Thursday, August 22, 2019

6 Reasons You Should Be Shopping at Ethnic Stores

For many years I looked at ethnic markets with a degree of trepadition. New situations can be unsettling.

I thought:

  •  the quality of food would be inferior. 
  • the store employees would be unfriendly.
  • I would be unable to understand the native accents of the employees.
  • I would be seen as an interloper, because I was not of their heritage.
  • the prices would be substantially higher than those at traditional stores. 

I was wrong! - very, very wrong!

Here are 6 reasons why I am so glad that I got over my self-imposed fear factor and ventured into
ethnic food stores.

    1.  Your money stays local! 

    Local ethnic markets are often most often owned by people who live, work, and raise their families right in your hometown. They care deeply about creating a friendly atmosphere that keeps you coming back.

    I grew up in a very small town, population 1800.  There was a very real sense of treating your neighbor like they were family. That same feeling exists in ethnic grocery stores. When you shop there, they learn your first name, know what products you like, and give you personal treatment. It's all about relationships!

    In my area, we have a large diversity of ethnic market choices:

    • Mediterranean
    • Mexican
    • Indian
    • Asian

    2. Owners may offer a special case price. 

    I paid $4.00 for the entire case!

    It is not uncommon for ethnic stores to offer customers a discount on the purchase case lots of products. Unlike larger stores, where corporate policy mandates, the extent to which local managers can service customers, at a small grocer, the owner is often the person to whom you are speaking. If they can give you a better deal, they often will.

    A case of red lentils I purchased at a discounted price. 

    On the flip side of the coin, I go out of my way to stop in frequently just to see what my ethnic stores have on hand. I want locally owned stores to stay in business!  

    3. Fresh shipments arrive weekly from big city markets. 

    Organic Parsley and Cilantro for 50¢ a bunch! 

    I became very aware of the time and day of the week that my local stores receive their new shipments of merchandise.

    I know that at around 3pm every Thursday, the Mediterranean Mart will be brimming with brand new merchandise, produce, and fresh flatbreads from Chicago's bakeries and markets.

    The produce is not only fresh, it is often priced less than mass market competitor grocery stores. 

    As a bonus, items left on the shelf from last week may be offered at a discount.

    4. You'll save money! 

    Here are just a few items that I found on the shelves at great prices on a recent visit to Mediterranean Mart. 

    Love this thin, fancy pasta for just $.99! 

    Fresh figs, only available for a short time each year

    Organic hummus, stocked at the request of customers

    Speciality items are often substantially cheaper than the very same item from a traditional grocery store. Regional spices are nearly always less than those from traditional grocers.

    I often get new spices to try, because they are so inexpensive

    The first time I entered the Mediterranean Mart, it was to find garam masala. I needed this savory spice mix for a recipe and had heard from others that one could find spices for great prices at this locally-owned shop.

    Small section of the spice selection at Mediterranean Mart

    Upon entering, I was greeted by the ultra-friendly owner, Sieed immediately showed me the spice section, patiently explaining each specialty blend, giving me ideas on how they were used in his native country. The prices were fabulous and, to a food geek like me, an undeniable bargain.

    Some of our favorite shelf stable items from Mediterranean Mart

    Not only did I discover a love for a whole host of Middle Eastern spices, I also found items that are staples in my kitchen.

      5. You just may find some new favorite foods and flavors. 

      I had hardly tasted a red lentil before I started frequenting the Mediterranean Mart. We quickly grew to love their flavor and their ease of preparation.

      Here's a recipe for Mediterranean Red Lentil soup that may quickly become one of your family's most requested meals, too! 

      6. You'll make new friends! 

      Ethnic grocers love to share their knowledge with customers! They will go out of their way to insure that you are happy with your purchase and know how to use it once you get it home. Not only that, you quickly become friends! Sieed is so aware of our family's buying patterns, that we recently stopped in to get dates. Before we could even inquire about the availability of our favorite, dried fruit, Sieed asked the 15 year old sous chef, "Are you ready for a new box of fresh dates?"

      That's not just being a good businessman; that's the mark of a true friend! 

      Your turn!

      Do you shop at ethnic stores? Have you had a good experience? In which ethnic markets do you find the best deals? I'd love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

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      Do all to the glory of God, 


          Wednesday, August 21, 2019

          5 Ways to Scallop Vegetables

          I wanted a theme for this week's food blog post and when I saw some leftover cheese sauce in the fridge, the concept for a post on scalloped vegetables was born.

          When you are planning your weekly menu, taking a few minutes to see what is leftover in your fridge is important for several reasons. 

          1. Visually looking at the contents of bags, boxes, and Tupperware containers full of leftovers reminds you to not waste food that you've already cooked! 
          2. When I do my weekly fridge "sweep through" I often go ahead and divide up the leftovers into smaller containers so that I can tell my husband or grown sons what to grab on their way out the door to head to work in the mornings. This makes it much easier for them and insures that they leftovers get eaten in a timely fashion. 
          3. Looking at leftovers can often fuel your creative juices when you are feeling like there is nothing in the house to eat. In this instance, that big bowl of leftover cheese sauce inspired me to make a pan of scalloped potatoes for supper. In a larger sense, scalloped items became my "theme of the week". 
          (Posts on this blog contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you.) 

          When we say the word "scallop", an image of our Grandmother's holiday potatoes, smothered in butter and a cheese sauce, comes to mind. But, the concept of "scalloped" is much broader than that and can be much healthier. Let me show you some examples. 

          You can scallop more than potatoes! 

          Recipe #1: Scalloped Carrots

          Yes, carrots can be scalloped! If you have spent your life eating raw carrots, then be prepared for a pleasant surprise! When you cook carrots, even more of their natural sweetness is released and they take on a whole new degree of yumminess!  This recipe from All Recipes, is both delicious and easy! If you are dairy free, it's also easy to "veganize" by replacing the milk and butter with a dairy free substitute. 

          Recipe #2: Scalloped potatoes with Lemony White Bean Alfredo Sauce 

          The 14 year old sous chef and I created this exclusive Under the Median Cheap Eats recipe several months ago. The lemony white bean alfredo sauce is full of amazing citrus fresh flavor and pairs beautifully with the potatoes.  

          Recipe #3: Fresh Corn and Zucchini Frittata 

          Corn, cut fresh from the cob and zucchini are suspended in a gloriously soft, flavorful custard-like bed. The base isn't eggs, but rather cornmeal. For me, this qualifies as a scallop. This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, the China Study All Star Cookbook

          Recipe #4: Scalloped Broccoli Rice Casserole

          Like the scalloped potatoes, the scalloped riced broccoli casserole also uses our Lemony White Bean Alfredo Sauce. It tasted absolutely decadent, but contained no added oils, fats, or butter. Delicious! 

          Recipe #5: Scalloped Corn

          The recipe from Detoxinista called for using millet. I was out. So, I substituted whole wheat couscous and it worked perfectly! This dish was declared "delicious" by every member of the Ware clan! 

          Bonus recipe: Scalloped Peaches in the Crock Pot

          I put this recipe separately, because the base of it is fruit, not vegetables. But, I came across it when researching various scalloped vegetable recipes. It sounded so good that I made it for dessert!

          I didn't add any butter or oil to mine and found that it didn't really need it. I also substituted some dat syrup for the sugar and added far less than the 1 cup called for in the recipe. It was plenty sweet when it was done cooking. The whole recipe took me just about 10 minutes to prepare and throw it into the crockpot. It cooked in about 3 hours on "low" and was SO good. Add a scoop of nice cream to the top for a real treat! 

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          Monday, August 19, 2019

          My HyVee 20% Off Produce Bag Sale Haul

          One of my faithful Under the Median readers sent me a message this morning that HyVee was having one of their Make My Monday sales. Today, it was an offer to take 20% off all the produce you could fit in a HyVee grocery bag.

          I scanned the flyer, made my game plan, and headed out with my two faithful assistants by my side.

          I scored some great deals! Here's a look at each item and what I paid. The prices in the photos are what I paid AFTER the 20% discount.

          Remember, that this is the perfect time to find summer items on deep, deep clearance. You should begin seeing those magic 75-90% off clearance tags shortly after school is back in session.

          What did I spend? 

          My total grocery bill from HyVee was just $17.95! 

          That's a LOT of produce for that amount of money! I was very pleased! 

          To find food, household items, and gifts at amazing prices, keep reading! 

          Let me help you find seasonal items at the deepest discounts!

          I find gifts for baby showers, weddings, birthdays, and other occasions for 75-90% off the original price! I employ a three-pronged approach:

          • planning well in advance
          • shopping ultra-low clearance sales
          • keeping a gift cache in my closet

           Here are two absolutely free items to help you stock your gift cache for just a few dollars each year.

          My FREE Monthly Guide to Discount Gift-buying, is a  handy one-page document that tells you when to look for those deep discounts on gifts for every occasion throughout the year.

          Plan your yearly gift-giving in three easy steps! I tell you how in this post!

          Psstt! There's also a link to a free gift-organizing graphic for you to download.  It's right in the post!

          Yes, I'm creating a new version for 2020 and I'll announce its release very soon. 

          Don't miss out on any Under the Median posts or helpful information, tips, and strategies for 
          living with a spirit of joy and abundance on a shoestring budget! 

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          Do all to the glory of God, 



          It's hard to believe that it's actually time to begin counting down to the holidays. There's actually something my family loves to do that is Christmas related, but takes place in mid November.

          I am a HUGE fan of Operation Christmas Child. Through Samaritan's Purse, shoeboxes filled with items to bless needy children around the world. This organization, offers international relief to hundreds of thousands each year and is  run by Billy Graham's son.

          This does NOT need to be expensive!

          Even when we were living on little and pinching every nickel and dime, we set aside a portion of our Christmas budget to pack shoeboxes for Samaritan's purse. It's so easy to do!  If you plan ahead, you can pack a box very economically!

          This experience gives the child the opportunity to "think outside the box" and acknowledge that there are children in the world who have less than they do. There are children to wake up hungry every morning. There are children who need to know that there is a God who loves and cares about them.

          Packing these boxes every year ranks very high on my older boys' Holiday memories. It is SO meaningful for your children to participate in blessing another child in another part of the world!


          NOTE: In the past several years Samaritan has begun asking for a donation per box to cover the cost of shipping. If this cost is too much for your family (It would have been for our family several years ago), then you could: 

          • Still participate, but send fewer boxes. So, if you have four children, you could have them "team pack" two boxes or just send one box. 
          • Look around. Many times, larger organizations or churches underwrite the cost of shipping. Last year our orthodontist office covered the cost of shipping up to 200 boxes. So, we just had to collect the items and pack them. 

          Here are some of my favorite places to find shoebox items: 

          • Back-to-School sales!
          • Dollar Tree
          • Clearance sales
          • Garage sales
          • Handmade items
          • Used book shops 

          What to pack in a box:

          Here's the recommended list from the Samaritan's Purse website

          • A "Wow" item
          • Clothing and accessories
          • Toys
          • Crafts and activities
          • Personal care items
          • A personal note

          What NOT to pack in the box: 

          There are some items that just don't ship well. Samaritan asks that you not include them in your box. Additionally, many of these children are from war-torn areas of the world. So, any toys or gifts with war or violence related themes are not accepted 

          It's actually a pretty short list of items which are not accepted. Here is it (cut and pasted directly from the website):

          "Candy; toothpaste; gum; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans."

           Our box last year:

          The most important items in the box!

          • Your prayers
          • Personal notes from your family and your children to the recipient of the box!

          How to find a shipping location near you.

          Samaritan's Purse has an interactive map on their website, listing all of the drop off locations. It's easy to find one near you. 

          Peace and blessings to you and your family this holiday season, 

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          Do all to the glory of God,