New Grocery Finds and Van Woes

One of the cool finds at Trader Joe’s

Hello and welcome to the blog today!  It’s been a fun and busy January.  Work is keeping a person hopping.  At the time I wrote this post on Monday night, a bus of kids just stopped in.  I was asked to punch in and help for a bit… managing to negotiate for a free dinner as well.  A person has to use every advantage!

It’s been a rough time lately though.  The van, the most reliable vehicle I’ve ever owned, is sick.  It’s dumping antifreeze on the pavement when warm – but not when cold – only when there is cooling system pressure.  A good samaritan customer friend is going to loan me a pressure tester to force a leak and see the origin.  It’s likely the water pump, meaning some extended “down time”.  No biggie – it doesn’t seem to be an engine problem, thank goodness!


 

Today (and tomorrow) is a good time for some much needed rest.  My boss wanted to go to Iowa City to buy some goat and lamb for his Alaskan Husky dogs.  He drove and even bought us lunch.  I was the guide… and found some cool goodies to bring back.  In an effort to save money to fix the van, I’m eating out less and going to do more cooking at home – and make some new dishes!  Without damaging the grocery budget, something of a mood booster was needed and this was the prescription!

A lovely Halal leg of lamb for $9.50…. A bargain compared to recent beef prices!

The first stop was at the Halal butcher.  Trask got over 20 lbs of lamb and goat to use in the raw food mixture he feeds his dogs.  I picked up this lovely leg of lamb and had it cut down to fit the crockpot.  The proprietors of the tiny shop were happy with the large order and gave us each a little mango drink (super tasty!) to try.  The lamb is going in the crockpot tomorrow morning with carrots and cauliflower… Later there will be a sauce added – curry paste and coconut milk.

A “za’atar”

This is the “za’atar” described in a previous post.  It’s a bread with olive oil and a lovely blend of spices – mainly thyme.  While speaking with the clerk at this second store, the “Global Market”, I asked if there was a recipe he knew for this diet.  The man smiled broadly and said “Yes, we have the spices!”  My friend and I discussed how friendly the employees are at the ethnic stores when we express how much we enjoy their food and seasonings… as opposed to recent customer service experiences in some of the larger American food stores.

A whole pound for just $3.50!

A tiny little rolling pin found recently at the Indian grocery store… It’s perfect for making small pizzas and Za’atar breads

 

I was delighted (and shocked, actually) to find this big bag of Za’atar spices for such a low price.  I’ve been making various types of olive oil dough and this will make a perfect treat.  The heavy spices are aromatic and tasty.

From there it was off to Chong’s Asian Market… where there is half a world’s worth of cooking necessities:  meats, vegetables, oils, sauces, spices, rice, etc. representing the Middle East to the Far East.  I picked up some pouches of yellow curry paste and cans of coconut milk to use for simmering meats.  I’m excited about making some exotic food out in the boonies this year.

The next stop was Peking Buffet in sister city Coralville, Iowa where he had a great lunch of Chinese food, sushi, and “mud bugs”…  (crawdads)  It’s been a while since enjoying some good Oriental food – especially the beady-eyed crawdads.  Kitty Jesse James used to love them!

As a cat lover, who can resist kitty cookies?

After lunch we visited Trader Joe’s on the way home.  I was delighted to find these “cat cookies” – sort of a chocolate animal cracker treat.  In reality, cats and dogs should not eat chocolate so Jenny can’t have any.  But she does enjoy chewing on Walker’s shortbread cookies.

It was a lot of fun hanging out with the boss today.  We have a lot of mutual culinary interests.  Trask has been a great guy to work for.  I’m still enjoying the job here and am working to alter my own schedule to be here odd hours and keep the place looking better yet… even when we get school buses full of hungry kids.   🙂

With the weather still cold in Iowa, the down time for the van will provide an opportunity to do some needed cleaning around home.  The Swiffer is getting a workout.  In the meantime, there is a local agency I can call who might be able to assist with the cost of repairing the four wheeled friend I named  “Serena” – the 2007 Chevy Express van which was once home and has provided a lifetime of memories… and will continue to do so again soon.

That’s all for right now.  Take care and thanks for stopping by.  Enjoy the rest of the winter season as we approach the spring camping season.   Safe and happy camping!

Brad and Jenny
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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4 Responses to New Grocery Finds and Van Woes

  1. Jo says:

    What a shopping experience you had and some great bargains to be had also. The plate of food was OK as long as I don’t see those beady eyes staring at me lol.
    Sure hope the van can be repaired ad a low cost but that is a rare thing anymore. At least you are good at figuring out what needs to be done by yourself.

    I’m happy your still happy with your job and that your boss ask you for help when needed, puts some extra cash in your pocket to

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo. Yeah, those beady eyes are a little scary, right? 🙂 Well, last night someone told me about a local agency that might be able to help with the cost of repairing the van. I’m pretty sure it’s the water pump and, if so, don’t really want to tackle that beast. (It’s nasty!) I’ll get something figured out though. Spring fishing and camping season are coming! 🙂

      Take care! — VT

  2. shadowmoss says:

    Your shopping trip is inspiring me. I’m doing a Whole 30 food elimination diet to force myself to up my cooking variety. I see a trip to the Asian marketplace in Tempe as well as the Indian grocery. I may look for other small ethnic grocery stores to increase my spice selection.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Cool! I’ll have to look for the Whole 30 food elimination diet. That sounds interesting! Spices are good – I’ve been able to reduce the salt intake a lot in recent days. Take care!