Monday, July 16, 2012

Aldi and the Rising Cost of Groceries

Are grocery costs rising? Or is it just that we're getting lazy, buying more prepared foods, have kids who are eating more, ....?

For my family, it's both. Groceries are costing more and more, and my growing family is eating more and more. And, as we get busier, ready made foodstuffs are more and more appealing. ☺

Still, I was appalled at what our grocery costs were running this spring. A few years ago, I first ran my family's grocery costs against the USDA estimates for family grocery costs--and we came out at or under the "thrifty" level which was then around $450/month. Well, let me assure you our monthly grocery bill is no longer under $450. Could I bring it back? Probably. Will I? I don't now--there's certainly a time tradeoff.

But what is sort of half encouraging/half discouraging is that the same "thrifty" level for my family according to the USDA is now around $680/month!!! That's more than $200 increase A MONTH in the past few years. So, while it might be possible to bring my food budget closer to its former $450/month, it's going to be a LOT more work than it used to be (and I have kids now, not babies, so they are definitely eating more).

Enter Aldi. I've shopped at Aldi for about 10 years. It doesn't have everything, true. When I had three babies/toddlers, I didn't bother. I needed a more one-stop shop (i.e. Kroger). But as groceries go up, and since I pass right by our local Aldi on my way to/from school, and as Aldi's produce gets better and better, you better believe I'm picking the Aldi habit back up.

With that in mind, partly to help myself and partly for you readers' benefit, I'm going to try to label Aldi friendly recipes. What's an Aldi friendly recipe?
  • most of the ingredients can be found at your local Aldi store
Sometimes, Aldi runs seasonal deals and stocks items that aren't there all the time (Parmesan cheese, red-white-and-blue popsicles, certain candies, less popular produce items like kiwi are good examples). Still, many of those items keep a while, so I tend to stock up when I do see them at Aldi.

What you won't find at Aldi (and what I stock up on at Kroger):
  • whole wheat flour
  • many herbs/spices
  • niche yogurt types/flavors
  • English muffins
  • certain cuts of meat
  • certain kinds of produce like green onions, cilantro, less popular items like turnips, greens, etc.
  • Ethnic ingredients (soy sauce, etc.)
What you will find at Aldi (usually their own storebrand):
  • basic dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, butter, margarine, etc.)
  • eggs
  • boxed cereals
  • white flour
  • cornmeal
  • sugar/brown sugar/powdered sugar
  • chips/crackers
  • produce (the usuals + some seasonal specials)
  • basic cuts/types of meat
  • lunchmeat, hotdogs, sausages, bacon, ...
  • canned fruit/veggies/beans
  • tortillas and a few other "Mexican" items
  • ice cream/popsicles/frozen fruit/desserts
  • frozen entrees/veggies/meats
  • some basic spices
  • basic condiments
  • puddings/cake mixes/etc.
  • specials each week
  • pie crusts
  • Greek yogurt
As you can see, you can a LOT of the basics there. I've by no means listed all. Essentially, with some spices and quirky condiments on hand, you can use Aldi to whip up incredibly cost effective, delicious meals.

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