15 Jul

What to buy at ALDI

I actually had second thoughts about getting this post up because so many other bloggers have done similar pieces on this very subject. But when a friend of mine emailed to ask me what I regularly purchased from Aldi, I thought maybe you guys might like to know as well.

So let’s talk Aldi!

If you’ve never been to Aldi, there are a few things you need to know before you go.

First, this is a no-frills operation. There is no coffee shop, no deli, no bakery, no butcher, no free cookies for kids, and the greatest hits of the 80’s and 90’s will definitely not be played for you while you shop. So grab yourself a latte and pack a snack for your kiddos before you go.

Aldi only accepts cash, debit cards, and EBT cards. No checks or credit cards. Learn it. Live it.

Aldi is probably much smaller than any other grocery store you’ve been to because there aren’t various brands of any item to choose from. If you’re shopping for peanut butter, you’re not going to have to choose between twelve different brands. Aldi might sell two.

You need a quarter to get a shopping cart (you get the quarter back once the cart is returned) and you have to bring your own bags and bag your own groceries so keep that in mind when you go.

These policies might seem like an inconvenience but operating this way allows Aldi to keep their prices low.

One last thing to keep in mind is that Aldi does not accept coupons. However, if you live near an Aldi, you might find a $5 off a $35 purchase coupon in your mailbox from time to time.

Once I started shopping at Aldi on a regular basis and trying more things, I quickly became a convert.

Since some of you might still be on the fence about shopping at Aldi, I thought I’d share with you what regularly goes into my shopping cart when I shop there.

So here’s what I buy (and what I bypass) when shopping at Aldi.

1. Produce: I know that some people have had a bad experience with Aldi’s produce but that has never been the case for me. I consistently find great produce at some of the best prices I’ve seen anywhere! The selection is usually seasonal which means the produce will taste better too. Keep in mind that most of Aldi’s produce items are sold in bags or packages of multiples and they do not break packages so if you only need one onion and a couple of potatoes, you’ll need to grab those elsewhere.

2. Baking Essentials: Vanilla extract, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugars. These are items I consistently find at much better prices at Aldi. The one exception to this rule is around the holidays when you can usually find better deals on these items in your regular grocery store.

3. Cheese: You probably won’t find any organic cheeses made from grass-fed animals here but everything from ordinary blocks of cheese to fancier blue cheeses and fresh mozzarella has been of good quality. The shredded cheese does contain corn-starch which can keep it from melting nicely so it’s better to buy a block and shred it yourself.

4. Butter: I do a lot of baking so for me, $1.69 for 1 lb of unsalted butter is too good a deal to pass up!

5. Organic Canned Goods: I toss a can or two of both diced tomatoes and beans in my cart almost weekly.

6. Frozen Fruit and Veggies: I stock up on pretty much everything I can get my hands on in this section of the freezer. Especially the organic items!

7. Organic Free Range Chicken Broth: I almost didn’t put this one on the list because it really is worth it to spend the money on the good stuff when you can’t make your own. However, when money is tight you can’t beat $1.89 for 32 oz. of organic free range broth.

8. Organic Coconut Oil: Other than the vanilla extract for $1.99, this is probably one of my favorite finds at Aldi. Coconut oil has so many uses. I always have it in my pantry and I love that I pay less than $5 for it at Aldi.

9. Whole Wheat Bread: Just as good as the name brand stuff but much cheaper. And no azodicarbonamide!

10. Toilet Paper: If I can’t find a better deal elsewhere, I’ll gladly pay $5 for 12 rolls of t.p.

11. Chips: Clancy’s Corn Chips taste just like Fritos and are only $0.89! Clancy’s Tortilla Chips are a little over $1 and are just as good as the name brand tortilla chips too. Simply Nature Organic Chips and Veggie Straws are regulars around here as well.

12. Milk: Both organic and regular milks are just as good as the milks I buy in my regular grocery store but a dollar or more cheaper.

13. Gluten Free Products: My GFBF (gluten-free best friend, Jill) swears by Aldi’s line of GF products. I personally have never tried them because I gluten but if she says they’re legit, they’re legit.

14. Vegetable Oil: $1.99 for 48 oz? It goes in my cart!

15. Organic Honey: I love honey. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how fast I can go through a bottle so it’s a good thing I can get another one at a great price whenever I run out.

16. Maple Syrup: At less than $4 for 8.5 oz of pure maple syrup, this is a really good deal.

17. Nuts: These can be a pretty expensive grocery item but you can usually find various nuts at great prices at Aldi.

18. Nature’s Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Granola: This is one of our favorite cereals and Aldi always has the lowest price.

19. Frozen Potato Products: Aldi’s fries, tots, and hash browns are just as good as the name brand but priced much lower.

20. Beer! Surprised? I was too but I’m telling you, Aldi sells some pretty decent beer. My favorite is their Kinroo Blue which is a Belgian White Ale flavored with orange peel and coriander. If you’re a fan of Hoegaarden, you will love it. It tastes just like it but it’s much cheaper.

There you have it! What I regularly buy at Aldi.

Now for what I never but at Aldi:

1. Meat and Fish: Yes, Aldi carries organic grass-fed beef and organic chicken (occasionally) but I’m going to have to keep passing on these items since the beef comes from two to three different countries and neither of these meats are humanely raised as far as I can tell. And yes, Aldi does carry wild-caught fish, but it’s processed in China. That’s a hard limit for me, folks. However, if you’re okay with it, you can get 4-5 decent sized salmon filets for under $4.We don’t eat a lot of meat but I’m pretty picky about the meat I do buy so I’ve been avoiding Aldi’s meat section thus far.

2. Carrots: This is one produce item that I always buy organic because organic carrots are only a few cents more than regular carrots. My Aldi does not carry organic carrots so I pay a little extra each week at my regular grocery store for them.

3. Eggs: Only because my Aldi does not carry cage-free or pastured eggs.

4. Sour cream and Heavy cream: Too many additives. End of story.

5. Chocolate: I’m really picky when it comes to chocolate so this is something that I just don’t buy from Aldi. This goes for chocolate bars, chocolate chips, and cocoa powder.

So there you have it. My totally uncompensated but honest opinion about Aldi.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What are your favorite Aldi buys? Is there anything I should be trying? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below.

*Update – 7/30/15: Aldi is now carrying grass-fed cheese. I have only seen cheddar so far but it’s a start!

Late Lunches

13 May

I think most of us who blog about kids’ lunches tend to go through a little burn out towards the end of each school year.

We start every school year with the best of intentions but by the time April rolls around, we’re pretty much over it.

I am certainly no exception.

This time of year is super busy for my family too and that sure doesn’t help things.

We’ve got projects due, competitions, concerts, end of year meetings, graduation and all of the activities leading up to graduation… it’s crazy!

Crazy or not, the kids still have to eat. So here are a few lunches that I managed to snap a picture of, or perhaps gently coerced my husband to snap a picture of so that could get our dear little lamb out the door to school on time.

This first lunch consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich which was made in the morning and allowed to cool completely before it was sliced and packed up. I also added some peas, corn, and fresh tomatoes to Cam’s ELB.

It wasn’t pretty, but every bit of it was eaten and that’s really all I care about.

This lunch box contained a pasta salad packed with veggies, some garlic knots, and a few chocolate rabbits left over from Easter (which also tells you how long ago it was made).

This is about as cute as it gets here, folks. Two sandwiches cut with a flower-shaped cookie cutter, pretzel crackers, carrot coins, and celery. I think my husband might have actually made this one.

Daily Bento

12 May

Hi there!

Remember me?

I used to blog here but got lazy and took a bit of a break.

Actually, it was two months which is forever in blogging time.

I’m happy to say that I’m getting back to blogging starting today. I can’t say how often I’ll be posting, but I’ll try not to make it seem like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth again, k?

So… let’s talk lunch.

Pictured above is Cam’s lunch which contains leftovers from last night’s dinner. This has swiftly become her favorite meal. She eats two helpings at dinner and then steals bites from her Daddy’s plate, and asks for another bowl for bedtime snack. So I’d say it’s a winner.

It’s a layer of cooked brown rice, black beans, roasted sweet potatoes that have been tossed in veg oil and taco seasoning, corn and tomato salsa (corn, chopped tomatoes, red onion, green onion, cilantro & lime juice), and a healthy amount of fresh guacamole. Sometimes I add fresh sweet peppers and/or salsa or hot sauce. Just depends on my mood.

I’m not quite sure what to call this mish-mash of food but I can tell you that it’s super easy to prepare. It’s also healthy and delicious so I hope you’ll try it. I know the sweet potatoes seem like a weird addition but it totally works. Especially with a huge dollop of guacamole!

Cam has a small container of guacamole in her lunchbox as well that she can add at the lunch table.

She also has some pound cake and grapes to round out her meal.

12 Mar

trashy donuts

 

Oh yes.

Chocolate glazed donuts topped with crumbled bacon, potato chip shards, and a salted beer caramel drizzle.

Because it’s my birthday!

That’s right.

Today is my special day and I think that warrants a pretty special treat.

 

trashy donuts

 

I have to tell you guys, these donuts are pretty darn special.

As in utterly ridiculous and over the top kind of special but totally worthy of their place on my birthday dessert table and in my mouth.

There are a few more steps and ingredients (not to mention calories) in this recipe than I normally like to share so this is definitely a special occasion treat.

And don’t worry, none of the steps are hard or time-consuming so this is totally doable.

You can make minis like I did but if you have a regular sized donut pan, use that one instead. It makes the process so much faster and easier.

I hope you guys enjoy this one. I’m off to try and arrange these donuts so they’ll hold all of my thirty-something birthday candles.

I have real concerns about structural integrity.

 

trashy donuts

 

Trashy Donuts

Chocolate Cake Donuts
adapted from King Aurthur Flour

  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp vinegar, white or cider
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the wells of your donut pan with non-stick spray.

2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt

3) In a large measuring cup or medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and vinegar.

4) Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. Don’t overmix. Just make sure everything is combined.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and fill each donut well about 3/4 full.

6) Bake the doughnuts for 6-8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. You’ll have to adjust your baking time based on your donut pan size.

7) Let the donuts cool for a few minutes before you try to remove them from the pan.

Glaze Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Directions

Whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth.

Dip the top of each doughnut in the glaze.

To make the bacon and chips topping: Just cook bacon as you please (I prefer to bake mine in the oven) and break up some chips into little pieces. I used 6-8 slices of bacon and about 2 cups of chips but the amount you need will differ based on the size of your donuts.

You’ll want to add the topping before the glaze sets so it’s easiest to dip each donut, sprinkle on the topping, and then put it back on the cooling rack to set.

Once each donut has been dipped and topped, make the caramel.

Salted Beer Caramel Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½ cup beer – I used Hoegaarden
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions

Add the brown sugar, honey, beer, and butter to a saucepan over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then stop stirring. Reduce heat to medium and allow to boil for 7 minutes or until the mixture turns a golden amber color – this happens really fast so don’t walk away from it! Turn off the heat, add a tsp of sea salt, stir, and drizzle over the donuts.

If you boil your caramel too long it will harden. If this happens, just put the pot of caramel back on the burner over low heat and add a pat of butter and a tbsp or two of milk. Stir slowly until the caramel softens and you can drizzle it over all of the donuts.

Enjoy!

11 Mar

fruit & veggie juice

 

I’m just going to go ahead and carry over the beverage theme from yesterday because I have to share a yummy juice recipe that was actually invented by my daughter.

It was 84 degrees today (it’s still winter, right?) so an icy-cold glass of this fresh juice was a welcome treat after our hot walk home from school this afternoon.

I should start by letting you know that we do not own a juicer.

That’s right.

We make all of our fresh juices in a blender so don’t worry if you don’t own a juicer either.

If you own a decent blender, you can make juice.

It’s so easy. Just blend, strain, and enjoy!

 

fruit & veggie juice

 

Cam’s recipe is fantastic as it is but feel free to add different varieties of fruit to suit your taste.

She doesn’t like anything tart (just like her mama ;) ) so we added just a bit of lime juice to brighten things up and we used a gala apple rather than a more tart variety, like a Granny Smith.

Don’t be put off by the carrots. We didn’t taste them at all.

 

Cam's Fresh Fruit & Veggie Juice

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

Ingredients:

2 carrots peeled and sliced

1 apple cored and chopped

1/4 cup pineapple chopped

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

juice of half a lime

4 ice cubes

3/4 cup water

 

Directions

Add ingredients to a blender, pulse a few times to get things going, then blend on high for a couple of minutes until the mixture is super smooth. This took about two and a half minutes in my blender.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Use the back of a large spoon to press the remaining pulp just to be sure you get every last drop of juice.

Pour over ice and drink up!

 

 

 

 

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