking of ducking in for some of those 48c/pint strawberries I mentioned a couple of days ago, that ship has sailed. The strawberries are now 98c/pint, about what Sprouts, Sunflower and many of the other stores are charging this week.

An aside, in the Wall of Values, which you pass through when you first enter the store, yesterday's White Rain Shampoo/Conditioner at 88c each has been replaced by Suave Shampoo/Conditioners at $1.08/ea. Nothing I'd write home about.

Readers of this blog know I'm a 'from-scratch' cook, so I don't focus too much on the boxed and canned stuff in the aisles. In general, prices are reasonable or low. If anything really dazzling catches my eye, I'll pass it on.

Today, I spent time in the deli. We start a kitchen renovation next week, which seems a perfectly reasonable excuse to avoid cooking for a bit. I wanted to see what was available. Winco offers the typical chicken, fried or roasted at prices comparable to the other major groceries, maybe a bit less. What caught my eye were the wrapped goodies in the refrigerated cases. For example, nice-sized take and bake French bread pizza for $1.98/ea for the non-carbohydrate-concious or generously portioned Cobb and Chef's salads at $3.48/ea. for the Atkins-minded. There are other good items to be found at prices that rival the Dollar Menu at McDonald's but offer a whole lot more nutrition and panache.

And what I really did with today's purchases was hide the Diet Shasta so the kids keep their mitts off of it and made a potato/onion casserole in a peppery bechamel sauce. Here's the recipe:

For the sauce:
Make a roux of butter and flour (whisk together in a saucepan)
Add milk as needed (if you don't add enough, the sauce will be too thick. Easy to fix, add a little more milk)
salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk over low heat until your arm falls off...I mean, until thickened.

For the casserole:
In a buttered deep-dish pan slice potatoes and onions. Top with any leftover green beans or asparagus or even carrots you might have. Pour thickened bechamel sauce over.

Bake for approx 1 hr at 350 degrees.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Winco - better than chocolate

...which the store at 7th and Bell in Phoenix sells for $3.06/lb, by the way. Great big chunks of broken up chocolate, milk and dark. I wish I could eat it.

I hate dieting. I hate being fat more.

So I took my friend, Tracy from The Coupon Girl on a tour of Winco last night. Those chickens I mentioned yesterday were GONE. Of course they were gone. I'll bet some smart gal with an empty freezer loaded her cart and RAN. If I had any room in my freezer, that's what I'd have done.

Also, Red and Yellow Bell peppers were 28c/ea. Potatoes were still 98c/10 lbs. Tracy is a fan of Campbell's Chunky Soup (chicken noodle). She's an expert on its pricing everywhere in the valley and has been bemoaning that it was always about $1.89 at her Fry's, and since Fry's 'lowered' their prices, it is now $2.04. So how happy was Tracy to find her beloved Campbell's Chunky Soup for $1.48/can?

Pretty darned happy.

Prices change often at Winco. Apparently, they have a cadre of price-checkers that constantly monitor pricing at other stores and fine-tune Winco pricing when needed. What that means is that this morning when I stopped into Winco to pick up some Febreze (no, I'm not obsessed with Winco, I really needed that Febreze!) I noticed the White Rain Shampoo and Conditioner which had been 65c since the opening was now 88c, and a price that changed since last night. Still a good deal, just a little less of a good deal.

I am thinking of incorporating Winco into my exercise routine while I figure out the best way to shop this store. I'm thinking I'll pop in early mornings and get my walking in while I notice the prices and their products. Also, if another screaming deal like those chickens pop up, I'm in good position to take advantage and call all my friends about it. :) I will share my insights.

Winco Walking, like regular walking, only more interesting.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Winco - The new store in town

Winco debuted in the Valley of the Sun with two stores, one in Phoenix at 7th Ave and Bell Road and another in Glendale at 59th Ave and Bell Road. I've been to shop there twice and cannot tell you how happy Winco has made my kids. That's because they have bulk candy for cheap, cheap, cheap. Today I picked up Easter candies for 68c/lb - mostly gummies and malted eggs. They had that cheap Easter chocolate young kids seem willing to eat for 25c/lb, but my teens are past that stage. I also picked up some nuts for them and cranberry almond granola ($1.58/lb in bulk foods).

The bulk food section has to be seen to be believed. For the Preparedness-Minded among you, there's a good selection of buckets and lids and plenty of bulk basics like wheat and barley and such, but also dried fruits, cereals, and all that yummy stuff that will make the End of the World a little less bleak. The prices on items such as bulk Raisin Bran ($1.58/lb) and frosted Mini-Wheats ($1.31/lb) are much better than buying it in a box. Same for so many items. You just have to give yourself time to browse and absorb. I picked up baking soda in bulk at 50c/lb.

By far, the best score was twin-paks of Foster Farms Chickens for $3.00/bag. That's three bucks for two great big chickens. I even called my dear friend Tracy over at The Coupon Girl to see if she wanted me to pick up some for her. I got 4 packs total, that's 8 big chickens for $12. What little room I had in my freezer is now packed again. I also picked up a ham, butt portion, for 78c/lb. I've been following Atkins and decided the ham would be a healthier option than bacon with the morning eggs.

An aside: I'm not a big meat-eater, much preferring a world of green smoothies and beans, but I've been loading up on the processed white flour/sugar laden kind of goodies and I either have to lose weight, or ask the Post Office to assign my hips their own zip code! So Atkins, it is.

I also bought a big box of single Yoplait yogurt, 8-6 ounce for $2.98 and two 32 ounce tubs of Lucerne for $1.98 each for my yogurt-loving son, 30#Good Mews Cat litter for $5.94. Yellow bell peppers at 48c/ea and bananas for 28c/lb and a loaf of really good-looking multi-grain bread for 98c.

Sigh. Wish I could eat the bread.

Keep an eye for the green 'Extra Savings' stickers throughout the store. I spent $51 total at the store today and had a cart full of stuff.

Now I'm off to google easy strawberry jam recipes because I picked up sixteen pints of beautiful berries for 48c/pt. I'm treating the family (not me, unfortunately...) to homemade strawberry ice cream tonight. Incredibly easy in my Blendtec blender - frozen fruit + milk and cream + sugar = Happy Family.