Shop Small 2013

A 365 day challenge

Day 36: We’ve Moved!

Our Shop Small 2013 Challenge blog has moved to the Chicago Now forum!

Today is all about Manicures & Martinis!

Check us out on our new page!

Day 35: English Food Favorites and more requests!

I love that people are writing in with requests! From finding English food favorites, to vegan restaurants, to figure skating shops. Keep the requests coming & I’ll keep you updated with discoveries.

For Caroline who moved to the States from England, I think I found a solution for you!

Caroline is missing a taste of home, especially proper English sausages (bangers?) and teas. England is one country I’ve never been to and am certainly not a good judge of authentic English food. But, Caroline, I think I found a spot for you…

Spencer’s Jolly Posh Foods.
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They are located in Chicago, but some of their products are available at a few local markets (Standard Market is the closest to you). You can also order online.  Let us know if they really offer “proper” English foods! Readers, any other suggestions?

Tonya has decided to go Vegan.  Unfortunately, the suburbs have limited options for vegan restaurants. So, I said I’d do a little digging for her. The first one that came to mind is Thanks Jordan RAW Vegan Cafe in Lockport. I have been there once and am actually planning on going later this week, so I’ll give a more complete review then.

Borrowed Earth Cafe is another fairly close option. I haven’t been there yet, but it’s on my list to try next time I visit Lemon Tree Grocer! I know several readers are vegan, what are your favorites?

Of course, I should mention that Favor the Earth has a huge assortment of vegan nail polish, lip gloss, and candies!

Still on my list to find is a furniture reupholsterer and a figure skating shop. You know I love a challenge, any other products/services you need?

Coming up this week…a great book store, more on the vegan cafe, and some BIG news!

Day 34: A Stadium Pizza for the Big Game!

I kind of wish I were having a Super Bowl party, just so I could order The Stadium Pizza!

A 18×26 pizza full of fresh ingredients: fresh mozzarella, perfect sauce, delicious crust. Yum!

Where can you find this amazing pizza? Salerno’s, of course.

The Salerno family brought their incredible family recipes here from Italy in 1957. In 1966, brothers Joseph, Arnaldo, and Vincenzo opened their first Salerno’s location in Berwyn. It was an instant hit.

Since then, they’ve opened four more locations, all still committed to the freshest ingredients for their delicious recipes.

Want just a slice? For $5 you’ll get “slice” and a drink- though be ready to share- a slice is 1/4 of a 16″ pizza. My favorite slice comes from the Sicilian: olive-oil, fresh mozzarella, & roma tomato pizza. Gluten-free crusts are an option too.

Not in the mood for pizza? Their pasta dishes are just as delicious. All of the pastas on the menu are also available in a 1/2 portion. I had a half portion of the
linguine with shrimp & broccoli for around $7 and still had plenty to take home.

So, before the big game starts, call for your delivery. No location close to you? The next generation of Salerno’s are soon following in their parents footsteps and opening a few more locations soon.

Who delivers your favorite pizza?

Day 33: Adding a kick with olive oil…

If anything, this challenge is forcing me to plan ahead. I’m already trying to figure out 4 birthday gifts for later this month!

Anyway, I’m running low on olive oil (an everyday staple in my house) and know a quick trip to Trader Joe’s probably isn’t a solution.

So, I decided to try the new shop in town, Olive Gallery.

If you’re looking to kick up your dinners a notch, they have every flavor of olive oil and vinegar imaginable. Granted it comes a price, they aren’t cheap. But, I don’t consider these “everyday” olive oils either. It’ll be a special recipe that calls for Vermont Maple Balsamic Vinegar- thankfully there are plenty of recipe cards available too. Shrimp sautéed in the lime olive oil just may take me out of my cold weather funk!
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My favorite olive oils, though, come from another local company. They, however, don’t have a store front. You can often find them at summer farmer’s markets and the occasional craft shows…go to them! Annie’s Gourmet was my first real introduction to gourmet olive oils, and I was hooked. Infused with garlic, herbs, lemon…enough varieties for everyone. I have found that any dish is infinitely better by adding their Sweet Italian Basil with Roasted Garlic Olive Oil. Though I’m really enjoying my Mexican blend of herbs olive oil too! Annie’s has great prices, and small bottle options, perfect for trying a variety. image

What is your favorite flavored vinegar recipe?

Day 32: My Blissful Spa Day!

Month two begins!

In addition to being a mom, owning a small business, and documenting this challenge, I’ve also been a licensed massage therapist for twelve years.

So, I fully believe that massage therapy should not be a luxury, but a part of your well-being. It boosts immunity, increases metabolism, decreases stress, and helps lower blood pressure.

The downside of being a massage therapist, is that it’s very difficult to relax in a massage without analyzing their technique. It’s probably similar to a chef eating at a another restaurant.

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I figured you may be interested in sending your loved one (or yourself!) to the fantastic massage therapist I found this week.

Sharon Vogel at Blissful Spa is the real deal.
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She’s been a licensed massage therapist for over 20 years, and she’s trained in a variety of modalities: shiatsu, sports, deep tissue, reflexology, hot stone, lymphatic drainage, as well as holistic health care.

What I especially loved about her philosophy is that she doesn’t set a pay scale or appointment based on technique (ie. deep tissue vs. Swedish). Each massage is customized to your body’s needs; this allows Sharon to use her vast education to best help you.

She also accepts insurance which may be beneficial if you have specific medical concerns.

If you’re just looking for relaxation and a chance to recharge- you won’t be disappointed. If you’re also a massage therapist looking for someone knowledgeable, experienced, intuitive, with fantastic technique- you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Where do you go to relax and recharge?

Day 31: Did we stay on budget shopping small businesses?

As we’ve reached the end of the first month, the $25,000 question is, am I staying on budget while shopping small.

Before we get to the answer, let me preface with the fact that January is always an expensive month for us (why does it seem like January is the LONGEST of 31 day months?): the kids are on holiday break, then back to school grocery shopping, restocking household items, etc.

The five categories mainly affected in this challenge are groceries, dining out, general shopping (dog food, vitamins, & non-essentials), “non-target” (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, household essentials), and gas.

I read in the Tribune that the average family of 4 (with two school-age kids) spends $235/week in groceries. Even shopping organically, that seems a little high to me. My weekly budget is closer to $125 (family of 4, kids are 11 & 10). Which would be about $625 for the month of January.

So…did I do it?

Yes and no.

Since there wasn’t truly 5 weeks in January, my grocery budget was $560. I spent…
$566.

Still under $625 and only $6 over my budget. I’d say that’s pretty good. And, if you go with the Tribune’s average of $235/week, we did really good!

Adding in dining out, general shopping, “non-target”, and gas- I was about $200 over. But, I really don’t attribute that to shopping small. The dog food & vitamins I restocked last 6-8 weeks; and, with my grandma in the hospital, the extra driving equaled one extra tank of gas.

I have a feeling, though, it will all average out next month.

I don’t miss Starbucks, but I am still searching for a local indie coffee shop (I miss you Koobies!). Suggestions?

Which Small Businesses did you try for the first time this month?

Day 30: I Swear I Do More Than Eat!

Honestly. Before this challenge I grocery shopped maybe once every 10 days.

Maybe shopping small is giving me a glipse of living in Europe where people actually shop for fresh food every few days!

Good for us, though, because it’s leading us to some cool spots. Then again, my family recalls past vacations based on where we ate; and plans other vacations based on restaurants we want to try.

I loved today’s spot. And, since my son’s indoor baseball practice isn’t too far from there, I’ll be in the area a few more times.

I bring you…
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Granted it feels a little “hipster,” but it gave this suburban mom a few minutes of imagining to be trendy, living in the cool condos above Lemon Tree Grocer.

While they pretty much carry everything you would need for day-to-day groceries, the focus is their deli, artisanal cheeses, and butcher. I was incredibly impressed with their prices for Boars Head deli meats and responsibly raised (no growth hormones, grass-fed, you know the drill) chicken and beef.

Don’t feel like cooking? They have a nice selection of prepared meals with FRESH and REAL ingredients.

Need to pick up dessert? Though I didn’t get any today, they looked delicious. Gluten-free or vegan? They have amazing options for you too.
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Kids with the sitter? Pick up a bottle of wine (or beer if you’re hanging out with me) and some cheese.

Need a gift basket? You could go to town here with any theme.

The staff is extremely friendly and helpful- they’ll even walk you to the product which you know I love so much.

Lemon Tree Grocer also has a cafe, Zest Cafe. Don’t worry, the cafe is set off to the side so it doesn’t have the creepy feel of people shopping next to your table. The menu lunch/dinner specials change daily, and it was still fairly packed when I was there after lunchtime. There’s a Saturday/Sunday brunch with a Bloody Mary bar & champagne cocktails, anyone game?!

Day 29: A Small Step Outside My Comfort Zone

UPDATE (8/27/13) I am terribly sad to say, Freedom’s Market has closed. Sam continues to be one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I wish he and his family the best of luck in their next adventure.

The other day my friend asked if I had been to the market that recently opened.

I hadn’t, and said that I didn’t know what I would get at a Middle Eastern market.

The more I thought about it, I realized that this is exactly what my challenge is all about: finding new stores that I may not have ventured into before.

A smart decision, I might add.

Before I went, though, I googled “Lebanese foods” to see what ingredients I might find. It’s always fantastic to discover your own ignorance over food origination. I love falafel and hummus!

Whether you’re already a fan, or falafel & hummus are completely foreign to you, Freedom’s Market is a must-try. For several reasons.

When I arrived, there were a few people sitting and eating lunch, I thought it was only a market and had no idea they made food on-site. Foods are made daily by owner Sam and his wife, both are incredibly nice. Sam is the epitome of a small-business owner, he treats you like family after just walking through the door. I think he was just as excited about my enthusiasm (and lack of knowledge!) introducing me to new items.

They have a nice selection of spices; a 7oz bag of turmeric is only 99 cents (pick one up for this cold/flu season!). Huge bags of jasmine rice too!

I ended up with a bag of fresh pitas (10/$1) and really good tea biscuits (79 cents!). I also ordered dinner to pick up a little later: falafel (12/$4.99), chicken shawarma dinner ($6.99- came with amazing rice I could have eaten an entire bowlful), spinach pockets, and dessert.
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I have to mention the dessert. I had no idea what halawet jibn was (I still don’t really know), but they had freshly made it and I wanted to try. In all honesty, I still can’t even explain it. The top was almost like a cannoli center with crushed pistachios on top. The bottom was…I don’t have a clue. It was a unique texture and flavor- it definitely had rose water, which led to mixed reviews. My daughter and I liked it, my son was indifferent, and my husband and a friend of mine thought it tasted like potpourri.

Even though we all didn’t care for everything we tried, we will definitely return to Freedom’s Market. It was a great experience in trying new foods, with Sam as a very welcoming “host.” Although their location is convenient, there isn’t much else around it. So, Freedom’s Market is definitely going to need support to keep this small-business open.

Here’s an opportunity to get a taste of a different culture, for little money. Sam and his family are generous with suggestions and share a genuine passion for their business.

Let me know what you think of the halawet jibn!

Day 28: For our Four-Legged Friends!

I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon Pet Supply Outlet, but it’s been almost 7 years now and I love it just as much now as I did day one.

It’s family-owned, so chances are you’ll run into Rick or his sister, Jolene, both are fabulous.

When I first started going here my dog was just over a year old and had terrible allergies. Her incessant scratching left bald splotches all over her skin. Rick helped me find a food that would reduce her allergies and improve her coat. Her scratching stopped almost immediately, and her baldspots were soon replaced with healthy fur. We were also able to stop her prescription Benedryl.

Although every product isn’t organic, they do focus primarily on holistic foods, supplements, and treats. Don’t worry, it is an outlet, so you won’t pay a month’s grocery budget for your pet’s food!

Rick is a wealth of knowledge, though. You can even bring your dog in and he’ll help you decide which food would be best for your favorite furry friend.

Don’t have a dog? Pet Supply Outlet often has rescue days with local organizations so you can find a one that needs a loving home.

Cat lover instead? They have plenty there for you too: food, treats, and toys.

Because this is a large warehouse space, there are three other complimentary businesses within the same building: a vet, full-service grooming (or self-wash), and dog daycare/boarding. When you go to pick up your pet’s food, allow a few extra minutes so you can watch the daycare dogs play!

I love that I’m greeted by name shopping here (that’s one of my favorite parts of shopping small!), but with Pet Supply Outlet I love how much they’ve helped our family pet most of all.
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Have a picture of your favorite pet?

Day 27: How does this look?!

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This week’s delivery!

Although I had sporadically used Door to Door Organics last year, I couldn’t resist the buy one get one free offer they sent me at the beginning of the year.

One disadvantage to shopping organically, and locally, is that coupons are few and far between. So, I’m happy using them whenever I can!

In this case, all of the produce was FREE!

Yep, all I paid for were the chicken breasts, peanut butter packets (great for
“emergency snacks!”), the Boulder Canyon chips, and the brick of cheese!

So, this week we tried
Zeppe’s Italian Market: a small deli & to-go meals with a few shelves of Italian staples.
Fruitful Yield: discounted vitamins and healthy foods- very knowledgeable employees- a must for those with food allergies or sensitivities.
Trader Joe’s: yes, I couldn’t resist. Not truly small, but it is one of my favorites!
Dentist, Dr. Mark Curcio: Nervous about having your choppers checked? He’s your guy.
Posh Boutique: A great women’s consignment shop with both resale and new clothing, purses, and jewelry. All in a welcoming boutique setting.
Fat Ricky’s: A good choice on those occasions you want to over-indulge with super-cheesy sandwiches. Not healthy, but fresh ingredients.

Tomorrow is my favorite small business for my four-legged friend! Afraid you’ll miss it? Click on the “follow” button at the top of this page or follow us on Twitter: @shopsmall2013

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