BASHAS' COOKS UP NEW SALES PROGRAM

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' here is offering free cooking classes for shoppers who not only want to save time, but also money."Cooking With What's on Sale" is a new program in which Bashas' customers can watch cooking demonstrations featuring products on sale. While perimeter departments are an integral part of the program, Center Store "pantry" items are the foundation. Common sale items like chicken

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' here is offering free cooking classes for shoppers who not only want to save time, but also money.

"Cooking With What's on Sale" is a new program in which Bashas' customers can watch cooking demonstrations featuring products on sale. While perimeter departments are an integral part of the program, Center Store "pantry" items are the foundation. Common sale items like chicken stock and olive oil are often included in recipes.

"We know what it is like to cook on a budget, trying to make things new and fresh while keeping within your means," the Bashas' Web site (www.bashas.com) reads. "We can help."

Lisa Estrada, an independent contractor at Bashas' and a Scottsdale, Ariz., resident, created and runs the program. A chef and former restaurant owner, Estrada develops recipes from a list of sale items that Bashas' gives her 10 days before each class.

In each class, Estrada demonstrates two menus, which take about 10 to 30 minutes to prepare. Selections range from weekday and low-carbohydrate meals to a complete Sunday dinner.

For a family of five, the meals cost about $15, although a Sunday dinner can run up to $25. Recipes range from pork tacos to "sesame encrusted tuna steak over spring greens with Wasabi sauce." Along with being featured in the classes, recipes are posted on a Web site, www.cookingwithwhatsonsale.com. A Web link is provided at bashas.com.

Estrada said the classes fill a consumer need for creative yet low-cost meals.

"People love watching Emeril and cooking like he does, but they're concerned about spending a lot of money," Estrada said.

Estrada encourages students to stock their pantries with certain staples so they'll always have frequently used ingredients on hand. Among the products she recommends: sugar, white wine, spices, oil, beef stock, soy sauce, seasonings, bread crumbs, honey, flour and canned beans.

The 30- to 45-minute classes are currently held near the bakery department and in other store locations, but Bashas' is designing a mobile cooking school station that will go from store to store. Bashas' plans to have the unit completed by September, Estrada said.

Bashas' offers two classes each week, typically once during the week and once on the weekend. On average, about 20 people attend. The classes may go on hiatus in June, but will resume in the fall, according to Mimi Meredith, director of public relations, Bashas'.

While the classes give customers affordable meal solutions for their families, they also help Bashas' broaden the scope of the foods consumers typically buy.

"The goal is that consumers who come to these classes will stay in the store and buy the featured products or will come back for repeat store visits," Meredith said.

The program is tailored to meet the needs of the latest season, such as Mother's Day, and the demographics of each store, according to Meredith.

"Many of the students are senior citizens who are on fixed incomes," Estrada noted.

"Cooking With What's on Sale" is exclusive to Bashas' in the Arizona market, but may be expanded to non-competitive supermarkets in the future, Estrada said.