It’s About Thyme

entrance2Fresh Thyme is a combined spirit of a weekend farmer’s market and the convenience of a neighborhood store to create a new and health shopping experience.”

I’ve always been a grocery store junkie.  In college, my best friend and I would actually take “field trips” to the grocery store just to see what was new.  A little pathetic, maybe, but I don’t care.  #sorrynotsorry

After we moved away from each other, we would still take our little field trips.  One time when I was in Louisville visiting her, we went to Fresh Market.  I liked it so much I wrote a blog post about it!  Other times, before we had Trader Joe’s close to us, we met in Cincinnati to see what all the fuss was about.

When I was contacted to provide an honest review of a new grocery store in the Dayton area, I immediately signed up for it.  How exciting!  What’s funny is when I was contacted, the girl didn’t tell me what grocery store it was.  Just that it was a “new store in the Dayton area”.  I’d made plans to visit the store with a girlfriend even before the name was revealed.

My friend, Kristy, and I planned to go to Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market last Sunday afternoon.  Looking back, it was probably the single most awful time to go to the grocery store we could have picked.  The fact that I (the person who would rather chew her own arm off than be in a big crowd of people) still enjoyed myself speaks volumes. First and foremost, it was a gorgeous day.  Chilly, but bright blue skies.

Outside I’m always in such a great mood when the sky is filled with light, wispy clouds, aren’t you? In we went, with no intention of buying anything.  Kristy suggested we get a cart, which we did.  She wanted to get a big cart but I assured her we wouldn’t even need the little mini cart.  Haha.  Yeah, I was wrong.

EntranceThe first area we came to was produce.  It was a farmer’s market, after all.  Now I know every store has their own lost leaders (products with super low prices that drive customers in the store), but $.89 for a pint of strawberries is crazy!  And what’s more?  They were delicious.  Seriously.

I kept looking for prices to be unreasonable as they are in most “trendy” grocery stores, but in all honesty Fresh Thyme had very comparable (if not cheaper) prices to big box retailers like Kroger.  In addition to their great prices, they have this cool thing where you can “double dip” on Wednesdays.  They call it Double Ad Wednesdays. See, every Wednesday their new ad breaks BUT their old ad still rings at the sale prices.  What does this mean?  On Wednesdays you get both the past week’s and the current week’s sale prices at the same time! Kristy and I meandered around, trying to take in everything the store had to offer.

BreadOne of my favorite little corners was the artisan bread display.  I was tempted to pick up a loaf of the sourdough, but I am trying to be good and avoid loaves of bread.  They can be a trouble food for me.

BakeryI was happy to learn that these artisan breads are made locally, be it in the store or utilizing local area bakeries.

SandwichesMoving right along, they have an assortment of sandwiches and other goodies you can purchase for lunch or a light dinner.  I used to work right down the road and it would have been awesome to be able to run in for a quick bite knowing I was getting quality, local ingredients in a delicious meal.

SushiTheir sushi selections were amazing too.  Wanna know something cool?  They fly in their seafood fresh daily.  Wanna know something else cool?  They do their research and make sure their fish is sustainable, proving they are not only looking for the best quality product but are also considerate of the environment.  I like that.

You know how that “other” grocery store has their infamous salad and prepared foods bar?

OlivesSalad2Sala1Check.

Meat1Next up was the meat counter.  Some of you know how much I love the meat counter at Dorothy Lane Market.  Fresh Thyme gave DLM a run for their money.  Such succulent cuts of beef!

Meat2Check out their carne asada.  Doesn’t that look yum?  I thought so.  A pound of it made it into my cart. Another thing I liked about Fresh Thyme was just how many things they made fresh in house.  One thing in particular was their sausages.  They have over a dozen different varieties of sausage they make daily.  I’m definitely picking up a couple of those next time!  I smell sizzling sausage with peppers and onions in my future…

OnionsTheir produce section seemed to be never ending.  I loved the gorgeous displays all over the place.  As opposed to the picked over selections at Kroger, this produce was piled in luscious, bountiful mounds. I found out they source their produce locally and buy direct from vendors in order to keep costs down.  I’ll bring up those strawberries again.  We were able to sample them in the store and they were so yummy I bought two pints.  I’m very seriously considering stopping by again to pick up more even though it’s out of my way.

OK, wait.  Let’s talk bulk bins for a minute.

CoffeeBulkJust look at these beauties!  Coffee, grains, flours, seeds, nuts, fruit.  You name it.  They had it.  It’s the perfect way to try something you’re curious about (read: coconut flour) without having to invest in a $10 bag of the stuff you may never use again.

That’s all.  Carry on.

To be perfectly honest, Kristy and I didn’t spend a whole ton of time in the dry grocery section of the store.  We were too fascinated with the fresh areas.  We were able to find several varieties of Vita Tops (one of Kristy’s favorites) and a great deal on Alexia frozen potatoes though.

Finally we wandered around the “fun” aisles.  That’s beer and wine to you.  They have a huge selection of both!

BeerThey had at least 8 cooler doors full of craft beer as well as domestic favorites.

Wine2Wine1In addition, they had an enormous amount of wine, especially for a relatively small grocery store.  Love it!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Did I like this store?  No. I loved it.  I was so impressed by the quality of ingredients, the layout and merchandising of the store (which is a lot coming from a retail manager), and most of all the affordable pricing.  I talked to several of the employees while I was there and you can really tell they love what they do.  They want to bring happiness and quality to their customers, a trait I find extremely rare in the retail environment. At Walgreens, we hold the customer experience in the highest regard, so when I find other retailers who do the same thing (read: Chick Fil A), I make it my mission to point it out.

Basically, everything you need to know is in their mission statement:  to improve the way our communities eat by offering fresh and healthy food at amazing values, in a fun and vibrant store with friendly faces. I felt every bit of their mission statement in the too-crowded-for-my-comfort-level visit on Sunday afternoon.   (Disclaimer: it was only too crowded for me.  Normal people would be perfectly fine in there.)

If you’re looking for a new grocery store to try where the quality is king and the prices are reasonable, check out Fresh Thyme.  I promise it’s worth a trip.

In all honesty, I was compensated by Fresh Thyme to review their grocery story, but all views and opinions of the store are 100% my own.

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March 2013 Meal Plan

So…you may have noticed I’ve basically missed the entire month of February!  Whoops!  Something has happened in the last several weeks that has taken my attention away from the blog.  Oh wait…it’s called LIFE.  Obviously when presented with the choice between real life and virtual life, I choose real life.  But how could you ignore this sweet face?

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If you were around last month, you might remember my meal plan for February.  I am the first to admit that plans, schedules, and tastes change, so my plan is extremely adaptable.  It’s honestly more like a list of options for the month.

Since I am a retail manager, my schedule is never the same week to week.  Some days I open (7:30-5), some days I close (1-10:30), and some days I’m off.  I don’t know a month of schedules ahead of time, so I just pick what sounds good to make for the month and hope for the best.  When my schedule and the meal planned for that day don’t coincide, meals change.  I either move a different meal to that day or figure out a different option altogether.

Last month, not only did schedule conflicts arise, but I got sick with the stomach bug!  Then Jeff followed soon after.  Obviously I wasn’t going to cook if I felt like I might…you know…any minute.  Enter Dominos.  🙂

Here’s what my “real” meal plan resulted in:

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The red ones (if you can’t deduce for yourself) were the meals I ended up not making.  And the dates for the meals I did make were way off.  For instance, I made the General Tso’s Chicken last night!  Whatever works, right?

I like my way of doing a meal plan because it feels very customizable to our lifestyle.  I can’t wait for the day where my schedule is predictable, but until that happens I will stick to this method.

Here’s the next month of meals:

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I’m trying a few new categories this month.  Sandwiches are coming in to play more simply because I want to start using my panini press again!  I’ve also added Casseroles back into the mix.  We end up eating probably one a week anyways, so I thought a category for it would just make sense.  I’m also trying out Side Dishes.  I have an entire board of side dishes on my Pinterest account that I never use, so I thought this would be a good way to do that.  I’m pairing the sides with a basic, easy to make entree.

I had a question about what I serve with these entrees most of the time.  Typically, I grab a prepared veggie dish out of the freezer (you know, Green Giant, Steamfresh, etc).  They are so quick and easy, plus require no added concentration.  When you have hungry husbands and toddlers milling around the kitchen like vultures, you need to be able to concentrate on the meal and get it to the table quicker than Usain Bolt.  If I have some time and the ingredients onhand, I might roast some veggies instead.  Asparagus, green beans, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are my favorites.  I also like to add a fruit of some sort to Jake’s meal.  He is still in love with blueberries and grapes.  We also keep little fruit cups in the pantry just in case.  In a pinch, I’ll pull out an old stand by.

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He still loves them!

I hope you guys enjoy this post.  Please let me know if you tried any of the meals from last month and what you thought.  Also, if you want the recipes I included in this month’s post, check out my March Meal Plan 2013 board on Pinterest!

Sister Bean’s Coffee House & The Fresh Market (Louisville)

Continuing on our Louisville journey (a week later) brings us to a place that only exists for me in my dreams…Sister Bean’s Coffee House. Well, OK, not really just in my dreams, but not in reality until I make the pilgrimage back to Louisville.

As you probably know, I love coffee.  I have a mega slight addiction to Starbucks and usually cannot function in the morning until after at least one cup of coffee.  (Slight side note:  picked up Whole Foods’ City Roast coffee while in Louisville and am now addicted.  What gives?)  When Carolyn mentioned there was a place in Louisville that made Starbucks look like “a short, fat, bald man” (Friends anyone?), I was all in.

The drive to the coffee house took us past Iroquois Park, one of Carolyn’s favorite places to run in Louisville.  In fact, the location of said coffee house was right across the street from the park!  We both decided that would be great motivation for her to go running there on days she had time.  You know…run a bit, get a coffee!  Sounds like a winner to me!

Carolyn mentioned the frappuccinos were amazing and, since it was 90+ degrees outside, I decided a frosty, cold beverage was the way to go.  They had tons of options from which to choose.

I went with the Coconut Mocha Frappuccino.

Oh. My. Amazing.

Indeed as I was slurping this bad boy down, I was picturing short, fat, bald men running around the store holding Starbucks coffees while sneering. (The little men do not like being replaced.)  Starbucks doesn’t hold a candle to Sister Bean.  The smoothness of my beverage was remarkable.  Starbucks’ frappuccinos have bits of ice in them, almost as if they didn’t spend enough time on the blender.  Sister Bean’s frappuccino tasted like a milkshake.

The shop was so cute, with lots of great artwork hanging around.

They also had an extensive amount of baked goods (some vegan!) and ice cream!  What more could you ask for?

Comfy chairs?  Check!
Fireplace?  Check!

I could sit here and read my book for hours.  It’s definitely going on my list of Must Visit places when I go to Louisville.  At this rate, I’ll have to start going for three or four days at a time just to fit all the places in!

Another place I fell in love with was The Fresh Market.

After seeing Carolyn’s post, I knew I had to go.  This is a foodie’s paradise.  Well, sort of.  If you want to talk about places a foodie could live in for years at a time, you need to mention Jungle Jim’s.  Carolyn and I ventured there a few months ago and it was so huge I felt overwhelmed.  I will definitely have to do a review on this place!

Anyhow…Fresh Market.  It’s similar to Whole Foods, but it just feels different.  It feels more cozy, like you’re in someone’s home.  Don’t ask me why I felt like that…I just did.

The minute we walked in the store, the smell of these cinnamon scented pine cones smacked us in the face.

I loved the lighting combined with all the wood in this store.  Like I said…cozy.

And orchids are my favorite flower, so seeing them upon entrance was a nice little touch.

Then I saw it.  Barrels and barrels of coffee beans!  I stood in the same spot for several minutes inhaling the sweet, wonderful fragrance.  (Man, if this store doesn’t play on your senses!)

In addition to the bulk bins of coffee, they had bulk spices,

bulk seeds, grains, granolas,

and bulk dried veggies.

I loved all the different pastas too.

Finally, they had a wonderful cheese display.  Don’t you just love the little faux shop canopy above?

What a great day.  Two new discoveries!  And bonus…Fresh Market is a chain and there are two in Cincinnati!  Score!

What’s your favorite local or chain grocery store?