Grocery Wars Part 2: Less Choices

Retailers learned their lesson following 2008 crash that controlling inventory became key to improving sales. What they did not count on was a continuing decline, not only in the purchasing power of consumers, but also the on-going decline of the middle class that began in 1980 and continues today.

Food always has been competitive with narrower profit margins than most other businesses; however, it was somewhat recession proof since consumers could forgo buying a new car or the latest fashion, but everyone has to eat, right?  However, now grocery stores have begun to control inventories beyond seasonal items and what this means for the consumer is a decline in the number and type of selections a store will carry.  Add to this natural causes such as drought, floods, and shorter growing seasons, that have increased prices substantially on beef and pork, and the consumer increasingly is being placed between a rock and a hard place.  As the middle class keeps losing ground coupled with higher prices, grocery stores are scaling back the volume and variety they offer in almost every department.

How many times have you experienced going to either a warehouse store or local grocery store for a staple that you have been buying for years, only to find that it isn’t being carried by the retailer anymore?  Are these products no longer being supplied?  In some cases, yes—some businesses have closed either through competitive attrition or retirement in family-owned businesses, but not all.  Stores are cutting back on what they consider gourmet items but also on staples if price is prohibitive and sales are limited due to the makeup of their clientele.

What this means is that many of your favorite items will be harder to find and indirectly will affect the type of meals you will be able to offer your family.  Additionally, prices will increase as competition declines.  What this means in the long run for the overall nutrition of your family is difficult to determine.

MarkdownMom does recommend increasing community gardens and individual gardens to the level of WWII Victory Gardens, and continuation of developing relationships with local farmers, local farmers markets, and learning canning and other food preservation methods.  Until the middle class starts to see signs of an economic recovery, going to the grocery store will require employing all the savvy consumer skills you have to survive sticker shock!

Giddyup!

Plough & Hearth offers more than it’s name suggests.  Besides lawn and garden objects, it has wonderful decorating items and apparel to create and keep you cozy. 

Right now they are having a Post Holiday Clearance in their Outlet with savings up to 65% off!  Autumnal and Christmas gifts galore, plus check out their Deal of the Week–this week it’s a Wright Fireplace Screen, as in Frank Lloyd Wright style, reg. $129.95, weekly deal priced $89.99

Buy $50 or more and use promo code: LNKPHFS for free shipping; otherwise shipping may be a deal breaker.

The Dregs Of Summer Offer Real Bargains!

It’s September and one can only visualize those great summer sales of July and August, but don’t give up yet!  Even though the inventory of those clearance buys is extremely limited, the price reductions of 75% to 90% off more than make up for the lack of selection. 

Since consumers have shied away from luxury items like jewelry, you will find some great bargains in this category.  MarkdownMom found some great finds at Shopko and Macys with real gemstone and stone jewelry at bargain basement prices. 

 For instance, at Shopko an entire collection of earrings, necklace, and bracelett of black agate over $220+ retail individually priced, came to under $30.  A green leather purse from Kenneth Cole Unlisted Collection reg.$78, was bargain priced at $15.80, and Isotoner sandals, reg.$24, now only $4.99.  Plus for you gardeners, ornamental grasses  and hostas were $2 a pot, and spirea  bush $5!  All can be planted this Fall for Spring and Summer enjoyment next year.

At Macy’s MarkdownmMom Chics bought a turquoise necklaced reg.$100, under $20.  Even online a brown gauze skirt that can still be worn during early Fall in most parts of the country reg. $44, sale priced $14.40, and graphic tee reg. $24, for $4.99!  Online use promo code:  SAVEMORE for an additional 15% off.

Instead of Christmas In July, September Is Time To Capture Bargains for Christmas!

MarkdownMom's Cherry Amour Pie (slideshow)

Years ago MarkdownMom planted two cherry trees with the underlying reasoning that if you want to add ornamental design to your landscape, you might as well go for a twofer and produce something edible.  Well, this past year both trees produced a bountiful harvest, so MarkdownMom put on her Martha Stewart apron and decided to make cherry pie from scratch.  I mean this is really a moment in history, well MarkdownMom’s history anyway, that may never come again.  So, in keeping with this once in a lifetime moment, here is MarkdownMom’s recipe for cherry pie from scratch including the preparation of homegrown cherries that was shared with family members to rave reviews.

First of all, you don’t have to grow your own cherries–you can purchase them as a summer seasonal item.  Many cherry producers are located in Michigan and other states and they ship their product.  To pit cherries, you can either use a cherry pitter, a bobbypin, or a toothpick.  By going into the center of the cherry from the stem, you can remove the pit easily.  To prevent getting your hands stained red, if you pit a number of cherries, you can use rubber gloves, not the thick ones for cleaning, but thin surgical type ones.

Fresh Cherry Pie Filling

This pie filling can be made ahead and frozen for future use.

4 Cups Cherries

1 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Lemon Juice

4 Tbspns. Cornstarch

1/2 tspn. Almond Extract

Method: Combine pitted cherries, sugar, lemon juice.  Stir and let sit 6 hours, stirring occasionally.  Drain and reserve cherry juice.  Set drained cherries aside.

Take the juice from cherries and combine small amount syrup with cornstarch in a separate measuring bowl to make paste.  Put syrup into pan over medium heat and cook, slowly adding the cornstarch and juice paste slowly to thicken syrup.  Remove from stove and let cool.

Add drained cherries to cooled syrup and pour into unbaked shell.  Cover with another pie shell or weave pie strips to cover top of pie.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Put pie dish onto pan to catch the juices that may bubble over during baking.  Bake at 350 for about 25-45 minutes depending upon your oven, until filling is bubbling.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Click Here To View Slideshow→MarkdownMom’s Cherry Amour Pie Filling

Wednesday Steals: Just In Time For Valentine's Day–Florist In A Box

It’s nice to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, but how about having flowers all year?  With AeroGarden you can have a continuous living bouquet.  And you can change the flowers into a mini herb garden, tomato garden, salad, or pepper garden in the summer.  On sale at JCPenney®, reg. $149.99  now $79.99

Kit includes:

  • AeroGarden 3
  • English cottage kit
  • set of 3 vases
  • set of 4 adapter rings
  • centerpiece basket
  • fully illustrated guide

Plus get free shipping on purchases $49 or more through 2-28-2010 promo code: 4YOURLUV

Give A Gift That Keeps On Giving!!!

Know A Red, Hot Tomato?

Home and community gardens are becoming popular in these economic times.  Growing your own not only can help those high grocery bills, but are a healthy and safe source of veggies, herbs, fruit and more.  But getting too much of a good thing can present a problem; afterall, you don’t want those excess quantities of tomatoes or zucchinis to go to waste.  Well you can and freeze some of the bounty, but have you ever considered a swap meet for garden produce?

Veggie Trader is the place to buy, trade, or sell homegrown produce.  Acting like a Veggie Craigslist, you can place an ad online, find local sources for items you want to buy, and information on nearby farmer’s markets.

Join in the fun.  It’s Free, but watch out for those fly-by fruities!

Recycle Those Pesky Peanuts!

Packages in the mail are always great to get even if you bought them yourself.  However, it’s hard to decide what to do with the packing material that they come in.

Bubble wrap isn’t so bad, you can roll it up and reuse it to pack holiday decorations, moving, or simply sit and pop the bubbles–come on, we’ve all done it!  But those pesky plastic peanuts are another thing.  They reproduce and cling to everything, like the Star Trek Trebles!  So, if you want to go green and unclutter your home, all is not lost.

Check with the UPS Store in your area, usually one of the stores is designated to accept and recycle these peanuts.  Markdown Mom found another site for recycling your peanuts at The Plastic Loose Fill Council.

Or Call The Peanut Hotline 1-800-828-2214.

It’s A Good Thing!

Saturday Savings

The Holidays can be trying even under the best circumstances, and this year our current economic uncertainty has made it more complicated. The best advice is to create a budget and stick to it then try to find the best deals that you can. It’s all about getting back to the basics, a single present given with love is worth more than than all the riches of the world.

Saturday Savings: Coldwater Creek is having a sale of $30 off a purchase of $100 plus free shipping through Sunday, November 16, 2008, no minimum purchase required. For Free Shipping enter promotion Code WXH6123 on the Billing & Shipping Page at Checkout. To redeem $30 use promo code online, instore and catalog Code WXH6123.

Saturday Savings: Burpee®. Can’t go home for the holidays then send a wonderful amaryllis plant kits $24.99+ from Burpee and get free shipping. Or how about a gift card for your favorite gardener?

Saturday Savings: Avon. One of their favorite product lines, Skin-So-Soft, on sale at 48% off. Buy 1 and get 2nd equal value for 99¢ plus free shipping.

'Shrooms

No, this is not the head of an alien from outer space or ET, although it does look rather foreboding.  This is a kit for growing shiitake mushrooms.  If you love mushrooms and love to cook asian, or want to add a special nutty flavor to seafood and herb dishes, then consider growing your own.

How many times when we finally get around to fixing that special dish we are missing an ingredient, or if we planned ahead, we finally find the item in the back of the fridge, mushy, watery, shrivelled and growing a white fur-like substance?

Giaim®, a site for healthy living, has 2 growing kits, one for shiitake at and another for oyster mushrooms, each kit is $39+sh. Shitake mushrooms can be harvested every 2 weeks up to 16 weeks, and pearl oyster mushrooms.  Simple to grow and when done, add them to your compost pile or garden.  Requires indoor temperature between 50°-75°.  Great gift for the special chef in your life and ecofriendly, plus growing your own insures the freshest and healthiest produce and herbs for you and your family.

Start A Victory Garden One or More Herbs At A Time

Okay, you have decided that this is the last time you are going to watch your store bought herbs turn black and slimy in the refrigerator. You know that herbs really kick-up a dish from good to WOW. And when you went to the store you had good intentions of making that special savory dish, but the car broke down, and you had to work later than expected, plus when you came home you almost had to leap frog into your house because of all the toys, clothes, and other clutter that the kids left behind and did not pick up.

Well, how can you cook from scratch when you’re absolutely worn out? So, by the time you find yourself in the mood again, well-l-l, let’s say, the ingredients could not wait.

Now, one answer to this dilemma is to have a greenhouse window installed in your kitchen for $1500, or buy the Aero-Grow™ for $149, but what if you don’t have the room or the money for this? You can recoup the initial investment of a Prepara Power Plant from Napapstyle at $40, that’s less than 15 store bought herbs, and you don’t have to buy special pods to grow, simply plant the seeds of your choice, add water and watch them grow. Space-saving, the Prepara Power Plant has a small footprint of 8¾”x2¾x7″.