No more pickle juice. Our fridge is once again stocked

When camp’s summer season and our 187 dining hall meals come to an end, so does the emptiness in our fridge.

For more than two months, our fridge contained only condiments, including some empty pickle jars (I wanted to make my own similar brine) and half a loaf of bread that never seemed to spoil (or get eaten). Other than that, and the occasional half-gallon of milk for Erika, the 12-year-old late breakfast eater we share our lives with, it was empty.

Restocking it is so much fun.

Our annual restock-the-kitchen shopping trip in 2010 netted this grocery bill from Price Chopper. This year was different.

Two years ago, when we moved into the house after two months of having our things in storage, it was a $525 visit to Price Chopper (right) that helped with the restocking. I still can’t believe we spent that much in one store, although the fact that we needed two carts should have prepared me. I felt like Mr. Duggar.

Last year, it was a trip to Wegmans in Syracuse, two hours away. We didn’t get the savings we thought we might experience, but the selection seems superior to any supermarket within an hour of here. Still does. If Wegmans shows up in Amsterdam or Johnstown, I’ll be there three days a week.

This time, because we needed to drop somebody at Albany International Airport three days after camp ended, we decided to do it all in the Albany area. And what fun!

Erika shows off a basket of food we picked up for a friend at Trader Joe’s in Colonie.

First stop: The new Trader Joe’s on Wolf Road in Colonie. Having spent 10 years in Jersey, we’re no stranger to this California chain, which has quality items and fair prices. We always seem to buy more than we need and pay less than we expect.

While Erika picked up some products a friend had requested and Julie poked through produce for guacamole making, I headed toward snack foods. Hummus chips and lentil chips were musts. Together, we picked out a handful of prepared Asian sauces and chutneys, black pepper-cured salami and Manchego, Pecorono Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. We also bought some frozen fish (when TJ’s fish is packed and stored right, it’s the best frozen fish I’ve ever bought). We spent about $90 total.

After a stop at Barnes & Noble, it was off to the Asian Super Market on Central Avenue, Albany, about a half-mile east of Colonie Center. The mixed aroma of dead fish and air fresheners (4 for $3!) was horrifying, and Julie retreated to the car. Erika and I photographed the dead fish in supposed live fish tanks, then grabbed about five bucks worth of rice noodles and bailed, although not before buying some freshly steamed pork buns for she and I. (Note: While the fish area was disgusting, the bakery and butcher sections looked immaculate).

Cardona’s Market on Delaware Avenue in Albany was next, but it was a quick stop. We sampled about a dozen cheeses before settling on a Pickwick cheddar (with caramelized onions), Trugole (like a semi-soft asiago), aged provolone and ricotta salata, which is destined for a soup I’ve been meaning to make. We also grabbed some San Marzano tomatoes for a friend and got out of there about $25 lighter. It would have been $50 if had been lunchtime, because the prepared food looked amazing and I have enjoyed their sandwiches on earlier visits. Had this been Sergio & Co. in Denville, it would have been a $100 stop.

Julie and Erika pull a glass bottle of Ronnybrook Farm Dairy chocolate milk from the dairy case at ShopRite in Niskayuna.

Instead of doing the main grocery shopping at Hannaford or Price Chopper, we instead hit ShopRite in Niskayuna, hoping to find the same value and selection and ShopRites in New Jersey. I didn’t feel like we saved a bunch, but for the most part, I was happy with the selection. The store boasts a large number of local products, particularly among ice cream, where at least four companies from less than 100 miles away were represented. We loaded up on the usual cereals, canned beans and other staples, as well as some Ronnybrook Farm Dairy items: A quart of chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream (consumed in the car) and blackberry yogurt drinks. That bill was a little over $200.

We saved more than $150 from the last few years, and we don’t feel like we bought any less.

And we’ll be eating well for months.

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