Frozen food shopping

Day 2 of Shopping Week here at the JMD blog; now read on…

Everyone knows shopping is seasonal.  Why, you have Spring Clearance and Summer Savings and Fall Fashions and Winter Gifts.  Just about every holiday that appears on the calendar has a sale and almost every store has a seasonal section to reflect the time of the year.

Seasonal shopping in Florida takes on an added aspect, as shopping in the baking summer months is usually done in as little clothing as possible, shorts and a t-shirt.  The blissful air-conditioning of the stores is as a gift, coming out of the sweltering heat.

Except for someone like me.

As you regular readers know, I’m not so good with cold.  My home A/C is set at 78 on most days (unless it gets too cold and then I set it at 79).  I ride most of the time with the windows down, the breeze being good enough for me to cool down.  Heck, I even own a black car without a garage, so I clearly am capable of handling the Florida heat.

All of which means that when I go into the grocery store to shop, I tend to get cold.  Rolling by the refrigerated foods is tough for me, especially in my shorts and t-shirt.  Oh sure, I could change just for the trip to the food store, but that seems kind of wimpy.

I have to applaud today’s freezer cases.  In the “old days”, you had the open air cases (the long “ice chests” without covers).  Walking down those aisles was a cold-averse boy’s nightmare!  Even when the first freezer cases arrived, they were hardly the efficient, well-sealed things of today.  Plenty of cold bled out through those doors.

Thankfully, I’ve cut down on my frozen food intake, so I don’t bombard myself in those aisles as in years past, but I still get a chill when deciding on which flavor ice cream (and need to hold the door open because the glass is fogged) or give in to a hankering for some frozen snack item.  But for the most part, I’m able to handle a grocery trip even in my shorts and t-shirt.

That is, until the newest arrival to my circle of shopping, a store called Western Beef.  As mentioned yesterday, I had always gotten my meat at Albertsons, but they went out of business and left me with nowhere to find good quality meat at acceptable prices.  Should I win the lotto (the odds of which are substantially lower for me, due to not purchasing tickets), I can shop at a meat market and pay the extra $6 or $7 a pound, until then, I need to get my meat fix somewhere (sorry, vegans!).

Western Beef showed up and began advertising prices for meat bought in large quantities at excellent prices.  In fact, they had a huge selection of meats to choose from.  I popped over there during their opening week and discovered they kept the meats in a big room at the back of the store which, for all intents and purposes, was a meat locker (at least by temperature).

I’ve had a small sample of this feeling before, at the back of a Costco where they keep all their produce in a room with “cool blowers”.  Drop it down another 20 or 30 degrees and increase the airflow and that’s the Western Beef meat section.  My first visit to the section lasted about 45 seconds, and that’s only because it took 40 seconds to go in one door and out the other.

I suppose I should have been tipped off by the meat cutters they had stationed behind a counter in the back (to custom cut the large portions people bought).  Those guys looked like extras in a Nanook of the North film.

My Dad, who thinks the place is great, suggested I take a jacket with me the next time I went, but I thought that was kind of wimpy.  I figured, now that I was prepared for it, I could handle it.  It was probably mostly shock and awe that I felt and the place probably wasn’t really that cold.  Sh’yeah.  I managed about three minutes on my next trip, only because I had to get some meats for an upcoming barbecue, but I sure didn’t give them the careful review I normally give my meats.

Finally, after a few more freezing episodes ending with me comically blowing on and rubbing my hands back to life upon leaving the room, I broke down and tossed a light jacket in the car with me for my next trip.  Zipped up to the neck, I found I was quite comfortable and able to give the packages of meat, pork and chicken the proper scrutiny to ensure the best packages went into my cart.

Now buffered, I noticed with some sympathy other people suffering in the meat locker…er…room.  I nodded at them with understanding and pointed at my jacket, indicating my own surrender.  A couple responded with light-bulb-over-the-head “aha” looks and said they were going to do the same thing next time.  Maybe not so wimpy after all.  Thanks Dad!

I thoroughly enjoy shopping there and have had some great success matching terrific pricing with good quality meats.  The larger portions have actually caused me to expand my cooking experience to include new recipes and flavors, both in the oven and on the grill.

But, boy, is it freezing in there!

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