Monday, October 27, 2008

Thanksgiving shopping-A Cautionary Tale

Shop Early

No, the Park Slope Food Coop is not a rapacious retailer, forcing Santa down your throat by Columbus Day weekend. We just want our members to be able to get all the basics they need for a holiday meal. And that means that you need to start stocking up on supplies now. Our basement cannot hold the amount of food required if everyone were to wait to shop until the last week or even the week before Thanksgiving.

Prime example: frozen pie crusts. Our supplier always runs out Thanksgiving week. So we try to stock up ahead. Have you ever been inside our basement freezer? By the end of the week all the shelves are full and there are 4 to 5 full U boats clogging the space, making it hard to send up all those pizzas and frozen berries. There is no room for six more carts full of pie crusts waiting for you to buy them at the last minute. So please buy your pie crust now. You're not sure if you are the one bringing the pie, buy the pie shell anyway. It keeps very well in the freezer and doesn't take up too much space. Buy the frozen peas and broccoli and vanilla ice cream now too.

Dry goods to purchase in advance: chicken stock, canned pumpkin, dried mushrooms, olive oil, pasta, packaged bread crumbs or dressing, evaporated or condensed milk, maple syrup, corn syrup, brown and white sugars (please consider purchasing the wonderful Wholesome Foods Fair Trade sugars we sell in Aisle 2A), chocolate chips, flour, parchment paper (Aisle 2A), cheesecloth, vanilla, spices including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme, etc. Dried cranberries, apricots, and other dried fruits keep well in a glass container in the cupboard. Pecans, walnuts and other nuts can be refrigerated or frozen. Dried fruits and spices take time to bag and there may not be enough workers to meet the demand during the holiday week. And there is only so much space for workers in the food processing area and everyone wants cheese and olives too. Don't forget the crackers.

Cheeses, olives and smoked fish keep for weeks refrigerated. I refrigerate my corn meal and flour. Butter freezes very well, eggs have a shelf life of weeks. Heavy cream is also hard to get from our distributors holiday weeks--hedge your bets and buy ultra pasteurized Organic Valley heavy cream--it has a shelf life of weeks. A lot of produce stores well too--buy your potatoes, squash, shallots, garlic, pearl onions and fresh cranberries..

Get a leg up--buy your chestnuts early, roast and peel them and store in the refrigerator. Or sit back and buy the peeled chestnuts in the jar on the front end display across from the eggs. Don't forget the beer, Martinelli's sparkling cider, San Pellegrino limonata, chocolate truffles. Your cousins are going to remember the terrific hard cider you brought to the dinner last year--don't disappoint them. Only problem is: remember, this is the Thanksgiving stash.

Get rid of all the leftovers in your refrigerator. You need to make room so that you can buy your turkey as early as possible. Turkeys will start being delivered the Friday before Thanksgiving. Turkeys delivered the week of Thanksgiving are not going to be fresher; they are all butchered at least a week in advance. We max out our coolers for the turkeys. This means every time we need to send up butter, someone has to drag out 3 or more heavy carts of turkeys to get at the butter in the basement.

For the vegans, Tofurky "turkeys" will be in the freezer. The flatten Road Kill Fresh Tofu "turkeys" will be sold next to the tofu in the egg case. Buy them as soon as you see them.

It is not fun shopping at the Coop during the holiday season. Even if we have everything you want, we probably won't have the workers to stock the shelves. And who can get near the shelves to stock when the lines wrap around the store. Consider going in late to work one morning during the week and do your big shop then. Late week day evenings are generally not too busy either. The Coop does open at 6 am on Saturdays and Sunday mornings.

You can do quick grab and go shops if you don't have anything to weigh, three items or less. Pick up your turkey, pumpkin pie and fresh cream and head to the cashier, bypassing all the checkout lanes. If you plan ahead, you won't have to go to one of those Really Expensive Stores to get the special ingredients that make your holiday. Besides, they would also have long lines and no heavy cream. If all else fails, you can lie low and shop Thanksgiving Day, 8 am to 2:30 pm.

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