Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How your neighborhood ShopRite can be a big pain in the neck

On Monday, I had the gall to return one of the two boxes of Moroccan Clementines I bought on sale at ShopRite in Paramus, above, but the store responded with a Catch-22.

Editor's note: The shopping experience and return policies at ShopRite and Costco Wholesale couldn't be more different. Today, I discuss trying to return fruit without a receipt to the Paramus ShopRite, and the generous cash rebates at my Hackensack warehouse store.


I returned a box of discolored and misshapen clementines to ShopRite in Paramus, but because I didn't have a receipt I received a store credit, not a refund.

On Monday, the customer service employee scanned my PricePlus store card and confirmed that, on Feb. 27, I had purchased two 5-pound boxes of Roxy Clementines from Morocco on sale for $3.99 each.

But I was told that without a receipt, I could only receive a store credit of $3.99 on a slip of paper.

Not only that, but if I couldn't find an item for the exact amount of the credit, I wouldn't get any change.

I looked and looked and finally found 1.5-quart packages of Friendly's Ice Cream on sale for $1.99 each or two for $3.98.

Would you believe the cashier actually had to call over a supervisor to approve giving me back the penny? 

I returned these sorry looking clementines to ShopRite in Paramus, 224 Route 4 east, below.
The Paramus ShopRite is on the way home from my gym and closer to me than the ShopRite on South River Street in Hackensack.

Costco's cash rebates

As an executive member of Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, I don't need a receipt to return an item.

In addition, shopping with the True Earnings credit card from Costco and American Express returns cash rebates at the warehouse store, as well as at restaurants (2% back), gas stations (3% to 4% back) and other businesses (1% back).

I have two True Earnings cards, one personal and one business.

Last month, I received American Express rebate checks totaling about $330 -- three times the annual cost of the Costco executive membership ($110).

I also will be receiving a rebate check from Costco equal to 2% of what I spent in the past year.

Now, Costco Wholesale has announced that it is ending its exclusive relationship with American
Express and, beginning in April 2016, will be partnering with Citigroup and Visa.

It remains to be seen whether the Visa credit card will offer cash rewards of up to 4% outside Costco, as the American Express card does. 

Another American Express card, Blue Cash Everyday, returns a 3% cash rebate on groceries at ShopRite and other supermarkets, but not on food purchased at warehouse stores.

On Monday afternoon, I picked up a prescription at the Costco Wholesale pharmacy in Hackensack, and did some food shopping -- organic bananas (3 pounds for $1.99); fresh wild Atlantic cod fillets ($7.99 a pound), Anjou Pears and Kashi Bars. But the cashier didn't have enough money to cover the $171 in change from my rebate check, and I had to wait about 10 minutes for a supervisor to deliver $200 to her. A woman behind me also had a big rebate check, and was told to get in another check-out line.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chinese New Year food delivery, taking comfort in sweet potatoes

On Sunday night, as snow fell, we belatedly celebrated the Year of the Sheep, which began Feb. 19, with delivery from Lotus Cafe in Hackensack, including a special Chinese New Year Dinner of fresh fish and snow pea leaves.


Another snowstorm put a damper on our Sunday night plans to celebrate the Chinese New Year at Lotus Cafe in Hackensack.

Luckily, we live within the restaurant's delivery zone, and I picked up the phone and placed our order.

We ordered one Year of the Sheep Special (hold the lamb), a four-course meal for $29.95, and supplemented that with three other dishes.

A second helping of Lotus Cafe fish and vegetables, without brown rice, included snow pea leaves, Chinese broccoli and crunchy snow peas and water chestnuts.

Our Chinese New Year Special, a fixed-priced four-course meal, included a Lobster Spring Roll and Chinese mustard.

Fish, vegetables, brown rice

For the Chinese New Year Special, I chose Hot and Sour Seafood Soup and Flounder with Snow Pea Leaves.

Other entree choices were filet mignon, duck either of two ways or jumbo shrimp.

For an appetizer, we got a Lobster Spring Roll and Grilled Chicken Skewers. Dessert was ice cream.

We also ordered Beef with Mustard Greens and Chili Pepper ($14.95), Prawns with crunchy Snow Peas ($16.95) and Chinese Broccoli with fresh garlic ($9.95).

All of the food was delicious, and I washed it down with the bottle of Yuengling Original Black & Tan beer I was planning to take to the Hackensack Avenue BYO.

And we have leftovers for breakfast and dinner today.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 201-488-7070. BYO.

I boiled three large sweet potatoes from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack (a 6.5-pound bag was $5.79), and fistfuls of peeled Christopher Ranch Monviso Garlic (a 3-pound bag was $6.39) to mash with extra-virgin olive oil and a multitude of seasoning, including sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper, red-pepper flakes and curry powder.

Sweet potatoes are less starchy

Sweet potatoes, baked or mashed, are a cornerstone of the no-bread, no pizza, no meat diet I've been following for five years.

They're less starchy than yams or conventional potatoes, and widely available at ShopRite, Trader Joe's and Costco Wholesale.

The first two offer both conventional and organic sweet potatoes, and Trader Joe's has the best deals.

I often eat sweet potatoes for breakfast to supplement prepared food from Korean supermarkets and homemade dishes.

A baked sweet potato accented with Mexican-style salsa is a filling side dish at breakfast. The whole egg omelet is stuffed with reduced-fat Swiss cheese and grated Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese from Italy.

Another bread substitute is a steaming portion of organic whole-wheat linguine dressed in bottled Victoria Marinara with skinless-and-boneless sardines, part of a satisfying homemade dinner of pasta, salad and red wine.

Earthbound Organic Spring Mix and Sunset-brand Romana Tomatoes dressed in organic extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Comfort food from the Jamaican kitchen includes fried sweet plantains and boiled green banana as foils for the hot peppers in a breakfast of ackee (a bland fruit) and salted Alaskan pollock.

Plating leftovers from the Korean, Jamaican, Chinese and American kitchens for breakfast (clockwise from the top), stewed tofu from H Mart in Little Ferry, homemade ackee and salt fish; crunchy snow peas and water chestnuts from Lotus Cafe; and sweet potatoes and garlic mashed with extra-virgin olive oil. Other breakfasts have included Korean mung-bean pancakes and batter-dipped squid, both from H&Y Marketplace in Ridgefield.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New at Costco Wholesale, lactose-free milk and Greek Yogurt with fruit

I've been buying the ShopRite brand of lactose-free milk for several years, but recently, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack introduced Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free 2% Reduced Fat Milk for about $2.66 a carton (three for $7.99).

A new item at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is Kirkland Signature non-fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom.


If you're lactose intolerant and add milk to your coffee, frittata mixture or an occasional bowl of cereal, you know how uncomfortable that can make you feel.

Conventional milk causes bloating or gas.

I'm a big fan of Starbucks Coffee, but I've never found lactose-free milk there or at Dunkin' Donuts.

So at home, I've been using ShopRite's brand of 1% Lactose Free Milk, usually $3.49 a half-gallon, to add to my morning coffee and in a Nespresso foamer for espresso drinks.

Now, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is offering Kirkland Signature 100% Lactose Free Milk for $2.66 a carton (three 64-ounce cartons for $7.99).

Costco's product contains 2% milk fat. 

I hope Costco plans to introduce a lactose-free product with 1% milk fat and organic versions.

A natural enzyme called lactase is added to break down a sugar called lactose and help with digestion, according to Kirkland Signature.

Yogurt with fruit

A new dairy product at Costco Wholesale is Kirkland Signature non-fat Greek Yogurt with Fruit on the Bottom: Black Cherry, Blueberries and Strawberries.

Fifteen mixed 6-ounce cups were $10.89 or 69 cents each, compared to about 89 cents each for 6-ounce cups of Chobani Greek Yogurt with Fruit.

Costco's house brand of Greek Yogurt with fruit is sweetened with sugar.

We've been using Kirkland Signature's non-fat plain Greek Yogurt in 32-ounce containers for blending in smoothies or eating with organic agave syrup.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On a bitterly cold day, Costco Wholesale shopper tells off piggish driver

When I drove to Costco Wholesale in Hackensack in subfreezing temperatures on Monday with three prescriptions for my son, I saw this silver Toyota Camry parked in two spaces. Another shopper hand-lettered a sign and put it under one of the wipers, below. A couple of hours later, when I returned to pick up the pills, as well as organic spring mix and reduced-fat Swiss cheese, the car was still there, but the sign had been removed or had blown away.