Friday, February 02, 2007

It’s all about the Ribeye

I live in Adams Mass., near the “Big Y” Supermarket. It’s a small chain, with 27 stores in Mass. and Connecticut (launched in 1936 in Chicopee, MA at a “Y” intersection, as I learned at It’s convenient for me, and I buy close to half my groceries there, but sometimes it feels like I’m going to a casino, not knowing if I’m going to get a good price, or pay perhaps 50% more than a good price. Further, in order to get the good price you may have to bring not only the members’ card on your keychain, but also their big, plastic, color-coded discount coins.

So when I have the time and I’m driving by, I go to the big Stop & Shop on the North Adams / Williamstown border, or the Wild Oats, for baked goods and produce; and I also feel like I should stop by Wal-Mart every couple of weeks, getting everything I need which they have there, cheaper. So my convenient supermarket, isn’t.

On a related note, I try to buy things in small, local shops in Adams and North Adams when practical. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still largely about the Benjamins. I won’t eschew the leviathan from Arkansas just because it’s the leviathan from Arkansas (or because “it’s like Hitler,” as my mother helpfully pointed out), but at the same time I’m willing to give a little place some business if the service justifies the price. It often does: Service is great around here, precisely – I suppose – because the business climate is so difficult; and often the prices are great too.

One such place I’m happy to shop in several times a month is The Jolly Butcher Shoppe in Adams. I haven’t tried the deli items, but the raw meat is great. It’s open Wed-Sat 10:00-6:00 at 90 Summer Street, an area that’s neck-and-neck with Eagle Street in North Adams for the prize of Most Struggling Retail District in the Berkshires. (I also get haircuts and furniture on Summer Street.)

So how does it stack up? I’ve taken Jolly Butcher’s printed price list to the Big Y a couple of times. (I was surprised at how paranoid I felt with my “Jolly Butcher” price-list, as if a couple goons wearing bloody “Y” aprons were gonna throw me out of the joint.) And Jolly’s meat prices were almost always better than Big Y’s. I’m not going to get into specifics, because prices fluctuate, but I entered prices into a spreadsheet,* and Jolly averaged about 24% lower than Big Y’s regular prices. When items had a “Sale” promotion at Big Y, Jolly Butcher was still 8% less expensive. It was only the “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” deals at Big Y which were cheaper than Jolly’s prices. They’re great if you happen to luck into something you want, and you want 2 of them, but they’re not reliable sources of savings unless you’re completely flexible about what’s for dinner, and yet can pack away a lot of the same cut of meat before age or freezing enter into the picture.

My favorite piece of meat is probably the Ribeye steak. Jolly always seems to have it, cutting up a big boneless one every week. (I wouldn’t mind the bone, too, if the price were cut slightly to reflect that.) Usually I fry it in an almost dry, very hot pan for 2 minutes on a side, remove the steaks and turn the heat down to medium, then put in a couple tablespoons each of butter, chopped fresh ginger or garlic, and soy sauce, and return the steaks until medium-rare. The ultimate in meaty goodness!

The Jolly Butcher has also recently added cooked chicken on the bone [pressure-fried] sold a la carte. When the owner told me he was going to be spending $13,000 to install a cooker and vent for chicken and fish, I resisted the temptation to shout, “Good God man, haven’t you noticed this is a depressed mill town?” Well, it’s fortunate he ignored the advice I did not presume to proffer, because it’s better than any other fried or roasted chicken I’ve ever had.

* (prices for Hamburger 90% lean, Hamburger 80%, Filet Mignon, London Broil, Boneless Ribeye, Chuck Roast, Boneless Breast and Pork Tenderloin)


TWBernard said...

I may have to check out The Jolly Butcher the next time I pick up The Kid from school. It sounds like a good deal. I'll also have to give your ribeye preparation a try, as I like a good pan sauce as much as the next guy.

Important question: beer or wine with your ribeye?

As for the Big Y, I do our meat shopping there. I find I do end up being sufficiently flexible (read: cheap) about what's for dinner (like you, I do most of the cooking for my family), and only shop for what I can get Buy 1, Get 1 (and the occasional Buy 1, Get 2) deal on. It makes for the occasionally...improvisational menu, but it works for us.

As for the coin thing, I'm still not entirely sure I understand the mechanics of the program. But, hey, I won a gold coin yesterday, so, Woo Hoo! Free two pound box of frozen corn dogs, here I come!

DWPittelli said...

1) Cabernet with steak. Chardonnay with pork tenderloin. Beer with pork ribs.
2) Some Y "specials" require a coin. You can only use one coin per item. A silver coin takes $1.25 off the regular price. The red coin, I believe, is next, and takes off $2.50. If the item is expensive enough, the blue coin takes off $3.75.

TWBernard said...

I'm right there with you on the steak and the ribs, but you're on your own with the pork. I don't care for white wine in any form, so I'd probably venture into cretin land and drink a nice glass of red with the pork.

Anonymous said...

a silver coin takes $2 off any purchase of wild caught fresh haddock at the fish counter of big y. it retails for $9.99/lb. i tell the fish man to cut me two quarter pound pieces of the haddock and weigh and wrap them seperately. I then pickup a lemon, a habernero pepper, an onion, 1 clove of garlic, a small roma (plum) tomato and lastly, two rolls. using these ingredients, i create sauteed haddock sandwiches that would rival any fine restaraunt. i give the cashier my big y card and two silver coins. how much do you think this meal costs? $2.50 - i'd like to see the jolly rancher of butchers on summer street beat that! if you wait and watch you get good deals at big y. you have to shop frequently and know what a good deal is though first!

Anonymous said...


I agree you can get a good bargain at Big Y if you work hard at it and are lucky. I compared it to a casino, not to a no-cover strip club (where you uniformly pay triple what you should for your drinks). On the other hand, a supermarket with that business plan might get some business...