Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shopping at the Super Wal-Mart and Basic Corn Muffins

Last week I finally used up my stores of frozen meats and poultry. I decided to live on black beans for one week but I also wanted to re-stock my freezer. Unforuntately, there was NO WAY I could even afford to buy a whole chicken and stay on budget AND shop at the local Food Lion. Trust me, I tried. I always ended up going $1-2 dollars over. What to do?? I was going to have to do my grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

I avoid going to Wal-Mart, nearly at all costs. The check-out lines take FOREVER...I've sat in a Wal-Mart line for 20 minutes at midnight on a Sunday. A Sunday!! Twenty minutes! What the heck were all these people doing at a Wal-mart at the witching hour?? I was there because I had unknowingly run out of ibuprofen and the W-M was the only store open. There is usually no parking...although on the night (morning) mentioned above, the parking was great. And the parking lot is at least an acre, maybe the three. I have trouble figuring out how the store is organized. For instance, kitchen towels are in the housewares section but paper towels are in the GROCERY portion of the store. Clear on the other side of the freakin' store. Canned tomatoes are not near the canned vegetables section but stocked in the pasta section. Come to think of it, all grocery stores do that. Darn W-M for following the herd!

I also dislike Wal-Mart for philosophical reasons. Long before I came to live in this small town that shall remain unnamed, there was once a Harris Teeter. A not-quite-top-scale grocery store. A step above Publix. A step below Lowes Foods. Then, when I was complaining about the lack of a local HT in this town, one of my friends pointed out that the HT closed shortly after the W-M opened. Darn W-M! They chased out my favorite grocery store. And finally, I once read a book called "The Wal-Mart Effect." In this book, it essentially discusses how Wal-Mart our economy can't live with the giant but also can't live without it. For instance, it can cause other local stores to close, due to it's crazy low prices that no one can compete with. However, certain products, such as the microwave bacon cooker, could not continue to exist without the Massive Buying System of W-M. In other words, the purchasing process of W-M finances mom-and-pop products, which in turns provides them capital to finance mail-order purchases and even shipments to other stores, such as Kmart. There's more to it than that, but it's been a few years since I read the book and that's what I remember. I kind of avoided Wal-Mart before reading the book, but afterwards, I specifically shopped at local stores or rather, Target. I also think that the quality of merchandise at Target is generally better, but maybe I'm just being fooled by the prettier packaging. Presentation is a part of selling.

Alas, I could not sustain my thrifty ways this week without the uber low prices at Wal-Mart. Peruse Exhibit A, my grocery receipt:

1) Store brand vanilla soymilk, $2.56 (The soy milk at the Food Lion is $2.99).
2) 1 lb roll of ground turkey, $1.64
3) 1 lb roll of ground beef, 73% lean, $2.16
4) Whole Chicken Fryer, $5.01
5) Cheese It Crackers, $2.88
6) Store brand pretzel sticks, fat free, $1.18
7) bulk garlic, one head, $0.15 (at $2.48/lb)
8) Reduced sodium chicken boullion cubes, $1.82
9) Canned, diced tomato, salt free, $1.08
10) Yellow onions, $0.68 (at $0.98/lb)
11) Store brand dried black beans, $1.14
12) 1 lb bagged carrots, $0.88.

I was able to buy ground beef, and ground turkey, *and* whole chicken. I was also able to TWO convenience items, the pretzel sticks and the Cheese It's. Those two were not actually on the shopping list but I decided to buy them for the office since I had extra money left over. In fact, even with all of the extras, my grand total came to $21.40. I could have purchased something else! Wal-Mart is c-h-e-a-p.

While I am glad that the low, low Wal-Mart prices enabled me to purchase some much needed groceries, I am planning on going back to the Food Lion next week.

On to this week's surprisingly good meal of the week, the Basic Corn Muffins

This is a great base recipe to twiddle around with; throw in corn kernels for a more robust corn-y flavor. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Or some diced/chopped pimientos for a spicy muffins. Add more sugar to please your sweet tooth. I only made one change...and it was because I forgot to buy eggs. I realized this as I was mixing the batter together. After a brief search on the internet, I found a vegan, cholesterol free egg substitute: 1 tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp of water. I wasn't sure if it would work, after all, there's no fat! But, my corn muffins turned out very nicely. I liked them so much that I made a second batch. Both batches are a touch on the dry side but I'm sure that's easily fixable next time. The muffins have a nice crumb, a pleasing, slightly sweet taste and of course, a yummy corn flavor. The recipe states that it makes twelve...I found that both batches had a yield of 8-9 muffins each. I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter, so that may have been the difference but I don't think that my muffins are large...just the right size. I eat two of them for breakfast, along with a cup of vanilla soymilk.


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