Smart Shopping

21 05 2008

Everyone is looking to save a few bucks here and there now.  Gas prices suck and it’s ruining everything else.  Food prices are going up thanks in large part to the Ethanol myth taking corn away from farmer’s who use it for feed.  Prices for everything continue to rise, yet for some reason, our paychecks don’t keep up with it and we have to start pinching pennies and looking for better deals.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of you females out there, but my girlfriend has actually made me a better eater and a better shopper.  I was always pretty good on my own about not eating processed, pre-packaged foods.  The problem was, instead of eating a meal, I would eat three chicken breasts and call that dinner.  Not the most economical solution to dinner.  Yes, it was healthier than a frozen pizza, but it wasn’t helping my wallet all that much.

Like I pointed out in my previous post, I would do my shopping at a variety of grocery stores.  That’s not a good idea either.  See, I would go to Wal-Mart for general pantry items and Kroger for meat.  Once my girlfriend moved in, we added a third store.  Schnuck’s had the best produce so we would go there once a week to stock up on snacks for her.  Instead of one grocery trip, we were making 4-5 and everytime we went, you know we were getting extra things we didn’t need, but hey, since we’re here….  That’s changed since moving to Lansing.  We now hit Horrock’s once a week and Kroger once a week to get anything we can’t get at Horrock’s which is usually just two or three things.  I don’t know how much it’s saved, but it’s definately cut down on our spending.

The mainstream media lately has been focusing lately on the wholesale clubs.  Memberships at Sam’s Club and Costco are up

In just this past year, the price of a bread has gone up 15 percent, the price of eggs is up 25 percent, milk and flour are up 13 percent, and rice is up 10 percent.

And that inflation is changing the way people shop. While many clip coupons and look for deals at traditional grocery stores, a growing number are buying in bulk, and that’s one reason the Sam’s Club in Portage has seen a spike in membership in the last year.

“In the grocery side we’ve noticed a double-digit increase in the last year,” said Assistant Manager Kevin Lee.

So many people think they HAVE to buy in bulk in order to save money.

And the new shoppers are coming from all over to cash in on the deals, like Melissa Walantyn, who drives all the way from South Haven. While the gas is expensive, she only has to make one trip per month to Sam’s Club to stock up on food for her six kids. 

“We can’t afford to make a million trips to the store just for a couple things,” said Walantyn.

Other people are flocking to discount stores like Aldi.  Aldi’s able to cut prices because all of their merchandise is store brand and they make you bag your own groceries.  I don’t know if it’s still this way, but you used to have to bring your own bags or boxes. For those that didn’t bring with them, they would reuse the boxes they had left over after stocking the shelves or I believe I’ve heard where you can purchase enviromentally friendly bags from them.  Check or Credit?  Not at Aldi.  Cash, food stamps or debit are the only forms of payment accepted.  Aldi is definately a no-frills grocery store, but people are taking advantage of that in tough economc times.

Aldi’s stores in Lansing and Delta Township have experienced a “significant increase” in customer traffic,” Dan Sefton, vice president of Aldi’s Michigan division, said without elaborating.

“I think they’re just trying to stretch their food dollar and we’re able to offer that to our customers,” he said. “I think the state in general is hurting.”

I usually buy store brands anway, so that’s never been a big deal to me.  I haven’t actually been in an Aldi’s in a long time even though there is one within walking distance to me.  If that’s how you want to save money, then go for it.  The only bad thing I’ve ever bought from Aldi’s was ground beef.  The rule I used since then was if I can’t see the meat in the packaging, don’t buy it.  The picture on the wrapping doesn’t show you what it actually looks like inside.

The thing I don’t get is why people still feel they have to buy pre-packaged food.  The biggest reason I’ve  been able to save money on food and not flip-out everytime I go to the grocery store is because I’ve learned to cook and make most things from scratch.  Even simple things like salad dressing are made fresh nightly in our house now.  I make my own pasta most of the time.  I don’t buy packaged rubs or marinades instead opting to make my own.  Why is it adults today only know how to unwrap something and put it in the oven.  Most nights, I spend a half hour or less from prep time to table and that includes starting the CHARCOAL grill and the actual cooking.  Not only would it be better for your budget, but think of the health benefits for yourself and your children.  Buy ingredients and cook at home if you really want to save money.  Don’t buy that box of Mac and Cheese.  Buy a box of noodles and some shredded cheese.  With a little bit of milk, flour, and butter, you could make more mac and cheese using real ingredients for a lot less than the blue box. 

Think about it next time your at the grocery store.  What ingredients do I need to make a good meal?  If you think like that, you won’t be spending so much time crunching numbers.


Farmer’s Market’s Set to Open

21 05 2008

Both the Lansing State-Journal and the Lansing City Pulse had articles today about farmer’s markets getting ready to open for the season.  There have been a lot of stories in the local media in the past couple months about people turning to farmer’s market for cheaper produce.  I know I’ve shopped more at local markets since moving to Lansing than I ever did in the past.  Usually, I went to Schnuck’s, Kroger, and Wal-Mart.  In two months, I’ve been to Wal-Mart twice (I would do that in one day sometimes before), Kroger once a week for items I can’t find at Horrock’s and there are no Schnuck’s, but we’ll replace that with Meijer and I’ve only been there a handful of times.

The Holt Farmer’s Market is brand new this year and just a couple miles from my house.  I’ve seen the building a few times and can’t wait unti they open on July 12.  According to the City Pulse article, the Holt Farmer’s Maret will require produce to be located in Michigan and “grow a high percentage of their product.” 

Of course, there’s the Lansing City Market which I’ve been tough on in the past, but we’ll be giving that another try this summer.  The vendors were pretty pushy there and that was the big turn off.  Hopefully summer will bring more people and the vendors won’t have time to be pushy and we can enjoy ourselves a little more and just look around at our own pace.

Lynne Crandell has compiled a pretty good list of Lansing Area Farmer’s Markets for the City Pulse….check out their website HERE for that list of locations, times, and websites 

Dalmation Firehouse Grill

21 05 2008
  • 1107 S. Washington Ave.Dalmation Firehouse Grill
  • Lansing, MI 48910
  • (517) 485-7877
  • No Known Website
  • No Menu Online

I got an e-mail from a reader over the weekend that suggested I try the Dalmation Firehouse Grill on my quest for the perfect burger.  Lance, the reader, called Dalmation’s burgers the “best in Lansing” and “amazing.”  With an endoresment like that, how could I pass?

Dalmation Firehouse Grill is located in REO Town next to the Cadillac Club.  It’s a small diner with a lunch counter and only six tables.  We stopped in for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon and the place was about half full.  The waitress came over for drink orders while we looked over the menu.  They’re only open for breakfast and lunch.  They switch over to the lunch menu at 11 am.  The waitress came back with our Pepsi’s and we were ready to order.

My girlfriend went with the BLT.  The sandwich came piled with bacon, lettuce and a few slices of tomato on white toast with a light spreading of mayo.  The lunch baskets came with fries, a pickle spear and a brownie bite.  While her sandwich was filling, her complaint was the same as mine on the burger.  The bacon was really chewey and not very crispy.  A couple hours later, she said her stomach was rumbling.  She really prefers her bacon way overdone and crispy.  The structure of the sandwich was great as you really got a lot for your money and had the bacon been a little crispier, this would have been the perfect BLT.  The bread was buttered when it was toasted and she said that gave the sandwich even more flavor.  The fries were the out of the bag type and they mixed shoestring and crinkle cut fries for some reason.  They were crispy and cooked perfectly.  The brownie bite was a great addition to the meal for desert.  It wasn’t very big, but the flavor was huge.  It was very gooey, fudgy, and even had chocolate chips in it.

Since the burger was the reason we chose Dalmation Firehouse for lunch, that’s what I had to get.  They had a few different kinds of burgers on their menu, but I chose the bacon cheeseburger.  I finally got what I was looking for in flavor of the meat.  It was a classic diner burger.  It was juicy and cooked perfectly on the flattop.  The cheese was melted almost into the burger and it was topped with a ton of bacon.  Like I stated early, the bacon was really chewey.  The flavor of it was good, but it was hard to eat.  After biting into the sandwich, I had to rip the bacon with my teeth.  I really liked that they put an extra effort into the bun.  It wasn’t just the usual seasame seed bun.  This bun was soft and flaky.  They buttered the bottom of it then toasted it on the grill as well.  It makes for an extra layer of flavor that most places skip on.

The Dalmation Firehouse Grill is truly a neighborhood diner.  The small space makes it cozy and the staff seemed to know most of the people in there at the time.  A couple of the waitresses were sitting at the counter talking to a customer and our waitress was carrying on a conversation with two soldiers who were sitting behind us.  The grill is out in the open so you can watch you meal being cooked.  Thank you, Lance, for the recommendation.  I’m not sure I would have found this place on my own.  Is it the best burger in Lansing?  Well, it’s probably the best I had so far.  The individual components of the burger have by far been the best.  The bacon knocks off a lot of points, but the meat, cheese, and bun combo was incredibly tasty.