Every time we visit the grocery, we make a point of checking the different Manager’s Specials areas – meats, seafood, produce, bakery, dairy and organics. I used to think that Manager’s Specials were only those things that were nearing their “sell by” date, but it’s surprising what you can learn if you’re a friendly individual who isn’t shy about engaging perfect strangers in conversation.
On an early May day a couple of years ago, we were at the grocery and noticed a young woman putting shrimp skewers – all ready for the grill – out in front of the seafood section. The packages were all marked with the tell-tale, yellow, “Manager’s Special” stickers. There were 4 skewers in each package and they were marked at an incredible $2.00 a package! I snatched one up and realized that they had a sell-by date that was still several days away. Surprised by my discovery, I asked the young woman and she explained that sometimes, especially here in Alaska, things are sent up that, although they might be a perfect option in the lower 48 – after all, lots of folks there grill out during the month of May – here, when it’s still cold and there’s snow on the ground, it’s much less likely people will buy them, especially at full price. Such was the case with the shrimp skewers.
Yesterday, we had a similar experience. There were some amazing-looking beef shish kabobs in the Manager’s Special section in meat. We hadn’t really decided what we wanted to have for dinner, and inspiration is always welcome. They were marked down to under $7.00, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty cheap dinner! They had undoubtedly been marked down because it has been rainy and awful and cold and no one wants to grill out. (I know, I’m sounding a bit pouty. Sorry.) This is where having an indoor grilling option becomes invaluable. I simply got out my Calphalon grill pan – a “Must-Have” here in Alaska – and the grilling weight that we picked up over at Leonard and Christine’s “Country Kitchen.” Grilling indoors is made simple and easy, IMHO by these awesome tools. The weight speeds up cooking by helping retain heat and keeps things from drying out.
There are times when I try to serve foods with something that I think might be a more “authentic” choice – for instance, couscous might have been a good choice with the shish kabobs, but this time, I went all Indiana on it. (I am still trying desperately to use up all of these wonderful vegetables before they go to waste.) I served the shish kabobs with green beans and red potatoes, and if Jon’s reaction is anything to go by, it was a success. I wouldn’t really call my green beans and red potatoes a recipe, as it is such a simple combination of flavors, but since Jon made such fuss, I will post it for you. Sometimes the simple, tried and true things are some of the best.
We often find inexpensive inspiration in the Manager’s Specials. I would caution you, however, that before you start grabbing everything in sight, check to make sure that the markdown is sufficient to make it worth your while. I’ve actually seen a couple of items where an oops has occurred and the price on the yellow sticker actually exceeded the original price by a few dollars! In addition, make sure you have a plan for what you’re going to do with your bargain once you get it home. Do you have room in the freezer, or know on what night you plan to use those boneless pork chops? If you take them home and your kids have a soccer game and you forget to use them before they spoil, you’re going to be out money instead of saving money as you originally intended. Better to leave them to be gobbled up by another fortunate shopper or spoil in the grocer’s refrigerator.
Some of the other Manager’s Specials that we were able to take advantage of this week were crumbled blue cheese, which we will use for Pasta a la Maurizio (a recipe that we’ll share during our upcoming DIY Ristorante series,) a chuck steak that we’ll use for a beef stir fry when my friend Karen joins us for dinner tomorrow evening, garden herb spreadable cheese that I will use to brighten up the sandwiches I make for our weekday lunches and a bag of assorted apples that we can enjoy with our lunches as well. We can use the money we saved for something else, which is always nice!
Check out the Manager’s Specials in your stores – and don’t be afraid to ask where to find them!