Saturday, December 17, 2011

WHERE TO SHOP FOR ORGANICS AND UPSCALE GROCERIES

Organic and upscale foods can be hard to find at competitive prices in New Bern.  I'm listing some of my favorite foods and where I buy them.

Plugra butter, salted and unsalted:  Wal-Mart, at around $2.24/half pound; Food Lion, at around $2.29/half pound.  Since these two stores started carrying Plugra, I noticed that Harris Teeter seems to be out of it.  Their price of $5.99/half pound could be why they're not reordering.

Bel Gioso Mascarpone:  Wal-Mart, at around $3.49/8 oz. compared to Harris Teeter, at around $6.99/8 oz. Wal-Mart doesn't always have mascarpone in stock.  Harris Teeter does run specials occasionally.

Prosciutto:  Harris Teeter runs specials on Citterio @ $3.99/3 oz..  Wal-Mart's price for a 3-oz. pkg. of Del Duca prosciutto is always $3.99, but you have to inspect the packages carefully.  Sometimes the ends of the prosciutto are discolored, meaning it will be dried out.

Good-quality chocolate:  You can find this in just about any store, but best prices are going to be at Wal-Mart, unless another store is running a good special.  Harris Teeter sometimes runs clearance prices on some of their good chocolate bars.  I like to occasionally shop at Fresh Market in Greenville where you can find high-quality Callebaut chocolate (about 60% cacao) in bulk bins for cheap, cheap, cheap.  It's fresh and doesn't sit around.  I always buy my white chocolate here, and once you taste it, you'll never buy it elsewhere.

Chicken:  I'm all about organics, but I've been turned off with big chickens that tend to be tough.  It used to be normal to find 2-lb. chickens in the grocery store that were tender and juicy.  Then farmers learned how to use growth hormones and antibiotics to grow their chickens super fast and keep them from getting sick.  So now the chickens grow fast, in fact too fast.  Their meat is just not tender and juicy any more.  Even the Smart Balance organic chickens found at Harris Teeter are disappointingly large.  So I'm now buying my chickens at the Bridgeton Poultry Market.  No, they're not organic.  But they're extremely fresh, tender and juicy.  You can ask them for a specific size chicken -- e.g., 2-lb. or 3-lb. or whatever -- and you will get it.

Seafood:  B&J's on Route 70 has the best seafood in New Bern.  It's not cheap but you can pretty much depend on them for good seafood.  Most of it is local, but not all.  Bridgeton Poultry Market also carries some local Pamlico Country shrimp that they freeze in 1-lb. bags.

Organic Foods:  Wal-Mart has some, but selections are limited.  You can usually find some organic veggies (green onions, green peppers, broccoli, zucchini, lemons, to name some), eggs and flours.

Harris Teeter has a good selection of organic veggies, fruits, herbs, dairy, eggs, flours, canned, bagged and boxed foods, but prices are high.  Harris Teeter also carries a good assortment of frozen organics.  Their own brand of frozen veggies in poly bags are especially good.  You'll have to search out their organic items though,  because they're mixed in with nonorganics throughout the store, except for the produce section where they have a dedicated space.

Food Lion has a surprisingly diverse section dedicated to organics in boxes, bags and cans as well as a good assortment of frozen organics, making for easy shopping.  I love that the organics are all together in one place.  You can find Arrowhead Mills here, as well as Bob's Red Mill and a host of other brand names.  Organic oatmeal is available at a good price, and it's where I buy mine.  They even have organic spices.  What you won't find is a lot of organic veggies and fruits.  In fact, be careful.  The section in produce that is dedicated to organics is misleading.  It used to house all organics, but evidently sales were slow.  Now half of that section (on the left side) is nonorganic.  They may be phasing out of organic produce.

New Bern Farmer's Market:  Scott Farms is the only true organic vendor here, but their prices are really high.  R Garden is not organic certified but they don't spray their vegetables with pesticides and they are trying to slowly phase into using organic fertilizers.  Their prices are more affordable and the quality of their vegetables is high.  Putnam Family Farms also doesn't use pesticides but they do use chemical fertilizer.  Moore's sprays with pesticides only if they have to, but try not to.  Our farmer's market is a true bargain if you want veggies that are not oversprayed with pesticides, but you have to get there early -- about 8AM -- for best selection.  Fresh and local is always your best bargain.  This morning I bought free-range eggs, green onions, baby carrots, green beans, white sweet potatoes, radishes and Swiss chard.

I'd love to hear your questions and/or comments.  Do you know of other places to shop for favorite foods?

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