As I've mentioned multiple times before, groceries and budgets are two of my least favorite things in life. Combine them and ugh...it's like whacking me in the knees with a lead pipe. Seriously. Not good. However, I've been thinking more about the fact that we really need to make our money work for us, because frankly, there are some BIG things that I want...before I'm retired!...like a bathroom remodel (can't wait to soak in a normal-sized tub and bid farewell to my 1950's Pepto-pink and gray tile!) and an addition on our house (because one day I'd like to actually be able to have another family over for dinner and all fit around a table!). But those are some seriously big goals, which from this vantage point seem pretty unreachable. So, in order to hold out hope, I have to break it down and start small. Like making my grocery budget work. Now, compared to remodels and additions that is small, but in and of itself, it's quite a sizeable feat to accomplish. But I'm determined, and am working hard to check out my options, learn new things and give it the 'ol college try. (Where did that phrase come from anyway?)
As part of all this, I've been making a concerted effort to begin shopping differently. I'm forcing myself to be more diligent with meal planning, and trying to do it, at least somewhat, around either what I have on hand, what's on sale, or whatever I can get cheap. Enter my newest food stop....Aldi.
I don't know if you are familiar with Aldi stores, or if you have any around you, but if you do, and you're looking to save, I'd encourage you to check it out. Now, I will say...it's taken me a looooong time to work myself up to shopping here. There are many things I hate am not fond of about this particular store. First of all, in order to get a cart, you MUST have a quarter on-hand...because they keep them locked up. Seriously, here's a picture of them...you have to put a quarter in to release the lock to take the cart inside. Now, I know this is actually one of they ways they save me money, I get that...they aren't paying some poor schmuck to be out in the elements gathering up carts, but it's still a pain, and on more than one occasion now, I have been on my way there (or already there!) and hadn't remembered this little fact ahead of time and had to turn around and go home because I couldn't have a cart to do my shopping! (This puts me in a slightly bad mood, as you can imagine!) Secondly, they don't bag your groceries. (Another fact I have yet to remember in advance!) They just throw them back in the cart for you (and yesterday the girl was literally tossing them! I was trying to grab them from her as fast as possible, but not quite keeping up; at least I did manage to save the produce). They do have bags, but you have to request them, AND you have to pay for them. I'm trying to readjust my mindset and tell myself, I'm still 'paying' for bags at my other grocery stores as well, they just aren't giving me the option not to, and they hide it in the elevated cost of the groceries themselves. (Aldi's offers cheap bags for $.06, heavy-duty bags for $.10, and insulated ones for $.99) And each of the times I've been there, there has been only one or two registers open, and a line. (Though, since they aren't bagging anything, the line does move quicker!) Again...saving me money by not having 'extra' employees around! (I'm still at the stage of having to keep telling myself these things...)
But...now to focus on the GOOD aspects of Aldi!!! The stuff that they do have that are regular items on my grocery list are CHEAP. We are talking, $1.69 for a box of cereal, and the same for a bottle of Cranberry Pomegranate juice! Mandarine oranges (a whole bag of them) for $3.49! Chips for $1.29! Flour tortillas for $.99! Now, these are crazy-cheap prices if you ask me, and I gotta admit I'm pretty excited about it, as you can probably tell from all those exclamation marks. Yes, they are off-brands (no-name), but so far most of what I have tried is every bit as good as name brand. And they pass the kid-test too...no one has complained about anything I've gotten there so far. Juice is great, fruit (all that I've gotten) has been good, even the chips are totally fine! The only thing I haven't loved was their ground beef, and since that wasn't all that much cheaper anyway, I think I'll stick to buying that elsewhere. This week we'll also be testing two hard-to-pass items for our family...a 'deli' pizza (16" pizza for $5.99) and their store brand toilet paper (a big hurdle for me). I'll let you know the verdict on those later.
One final drawback is, they don't have everything I need there, so I still need to head to a second store at some point, but I've come to the conclusion that they have enough of what I need on a weekly basis to make it part of my routine. For the rest I am trying to shop sales at either Giant or Redners, and pick up whatever else I need then as well. Let me re-state...all of this is new territory for me, and I'm not necessarily enjoying it, but trying to keep my 'eyes on the prize'. One day, when I can sit in a tub that holds more than 4" of water, or stand in my new kitchen, with enough room to serve my family AND a few friends, I'm sure I will think on Aldi's with love and affection.
(Oh, and I must dedicate this entire post to my dear friend Laura who has been trying to get me to go Aldi's for years now. I have fought her tooth and nail, and in all fairness concede that she has been right all along. It's still a pain to me to have to put this much work into groceries...but hey, that's life right?!? So, yeah...thanks Arla!!)