You Can Be Frugal AND Shop Gourmet

I was on my way to pick up a prescription for our greyt girl this past Monday when I noticed that a local gourmet shop, G. J. Andrews Food & Wine Shoppe had a sale on selected wines. I decided it would be a good excuse to stop in once I was done at the vet's office, and boy did it not disappoint!

Since I was in no rush, I decided to wander the aisles and take in the overwhelming variety of prepared sauces, fresh fare and other delectable items on offer. As I've written before, I'm rather opportunistic when it comes to grocery shopping.

As expected, they had an amazing selection of various sauces and spices compared to the average mainstream grocery store. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what I'm talking about: over 60 BBQ sauces, over 80 mustards, over 50 salad dressings...and the list goes on. 

They also had some fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. Of note is that their prices were in line with what is sold in large stores and the green onions were being sold at 10% less than you can find elsewhere. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised!

Another surprise is what I discovered in the spice aisle. Of course, there was great selection, but some of the prices were great too. Last week, I had foregone purchasing nutmeg when I balked at the price: $7.29 for 52g. At this specialty shoppe? $2.99 for 42g, regular price. That's half price compared to a discount store. Wow!

What got me in the door to begin with was the great bargain mentioned previously. They had a large selection of wines on offer and all the prices were in line with what I would expect to pay elsewhere. I wouldn't hesitate to go get a bottle there anytime. That said, their sale didn't disappoint. Among other sale items, they had 3 wine options, a Merlot, a Cabernet and an Italian mixed red, on for $8.99 compared to $11.99 regular price. Believe me when I say it's difficult to find a decent bottle of wine for under 9 dollars in Canada. If you bought a case of 12, the price dropped to $8.49 per bottle. Sold! Especially since we had offered to donate a case of wine for a "Perfume Draw", the proceeds of which are earmarked for to the non-profit organization who helped us find and adopt our greyhound. Coincidence? I think not.

As the staff were preparing my order, I asked the very helpful storekeeper about curry sauces because I intend to use our large slow cooker to make a seafood bisque with a banana squash base and some inexpensive mixed seafood this Friday. She immediately selected the Sharwood's Red Curry Sauce, which is made for use with seafood. She also said the chefs use it as a base in some of the foods they prepare in house. I was surprised when I read the ingredient list: no crap ingredients (the only ingredient that is not "food" in this sauce is lactic biggie). So, this sauce was my splurge for the visit, at $5.79 per jar. Given it will flavour a vat of bisque, I'm calling it a good purchase. I'll have to let you know how it turns out.*

My finds. And they gave me a great bag too!

What did I learn from my visit?

1. Shopping at a small local retailer does not mean you have to pay too much.

2. Knowing your prices is key to  finding the good deals no matter where you shop.

3. Gourmet shoppes provide great advice and ideas to make what would be a regular meal, made with basic & inexpensive ingredients, great.

4. You can support your local grocery stores and not break your money-saving rules.

5. Shopping in specialty shops is a lot of fun. I felt like a kid in a candy store as I perused the great variety of fresh and prepared foods. I must've spent at least 30 minutes just looking around. It was a ton of fun. I only wish I had had someone else with me to share the experience.

If for no other reason than satisfying your curiosity, I'd highly recommend dropping into a local gourmet shoppe or two this fall. Not only is it a fun experience but you might be surprised at what you'll find that will make cooking at home even more fun without breaking the bank.

What about you? Do you find deals in unexpected places? Do you shop gourmet regularly?

* UPDATE: The seafood bisque was amazing. I've included a picture of the finished product (below, left). Very tasty.  It was so good, I went back for another jar of the sauce, and to try another one of the same brand (below, right). Oh, and the green onions were on for even less than my first visit so a few bunches came home with me too ;).