Saturday, November 23, 2013

Food shopping? Take calculator, magnifying glass

Here are some of the 1,000 shopping carts available at the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Editor's note: Today, I disuss shopping at ShopRite and Costco Wholesale, and the need to check package sizes and price signs, even during a sale.

By Victor E. Sasson

Package sizes are shrinking before our eyes, and with global sourcing of produce, you can't expect all of those clementines to have been grown in Spain.

And on a couple of trips to the ShopRite in Paramus this week, I also could have used a magnifying glass to read small package type and a calculator to figure out whether I was getting the best deal with 50-count, 100-count or 200-count plastic sandwich bags.

On Thursday, 5-pound boxes of Roxy Clementines were on sale for $4.99 each, a discount of $2. I squinted at the label on the wooden box and saw they were from Morocco.

On Friday, when I went for a refund on two packages of snack bags, I saw a full pallet of Roxy Clementines in the produce section, but these were from Spain.

The Moroccan clementines taste good, but are hard to peel. The Spanish clementines are easier to peel.

At ShopRite in Paramus, Roxy Clementines were from Morocco one day, above, and from Spain the next day.

I picked up the snack bags from a display at the front of the store designed to take advantage of impulse shoppers.

I needed sandwich bags, but focused on the sale price -- 50 bags for $1 -- not on the size.

After I got a refund on Friday, I went looking for sandwich bags in the aisle, and discovered the 50-count box was on sale for $1, like the snack bags, but a 100-count box was a better deal at the discounted price of $1.88.

A 200-count box also was on sale, but it cost more per bag than the 100-count box I bought.

Also at the Paramus ShopRite, I saw whole wheat and whole grain pastas in 12-ounce, 13.25-ounce and standard 16-ounce packages.

Even when the smaller sizes are on sale, they don't represent as good a value as the 16-ounce boxes of whole wheat pasta at Trader Joe's and Whole Food Market that go for $1.39.

Tropicana Orange Juice's 64-ounce carton (half-gallon) disappeared years ago from ShopRite, but can still be found at Costco Wholesale.

You'll need a calculator to figure out whether supermarket sales on 59-ounce containers of OJ are a better deal per ounce than Costco's price for four half-gallons.

A new item at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is Organic Freekeh, described on the package as an "ancient grain."

'Sale' at Costco

I stopped at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Friday for a 5-pound box of Sunset Beefsteak Tomatoes ($6.99), but saw that those incomparably sweet Camapri Tomatoes from the same grower were on sale.

A 2-pound box cost $3.99, with an in-store $1 coupon. 

I bought two and when I got them home, noticed one had tomatoes grown in Canada and the other fruit was from Mexico.

The biggest Campari Tomatoes I have ever seen, top, are from Mexico, and the package below it contain fruit from Canada. Both are hothouse grown and vine ripened.

I picked up a fresh jar of refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, which is great for pasta, frittatas and as a sandwich spread (22 ounces for $7.99).

Four Tropicana Orange Juice half-gallons were $11.59; three half-gallons of Kirkland Signature Organic 1% Milk were $9.99; and 3-pound bags of sodium-free raw almonds were $12.99 each.

I roast them at 275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes, and dust them with cinnamon. A great snack, and a healthy one, too.

A Costco-sourced frittata includes Kirkland Signature Organic Brown Eggs, 100% Egg Whites, smoked wild salmon from Alaska and Basil Pesto, which I added after browning the dish under the broiler. I also used two reduced-fat cheeses, Jarlsberg Lite Sliced Swiss and shredded Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano.

Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.99 for a 1-pound package; and a gallon of apple cider was $4.69.

All the way from Iceland, fresh, wild-caught fillets of haddock, a member of the cod family, were $8.99 a pound.

I returned Kirkland Signature Coarse Ground Malabar Black Pepper for a refund of $5.39, even though I had used most of it, because the strainer top kept coming off with the screw-on cap, and I inadvertently dumped too much pepper into food I was cooking.

I also got a refund for half of a 2-pound package of Jarlsberg Lite I bought on Nov. 14, because the sliced Swiss cheese had gotten moldy.

I have been buying this reduced-fat cheese for a couple of years, but this is the first time it grew moldy only a week or so after purchase.

I bought another jar of ground black pepper and a new package of Jarlsberg Lite ($8.59).

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