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A scene familiar to any Costco Wholesale customer: Other shoppers trying to beat you to the many bargains. I braved the pre-holiday crowd at the warehouse store in Hackensack.
Editor's note: Today, I describe a mob of food shoppers at Costco Wholesale, going to other stores for ingredients, whether it's safe to eat a raw turkey left out on the counter for six hours and a couple of pricey meals out.
Pulling into the turn lane for Costco Wholesale's parking lot, I glanced to my left and noticed the lot was filling up fast -- and it was still a few minutes before the 10 a.m. opening.
Of course, I didn't know the Hackensack warehouse store had opened an hour early on Tuesday to accommodate Thanksgiving shoppers or that I'd encounter shopping-cart gridlock inside.
According to my receipt, it took me only about 30 minutes to pick up 18 food items and a set of flannel sheets, and spend $190.76, including tax. I can sack with the best of them.
My wife and I didn't do a good job of organizing holiday food shopping this year.
Both of us have stopped at the ShopRite in Englewood, and she went to Costco this morning because I forgot sweet potatoes on Tuesday.
We qualified for a free ShopRite turkey, which I donated as usual to the Center for Food Action in Englewood.
I also went to Whole Foods Markets in Paramus and Edgewater for ingredients.
Bird is the word
And today, I stopped at the H Mart in Englewood for extra-soft tofu, because I'm not eating meat and will have a spicy Korean seafood stew with brown rice while the rest of my family eats turkey and stuffing, green beans and cranberry salsa.
Today at Costco, my wife picked up a 10-pound box of sweet potatoes (79 cents a pound), and on Tuesday, I got a 10-pound bag of organic carrots (69 cents a pound).
Three quarts of organic carrot juice from Costco were $7.29. Four, 64-ounce cartons of Tropicana orange juice were $11.59. Bananas were 3 pounds for $1.39. A large golden pineapple was $2.99.
At the Seafood Road Show, I bought 4 pounds of U-15 farmed Black Tiger shrimp from Vietnam at $10.49 a pound, some of which I will use in my soft-tofu stew. I saw them at H Mart for $13.99 a pound.
The flannel-sheet set from Costco was queen size, 100% cotton and made in Portugal, yet it was under $30.
Pushing my half-full cart to my car, I told a woman approaching the store, "They're sold out," and for a moment she seemed to believe me. Then, I said I was kidding.
At the Whole Foods in Edgewater, I bought a bunch of organic scallions for my wife's stuffing. The price was 99 cents, compared to three bunches of conventional scallions for $1 at H Mart in Englewood.
I picked up two large, heavy organic yams at Whole Foods, hefted them and figured that at $1.89 a pound, they would cost me about $9, and later told my wife to go to Costco for the sweet potatoes I forgot in my mad rush through the store.
This morning, at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, a woman in cardiac rehab said her granddaughter called and asked if it's OK to cook and eat a turkey that was left out on the counter for six hours.
The woman said she told her granddaughter she didn't know, and to call a turkey hot line for the answer.
I asked, but the woman didn't know whether the Thanksgiving turkey was frozen when the granddaughter's boyfriend brought it home, put it on the counter and went to work without putting the bird in the refrigerator.
She said her granddaughter and the boyfriend are 24 years old. LOL.
Our Thanksgiving menu is shaping up this way:
Roasted turkey with a stuffing of diced potato, onion and sweet pepper
Cranberry salsa with cilantro and honey
Wedges of thinly sliced, baked sweet-potato slices with prunes and apricots
French-cut green beans
Organic spring mix salad
Fruit and cheese
Soft-tofu stew with Black Tiger shrimp, kimchi and a duck egg
Fruit and cheese
Beer and wine
I rarely have a meal from the cold and hot buffets at Whole Foods in Paramus, as appetizing as they look, but decided to have an early dinner there on Monday, when my wife roasted marinated turkey wings.
I picked up a green plastic bowl and selected three items -- half of a large roasted red pepper, plus onions and carrots; a soybean salad and tofu squares with sun-dried tomatoes.
At $7.99 a pound, my light dinner from the "cold food bar" cost $11.91. I also had an 8-ounce container of Winter Harvest vegetable soup for $2.99, so my total was over $15.
After I had been home for an hour or two, I was hungry and prepared a small salad with cheese and smoked wild salmon.
In Edgewater on Tuesday, I had lunch at Greek Taverna in the City Place Mall (55 The Promenade, 201-945-8998), but the prices seemed more appropriate for dinner.
I shared a half-dozen rice-stuffed grape leaves with a friend ($7.25), then had a bowl of lentil soup ($5) and an arugula salad with feta cheese and raisins ($8.50). My friend's chicken souvlaki wrap was $9.25.
The delicious, chunky soup was served in an oversized bowl, but I would have been just as happy if a cup was available. The salad also was terrific, but there was enough for two people.