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Things That Are Hard to Find in the Grocery Store

There are certain items that, because you purchase them rarely and/or they are difficult to categorize, are difficult to find in the grocery store. One may spend half an hour wandering the aisles in a desperate daze on a fruitless search for one product. Three such items spring to mind

toothpicks

pimentos

hand soap

Any others?

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  1. I was totally going to say pimientos too. No two stores can agree on where they go. With pickles? Olives? Vegetables?

    Mine is currently potato sticks, which are an old stress-eating favorite. Shouldn't they be with chips? Chex Mix? No - we'll put them with microwave popcorn today. They will be in the peanut section tomorrow.

    19 Replies
    1. re: NonnieMuss

      Good call on the potato sticks, or as we used to call them, shoestring potatoes.

      Also, pine nuts. Are they in the nut section? Over by the pasta and pasta sauce? Who the hell knows?!

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        I wasn't looking for them, but recently spotted the pine nuts with the pasta sauce this past weekend and took note because I would never suspect they'd be there.

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          I'm staring at this post to burn it into my brain. This is exactly the sort of thing that would make me lose a half hour of my life--pine nuts.

          1. re: alliegator

            I go online to a place that I'm sure isn' t selling the ones from China!

            1. re: mcf

              mcf, can you reveal where you go online for your pine nuts? I'm one of the unfortunate souls who gets "Pine Mouth" and desperately want some Mediterranean/Italian pine nuts so I can eat them again!

              ETA: Never mind! Just saw your post below re: nuts.com - thanks!

          2. re: fldhkybnva

            I believe my grocery store may have those in three separate places:

            1. Produce section - on a little endcap shelf, but not with the other nuts nearby
            2. With the olives and capers
            3. Italian portion of the International aisle

            1. re: Wahooty

              Mine are located in the baking section, by the other bagged nuts.

              1. re: juliejulez

                must be a regional thing, here in south central CT, only walnuts are in baking. All the other bagged nuts are on a shelf unit in produce next to Dried Fruit.
                at Stop and Shop, Big Y, Shop-Rite and Trader Joe's

            2. re: fldhkybnva

              The jars are with the specialty Italian items near the pasta and tomatoes. The bags are with the rest of the nuts in baking. Peanuts are with popcorn and tea. So weird.

            3. re: Perilagu Khan

              The pine nuts in grocery stores here are with the spices. You get like an ounce for $10. That I always buy wholesale and despite copious amounts of pesto, cookies, appetizers and salads, last me a year or two in the freezer. Nice to have on hand!

              1. re: coll

                Where do you buy wholesale?

                And I wonder what the best online purveyor of pine nuts is?

                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  I buy it from the local food wholesalers (here on Long Island we have several to choose from); or the restaurant suppliers (like Jetro/Restaurant Depot); sometimes come 2 lbs but can be up to 5 lbs. Maybe BJs or Costco too, I haven't looked, but many restaurants shop there. I divide in some small ziplocks and there they wait in the freezer....just the pesto I make in the summer and the pignolia cookies at Christmas will use up a good deal of it. And I don't have to be cheap about the amount I use!

                  1. re: Perilagu Khan

                    I love nuts.com.

                    Just got a delivery of Mediterranean pine nuts from them.

                    Other folks who've been using them for years speak really highly of them, too.

                    They also carry less expensive ones, Mexican ones, I think, which may be the same variety/genus as the Chinese ones.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Of course you did. Mine were just delivered on Saturday :)

                      1. re: mcf

                        If you live anywhere in North America, Mexican pine nuts would be the more sustainable choice in terms of distance of shipping. Are they exempt from the chemical substance on the Chinese nuts?

                        1. re: lagatta

                          For those of us who get "pine mouth" from inferior pine nuts (such as those imported from Russia, China, and Vietnam) I'd rather stick with what I know works for me, if I can find it - Italian or Mediterranean. Perhaps New Mexican or Mexican pine nuts are just as good; I'm just not sure I want to risk having a metallic taste in my mouth for days.

                    2. re: coll

                      I buy pine nuts in the bulk bin at our Sprout's--$20 a pound, so I can buy as many or as few as I need. Have never had any pine mouth problems with them.

                      1. re: pine time

                        Ah, now there's a help. We do have a Sprout's. I'll have to check to see if they stock bulk pine nutz.

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan

                          I apologize if this is a duplicate--1st response seems to have disappeared.

                          Our Sprout's has 2 versions of bulk--the barrels and small plastic silos. The pine nuts are in the silo.

                2. Popsicle sticks.

                  Dried beans - sometimes with canned vegetables, sometimes with ethnic foods.

                  Evaporated and shelf-stable milk - sometimes with baking ingredients, sometimes with canned vegetables.

                  Maraschino cherries - sometimes with canned fruit, sometimes with ice cream toppings and good luck with finding the latter!

                  Can't say I've ever had problems with pimentos or hand soap.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    Food coloring. Not in baking. Not in spices. But in the hardware aisle next to the bamboo skewers!!!

                    Won ton wrappers. Use to be in produce. Then dairy. Now next to the smoked meats.

                    Strike anywhere matches. Never next to the charcoal.

                    1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                      Yes, the mysterious won ton wrappers - now in the tofu aisle.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        Ours are still in produce with sprouts and kimchi and fresh Asian noodles.

                      2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                        Our food coloring is in the spice aisle.

                      3. re: greygarious

                        Popsicle sticks, try the dollar store, or Michaels/Joannes.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          Maybe bc I'm in Miami but the dried beans have a nice chunk of an aisle....hmm

                        2. Cornstach. Looked for it for 15 mins. just 2 days ago. Tried the baking aisle, ethnic (Chinese cooking, p'haps?), even--silly me--veggies (corn?). No luck. Gave up. Will start the search again next week.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: pine time

                            On the baking aisle. Only one or two choices to select from so it does't take too much shelf space and easy to miss.

                            1. re: Leslie

                              Guess I might have overlooked it, but I did stand there, mentally naming every single thing I saw, just to make sure cornstarch wasn't there. Will try again next time!

                              1. re: pine time

                                I speak from experience, having also stood there looking at everything. I finally located it on the top shelf- almost out of my short self's eye sight!

                                1. re: Leslie

                                  I finally had to ask someone because I wasn't leaving without it. It wasn't a specialty ingredient so it had to be somewhere.

                                  1. re: melpy

                                    I gave up looking for a helper, too! At checkout, they routinely ask "did you find everything?"--this time I just said yeah. Will go on the treasure hunt for corn starch next week.

                                    1. re: pine time

                                      That's the latest thing at Shop Rite- to ask if I found everything. Too late now. I'm checking out. Would all the people behind me like you to go search for it now?

                                      1. re: Leslie

                                        They really don't like to hear that you didn't. The other day i went to Target to buy a toaster oven for a gift. When i was asked, I said no there were 2 toaster ovens on display that were not in stock. The checker said I should have asked for them to get one out of the back, to which i replied that i asked but they were out. At that point they really don't know what to say. She just said, well come back after Wednesday, which was somewhat helpful, but I just picked one of the ones that was in stock.

                                  2. re: Leslie

                                    I wasted my 30 minutes looking for corn starch recently... in our store it's on the bottom shelf, near the baking powder in the baking aisle.

                                    1. re: jujuthomas

                                      Yup, my store too at the very bottom. Thankfully, I don't use it much so good thing my plastic tub is nearly 75% full because I probably won't be able to find it when they move it.

                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                        I have the same problem at home, oddly.

                                        1. re: jujuthomas

                                          Victory! Found the cornstarch yesterday, and <blushing> of course it was in the baking aisle. The container has indeed changed since I last bought it---now a yellow & blue plastic bottle--so I'll soothe my embarrassment by saying the change is why I couldn't find it before. Lord knows, in another 5 years when I'll need to buy it again, the container will have again changed.

                                          1. re: pine time

                                            I rather like the screw top over the box. So much less messy!

                                  3. re: pine time

                                    pine time. I don't buy corn starch often but had a helluva time not long ago. For one thing the yellow box I grew up with is now a squat plastic jar-thing with a screw off lid.

                                    I have a tough time when out of town or in an unfamiliar store finding Rotel tomatoes. They are sometimes in the ethnic section, sometimes on the bottom shelf of canned vegetables or in the tomato sauce section. I've also had a hard time finding toothpicks. I'm lucky my local supermarket, a Raleys Nob Hill, has a good staff in sufficient numbers so I can always find someone to ask.

                                    1. re: ItalianNana

                                      I've discovered that not only does Walmart stock Rotel, but it has the cheapest price by far.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        Thanks a million for the Rotel tip!

                                      2. re: ItalianNana

                                        I think that's part of it, the packaging of Argo cornstarch is improved but definitely not what you're used to looking for. I now have the small square container, and then I found in my pantry another large square container, obviously from BJs because I thought I was out.

                                      3. re: pine time

                                        Last week I saw it in Baby next to diapers and vaseline

                                        1. re: pine time

                                          You might have missed them because the packaging has changed if Argo was the brand you have been using. No more of that yellow cardboard box. It is now in a plastic container and is much easier to use. I hated that stuff in a bag in the box. messy to use.

                                        2. I used to have trouble with the following...
                                          --Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
                                          --Cinnamon Chips

                                          Also, a bit of a luxury item... but it is hard to find fresh calamari salad. (*First world problem*)

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: GraceW

                                            Some things are worth traveling to Spain or Peru for.

                                            1. re: GraceW

                                              I've never found cinnamon chips in a grocery. I finally ordered some from King Arthur catalog.

                                              1. re: coll

                                                If you have one nearby, Shop Rite carries cinnamon chips.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  Good to know! But I'm all stocked up now.......although knowing me, I will pop in there anyway, to see what other exotics they have. I bought a pound of cinnamon mini chips and a pound of cappucino chips and don't even have any plans of what I'm doing with them!

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Ha! Now that my dear coll is something I do religiously. In my home I am known for turning a bag of peanuts into dinner if the price is right.

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      Oh yeah, I have to do something Asian/Thai soon because my local store keeps having Peter Pan on sale but I can't keep eating it out of the jar for breakfast!

                                                    2. re: coll

                                                      I found that Meijer has the cinnamon chips. I needed them for this recipe... in case you like gooey toffee blondies....

                                                      http://www.askchefdennis.com/2012/01/...

                                                2. re: GraceW

                                                  For fresh calamari salad, I'd just go to the local seafood store.

                                                3. Just did this with something. Wish I could remember what now. Horseradish comes to mind. Breadcrumbs the first time at my grocery store were tough to find. Some things are in two sections but they don't have everything in both. Never have a problem with hand soap though. Cornstarch is usually in baking but WAY on the bottom. I think I had to ask. Shallots used to be super hidden as well when they only sold them in bags.

                                                  22 Replies
                                                  1. re: melpy

                                                    Breadcrumbs can indeed be tricky. I always leave a trail so I can find them the next time.

                                                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                      I never knew where to find breadcrumbs since I usually make them myself, but duh, they are in the bread aisle!

                                                      1. re: melpy

                                                        +1 on the breadcrumbs. Even worse if you're trying to find Corn Flake crumbs.

                                                        1. re: Christina D

                                                          Corn flake crumbs, my first guess would be the seafood dept.

                                                          1. re: coll

                                                            They always have them in the gluten free aisle... well, corn crumbs, maybe not the cereal.

                                                            1. re: mcf

                                                              They do sell the crumbs separately from the cereal, even in wholesale foods. It's a big item with fish markets.

                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                My second guess would be the bread crumb aisle, if I remember I'll have to take a look now.

                                                              2. re: mcf

                                                                Really? I can't even find a good GF cornflake. I miss my Kelloggs. They are made with barley malt, so can't have them.

                                                                1. re: ItalianNana

                                                                  Nature's Path makes the best of the bunch - try their "Honey'd Corn Flakes," which are better than the juice-sweetened ones.

                                                                  But I think Nature's Path Mesa Sunrise Flakes are really the best basic GF cereal I've found. Still corn-based so you can use them where you would use corn flakes, but the flavor is a bit nuttier & more complex thanks to the addition of amaranth & flax.

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                    Love the Nature's Path cereals - I usually get the Sunrise Crunchy Maple and the Crunchy Vanilla from Ocean State Job Lot.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                      I've never had the Sunrise maple because they're higher in sugar than the plain. But I do like Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Maple Flakes.

                                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      Agree about the Mesa Sunrise! For cereal, almost as good as my lost, lamented Team Flakes. Not the same of course, but in the ball park.

                                                                      I haven't used cornflake crumbs in a very long time, but using Mesa Sunrise instead is a great idea should the need arise.

                                                                      1. re: jdub1371

                                                                        In the ball park with Team Flakes? Good one!

                                                              3. re: Christina D

                                                                I was wondering if they're even still making corn flake crumbs, it's been so long since i've seen them. The best things for breading oven-fried eggplant ever, along with salt, oregano, and pepper.

                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                  I don't even bother looking- it takes 30 seconds in a mini-processor (2 minutes with a rolling pin) to pulverize a box of cornflakes.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    not to mention the therapeutic benefits from pulverizing them.

                                                                  2. re: EWSflash

                                                                    I bought a box in 2006 and they were with the breadcrumbs and cracker meal. I don't have much use for them though.

                                                                2. re: melpy

                                                                  somethings are in two sections.............
                                                                  needed jarred herring in wine sauce today for my mother's grocery list.

                                                                  In the center aisle deli refrigerator case>Nathan's 12 oz for $4.99
                                                                  On the top shelf of the dairy refrigerator case>Vita 12 ounce for $4.49 (Next to the Gold's Horseradish.
                                                                  Personally I don't think herring or horseradish belong in dairy.

                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                    Both are with the eggs after the dairy but before the juices at ours.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                      We don't get that kind of variety. Kelchner's horseradish is in the center deli refrigerator case. Kelchner's horseradish and Kelchner's cocktail sauce are in the smoked fish case.

                                                                      1. re: gaffk

                                                                        Refrigerator case next to the butter.