Do your homework

This column was originally published in the Herald-Sun 6/6/2012.

For you, gentle readers, I do quite a bit of research for these essays. I watch way too much food television. I experiment, culinarily. I also read many articles on the interwebs. (Confidentially, I would probably do it even without the motivation of a weekly column.)
Recently, on Huffpost, there was a piece on the dos and don’ts of shopping warehouse clubs.
It caught my eye, because I love me some sweet, sweet, Costco. It holds a dark fascination for me that really isn’t healthy.
My relationship with Costco isn’t an easy one. Many early trips saw me trying to fit all kinds of random things into my car trunk. If anyone out there has any use for the entire filmography of Dana Andrews on Beta Max, please let me know. And I honestly don’t know why I thought my little family could use up 235 D batteries before the next ice age.
But, after much time, and exercising superhuman self-control, occasionally I can get out of there for less than $100. Not often, but occasionally.
The catalytic article supplied a list of foodstuffs that one must or must not buy at a warehouse club.
A few of the do-bees on the list, meat, cooking oil, and nuts, are good ideas, for me. They butcher their meat on-site, and it is usually beautiful. Unless you feed twenty or more diners each night, you will have to break it up into smaller amounts, and freeze it. My own shopping habits have produced quite a bounty for freezer bag industry. I guess that makes me a job creator.
Costco has a cut of meat that they call tri-tip. It’s not the usual triangular shaped piece of beef you might be familiar with. It’s cut into long strips, five or six inches long, and an inch wide. The great thing about this steak is that you can cook it for a long time, like stew meat (it’s great for beef Stroganoff), or you can cook it quickly for a juicy, flavorful, yet oddly shaped steak. The carnivores at my house enjoy a simple, mock fillet mignon that I came up with.

Tri-Strip Mignon

4 Costco tri-tip strips
8 thin slices of bacon
salt and pepper

Cook bacon on a plate wrapped in paper towels in microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes on high until it’s hot and has lost some grease into the paper towel. This will par-cook it, so it will be much easier to crisp in the pan. Wrap a slice evenly around a piece of seasoned meat, from end to end. Truss it up with butcher twine.

Into a dry heavy skillet (cast iron is perfect) heated to medium, medium-high, place the steaks, and cook them until the bacon is browned and crisp, turning them as they cook. By the time the bacon is done, the meat will be cooked medium rare.
When done, remove from pan, and let rest, lightly covered, for 6-8 minutes. Serve whole, or slice into pretty little rounds.

Those buys make sense for me. Some of the other purchasing suggestions, though, were akin to encouraging a canary to buy dental insurance.
Cereal: Each October The Kid and Petey eagerly urge me to purchase boxes and boxes of the seasonally available Boo Berry and Frankenberry cereal (not big Count Chocula fans). That’s pretty much the only cereal they eat.
I just checked. It is now early June, and I have 3/4 of a box of Boo Berry, and an unopened box of Frankenberry. I should chuck them, but it’s funny to see the monsters grinning down at me from the top of the fridge.
Another list must-buy: coffee. Petey can’t abide the stuff (he’s a Mountain Dew man), and I only like coffe in ice cream and ridiculous lattes prepared by someone other than me. Being a college student though, The Kid loves it. We bought a fancy maker from Starbucks that makes a single, large travel mug’s worth. The problem is, not long after purchasing said maker, the mug was lost. The machine will only work with the special receptacle, so Gramma kindly purchased a second (the entire thing, they don’t sell the cups separately). After that one’s vessel went AWOL, the coffee maker became an expensive, shiny paperweight. Coffee is now purchased by my child, prepared and iced, from Bean Traders, in a massive jug that looks like it should contain white lightening. So, buying seventeen pounds of coffee isn’t a wise choice for us.
Some of the don’t-bees are just as wrong (for me).
Fresh produce. We may not like melons enough to eat eight of them before they go slimy and brown, but my family can put away loads of things like asparagus, mushrooms, and fresh cherries. They carry big bags of sugar snap peas that we love, and there’s enough for few dinners in each sack.
Milk was a recommended commodity. I do buy their heavy cream in quarts. Cream lasts a long time, and we always use it up. But a two gallon jug of milk? I could sail to Singapore on the oceans of expired milk I’ve dumped.
Condiments, such as mayonnaise, were no-nos. But I’m Southern girl. Believe me when I say we can, and do, use up a gallon of that magical white stuff on a regular basis. Mustard and ketchup though, not so much.
Every family is different, and the Huffpost list takes for granted that everyone eats and lives exactly like the writer.
Thus, my point. Before you go all consumer-crazy, and fill your warehouse cart with stuff that will be thrown away, unused, do your homework.
Maybe the thought of six gallons of pickles makes you queasy. Then don’t buy them. But if you can’t start the day without a couple of gerkins dunked in your morning beverage, it’s a very smart buy. Just be realistic, and get only what’s right for you.
Thanks for your time.

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