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January 4, 2011

You got my attention with your big orange sticker!

Over the weekend Jennifer and I went to the movies and I had popcorn which means my New Year's resolutions are off to a good start. I should have tried this years ago -- resolve to do more things that are fun! After all, if the only thing I achieve in all of 2011 is watching movies and eating popcorn, could it be that bad of a year?

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At the beginning of every new year I tend to get some kind of wild hair up my youknowwhat to clean something, usually the pantry or the fridge. This year I am starting with my freezer, since just last week I realized it was too full to fit a single popsicle inside it.

You see, one day in early June I went to the grocery store. This does not sound like the beginning of an awesome story, does it? But anyway, stay with me.

So it was 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. This was quite a novelty for me. I had not been able to go to the market at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday in over a decade or two because I had a job and a commute and so like many people I did my grocery shopping on the weekends or after work, when the stores were always packed with people and the goal was to get in and out and be done with it. Just another chore, which sucks, because I love grocery stores.

When I travel to other countries my favorite thing to do besides eat and sleep and order wine using my poorly accented phrasebook lingo is to visit the local grocery store. I have grocery shopped in Iceland and in Poland and in all kinds of places in between. But that's vacation, when life is easy and no one is honking at you for your parking spot at the local Ralph's.

So there I was, reveling -- no, basking -- in the practically empty grocery store right there in my own neighborhood at ten o'clock in the morning one Tuesday in early June. As I leisurely wandered the aisles I looked at the few other shoppers there. "Who are these people?" I wondered. "What kinds of lives do they have that they get this luxury of shopping on a weekday morning? Am I now one of these creatures? And where did that lady get that cup of coffee?"

In the mornings at Ralph's they sell fresh coffee. You can carry it around in your little to-go cup while you leisurely shop. I poured my coffee and carried it around the store and thought that life was just so good it couldn't get any better.

Then I wandered into the aisle with the fresh meats and I saw a whole little section full of packages of great looking steaks and chicken and all sorts of stuff with a big orange sticker on each package that yelled, MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!

There were big, gorgeous New York strip steaks all packaged up and looking perfect yet they were marked down to $2.50. FOR A WHOLE STEAK. There was some organic ground beef, some rump roast, all of it was marked down by at least 70% with these bright stickers and I thought I had hit the jackpot. I happened to get unemployed and show up at the grocery store on the same day the manager went buckwild crazy and put all this stuff on special.

I bought all of it. I packaged it away neatly in my freezer and felt comforted and also, very lucky.

So imagine my surprise when one week later I was back in the store and I walked down that same aisle and a nice Ralph's employee was unloading a little tray of delicacies all again marked with MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!!

"This is amazing," I said to him. "Is this something new? How do you sell a filet mignon for four dollars? Did your manager develop a crack habit and get sticker happy? Are you all going out of business or something?"

As he works with The Public and also The Public of Los Angeles he was completely unruffled by what I now realize is a crazyass looney bin kind of question. He was just as polite and nice as could be.

"No," he explained. "We just mark down the perishables as the sell-by date gets nearer or when we get in a shipment that's too large."

"Ooooooooooh," I said, as the light came on inside my small brain. "So you do this all the time? Usually I've come on the weekends and never noticed."

"We have specials every weekday, just about. Anything on the weekend would sell out early, though, because of the crowds," he said.

So that is how I discovered the MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!! and I spent the next two months telling everyone I knew about this miracle thing I had discovered that was kept secret from me, a formerly late-night and weekend-only shopper.

But with my excitement and overzealousness now I have all this stuff in my freezer, which is why this week I am starting off my new year by eating all kinds of fascinating steak dishes and recipes using things I normally never buy but could not resist once they were eleven hundred percent cheaper than usual. After all, those MANAGER'S SPECIALS!!! won't keep indefinitely.

Every time I open my freezer and pull out another ridiculously insanely inexpensive YET STILL perfectly good steak or cutlet or chicken breast, I feel like I have beaten the system. I am not sure what this says about me. Probably not something good, but nevermind. I have found the MANAGER'S SPECIAL!!!! and that is what really matters.

And also my freezer is being excavated for the new year. All is well.

Posted by laurie at January 4, 2011 6:51 AM