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Pantry Makeover II: Where To Snag Great Items

Updated: Jan 10, 2021

Happy New Year To Y'all!

First of all, I am going to be real with y'all. These spices were in my closet in my bedroom. My parents gifted them to me because...well...they know me and they understand that I hoard spices. So much so that I forgot these were in my closet. You know...the place where normal people keep their clothes. Anyway...

Question: Where do you get your pantry items?

Most people just go to their local grocery stores to get their spices, sauces, canned & dried goods. I do it! Walmart has some good, basic spices available. That Kroger 10/10 never steered me wrong. Publix's dry goods aren't so bad, either. But what if you want more from the stores you go to? What if you want more diverse ingredients and flavors? Where else do you snag great items?

A majority of my grocery shopping happens at a variety of different stores, including Kroger, Aldi, farmers markets and Asian markets.

I live in a pretty diverse area, but I can't get everything I need at one stop. When I moved here, I thought I didn’t have that many options for diverse ingredients except for Publix and Target that are right up the road. You see, I was very spoiled. Several years ago, I moved to an area in Atlanta (Chamblee) where every international market I thought I needed was located. I had Buford Highway Farmers Market, City Farmers Market, Supermercado Chicago and more. At most, many of them were ten minutes away from me. It was admittedly amazing. I had aisles and aisles of spices, canned goods and noodles to choose from and I totally forgot that when I lived elsewhere, I didn’t have those things. So when I moved to my current residence, near the Atlanta Airport, I was mildly irritated that I had to find things. Boo-hoo, right?

I saw this as a problem at first, but became an adventure. It reminded me of my time in Armenia when I thought I wouldn't be able to find what I needed to cook for myself and then ended up finding an extremely wonderful open air market because I asked around and explored the city in which I lived.

Look at that beautiful market!

In my current city, I ended up I peeking my head into a few smaller markets that didn’t seem like they would have what I wanted but ended up having my whole list. I never knew what I was going to find, and I always scored more than I thought I would for less money. This lead me to having a kitchen full of creative supplies, which comes in handy and which is why you should find and diversify your supplies.

Yesterday, I ended up at Super Giant Mart. I woke up with a craving for steak, and I was reading some cooking blogs and came across a flank steak burrito bowl. I had to think about the things I already had to make this:

  • Dried chiles (ancho and guajillo)

  • Oranges

  • Limes

  • Cumin

  • Brown rice

  • Sour cream (for crema)

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

I had everything to make this thing except the steak, cilantro, corn and tomatoes. That seems like a lot of things not to have, but I ran through my meats in the freezer, I wanted to grill the corn, so frozen was out and I don’t buy tomatoes in the winter, typically. And I really needed to get out of the house!

It was time for a field trip to Super Giant Mart.

Upon first glance, SGM looks like an old Piggly Wiggly. Perhaps it used to be. However, it is a pretty diverse market where you won’t spend an arm and a leg. It is not shiny and beautiful like Buford Highway Farmers Market. It is, however, one of those neighborhood places that has a small but strong variety of Mexican, African and Asian ingredients. You can get a 40 pound bag of rice and large whole fish as well as bulk fruits, vegetables and produce. You can also just go for a handful of herbs, dried spices and canned goods. The meat counter isn’t bad and you can even find whole lamb and goat at certain times of the year.

Anyway, here’s what you’ll see when you go inside SGM, or a store like it:

It seems “meh” at first, I agree. When you get in there further, you'll realize it has so many flavor options, spices and pantry items! This is where you can get reasonably priced things for your dry pantry.

Walk in with an open mind:

Fast forward to when I returned home, this is what I got and it cost me about than $17:

  • Two avocados

  • Eight tomatoes

  • Five ears of corn

  • A medium sized bottle of lime juice

  • A bunch of cilantro

I made a pit stop to Aldi to get a skirt steak because SGM didn't have it that day and a 16oz carton of organic mixed greens and I only spent $13. This was a meal for two people plus enough left over for one more and also produce left for at least three more salads!

Anyway, that was my adventure for that day! It was all done inexpensively with back up from what I already had established in my pantry. I will share my recipe soon! The moral of this story: Stay Ready.

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