I ventured into an actual brick and mortar store today for the first time in over two months! Due to concerns about my husband’s health, we have been practicing serious social distancing since the pandemic began.
Since the numbers are falling and I was ready to brave the store, I chose to support my favorite locally, owned ethnic grocery store, Mediterranean Mart.
This is not a sponsored post. I just love this store! Saed, the amazingly friendly owner, takes a personal interest in every customer and has become a true family friend over the past decade.
Small business has taken a beating in the past three months. It’s time for people to insure that these niche market products remain available in the future.
Not only that, there are several other benefits to patronizing ethnic markets. I’ll highlight several of those reasons throughout this article.
#1: Speciality items at low prices
Lebanese flatbread and pita bread
Shipped in fresh from Chicago every Thursday afternoon, this bread is absolutely unbeatable in flavor. I bought one whole wheat pitas and two packages of flatbread for $2.49 each.
Although we don’t eat sweets except on the weekends, we have been known to grab a date for a mid-afternoon snack.
#2: Discounts on case lots
I bought a case of each of these products, at a small discount on the price per item. Be sure to ask at your favorite ethnic market if they feature a similar offer.
Saed mentally tracks the needs of each customer, their likes and dislikes. When I walk through the door he always seems to know that it’s time to order another case for me. Today, he had ordered an extra case of farina and asked if I was ready for it.
Consumed in America as a breakfast cereal, farina (especially the finely ground variety ) is used in Middle Eastern desserts.
Yes, this is 50# of organic potatoes, purchased for under 50¢ per pound. Keep potatoes in a cool, dry space to maximize the shelf life.
#3: Discounts on “close dated” items
These onion are starting to sprout, so I got them at a huge discount. I’ll spend about two hours dicing onions to flash freeze for later use. Dehydrating is another great way to create shelf-stable produce.
#4: Organic for Less
The price per pound of each of these organic fruits and vegetables was about 40% less than you would pay at a traditional grocery store. It pays to check specialty grocers for quality produce at low prices.
#5 Expert Advice
When you are in a local ethnic market, you are in the presence of experts. I have learned so much about how to store, freeze, and use produce and products.
First of all, I would never have even been aware any of these products, had I not ventured into Mediterranean Mart. Secondly, I have never met more friendly people! If Saed is busy, I have often had other customers approach me with much-needed food advice.
Here are some examples of that expert advice in action.
This amazingly beautiful squash is called kusa and this was the first pick of the season. When you core it, stuff it with rice, and then immerse in a spicy tomato sauce, it becomes the stuff of dreams. It is seriously delicious.
Yes, I bought a case of it. You see, Saed told me that it is quite common in the Middle East to purchase it in large lots and then freeze it. He has promised that his wife will contact me with the freezing directions so that I, too, may use it at my leisure over the next few months.
Here’s another example.
I once asked Saed to help me solve the problem I was having with making falafels. While I was in the store, he called a local restaurant owner, explaining my problem and getting expert input from a trusted source. (Although, I’m still working on perfecting falafels, I now know what I was doing wrong).
If you’ve never visited your small, local ethnic stores, there’s no better time than the present. It could change the way you cook, allow you to make new friends, and help you save money on your food bills.