Posts Tagged ‘Grocery Shopping’

Behind the Scenes with Aldi Supermarket

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

This past week I got the unique opportunity to step behind the scenes and find out more about Aldi Supermarket and the products that they offer their customer. As a longtime fan of the grocery retailer, I could not wait to see how this company operated and, frankly, how in the world they can offer food for such a low price.

During the trip I got to do a wine and cheese tasting, got a grocery store tour to learn more about how their stores were set up, and then I got to participate in a blind taste-testing of the products to see how they compared with other national brands.  There was truly not a single element of this trip that I was not fascinated with.

The first question on everyone’s mind was how do they get their prices so low?

This is an answer that we were told would take years to explain, but the main points all pointed to simple cost-cutting measures, employee training that goes beyond other grocery stores,  a limited selection of items, smart store design, and in-house private labels. The savings are in the big things like having baking items on pallets and dairy items on rolling carts so the employees don’t need to stock shelves and then are reflected in the smaller things like the quarter deposit for your cart and bagging those groceries yourself.

All of these little and big things translate into great prices for their customers.

If you have ever stood in a line at Aldi, one thing you will see is that these cashiers work at lightning speed and can wait on customers quicker than any other store I have ever been to. You may not know it, but Aldi offers smart packaging that can speed up your wait time at their store. In this picture is a single bag of chips, simply held at all different angles. Practically every corner of their bags and boxes have a UPC code that can make scanning your items that much faster.  Go ahead and take a peek in your pantry at your Aldi items and you will see it too. It is one of those things that you may have never noticed, but translates into saving time for you.

The typical Aldi store only has between 6-8 employees and it is common for their employees to celebrate 15, 20, or 25 years of service. They pay their employees significantly higher than the national average and with 20 hours a week, they give their employees full health insurance benefits. Employees go through extensive training and they do everything from putting out the new pallets of food to ringing up the customers to tidying the store. It is this efficiency and the smaller pay rolls that translate into big savings for their customers.

Perhaps, the most surprising thing for me was discovering the amazing wine selection that Aldi offers. I admitted that I walked by the wine section of the store because the low prices on the bottles made me question the quality of the wine. I will never look at their wine section the same again after their wine tasting.  Don’t believe me? Aldi has received many awards and accolades for their wines.

Here are just a few of the accolades that Aldi has received. Did I mention these bottles are all under $6?

Wine Spectator

Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc
Best Values Award
Received 85 points

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
Received 85 points

Beverage Testing Institute

Landshut (Germany) Riesling Mosel 2010
2010 World Value Wine Challenge- Top 10 White Wine $8 and Under Exceptional Value
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010
World Value Wine Challenge- Top Dessert Wine $8 and Under Best Value German Dessert Wine
World Wine Championships Award Silver Medal (2009)

Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti
World Wine Championships Award Bronze Medal

Of those wines that I sampled, I fell in love with the Sunshine Bay 2009 Marlborough (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Gonfalone (Italy) Chianti, the Toca Diamonte (Argentina) Malbec Mendoza 2009, and the Landshut (Germany) Sweet Red Rheinhessen 2010.  Most of the bottles were $4.99, which make them quite affordable both for entertaining and for giving around the holiday season.

We paired these wines with some of Aldi’s cheese offerings which included a delicious goat cheese, a Havarti cheese, and Brie cheese. All of the cheeses were equally delicious and I am looking forward to offering these with these wines around the holidays.

I am a longtime customer and super fan of the products that Aldi offers, but the blind taste test that I participated in surprised even a super fan like me.  Aldi is challenging shoppers to switch from national brands to their private label Aldi brand for the holidays, to save their families up to fifty percent on their shopping.

We sampled many items from their holiday line and compared them to the national brands. Even though I love Aldi, I can be a bit of a food snob when it comes to certain foods like high quality cheeses and meats.

When we taste tested Tyson chicken versus Aldi chicken, I truly loved the Aldi brand better. I knew the meat that I had tasted must have been the Tyson meat, but I was dead wrong. It goes to show that sometimes we are just conditioned to believe one brand is better than the other.

Another surprise was the difference between Mrs. Smith’s apple pie versus the Aldi Belmont Deep Dish Apple Pie.  The Aldi pie is pictured on the right and you can tell just by looking at the bottom of the crust that the pie cooked and browned more evenly.  The difference in the taste was significant and the price was 28% lower.

Even being the Aldi fan girl that I am,  I came away feeling validated that the choice that I had made to shop at the store, out of necessity due to the financial strain we had been under, for our family was a good one.  The cost-cutting measures of the store do not cost-cut on the bottom line of the quality of the items in the store. In fact, the company does their best to offer a better product that the name brand.  After doing this blind taste-testing, I believe they have exceeded the standard.

If you haven’t checked out the store before, you really are missing out on so much.  I can feed my family of four for $220 for three weeks by shopping there. I do not clip coupons. I do 95% of my shopping at this store. I am rarely disappointed in the quality. If I ever was disappointed though, they offer a double guarantee and I could bring the item back for a refund and get it replaced. I don’t know very many places that offer that to their customers.

If you want to learn more about shopping at the store, I have several resources that you can check out on the site:

Aldi Supermarket

Aldi Menu Planner

Aldi Fall/Winter Menu Planner

The Aldi Queen Blog

If I was a fan girl of Aldi before, this trip took it to another level for me. I can confidently say that this store is THE place for families on a budget.  I promise, you will not be disappointed.

Let’s talk! Have you shopped at Aldi Supermarket before? Did anything surprise you about the behind the scenes look? What is your favorite item to buy at the store? Please share!

Pin It

How to Reupholster A Chair

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

We have been hard at work on completely redoing our old dining set. My kitchen chairs were in solid condition and didn’t require any painting, but I was tired of the faux leather fabric that I had purchased for the chairs when my kids were little. Today I wanted to share with you just how easy it is to reupholster those chairs and add a little pizzazz to a tired dining set for very little money.

Supplies Needed For This Project

New Fabric (I am using outdoor fabric to help prevent staining from spills. You could also choose a faux leather fabric or any type of fabric and then treat it with Scotch Guard to prevent staining). This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

Upholstery Staple Gun (available at fabric stores)

Upholstery Staples (heavy-duty)

Needle-nose pliers

Screwdriver

Pinking Shears (or regular sewing scissors)


Invert your chair and use your screwdriver to remove the four screws on the bottom that are securing your cushion to the chair.

If the cushion has fabric stapled on it already, use your needle-nose pliers to remove the old staples and fabric from the cushion. If you only have one layer of fabric, it should be okay, but this chair had two so I had to remove my last round of reupholstering to get back to the base of the chair.

Now it is time to cut your new fabric to replace the old fabric that was on your chair.  This fabric should be measured to the width of your chair and then add 4 inches  to each measurement so you have enough fabric to reach around the cushion.  My chair seat was 20×20 so I needed 24×24 for each seat. For all six seats it required 2 yards of fabric total.

I prefer to cut my fabric with a pair of pinking shears instead of regular scissors because the fabric does not fray with these and I don’t have to mess with trimming and pulling strings on fabric. If you don’t have a pair of these though, you can always use regular shears.

When buying your fabric, be sure to ask if they offer any specials or discounts to customers. I got this fabric at Jo-Ann Fabrics and signed up for their email list while I was at the register. They gave me a coupon that took $16 off of my total fabric purchase so I was able to get fabric for six chairs for $25!

Once you have your fabric cut, it is time to staple. Center your cushion upside down and make sure there is approximately the same amount of fabric on all four sides and then pull the fabric tightly over your cushion and staple it. You are going to want to put your whole body into this one, friends.  Staple all the fabric down along the cushion securely.

Corners can be a tricky terrain, but they don’t have to be. I like to bring the top part down and then fold in the other side of the fabric on top. You can do your corners on your cushion however you like. I think the trick with this one is just to play with it, flip it over and take a peek, and then play with the fabric again until you find a corner you like. Once you figure out how you like your corners, replicate it with the three other corners and then again on your next chair. Trim the excess corner fabric.

Center your cushion back on your chair and make sure all of the fabric is tucked nicely underneath and on top. Secure your cushion back on with the four screws again.

Now just repeat the same process over and over and over again until all of your chairs are done. I was able to get six chairs reupholstered in one afternoon. It isn’t hard to do and is a great job to tackle while watching your favorite shows.

I am madly in love with this fabric that I chose and can’t believe how much more I love these chairs. They look like brand new and I only spent $25 to shine them up.

Of course, what are new chairs without a new-to-me table? Looking forward to revealing what I have been up to this past week and sharing with you our new kitchen tabletop!

This tabletop has needed attention for eight years now and I am finally doing it.

Procrastination is the name of the game.

I hope I am not the only one with an eight year project that has been bugging her.

What is one home improvement project you have been vowing to do, but just haven’t made time to tackle yet?

Taking a Little Store-Bought Help in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

If you have been reading the site long enough, I am sure you know that I am one of those people that prefers to make everything from scratch to cut down on our grocery budget. We have big eaters in our family though and often convenience foods leaving us feeling unsatisfied and ready for snacking within an hour. Since those foods don’t seem to fill us up, the nights that I don’t feel like cooking we usually end up opting for dining out which costs a lot, even for our little family of four!

I doubt I am alone in saying that my calendar is overflowing with an unbelievable amount of obligations right now. We have holiday concerts, appointments, work commitments, volunteer opportunities…  and it is only going to get worse as the holiday season gets closer.

See that little “No,” sign in the corner of my calendar?

This is supposed to be offering a memory trigger to myself that there is no need to say yes to everything.

Now view my calendar.

I think I must be having a disconnect these days.

Fortunately, Walmart reached out to me to see if we would like to sample some of their Marketside brand items that are sold over by their deli area in the store. These items are of gourmet quality, but offered at a lower price.  The line includes bagged salads, gourmet soups, fun dips for entertaining, take-and-bake pizzas, veggie steamers, artisan breads, and fresh gourmet pastas.

After sampling all of the items, you can be assured that they are delicious and every bit as fancy as dining out.  The soups and bread rivaled our Panera Bread and the veggies were crisp and delicious.  The fresh dips (which included vanilla bean fruit dips, fresh guacamole, and a variety of ranch dressings) would be perfect to keep on hand for all of those holiday potlucks and gatherings!

Of course, adding my own homemade spin to these great convenience items allowed us to pull together a delicious dinner every night last week on a week where our calendar was jam-packed with activities (see the calendar above). With the busy holiday season upon us, I wanted to share a few ways to take those store-bought ingredients to a new level as the calendar fills up.

Veggie steamers are an easy way to incorporate great veggies into your diet in a quick way.  Look for these stir fry medleys over in your local Walmart’s cooler and take these home for a quick & healthy dinner. I love dressing up veggie steamers with a little of my favorite sauce from our favorite Chicken Lo Mein recipe.

Quick Weeknight Stir Fry

1 bag of stir fry medley veggies
1 chicken breast diced (Optional. I use this roasting method once a week to keep chicken on hand)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon ketchup

Cook veggies as directed. In a separate mixing bow, add soy sauce, vinegar, and ketchup. Stir to combine. Add cooked veggies and serve immediately over baked brown rice.

*****************************

Fresh pasta is one of life’s little luxuries that I love to keep on hand for a quick weeknight dinner. Marketside offers so many fun varieties for the meat-eaters in the family as well as the vegetarians. These delicious pastas can transform your usual spaghetti night into a dinner that rivals your favorite Italian bistro. They also offer fresh pesto and sauces to decorate your pasta without any effort.  Here are a few ways to use their pasta on a busy weeknight!

Pesto Tortellini Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound  tortellini of your choice (I love a chicken or sausage stuffed, but cheese is always a crowd pleaser!)
9 ounces spinach, chopped roughly
1/4 cup basil pesto

In a large pot, saute the garlic in the olive oil. After a minute or so, add the diced tomatoes and chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then add in your tortellini. Cook tortellini as directed on package. In the last minute of cooking time, mix in your roughly chopped spinach and stir in the 1/4 cup of basil pesto. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top. Side Note: When reheating, feel free to add some additional chicken broth to thin the soup, as the tortellini will absorb the liquid!

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

*****************************

Ravioli With Pesto Cream Sauce

1 pound ravioli or tortellini (I love a mushroom-stuffed variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (we used skim milk)
1 pinch salt
1 pinch pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Romano cheese
1 cup prepared pesto

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic and butter, and saute until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Dissolve flour in milk, then stir in. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add cheese, and stir until melted. Stir in pesto. Dish ravioli on plates and then drizzle the pesto cream sauce over it. Garnish with a little fresh basil or chopped parsley.

Serve with a bag of salad and a loaf of crusty bread for an easy weeknight meal!

*****************************

Ravioli With Homemade Red Sauce

1# package of ravioli
3/4 cup chopped onion (we omitted because we don’t like onions)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 (28 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook as directed and drain. Saute onion and garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until onion is translucent in another pot. Stir in tomatoes, salt, and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer one hour and thirty minutes. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and meatballs and simmer thirty more minutes. Gently break apart the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon.  Serve over a big plate of your favorite ravioli.

*****************************

Although this wasn’t included in my Marketside feast, I recently discovered the beauty and flavors of their rotisserie chickens for my weeknight chicken noodle soup. This soup is being made again this week for a fast & delicious soup that will leave people wondering how the heck you could pull it off on a busy school night.

Quick Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup

2-3 cups egg noodles (I like the Ream’s brand in the frozen foods section)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt & pepper to taste
2 stalks chopped celery
3 chopped carrots
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1 rotisserie chicken

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles and cook until tender. Drain, and rinse under cool running water. Meanwhile, in  a large saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the carrots and celery in two tablespoons of olive oil for five minutes to start your soup base or you can skip this step and proceed as directed, if you desire a crunchier vegetable.  Heat up broth and bring it to a simmer. Stir in celery and carrot. Gently add your rotisserie chicken and all of the drippings from the pan and put a lid on your pot.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pull out your chicken and set aside to dice.  Gradually add the cornstarch to soup, stirring constantly. Stir in noodles and diced rotisserie  chicken, and heat through. Toss in a handful of fresh chopped parsley and ladle into bowls.
*****************************
Of course when all else fails, there ain’t no shame in taking home a take-and-bake pizza and calling it a night! My favorite variety is the Primo Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, & black olives. Every mom deserves a night off from the kitchen once in awhile!
I am a participant in the Walmart Moms program.  Marketside provided me with meals last week in exchange for my honest feedback.  Participation in this program is voluntary. All opinions are my own. check out the other Walmart Moms had to say about Marketside. (prices may vary from store to store)
What store-bought items do you like to keep on hand for quick weeknight meals or for a night off in the kitchen? Please share!

A Real Mom’s Review of Alice.com: Drugstore Shopping Simplified

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Since becoming a mother, I have become much more strategic with my shopping time. Ideally, it is time spent after my husband gets home and I can shop by myself without two wildly crazy children distracting me from my list of tasks. Let’s face it though, the idea of spending all of my evenings in a store sounds mind-numbingly boring and I would much rather spend my time with a good book or with my family.

In past articles I have shared ideas for fantastic places to online shop including those dreaded trips to the grocery store and wholesale club. Today I want to share with you my new favorite place to shop for my drugstore deals. It is a little website called Alice.com that has simplified my shopping time and has still allowed me to get great deals.

You see, there was a time when I coupon clipped, organized rebate forms, saved those drugstore receipts with money back, and horded a large wall full of toothpaste for our family of four. You could say that I have gotten lazier in my old age or that I realized that I was spending too much money and time in our local drugstores, but I knew that something in my life had to change. I realized that I was buying items just because they were “free,” but the items really weren’t free when I thought of all of the impulse splurges and the space that they took up in my home.

Alice.com has provided me with online access to managing my household items and supplies online. You basically tell Alice what you typically buy and Alice (yes, your very own Alice just like the Brady Bunch) goes to work for you. The site organize all of your products, finds coupons and deals for you, reminds you when you might be running low, and helps you order just the items you need so you can avoid that trip to the corner drugstore or the big-box store.

Here are some ideas for how to shop on a budget with Alice.com:

  • Say goodbye to those paper inserts, scissors, and wasted time clipping coupons. One of the best things about Alice is that there is no coupon clipping involved. If there is a coupon available on the product, it will automatically be applied to your order… no clipping necessary. Alice also has relationships with the manufacturer’s and many times offers coupons that aren’t available in your newspaper’s coupon insert. It is important to note though, that they offer a specific amount of coupons on each product. For example, your favorite shampoo may have only fifteen coupons available. You will need to snag that coupon before the coupons are no longer offered to get the savings.
  • Shipping is free on your first order, regardless of the number of items that you buy. After that first order, there is no minimum amount of spending that you need to do to qualify for the free shipping,but you do have to have six items in your cart for the free shipping. This can easily be met with smaller items like toothbrushes, dental floss, or other “filler” items if you are unable to meet the six item requirement.
  • You always know if you are getting the best deal. Comparison shopping in fliers can be time-consuming, but Alice will actually tell you who has the best deal on the product you are looking at with comparisons between  drugstore.com, cvs.com, Peapod, Safeway, Walgreens, Amazon Fresh, and diapers.com. This can be found by scrolling below the item you are looking at and clicking on the, “Price Comparison,” link. You could also use this price comparison when doing your local shopping without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
  • Shopping for the best deals is easy to do if you familiarize yourself with the website. Under the, “Other Ways to Shop,” category, you will find a, “Shop the Best Deals,” link. That link will direct you to the top fifty deals that the site is currently running with the coupon prices included. Sticking to the top fifty deals will insure that you get the very best deal for your money. These deals also will be great to add as filler items or for donation items for the local homeless shelter and charitable giving.
  • Orders are fulfilled very quickly. The official amount of time that Alice will give you is between one to six business days. I have placed three orders with the company and they have all arrived the next day (if I placed the order before noon eastern time) or two days later if I happen to order in the afternoon. Lucky for me, I live in the Midwest and Alice is Midwest-based so orders are shipped very quickly here.
  • You will no longer have to worry about embarrassing drugstore shopping. I thought when I became a grown-up I would no longer care about what was in my drugstore cart. Thanks to living in a small town, there are few moments of privacy shopping anywhere. To top it off, I now have two inquisitive children asking loudly at the checkout counter what I am buying. I love that I can now buy those items with confidence, in the privacy of my own home, and not face the embarrassment about those unmentionable items.  The items all arrive in a beautifully packed blue Alice box with minimal packaging that reminds me a lot of the great packing strategies that Amazon.com uses.
  • The site offers great reminder features. Just like any smart business, the company wants to insure that you will be a repeat customer for them and they do it through a targeted email that reminds you when you are getting low on an item. When you order an item, you can tell Alice how often you buy that item and an automatic reminder will be sent out when you are getting low. That doesn’t mean that it will be automatically ordered for you, it just means that a reminder will be sent to have you come back and reorder. Thanks to this feature, there are no more late night runs to the drugstore for forgotten items… At least, they are fewer and farther between!

I am now a super fan of Alice and love having the time to spend with family and not having another item on my list of errands to do. I hope you can check it out and consider giving online drugstore shopping a try!

If you would like to give Alice a try, feel free to visit through our link.  In full discretion, this is an affiliate link, but we rarely ever refer you to anything ever unless we truly and actually embrace or use a product or service! We love our readers and aim to only offer the best information on saving money that we possibly can!

Have you ever tried Alice.com or any other online shopping service? We want to hear what your thoughts are and how you choose to shop to save your family time or money! Please share here!

Eating Healthy at Aldi Supermarket? Yes, You Can!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Eating healthy is a hot topic in America right now and of great concern for so many parents. With the growing epidemic of diabetes and obesity that our children now are facing, what is a parent to do?

The common thread that I see  with families is that they want to eat healthy, but they just don’t feel like they can afford to. It often feels like the fast food choices and convenience foods are a better deal than the fresh produce and good-for-us foods that are available in the supermarket.

There is also a common misconception that shopping at lower priced grocery stores means that you eat food that is bad for you. In fact, I refused to shop at Aldi because of what I remembered about the store from when I was a child. All I remembered was a sea of junk food and soda.  What a surprise to later discover in my life that healthy foods abound at the store and that I am still able to maintain a healthy diet on a budget. In reality, I just needed to maintain an open mind and learn to navigate the store better!

The truth is, you can eat unhealthy in any supermarket in the nation. All stores contain processed convenience foods that don’t do your body justice and that can be potential spending traps in your grocery budget.  Navigating the outskirts of the store and venturing into fresh produce, low-fat dairy, and the frozen sections for out-of-season veggies, fruits, & fish, and delicious whole grains are what will keep your grocery budget and diet on track.

Here is my deep and dark secret as a frugal gal. I love to stay under budget on my grocery shopping, but I am a horrible coupon cutter. For me, coupon cutting equals spending more money  and I usually end up buying things I don’t really need or eat. Call it lack of discipline or call it pure laziness, but I will take bagging my own groceries over coupon cutting any day of the week.  I am still frugal and thoughtful with planning, list-making, and making affordable meals, but I am just not a fan of coupon cutting for groceries. Between the store being much smaller than the superstore (which equals less opportunity to stray away from my list) and the fact that I don’t have a to clip a single coupon, I remain loyal to Aldi!

I hit Aldi last week and thought I would share with you the prices on some of those foods that I buy and the prices here. Dairy, sales, produce, and prices can vary between stores, but it showcases how well you can eat while keeping your budget low.

1 Gallon Skim Milk- $2.19
Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt (32 ounces)- $1.59
Celery- $1.39
Carrots (32 oz)- $.99
Lemons (4 ct)- $1.49
Navel Oranges (large bag)- $1.39
Russet Potatoes (10 pounds)- $1.99
Bananas (per pound)- $.37
Bagged Flat Leaf Spinach (9 ounces)- $1.69
Mushrooms- $.99
Broccoli- $1.49
Grape Tomatoes- $1.89
Brown Rice (2 pounds)- $1.29
12 Whole Grain Bread Loaves- $1.69
Wild Caught Salmon (Frozen- 1 pound)- $3.99
Tilapia (Frozen- 1.5 pounds)- $3.99
Boneless Chicken Breasts (Frozen- 3 pounds)- $6.29
E-Z Peel Shrimp (Frozen/Medium 300 Count)- $3.99
Hand Selected Jarred Fruit- $1.99
Frozen Green Beans- $1.49
Frozen Blueberries- $2.69

This is just a handful of the items that I purchased, but showcases the healthy options that are available and the affordable prices that can be found.

Whatever store you choose, here are some important tips for staying under on your grocery budget!

Good Research Goes Far

Keeping track of prices is the best way to insure that you get the best deals on the items you buy regularly. I know that this seems like a time consuming process, but it is definitely worth your time if you are trying to stay on budget. Start tracking the prices on the items that you buy regularly and keep this information in a little price book that you can take with you to the supermarket.

Don’t forget to include prices from your wholesale club. For Sam’s Club, for example, you can look online and check the pricing on the items that you buy regularly on their site as well. Armed with this information, you will be able to see if those bigger boxes really pack a better punch or if they actually are costing your family more money and more space.

When you see the prices dip, stock up and up and up on the items you use regularly. If you are a coupon cutter, couple this with your coupons and you will have some killer deals to help to keep your pantry stocked when the deals are leaner. As a side note though, Aldi does not accept coupons so their current prices are their “bottom line” pricing.

Crush the Condiments

Condiments can be a huge drain to the grocery budget and don’t add any real benefits to your diet. Skip the condiment aisle altogether and learn how to make some simple dressings, homemade meat marinades, barbeque sauce, croutons, and even your own special ice cream sauce for a fraction of the cost. A quick search on the internet should yield some great results for making all of these yummy additions for pennies versus dollars. Not only will you be helping your grocery budget, but you will also have control over the quality of the ingredients and the amount of sugar and salt you put in them. It is a win-win situation!

Hold the Meat

Plan one or two days each week to skip the meat or at least focus a little less on meat in your entrees. We try to plan one night where we do breakfast for dinner and have waffles or pancakes instead of our usual meat and potatoes type of meal. If your family is not open to going meatless one night, try finding dishes that take the focus off of the meat. Pasta dishes or casseroles might have meat in them, but one pound of meat will stretch a lot further than one pound would as a main dish. Stretching or eliminating meat can have a truly positive effect on your grocery budget and you might be surprised that with a little creativity, you won’t miss it at all!

Grow Your Veggies

Gardening season is just around the corner and in some parts of the country, it has begun! I am a novice gardener and began gardening last summer. I had low expectations for what I would be able to grow, but my garden did surprisingly well for a black thumb like myself.

Growing your own herbs and vegetables will save you a ton of money at the supermarket. If you are just beginning gardening, like me, start with a small garden or even just a container garden before making a large investment. Check out books from the library and spend your winter researching ways that you can improve your garden each year. Involve your children in the whole process, as it can be an invaluable teaching tool for them, and make your gardening a family event. It is amazing how much you can the save and learn from just a few plants.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Research proves that we lean towards buying the brands and products that we have grown up with. It is also known that we tend to gravitate towards stores that are the easiest or most familiar for us because we think it saves us time. Are we really saving any money though when we just pick the most convenient or buy the brand that we have always bought? Probably not! With the grocery prices going up, now is a great time to begin exploring other stores in your neighborhood and trying generic or cheaper brands on the products that you buy. You just might find a new favorite store or brand- you only need to be open to trying it.

***************

Don’t forget that if you need a little Aldi inspiration you can get inspired through our site. Here are a few of my favorite spots on the site to help with your planning and shopping at the store:

Aldi Supermarket 101

The Aldi Queen Blog

Aldi Menu Planner

35 Ways to Reduce That Grocery Budget

How do you eat healthy and stay under budget on your groceries? Please share your tips, techniques, and strategies for eating the best you can on your budget!

The Art of Stockpiling

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
Photo Credit: aoneko

There are many ways to begin tackling the grocery budget and one of the most popular ways is the art of stockpiling items when doing your grocery trips. This method, also known as the “pantry principle” by loyal Tightwad Gazette readers, is a method of shopping that is meant to give you the best bang for your buck.

Let’s begin by discussing the methods that are commonly used when people are trying to save money on their grocery shopping and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Planner- I feel that this is the first place to start when you begin learning how to save money on your groceries. This is for shoppers who are going from shopping whenever and for whatever they want, to accomplishing a more disciplined form of shopping for only what you need and shopping with a plan. This shopper sits down and menu plans for the amount of meals that they will need and makes a list of the ingredients needed to accomplish their task. The amount of meals planned depends on the amount of times they shop per month and they buy only what they need to accomplish their menu plan goals for the week. This is an excellent place to start and a great way to learn how to buy only what you need and to avoid impulse shopping. Being a planner myself, this method fit our lifestyle for a long time and served its purpose in helping our family save money. Unfortunately, planners focus more on the plan than the sale so this can sometimes be the most expensive option next to shopping without a plan at all. While this shopper has great meal ideas, they buy the ingredients possibly at premium prices and pay more to accomplish their plans then other types of shoppers.

The Flier Shopper- This method of shopping is the next step up and is another great way to save money. This shopper is excited when their weekly fliers and coupons arrive because this determines exactly what they will be eating for the week. Let’s say that chicken is at a bargain-basement price of $1.19 per pound. This shopper will plan a meal around everything they can make with that chicken and out of other ingredients that are featured in the flier. Their meals will consist of items made mostly from sale ingredients and they keep their grocery budget low by planning meals that fit with the sales advertisements and the items that they can get with their coupons. This shopper is still a planner, but their menu plans are created solely around sale ingredients.

The Stockpile Shopper- This way of shopping requires less initial planning and more planning after your food has already been bought. This shopper focuses on stockpiling their pantry with food purchased at the lowest possible price. Grocery shopping then becomes all about keeping your pantry stocked and not about a menu plan really at all. Let’s say that diced tomatoes are marked down to $.29 a can. This shopper would run out and buy twenty cans of diced tomatoes because they know that this is the lowest possible price based on their price book. This shopper has carefully tracked prices and they know that this deal only comes around every three months so they stock up until the next sale, calculated to happen three months later. This shopper looks at all the items that they have bought and figures that they can have a delicious spaghetti sauce, a pizza with a homemade red sauce, and the family’s favorite casserole…that all just happen to use diced tomatoes in their recipe.

Do you want to be a stockpile shopper? Here are some steps for beginning this process:

1. Sit down and make a list of the foods that you eat regularly. If you were formerly a planner, you should have some menu plans that you can take a look at. Write down these ingredients into a notebook and the prices that you normally pay for these items.

2. Cut coupons to go along with your items to gain even more savings to your stockpile. Utilize a free service like CouponMom.com to learn when to use your coupons and to help you find the best deals to apply your coupons towards.

3. Next, begin tracking the ingredients in your sales fliers and begin stockpiling the items when they go on sale. Continue writing and tracking the prices as you go along and when you see a large dip in the pricing, stock up, and up, and up. Stockpile only as much as you can afford in the grocery budget to spend and what you really can eat. The first few weeks will be difficult and you may need to allocate some money to set aside for beginning your stockpile. Understand though that each week will get easier and allow for more breathing room in the budget. As the weeks progress, you will have built up the beginnings of a pantry and will need less and less ingredients, allowing for more room in the budget to stock up on future good deals.

4. Only stockpile what you truly can eat. Even if tuna is marked to a quarter a can, if you spend ten dollars on tuna and no one really likes tuna, you are wasting money and you are wasting space in your pantry. If you find you overbought on items, consider donating them to a food pantry or a shelter so the food is not wasted.

5. If you end up miscalculating how much of an ingredient you will need, you will have to plan your dinner around that missing ingredient. A Stockpile Shopper will refuse to buy spaghetti sauce, for example, unless their store runs that item on a buy-one-get-one free sale. If the shopper runs out of that ingredient, her family won’t eat spaghetti until the next sale or they will find a way to make sauce from other ingredients that have been stockpiled.

6. Some items just can’t be stockpiled like fresh fruits and vegetables. This is where I rely on my Flier Shopper instinct. If bananas are $.19 a pound, I would scoop up ten pounds for my family. I would eat them fresh until they got ripe and then mash the ripe ones for banana breads and muffins. Applying my good shopping instinct, I would pick the sale items and also pick fruits and vegetables that offer longevity over produce that only lasts a few days or could not be used past their duration (like in the bananas example). This is why I tend to gravitate towards carrots, celery, potatoes, bananas, and apples to fill the majority of our fresh fruit and vegetable quota. Once these run out, I would rely on my stockpile of dried fruits, canned fruits, and frozen vegetables to make up the difference until my next trip.

As you can see, stockpiling can really extend your grocery dollars and can be a fun way to approach grocery shopping.

Next week we will be discussing creative ways to store your stockpile! Many of us live in smaller spaces so we have to be more creative with storage.

Which type of shopper do you identify with? Do you stockpile?

Play It Again, Momma: 35 Ways to Reduce That Grocery Budget

Thursday, June 18th, 2009


I wanted to bring back this entry because it really is the best showcase of all of our grocery saving advice on the site and on our blogs. If I could add only one tip, I would urge you to pull your fruit basket up so your child does not sink her teeth into each piece of fruit to stake her claim on it.

With grocery prices rising and package sizes shrinking, it can be difficult to stay within your grocery budget. Here are 35 steps towards improving your grocery budget and making the most of your money.

1. Buy the least expensive ground beef and rinse the meat instead to reduce the fat content.
2. Stop buying baby carrots and chop the carrots yourself.
3. Milk your milk budget by using powdered milk when the milk prices are too high.
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
5. Dispose of the disposable items and switch to cloth napkins, washcloths, and and microfiber cloths to replace your paper napkins and disposable wipes.
6. Try making your own bread using a bread machine or making bread the good old-fashioned way.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
8. Take advantage of grocery delivery services or free in-store shopping services to help avoid impulse shopping.
9. Give wholesale club shopping a try for items that you use frequently, just be sure to use your price book to compare the prices.
10. Start making your own homemade cleaners.
11. Learn the art of stockpiling and create a system for storing your stockpile that works for your family.
12. Create a series of menu plans that you can rotate so you can make your grocery shopping easier and keep yourself under budget.
13. Try using coupons and utilizing free coupon services to help you score the best deals for your money.
14. Start gardening with simple foods that are easy to grow like tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and squash.
15. Try canning items from your garden to help cut costs in the winter months.
16. Make your own baby food or find a way to buy it cheaper.
17. Give cloth diapering a shot! They have come a long way and can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
18. Sign up for free samples of food and toiletry items. You will waste less money trying new items out and these samples can help get you by when times are more lean.
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
20. Try shopping at a less expensive supermarket.
21. Bring your own grocery bags for a grocery bag credit at most supermarkets.
22. Shop at stores that will double your coupons.
23. Bring cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card. This will help you to stay on budget better.
24. Utilize a slow cooker so you can buy cheaper cuts of meats and use the slow cooker to tenderize them.
25. Try making your own condiments like pancake syrup, croutons, and salad dressings.
26. Take inventory in your fridge, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying repeat and unnecessary items.
27. Try replacing one evening meal with breakfast foods instead. Most brunch dishes are less expensive and you can omit or stretch meat in these dishes a lot further.
28. Instead of buying prepackaged bagged ingredients, try packaging your own ingredients once a week instead. It will help get dinner on the table faster and it will save you money in your grocery budget.
29. Make a homemade pizza instead of buying pizzas in the frozen section.
30. Schedule a day in your kitchen every week to make cooking easier and to help save on the cost of buying convenience foods.
31. Feed your freezer and/or give once-a-month cooking a try to save on time and money.
32. Eliminate meat or make one night a m
eat-free night.
33. Make snacks items convenient so you don’t have to buy the prepackaged goodies.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.
35. Buy your meat in bulk.

Am I missing a tip? Feel free to share the ways you reduce your family’s grocery budget?

Redbox Code & Sam’s Club Membership Deal

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Today’s free code for a Redbox movie is PK66H8. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, “Rent with Promo.” Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

Here is an updated list of new releases:

You Don’t Mess With the Zohan
Former Israeli assassin who fakes his own death so he can move to New York and pursue his dream of styling hair in gratuitously short jean cutoffs? That’s Adam Sandler for you, who you can always count on to deliver the goods in totally absurd ways. Rob Schneider and John Turturro co-star in this whacky comedy.

The Happening
If they rated movies based purely on their otherworldly eeriness, every M. Night Shyamalan movie would be rated X. Surprisingly, this thriller – starring Mark Wahlberg as a science teacher in the midst of a mysterious psychological force threatening all humans – is M. Night’s first Rated R movie. Find out why.

The Visitor
Richard Jenkins (the deceased father on Six Feet Under) stars as a widowed college professor who’s simply going through the motions. But on a trip home to New York, he discovers two lively immigrants have moved into his apartment, and the friendship he forms with them might just open his future right up.

Kill Switch
You knew that Steven Seagal could act (and break pool cues over your head), but here he stars AND wrote the screenplay. Seagal plays as a famous homicide detective who follows a demented serial killer’s trail to Memphis, where he must negotiate a seedy underworld of sex and violence.

Iron Man
The unfairly cool Robert Downey Jr. takes on the role he just might have made for: a superhero with a sense of style. Here, he plays Tony Stark, a billionaire war profiteer who becomes a do-gooder/world-saver after escaping captivity with the help of a hand-built flying iron suit. Gwyneth Paltrow co-stars.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Jason Segal, Kristin Bell and Russell Brand star in this hilarious (and frequently uber-embarrassing) comedy about a heartbroken slob who travels to a Hawaiian resort. There’s pretty much no one there – except for his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend, and tons of awkward laughs.

**********************************

I just wanted to let you guys know that Sam’s Club is offering a special offer on their memberships to show people how they can save with a wholesale club membership. I spoke with a gentleman at our store & they said that they are offering these memberships on the weekends, but I am posting the official press release that states that you can sign up all week long. I believe they have set-ups only on weekends with computers displaying the savings, but you can visit your membership services desk to take advantage of the promotional membership. If you aren’t sure about which club to go with or if wholesale club shopping is right for your family, please visit our EXTENSIVE article on wholesale club shopping that breaks down the ins and outs of the wholesale club membership. Regardless, this promotional deal would be helpful for a family who is trying to save money for their holiday shopping.

Cost of a membership versus this ten dollar deal, makes this a higher cost membership if you were considering signing up for a year, but for ten dollars you can decide if a wholesale club membership is the best deal for your family.

We only have a Sam’s Club in our area so this is the only club that we can choose from. We do use our wholesale club for diapers, baking supplies, and frozen food purchases. For us, it does make sense, but each family needs to decide for their own individual needs.

Here is the official scoop:

For the first time in its history, Sam’s Club is offering a $10 membership good for 10 weeks –through the end of the year –for families and businesses not currently members. Beginning Oct. 17 through Oct. 26 consumers can visit any Sam’s Club to sign up.

Sam’s Club launched a national radio campaign this week and plans newspaper advertising to support the $10 for 10 weeks campaign, which features 10 reasons for joining. USDA choice meats and $4 generics along with generous food demos at Sam’s Club were called out in advertising. Seasonal merchandise and all the decorations required to trim a tree for less than $100 as well as holiday photo cards as low as 35 cents a piece also made the list.

“We know we can easily demonstrate the value at Sam’s Club in just one shopping trip, said Mike Turner, Vice President, Membership at Sam’s Club. ‘With a temporary 10 week membership we’ll be able to give those who sign up a good chance to see what we can do for them everyday, and through the holidays.”

In addition to the radio campaign, Yahoo! Finance columnist Laura Rowley, author of Money and Happiness, visited Sam’s Club locations in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix this week and suggests consumers should consider five things when looking for ways to save or cut expenses.

1. Start with the Basics – Housing and utilities, food, transportation and medicine.

-According to the government’s survey of costs, these are the top four budget categories for Americans and there are some easy ways to save big money over time without reducing quality of life.

2. Household Overhead – Take a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and review monthly income, outline a household budget and look for ways to “trim around the edges” – from cable to utilities to a cleaning or lawn service.

3. Hungry for a Deal – Plan ahead and create a menu for the whole week, which will allow bulk food purchases (which saves significantly off the regular grocery bill).

-When planning a meal, double the recipe and freeze the leftov
ers, or consider setting up a meal swap with friends.

-Crunched for time? Shop online. Sam’s Club has a service called “Click ‘n’ Pull” where members can shop online and pick up the assembled order 24 hours later.

4. Transportation Savings - Start by re-examining the families’ auto insurance plan.

-Comparison shop, raise the deductible, eliminate collision coverage on older cars, fill up at a warehouse club gas station; use gas websites

5. Cut Health Care Costs – Only about one-third of prescription drug buys are mostly or fully covered by insurance, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports.

-Always ask the physician for a generic equivalent of any prescription and comparison shop online.

Tip #36 For Reducing Your Grocery Budget

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Today I provided a list of 35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget that I hope will be really helpful for families. I want to add a #36 though that I know would make your day… how about free toilet paper and paper towels for an entire year from Scott’s? Head over right now and put in your entry at The MotherLoot today. Please do not enter here, only entries over here will qualify. The contest is open until Tuesday night and then I will draw our winner!

How is that for helping reduce one’s grocery budget? Good luck to each of you!

35 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Budget

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

With grocery prices rising and package sizes shrinking, it can be difficult to stay within your grocery budget. Here are 35 steps towards improving your grocery budget and making the most of your money.

1. Buy the least expensive ground beef and rinse the meat instead to reduce the fat content.
2. Stop buying baby carrots and chop the carrots yourself.
3. Milk your milk budget by using powdered milk when the milk prices are too high.
4. Try making your own coffee syrups and coffee creamers to help save on your coffee expenses.
5. Dispose of the disposable items and switch to cloth napkins, washcloths, and and microfiber cloths to replace your paper napkins and disposable wipes.
6. Try making your own bread using a bread machine or making bread the good old-fashioned way.
7. Start keeping a price book to cash in on the best deals (you can download a free one here).
8. Take advantage of grocery delivery services or free in-store shopping services to help avoid impulse shopping.
9. Give wholesale club shopping a try for items that you use frequently, just be sure to use your price book to compare the prices.
10. Start making your own homemade cleaners.
11. Learn the art of stockpiling and create a system for storing your stockpile that works for your family.
12. Create a series of menu plans that you can rotate so you can make your grocery shopping easier and keep yourself under budget.
13. Try using coupons and utilizing free coupon services to help you score the best deals for your money.
14. Start gardening with simple foods that are easy to grow like tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers, and squash.
15. Try canning items from your garden to help cut costs in the winter months.
16. Make your own baby food or find a way to buy it cheaper.
17. Give cloth diapering a shot! They have come a long way and can save you hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
18. Sign up for free samples of food and toiletry items. You will waste less money trying new items out and these samples can help get you by when times are more lean.
19. Make your own mixes instead of buying them.
20. Try shopping at a less expensive supermarket.
21. Bring your own grocery bags for a grocery bag credit at most supermarkets.
22. Shop at stores that will double your coupons.
23. Bring cash and a calculator instead of using your debit card. This will help you to stay on budget better.
24. Utilize a slow cooker so you can buy cheaper cuts of meats and use the slow cooker to tenderize them.
25. Try making your own condiments like pancake syrup, croutons, and salad dressings.
26. Take inventory in your fridge, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying repeat and unnecessary items.
27. Try replacing one evening meal with breakfast foods instead. Most brunch dishes are less expensive and you can omit or stretch meat in these dishes a lot further.
28. Instead of buying prepackaged bagged ingredients, try packaging your own ingredients once a week instead. It will help get dinner on the table faster and it will save you money in your grocery budget.
29. Make a homemade pizza instead of buying pizzas in the frozen section.
30. Schedule a day in your kitchen every week to make cooking easier and to help save on the cost of buying convenience foods.
31. Feed your freezer and/or give once-a-month cooking a try to save on time and money.
32. Eliminate meat or make one night a meat-free night.
33. Make snacks items convenient so you don’t have to buy the prepackaged goodies.
34. Buy and prepare whole chickens instead of buying
chicken breasts as a meal or shred this meat for your casseroles.
35. Buy your meat in bulk.

(Photo Credit: WhamBam Pam)