The grocery business in an ever changing landscape. Stores come and stores go. Recently I had to say a sad farewell to Hiller's Market in Ann Arbor (the store where I first tasted Cotton Candy grapes), now a member of the Kroger company. But as Hiller's presence in Michigan fades away, a new store is just beginning to make it's presence known in the Mitten State. Over the 4th of July weekend, I got to visit my first ever Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market store in East Lansing. Three other locations in Michigan are about to open up this week: Troy, Rochester Hills, and Northville. Plans have been submitted for a store in Ypsilanti.
The purpose of this post is to guide you through some items that are worth buying if you find yourself inside a Fresh Thyme store. This isn't meant to be an overall critique of the store.
1. Produce Sales
Produce is to me is the heart and soul of every grocery store. Without good selection and good prices including amazing sales, then you won't find me shopping there much. Fresh Thyme does have those things. They were offering blueberries for 88 cents a pint when I was there, which is a great place only topped when the Michigan crop comes out. This is the kind of sale that brings people into the store to begin with. I easily felt I could grab any vegetable I needed for dinner without "overpaying" for them.
2. Bulk Foods
Every good grocery store should have a bulk foods section - that place where you can buy a small amount of a item to try. I was disappointed years ago when Meijer did a way with their bulk food bins. On this shopping trip my daughter wanted some key lime yogurt pretzels. She has been a big key lime yogurt kick lately. We saw in a 1 pound container but didn't want to make that big of a commitment. Thanks to the bulk bin I was able to get her a few to try out for a snack. Without a bulk section, I probably wouldn't have made that purchase at all. Besides yogurt pretzels, they had all the traditional standbys of nuts, dried fruits, granola, flour, oats, etc. And they have some more unique, trendy bulk items like...
Besides just your regular bulk stuff, Fresh Thyme also has honey in bulk. They have local Michigan honey that you can depense yourself so you only buy actually how much you want. Besides honey they also have bulk...
4. Bulk Oil
Add oils to the list of great bulk options at Fresh Thyme. Again buy as much or as little as you want. Only need extra virgin olive oil for one recipe this week, then you can buy a small amount and you don't need to commit so much of your weekly grocery budget to a big ticket item.
5. Cheese for a Good Price
We are a cheese loving family, so good prices on cheese is a must for us. Fresh Thyme had a lot of basic cheeses that were affordable (in the $2.99 to $5.99 per pound range). The mild cheddar you see in the bottom of the above photo was price at $2.99/pound and made in Michigan!
6. Chicken Breast Sales
Whenever you can get boneless skinless chicken breasts for under $2/lb is a time to rejoice. While this may not be the everyday price, a sale like this gives you a chance to stock up and freeze them. And most grocery store will repeat these kind of sales regularly enough so that when you run out, it will be on sale again soon.
7. Ground Beef Sales
At the same time as the chicken sale, was a time to stock up on ground beef as well as it was going for $3.99/lb for 85% lean. Another thing to stock up on.
8. Ground Game Meat
Like an alternative to beef? Fresh Thyme carries Blackwing ground meats that include venison, antelope, elk, and bison (labeled as buffalo). These kinds of meat can be more difficult to find in the larger supermarket chains, so I am glad to see Fresh Thyme carrying these products. The now departed Hiller's also sold frozen game meat, so it's good for local consumers to immediately have a new option in the general area.
9. House Made Sausage
Their meat department isn't a huge one, yet the selection of sausage is incredible. We tried three different types for our dinner a night later and were very pleased with the taste. We tried both pork and chicken sausages.
10. Michigan Made
Nowadays everyone is getting into carrying local products, even the Meijer and Kroger of the world. So any new store has to feature them and Fresh Thyme does it well with several end caps featuring Michigan made products. So you can get your favorite local jams, jellies, BBQ sauces, coffeees, etc.
11. Local Milk
Each store is going to cater to it's local region. I am glad to see that the Fresh Thyme in East Lansing is carrying Mooville milk, one of my absolutely favorite dairies in the country. Their chocolate milk may be the best ever. They also carry cream-line milk that has not been homogenized - very to find. People believe this milk is easier to digest.
12. Salt Water Taffy
If you got a sweet tooth, make sure to grap some salt water taffy on the way out the door. They have a nice selection in a very appealing display. They brilliantly marketed a bag full of patriotic colors for Independence Day. It's fun to let the kids pick out a few flavors of their own for a road trip or to have a bowl of them on your dinner table when welcoming guests.