Category Archives: Grocery Shopping

One of Those Days

Sometimes, you have those days where you get home from work and all you want for dinner is a glass of wine and a plate of french fries.  And yoga pants.  And a table that is maybe really a blanket spread over your lap on the couch.  Tell me I am not the only one!  Also, please ignore the fact that this was 28% of my dinners last week.  At least I am consistent.

What I actually had to eat for dinner (hard life, I know) was Whole Foods Salad Bar with Jillian.  I know that yesterday I waxed poetic about true friendship, but the one that I missed was that True Friendship is: When I don’t want to eat salad for dinner, but to keep the charade up, we both roam the salad bar and pick out salads and/or toppings where the primary ingredient is meat or pasta.

Which is to say nothing of our second lap around the grocery store when paczki and bars (chocolate peanut butter and oreo) were purchased.  To protect the identities of the innocent, I won’t say who got what.

But maybe when I got home (or maybe not) I shared my bar bounty with Marcus and it was good, except for the part where I very nearly flung my slice of the chocolate peanut butter bar to its death on the floor.  Let’s just say I am supremely thankful that Marcus swept the house on Sunday and that our floors are clean.

Hello and goodbye to Monday.

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An Old Grocery List

My parents are continuing to purge and pack their house as they prepare for The Big Move.  As this process continues, they keep discovering the things that they kept from when we were little pups. If you can name it, they have probably unearthed it.  Like this treasure of a grocery list written by yours truly.

Grocery List

Stocking the pantry was a passion, even then.  In all seriousness, whenever Grandma Boots came to take care of us, grocery shopping was always an activity because I personally found it to be The Most Fun Ever.  Mom would come home from her job, and she would find another bag of groceries we didn’t actually need.

I’m not entirely sure what the Sissymilk was – I think that may have meant Lactaid Milk because when I was younger I had an uncomfortable lactose intolerance that has since diminished.  This may have something to do with the fact that I don’t drink full glasses of milk any longer.  I like to see that I balanced this need with the need for a brick of sharp cheddar cheese – always a good choice.  I am also reliably informed that we were NOT allowed to have Gushers (but apparently we were allowed to have Snickers bars?) and that is how and why they made their way onto the list.  Grandmothers are clearly the best enablers.

Face-Off in Aisle 9

I know we’ve comparison-shopped ALDI against Cub before.  ALDI came out victorious and by the numbers, we confirmed that we were saving approximately $1000/year on groceries.

Fast-forward two years:  We have a friend who is all-Target all the time and has been begging us for ages to comparison shop ALDI against the Bullseye.  Because, you know, what if ALDI isn’t really a bigger deal.

We resisted for the longest time because, duh, ALDI is the best deal in town and shopping at big box grocery stores is draining wallets left and right.  But without the cold, hard, facts to back us up he would NOT give it up.

So, without further adieu, our comparison shop of Target v. ALDI on staple foods we buy on a very regular basis.

Item Aldi Target   Notes
Ground Turkey $1.69 $4.00 1 LB
Tomatoes $2.99 $4.50 5 Vine Tomatoes
Avacados $2.37 $4.47 3 Avacados
Eggs $1.65 $1.99 1 Dozen
Romaine $1.99 $2.09 3 Hearts, 1 Pack
Tomato Paste $0.78 $1.12 2 Cans
Onion $1.39 $2.29 1 Bag
Asparagus $2.29 $3.39 1 LB
Broccoli $1.39 $2.54 2 Heads
Green Onions $0.99 $1.29 1 Pack
Milk $1.79 $2.09 1/2 Gallon
Butter $2.49 $3.54 4 Pack
Cheddar Cheese $2.79 $2.69 Brick
Flour Torillas $0.99 $2.09 10 Pack
EVOO $2.99 $4.75 17 OZ
Tomato Sauce $0.25 $0.77 1 Can
Total $28.83 $43.61

$14.78/week x 52 weeks = $768.56

The numbers speak for themselves because once again, we are not talking savings in the odd latte or tank of gas, we are talking savings on the order of PLANE TICKETS.

I was shopping at Lunds a few weeks ago to pick up some scallops for dinner at my parents’ house and I will be the first to admit that wandering through that store is so, incredibly soothing.  You walk in and it is like You Have Arrived.  Even the in-house brands feel Nice.  But I would happily trade paying to feel that way for 20 minutes while running an errand for the money that we get to spend on other things instead.

Where do you do most of your grocery shopping?  Do you have any great frugal grocery tips?

Another Crack at Meal Planning

I think by now, we all know that I’m not about to compose a sonnet to Fall about the virtues of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love Fall.    I adore Fall’s arrival, just as I adore the comings and goings of Spring and Summer. Winter is the season I have a tempestuous, mostly-hate relationship with.

But back to fall.  What’s wonderful about this time of year is that we are finally home.  Enough to care about cleaning the house from top to bottom (which happened last weekend).  Enough to start actioning double-batches of meals so that on the nights or weeks where things are a bit trickier schedule-wise, we have cozy meals ready to go.

Which brings me to meal planning.  A week or two ago, Stephanie asked me if I had ever blogged about the topic.  Because we all know that even though cooking dinner can absolutely happen organically, you will save More Money, More Time and More Mental Energy if you’ve got a plan in-hand.

First order of business, apparently I have blogged about meal planning (here and here) and grocery shopping (here and Stephanie’s Guest Post).  These posts are worth reading because there is some good information there (excluding the part where I declared I would never make enough of anything to require freezing).

However, we all know that as you continue to refine a habit or skill, things change.  Over the course of two years, thing change.

So what’s in our meal planning toolkit right now? A few new rules to live by:

  1. If you’re going to cook a time intensive/ingredient intensive meal, do it on Sunday.
  2. Only try one new recipe per week.
  3. When picking out recipes, aim for one vegetarian meal, one meat meal and one pantry meal per week.
  4. When in doubt (or if you need to action something on the fly) any leftover starch or carb you have around goes great with a couple of soft fried eggs on top and a side salad.
  5. Plan your biggest meal (portions-wise) for the evening before you have a night “off.”  You’ll have more time to work through the leftovers, which prevents refrigerator chaos.
  6. Plan your lightest meal for Thursday night because weekends and leftovers do not go together.
  7. Cooking at least three nights during the week is ideal.

Some of these might sound sort of rigid, but why the madness?  How is any of this really worth it?

  1. I hate eating dud meals (hence the new recipe quota).
  2. I really like keeping our grocery bill in check (hence the pantry and vegetarian meals).
  3. Eating all of the food we make is a really easy way to save money on lunches out during the work week (hence the militant planning for leftovers).
  4. Cooking dinner at home on the evenings where we’re both home (and sometimes on the ones where we’re apart!) allows us to stay in-budget with our weekly allowances.

Or, to summarize: we like saving money.  Being intentional about the way we prepare our meals is one way that we are able to do that, without having to make any significant or particularly noticeable changes.

What meal planning tips and tricks do you have?

The Most Random Accomplishments

Because even I found it so totally ridiculous, I decided to take a snap of the food that I hauled into work yesterday.  Because we didn’t have any leftovers in the house.

Imagine that.

Judge away.

In the mix: Popcorn, Vanilla Greek Yogurt, Oat Squares, a Grapefruit, a Banana, KIND Bar.

A real potpourri, I know.

I thought that they would suffice as an adequate spread of snacks and lunch (though the popcorn never got popped).  You should also know that since we don’t have any sharp knives in the office, I had to go after the grapefruit with a pair of scissors.

It was quite the scene.

It was also employee appreciation day, so my supervisor (along with the other manager in our division) brought in berries, cream and angel food cake.  I had zero interest in the cake but LOTS of interest in the berries.

Because, you know, it’s March and the following are not in season: raspberries, blueberries, strawberries.

And when I say I had LOTS of interest in the berries, I mean that I probably ate a carton worth.

Despite my best efforts (and those of my co-workers), we barely made a dent.

So I scrounged up a container in the lunchroom and brought a few cups home to toss into my breakfast this morning.

I still didn’t make a dent in it.

They were a bit frosty when I snapped them because I tossed them into the freezer to keep them from molding.  You can file that under Wet Berry Paranoia.

I don’t want to say that it was my favorite breakfast of the entire winter, but it was definitely in the Top 5.

Today’s most random accomplishment?

I sourced a pair of compression tights today after my run clinic.

I love the sleeves that I have 11/10.  So I thought it was time to commit get a pair of full-on pants.  Because more is more, right?  Why would I limit myself to glorified leg warmers when I could have the whole enchilada?

I run in tights all the time.  But these?  Are a totally different animal.

I tweeted earlier today about wishing I had recorded myself slithering into them.  Because it was not at all dignified.  It was more like a fight between my body and gravity.  After I managed the feat, I realized I had to leave the house again to go pick up a few more things for tomorrow.

The tights were not coming off.  So the Revas went on.

I’m just going to throw this one out there: I just don’t think that compression tights and Revas are a combination that most people are sporting.

What you should know: If you go to the grocery store after 4 PM on a Saturday, you can wear basically anything and you won’t be the most outlandishly dressed person there.  It’s far less judgmental than the after-work crowd.

What’s the most ridiculous arrangement you’ve run errands in?

Just a Few More

Today, I stopped by Cub on the way home from work to grab a dozen eggs.  Because after this morning’s meal, we only had one egg left, which is pretty much a state of emergency in this house.

It didn’t used to be this way.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t polish off a dozen before they went bad.

Since I’m not the kind of girl who can walk into the grocery store and walk directly towards the item that I’m looking for, I took a lap.

And for whatever reason, when I entered the produce section (on the opposite end of the store from eggs…obviously) I heard the siren song of the Blood Oranges.

It’s always something.

Maybe it’s because I workshopped them at length this weekend with a girlfriend.  Or maybe it’s because the Food Network dedicated all of its efforts last fall teaching viewers how to segment citrus fruits.

Who knows, really.

I brought one home.  Segmented it.  Tossed it with some olive oil and salt + pepper and called it a snack.  I think I might have seen that one in a cookbook somewhere.  It’s hard to be sure.

The verdict?  It hit the spot.  Struck a chord.  Revealed a craving to me that I didn’t even know I had.

So I promptly called Marcus and asked him to stop by the store on his way home and grab a few more.

Which brings us to the here and now.

Jenna suggests actioning a Blood Orange Italian Soda.  Which looks lovely.  Really.

But I’m just not up for making Simple Syrup.  I mean, I already soaked beans this week for crying out loud.

You have to draw the line somewhere.

What are you craving right now?

Have you ever eaten a blood orange?

Savings in Aisle 9

Our Sunday Morning Bounty.

Marcus and I know that to many, our weekly grocery shopping routine seems excessively elaborate and time-consuming.

The first stop?  ALDI.  It’s followed by Trader Joe’s, since they’re only a half-mile a part.  To wrap our trip up, we stop by Cub, which is on the way home and only a quarter-mile away from our house.

After explaining our Sunday morning loop and watching jaws drop, we always try to justify it by explaining that everything really is “on the way” (ALDI is our farthest stop) and that it saves us money.

Which is all right and good, except for the part where we never bothered to figure out how much money we were actually saving.

In a rational world, that would have been the first order of business.

This morning, by the time we made it to Cub, we had a bit of extra time on our hands.  So Marcus and I pulled out our ALDI receipt and shopped the store again for the prices of the items we had purchased 15 minutes ago.

At first, it was “just for fun.”  You know, so that we could validate the fact that we were actually saving money.

As we continued weaving and winding through the store’s aisles, tracking down items and writing down the prices, we realized that our shopping habits were making a bigger difference than we had ever imagined.

For your own personal enjoyment, The Final Product.

The items listed below are what we bought today at ALDI.  Their cost at Cub (a run-of-the-mill MN grocery store chain) is in the left column and their cost at ALDI is in the right.  Our savings is in the far right column.

Our savings = $20.56

Absolutely unbelievable.

Saving $20 in one week isn’t The Accomplishment Of The Century.  Over the course of a year, that’s a vacation.  The better part of a month’s mortgage payment.  A treadmill.  Our electric bill for the year.  333 bottles of Charles Shaw.

In short, it’s a lot.

If you’re looking for more grocery store sagery, check out the guest post that Steph wrote while I was on my honeymoon about The Price Cheat Sheet.  It’s eye-opening stuff.

What tricks do you use at the grocery store to cut your bill down?