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It's Not Too Late to Stage a Memorable 4th of July Meal

Forget savoring a long, lingering Independence Day weekend this year – the Fourth of July crept up on us and landed smack in the middle of a work week - on a Wednesday, of all days.

As a result, you may have forgotten about it and, much worse, not taken the time to plan or shop for a holiday cookout or party. No matter what time of the day you’re reading this, there’s still time to gather all the makings of a memorable Fourth of July meal. Here’s what you can do if you’re near any of these places:

If you’re in or close to Jackson:

Slide into the parking lot of Fast Lane Kangaroo gas station at 1157 E. Northside Drive just off I-55. Once you smell the aroma of the on-site smoking shed and feast your eyes on a glistening slab of smoked ribs, slaving over a hot grill as you know it will be forever eradicated from your mind. Known for falling-off-the-bone, savory ribs, Fast Lane can fill up your party table with one trip. Besides ribs, they offer smoked chickens and sausages, baked beans, potato salad and all the trimmings for a festive day.

Fast Lane’s prices are more than reasonable. Owner James Gilmore said due to the holiday, two or more slabs of ribs are on sale for $12.99 each. Regular price of one slab is $16.99. A half slab is $9.99. Fast Lane is open 24 hours, so a late-night party is no problem. Call 601-366-3040 to check on Fast Lane’s lineup of delicious smoked meats and sides.

Whole Foods also has got you covered when it comes to prepared grill items and sides. Firing up the grill has never been easier than after picking up already-assembled meat and vegetable shish kebabs and salt and pepper wrapped burgers at Whole Foods’ service meat counter.

After picking up your grill items, wander over to the deli and grab a few cartons of baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and macaroni salad, among others. A few steps away, a variety of fresh-baked cookies, brownies and if you’re lucky and one is in stock, a red, white and blue Chantilly cake are waiting to stock the dessert table. Call 601-608-0405 for more information on the availability of your favorite items.

If you’re near Hattiesburg:

Just as it is any day that you’re in or near Hattiesburg, Strick’s World Famous Barbecue is your go-to place for Fourth of July barbecue and side dishes. The locally-owned barbecue restaurant located near the University of Southern Mississippi campus at 3802 W. 4th Street will be open until 6 p.m. on July 4th. There's still time to call in or drop by to personally select party supplies consisting of smoked ribs, pulled pork, sliced brisket, chicken, and sausage. Strick’s is known for serving delicious homemade sides, including baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, French fries, and fried okra. Call 601-264-2502 to discuss your barbecue plans and to place a pick-up order.

If you're anywhere in the state:

Walmart and Kroger have your celebration covered. I realize there are those who don’t live near Jackson or Hattiesburg, but these days, almost every region of the state is blessed with a Kroger, and there seems to be a Walmart location every few miles within the state's borders.

Those of you lucky enough to have a Kroger nearby can pick up freshly ground and shaped hamburger patties, shish-kebabs, and other meat for the grill in the supermarket’s service meat counter all day today. What some shoppers don’t realize is that Kroger’s delis also offer delicious, pre-cooked packaged ribs and chicken that are fancy enough for a Fourth of July party or satisfying meal any day of the week.

Don't think Walmart can’t get you ready for a last-minute gathering despite a lack of service departments. Look no further than the meat department and you’ll find a 24-ounce package of Jack Daniels baby back ribs, ready to heat on the grill or oven, for $10.42. Or, pick up a larger 40-ounce size of Lloyd’s ribs for $13.87. This product has been prepared, seasoned, and is ready for a final turn on the grill before serving.

My favorite supermarket ribs are Corky’s, home of the famous Memphis barbecue restaurant. Not all Walmart stores carry them, but if you can find them, grab a box for your Fourth of July meal or party. At $12.97, they’re a bargain, especially considering they’re almost ready to eat. If you’re cooking for one or two, picking up a frozen Corky’s rib, pulled pork, or chicken dinner complete with Corky’s famous baked beans is the best tip I can offer. I promise, you'll thank me.

When it comes to shopping for sides, instead of boiling and peeling potatoes, head to the deli refrigerated section and pick up a container (or two, depending on your crowd) of potato salad, baked beans, and macaroni salad. Even if you have to purchase several containers to feed your crowd, it’s an economical and time-saving fix that lets you enjoy the day instead of slaving in the kitchen.

Lastly, dessert doesn’t get any simpler – or more delicious – than a bowl of Red, White, & Blue Bell ice cream. In case you haven’t tried it, it’s a swirl of vanilla ice cream highlighted by blueberry-flavored ice cream interspersed with juicy blueberries and strawberry-flavored ice cream highlighted by succulent strawberries. The three flavors create a swirl of "red, white, and blue,” making it the perfect choice for this most patriotic of all holidays.

If you've waited until now to plan a party, backyard cookout, or dinner for two, don't shelve your plans until next year. Simply drive to one of these places and let them do the cooking for you. Happy Fourth of July!

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