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I can't believe the grocery store didn't have it!

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Does this ever happen to you? Last night I wanted to make chicken soup from scratch. I had everything I needed except for a chicken. Went to the local chain grocery store and they had no whole chickens! Plenty of parts (including those incredibly overpriced boneless, skinless breasts.) This seems to happen often at this store. If I'm looking for something like boneless thighs they won't be there. The next time I'm there not looking for boneless thighs, the meat department will be full of them.

The story has a happy ending. I bought some leg quarters and wings and used them to make my soup. Turned out excellent.

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  1. <Went to the local chain grocery store and they had no whole chickens! Plenty of parts (including those incredibly overpriced boneless, skinless breasts.) >

    Do you know if they just happen to run out of whole chicken?

    <I bought some leg quarters and wings and used them to make my soup. Turned out excellent.>

    Yeah, but you probably paid more than otherwise. Still, happy ending.

    23 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      I asked the butcher and he told me they ran out. Didn't even have any in the back. Something about people buying them all for the holidays. Who serves chicken for a Christmas dinner?

      I spent about $8 on chicken parts. Just a couple of dollars more than a whole chicken would have cost.

      1. re: 4X4

        "Who serves chicken for a Christmas dinner?"

        People who don't like or eat red meat.
        People who don't like or eat ham/pork.
        People who just had Turkey four weeks ago for Thanksgiving and don't want it again.
        People with small families who don't want to make a big turkey or a big roast.
        People who don't celebrate Christmas and are just eating dinner.
        People who like chicken.
        Me.

        Sincerely, it's not that unheard of.

        1. re: amishangst

          It certainly isn't.
          It is, in fact, what I had for Xmas dinner.

            1. re: amishangst

              And I'll just add:

              Poor people or people who can't afford anything more expensive like steak or prime rib.

              People who don't have a large enough fridge to hold and defrost a turkey or a large piece of meat for a few days.

              1. re: amishangst

                I don't celebrate Christmas and at the few Christmas dinners I've been to, the main course was always turkey or ham. I just assumed that was more in demand than whole chickens during Christmas.

              2. re: 4X4

                Local food bank used to request chicken instead of ham and turkey because of our local immigrant population.

                The immigrants wanted chicken instead of ham/turkey because they were familiar with chicken.

                San Jose, CA

              3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Leg quarters, which include part of the back, are often the least expensive part of the chicken. They may even be less expensive than the whole bird. The quarters are, in a sense, the whole bird minus the premium priced breasts.

                1. re: paulj

                  Thanks. I didn't know that. I have been buying the whole chicken to make my chicken stock. Maybe I can use the leg quarters instead in the future. Much appreciated.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    When they cut the quarters I think they just hack off the back half, and then split that in half (or maybe it's the other way around). Cutting the thigh joint is a (slightly) more refined operation.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I asked the butcher for chicken backs a few week ago and was shocked they had none, it's a special order. However, they did have boxes and boxes of beef marrow bones today which surprised me.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                        Lucky you! French onion soup makings!

                        1. re: tcamp

                          That's the plan. Well, the first plan is jus for rib roast then french onion soup. I've never made it but don't think I can go wrong with this stock.

                        2. re: fldhkybnva

                          I asked for chicken backs or necks in Wegmans, and was told that there were none in the store because none of the chicken is butchered in the store!!

                            1. re: WNYamateur

                              Of course not, that's what chicken processing plants are for. The stores get just the parts they expect to sell. Most supermarkets these days don't have much call for backs so they don't stock them -- the exception apparently being situations like at my local Shop Rite, where the chicken company (Tyson) includes some backs as part of their order when they're going to have a big sale. Or stores that serve a customer base that demands backs more regularly. (Again, like my Shop Rite usually has chicken feet - they're wanted.)

                              1. re: benbenberi

                                My WF has everything except perhaps feet. My Latino market has nose/snout/beak to tail from cows, pigs and chickens. Just bought some chicken feet and turkey tails today!

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I've also seen boned chicken carcasses as 99Ranch (California Chinese). I've even seen boned chicken feet.

                                  Speaking of butchers, when I starting shopping for groceries in Chicago many decades ago, you couldn't buy fresh meat on Sundays. The butchers' union demanded that day off.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    Wow, and I thought Atlanta's "blue laws" were tough :)

                                    I've not been to a 99Ranch and want to.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      So back in the day in Chicago there must have been slim pickings or great deals on Saturday, and slim pickings crappy meat early Monday.

                                  2. re: benbenberi

                                    Whole Foods informed me that they don't have backs because they leave a lot of it attached to the bone in breasts so that's why they are special order.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Unless you don't like chicken breasts in the first place, sale prices aside, the most economical thing is usually to buy a whole chicken, remove and reserve the liver and breasts, then make the stock with everything else. You can accumulate livers in a freezer container until there's enough for a meal. Personally, I use them for poultry stuffing, which I sometimes make by itself, without roasting a bird. With chicken and turkey for stock, I'll sometimes also poach the whole thing but remove the breasts once they are done, reserving them for sandwiches, croquettes, etc. If doing that, you can put a frozen bird directly into the pot without thawing first.

                            3. re: paulj

                              Yeah, they're very cheap, with lots of good dark meat. I use them for pulled chicken. I cook them in my smoker for a couple of hours, remove the meat and skin, chop everything up (mixing the chopped skin into the meat) and serve it. It's a nice barbcue alternative for guests who don't eat pork.

                          1. Sometimes I double-check with the butcher on call in the back of the dept. Often they have more back there.

                            1. I've had similar experiences.
                              Used to be that most supermarkets would carry packages of chicken backs/necks for making soup. In recent times though, the StopNShop stores around these parts haven't had them, and still don't.

                              Another time I wandered aimlessly through the store looking for cheesecloth, which I thought was a fairly common item. Funny thing is that of the 5 or 6 separate store employees I asked, not a single one even _knew_ what cheesecloth was.
                              That made me feel old. LOL.
                              I've since found it there...but still don't know if I was just overlooking it before or if someone mentioned that "some old guy was looking for something called cheesecloth" and they decided to now stock it (at a higher than normal price, like most things at StopNShop).

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: The Professor

                                I had a similar experience in my search for butcher's twine .Hilarious that none of the sweet young people working in the store knew what I was looking for. The confused expressions and looks of terror as I rambled on about * I use it to tie up chicken and meats*:)

                                1. re: MamasCooking

                                  You can ask the butcher sometimes they will give you a bunch of twine. I had to do this once when I completely forgot and the store was out on some late holiday eve.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    I had to do this too. It wasn't Xmas eve. They just didn't have any on the shelves, or couldn't find it.

                                  2. re: MamasCooking

                                    In case of emergency, there is twine in turkey trussing kits.

                                  3. re: The Professor

                                    Professor, I usually have to special order chicken necks for crabbing. Nothing works like chicken necks for Galveston Bay blue crabs.

                                    1. re: The Professor

                                      I never see chicken backs in Stop & Shop. Never. But they occasionally have them at Shop Rite. I asked the meat guy there about it once (when I was looking for backs & they didn't have any) -- apparently when they have a special sale of Tyson's chicken parts, packages of backs get included in the shipment. No Tyson's sale, no backs.

                                      (But this is also a store that routinely carries packages of "chicken paws," aka feet, and other non-standard-in-supermarket animal parts like pig ears & pig tails. I think their customer base is more "ethnic" than Stop & Shop's.)

                                      1. re: benbenberi

                                        I think Stop and Shop is more middle of the road when it comes to product variety, especially in the meat section. It seems like some cuts, like beef shank, are carried on a rotating basis.

                                      2. re: The Professor

                                        I almost never see chicken necks or backs around here, either. The only supermarket I EVER see them at is Trade Fair, but I think they must just run out of them quickly when they do get them in. This is a store by the way that always has pig ears, pig feet, chicken feet, those little two-to-the-package soup hens (gallinas), tripe, brains, etc.

                                        1. re: The Professor

                                          I spent 45 minutes looking for cheesecloth at Walmart one day. Finally found it in the arts and crafts aisle. And the butchers and deli clerks at Meijer didn't know what prosciutto was. Tragic.

                                        2. I have to say that has never happened to me with something as basic as chicken, especially in a chain grocery store.

                                          I have had occasions when they didnt have hot paprika over sweet or were out of particular cut of meat-flank steak, short ribs but even so I would say that it would be very rare occasion as opposed to often.

                                          Do you live in a particulary small town? Was this on a Sunday when they didn't get deliveries?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I live a few miles north of DC, in a college town. This was a Giant store, one of the largest chains in the area. Happened last night.

                                            I noticed last night they have whole pork shoulders (something I rarely see in grocery stores.) I bet the next time I want to make pulled pork there will be no boston butts or picnic roasts there! :) But that's all right, I can always get that at one of the local asian or latino markets.

                                          2. many times I can't find thighs. tons of wings, legs, breasts, etc. but not a thigh to be found. what????

                                            I was looking for caramels. plain kraft caramels. poor young stock clerk, never heard of plain caramels. however, voila! we found them through joint effort.

                                            1. Seriously? Merchandise are in stores to be sold, that's why they are in business so how can you be surprised there may be a lack of what you might be looking for, especially since this is Christmas week and other people are shopping as well.

                                              Plenty of people serve chicken and other meats other than high priced prime rib and seafood for the holidays.

                                              1. The supermarkets in Harare didn't have change, so sticks of gum it became.

                                                1. Just got home from Safeway, and no bulk pearl (or even boiling) onions. All they had were tiny mesh bags (6- or 8-oz I think) for $3.00 which I simply won't pay on principle. I don't need them for a couple of days and hope to run accross them in my travels.

                                                  On the other hand, someone (Thorne? Steingarten?) once remarked that onions cost nothing like their value in cooking, so there's that...

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: monfrancisco

                                                    OT and not sure what you are making but I find the peeled/frozen pearl onions just as good, if not better than fresh for many recipes

                                                    1. re: foodieX2

                                                      You know, I always forget those exist. Thanks!

                                                      1. re: foodieX2

                                                        I was going to say the same thing. I think Ina mentioned it once, and I thought that was a great alternative to peeling all those tiny onions. (Of course, I could always blanche them and slip the skins off, but the frozen saves time.)

                                                      2. re: monfrancisco

                                                        I can't recall when I last saw bulk pearl onions. In a regular grocery I'd only count on seeing the mesh bags during the holiday season. But these days I just get the frozen ones at Trader Joes.

                                                        1. re: monfrancisco

                                                          Do you have a Trader Joe's? They seem always to have the frozen small whole onions and I think they are about $1.50 for a pound bag.

                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                            Very near, in fact. I'll head in tomorrow. Thanks!

                                                        2. Around here (suburban NYC) the most I ever pay for boneless skinless chicken breasts is $1.99 per pound. I think they use them as loss leaders because they are so popular.They were $.99 cents per pound right after Thanksgiving. I cook them sous vide and use them for sandwiches, quesadillas etc. and feed them to my dog with his kibble. What are disappearing are whole chickens (fryers) @ sub $1.00 prices. They used to regularly be on sale @ .79 or .89 cents per pound. Now they want to sell parts. Maybe it's shipping costs because of the larger cube?

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: zackly

                                                            In the Boston area, $1.99 is the cheapest sale price I see for boneless, skinless breasts.

                                                            1. re: zackly

                                                              At my local supermarkets, inexpensive breasts are water added

                                                            2. My store did not have fresh chicken wings during college football season... only the frozen injected kind. The guy I asked agreed that they should have some, but didn't know why they didn't.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                There are many days I can't find whole wings - not even three part wings but connected two part wings, always cut into single parts labeled "Buffalo wings"

                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                  I usually can't find chicken feet (or duck tongues or gizzards for that matter) - I have to go to a specialty (i.e. Chinese) store to find those. :)

                                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                                    My Latino market has all that and more every day!

                                                                    I did have a very odd thing happen at WF in the Bay Area the other day. They were out of cilantro. Huh? This was in Mill Valley, not in the city, and it's the epitome of suburbs.

                                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                                      Mainstream grocery stores in my are never have chicken feet. Shoppers Food Warehouse, large lower end chain, does carry Hispanic-favored items like tongue.

                                                                2. The last time that happened to me I got royally ticked off and marched straight to their deli department where I bought a whole just-off-the-spit garlic rotisserie chicken, took it home and made chicken and spaetzle soup with it. Fabulous!!!! So now I often do it on purpose...

                                                                  1. All the time! Mainly with produce. That is why I love the Korean superstores in my area. They've got all sorts of chiles, cheap cilantro, pineapple, fresh tofu, fish selection, you name it.

                                                                    1. Safeway just informed me that they no longer sell twine. This was from a cashier who claims she's been working there for decades. I don't believe it, seems ridiculous a giant store doesn't carry twine. The butcher let me have some but I know it's there just hidden like it is in nearly every other store.

                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                        That is weird. What about string in the "hardware" aisle?

                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                          Nada. I feel like I must go back and hunt the aisles. It's there.

                                                                          1. re: tcamp

                                                                            I worry that that string might be treated with something, even the cotton twine, so i'm afraid to buy it.

                                                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                I just re-read my post. No wonder you replied what you did. I meant that i won't buy the string from the hardware aisle because it might be treated with something. The cotton twine in the hardware aisle might very well be the same stuff that is marked up and sold as butcher's twine in the grocery store, but i'm a little cautious.

                                                                              2. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                But you're cooking it along with the meat.

                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                              I have some in my kitchen that I rarely use. I'm pretty sure I bought it at Linens n Things. That must have been several years ago, since they closed all their stores in 2008.

                                                                            2. Last week I couldn't find the corn flake crumbs at our local grocery store and asked for help... and ended up getting a lecture from a manager on how "Corporate" doesn't stock certain things, and won't even if multiple customers request those items. This same store only stocks organic scallions, not regular. I should know better by now. Back to Wegmans for me!

                                                                              1. I tried two different locations of Shop Rite (NJ) last week for fresh flat leaf parsley for my baccala salad. Both out. This was Saturday and Monday before Christmas. Really? I ended up buying a package of soup starter veggies to get the parsley inside. Cheap enough and I made soup yesterday but still. When I was there Monday, thre was a gentlemamn who could not find kale. No kale to be had.

                                                                                1. Party white and party rye bread. No go!

                                                                                  1. There was a salt shortage for about 2 weeks at my local (big, corporate chain) grocery store. Normal table salt. I figured so many people buy processed readymade crap meals at this particular store that this issue wasn't even an emergency I suppose...

                                                                                    1. My store recently stopped carrying fresh bulbs of garlic. I can buy two tiny shriveled looking things wrapped in plastic, but no more fresh piles of bulbs I can choose from. Very, very sad about this.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                        Whaaaaa?? That doesn't even make sense. How can a grocery store not sell garlic? Talk about a screw up.

                                                                                        1. re: cornedhash

                                                                                          I was at a grocery store in Rock Springs, WY and all they had was the saddest looking fresh garlic. Next to it was an abundant supply of all kinds of jarred garlic. I bought the jarred because the fresh looked so bad. I realized how lucky I am with my usual grocery store!

                                                                                      2. Just got back from a small town in Tennssee visting in-laws. They have a Kroger and a Wal-Mart only. Neither carried fresh herbs or shallots, which I was looking to make dinner with.

                                                                                        1. I feel your pain. This Holiday season I was in a small town cooking but there are 3 chain grocery stores in the town (I don't know why but there are . . . ). I had to shop all three to get only MOST of what I wanted.

                                                                                          Two of them don't sell frozen artichoke hearts (one had never heard of them).

                                                                                          One was out of garlic

                                                                                          NONE of the three had gruyere cheese.

                                                                                          Only one had saffron

                                                                                          One was out of horseradish, one didn't know where to find it (I had looked everywhere I thought).

                                                                                          One thought pancetta was a cheese . . . . never a good sign.

                                                                                          Two had nothing but olives that were in jars stuffed with various things I didn't want stuffed in them (I thought all grocery stores had "olive bars" at this point but I am clearly wrong).

                                                                                          It was a comedy of errors by the end of the shopping trip.

                                                                                          Oh - and all three (plus a small health food type store) only sold the same Eggnog - Derigold (?) - it is horrible eggnog, so scratched that off the holiday list.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: thimes

                                                                                            I LIVE in a small town!
                                                                                            Our Kroger has stopped carrying canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Seriously. And yes they do run out of leeks...and the produce workers seem surprised when you ask for them.
                                                                                            Cooking here is an adventure. On the plus side, we have wonderful summer farmer's markets and get killer corn and tomatoes. On the negative, we have to order wine and spices. UPS loves us.