My Pandemic Diary, Entry #19

A Two-Week Shop

My Pandemic Diary, Entry #19

Hello Fellow City Cooks,

I’m back from my neighborhood grocery store where I arrived at 5:55 this morning. Unlike two weeks ago when I last did a grocery run, I wasn’t the only one in the store; today there were three or four other customers taking advantage of it being open 24/7 and like last time, the narrow aisles had store staff stocking the shelves. Everyone wore face masks.

I’m relieved to be done with this mission and home again, not only to be out of the public arena but also to know that my kitchen is stocked. So what did I buy? I replenished some essentials – eggs, milk (for Mark’s coffee), half-and-half, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, a piece of Parmesan, salsa, tea, panko, and a bottle of Dawn dish soap. Produce was a major buy – onions, broccoli, asparagus, kale, baby spinach, lots of salad makings, carrots, garlic, red peppers, seedless cucumbers, Yukon Gold potatoes, blueberries, raspberries (on sale), apples, bananas, and two oranges.

I bought a few snack-type things like cream cheese, which they didn’t have last time, a small dried salami, two cans of mackerel because I want to again make the Lola Milne Mackerel Pâté I wrote about in diary entry #12 (I’ll use cream cheese instead of crème fraîche this time) and cheese (cheddar and gouda). The biggest purchase was meat and fish. I got two New York strip steaks, several pieces of salmon and cod, a pork tenderloin, which I can either roast or pound into cutlets, chicken thighs, chicken sausage for Mark’s breakfasts, ground beef and ground pork (I have plans to make meatballs), and some very nice looking pork ribs that I will use in a cabbage soup I’ll make in the next week or so.

It was quite the haul.

What couldn’t I get? I had hoped for another loaf of Eli Zabar’s whole grain bread but there was none. Likewise, there were no hams and being so early in the day, there was no one yet working the deli counter so I couldn’t even get sliced ham. The store was almost out of red onions; I chose the best three out of the eight or so they had left. And like the last time, there was no Mr. Clean but I think that’s probably in the category of hand sanitizer and it’s sold out everywhere. But generally I got what I wanted.

A few observations. Some prices are up a lot. I noticed some big differences since just two weeks ago. Eggs, which I understand are having nationwide shortages, were nearly twice as expensive: the best price I found was for large cage-free (not organic) for $5.99 a dozen. Last time they were $3-something. Cottage cheese was higher by a dollar more per container. The store had lots of paper goods but all were much more costly than I’ve ever seen which I presume is a supply chain issue (i.e., hoarding). However, prices for many things seem to be holding. I didn’t see a difference in the cost for fish, meats/chicken, or most produce, although the oranges were about double than the last time; this could, of course, just be seasonal as we go from winter to spring fruits.

One other point about shopping right now. The other day I needed to order Chemex coffee filters and instead of the reflex to shop at Amazon, I decided to do a little research. I first tried Zabar’s but it’s not a product they sell online (although the great news is that they ship their excellent coffees). I ended up buying the filters from Williams-Sonoma, which I know is not a local store but it’s not Amazon either and I don’t want W-S to go out of business whereas with Amazon I don’t think that’s a possibility. The price was a lot lower than Amazon’s, plus they took another 20% off without my asking and added free shipping. I doubt Jeff Bezos will miss my $15.92 (for two boxes of 100 filters) purchase but I sure felt better about where I put my money.   

Cooking and Groceries

It’s Saturday and I usually try to make Saturday dinner something a little special.  Not necessarily fancy, but with a treat of some kind. Mark really loved that mackerel pâté and asked me to make it again so I will do that, plus he wanted a steak, which is the easiest thing to cook. I think I will serve it with baby kale that I bought this morning (I’ll just braise it with a little olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes until it’s tender) and some cherry tomatoes that I’ll cut in half, sprinkle with salt to draw out the juices, and drizzle with my best olive oil. No carbs because I’ll slice and toast some of the no-knead bread I made a few days ago and serve that with the mackerel pate before we have dinner, plus a glass or two of wine. After all, it’s Saturday night.

Stay safe and have a nice dinner.

Kate McDonough

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