to market, to market

It's that time again when our cupboards are practically bare excepting we plan to make Ma Ingall's corn pone, the refrigerator has nearly only condiments and the homemade playdough I made months back, and the freezer has just bags of frozen vegetables and a Disney Princess ice pack rolling around in it.  You know that time: grocery-buying time.  I buy our groceries every two weeks, coinciding with our paycheck schedule. Tomorrow's payday and grocery shopping time, so I thought I'd share the "good grass" we're trying to plant by way of food that nourishes us well while fitting into our essentially one-income family.

I mentioned in my random facts post that I have lost 30+ pounds since June 1st, 2013. There's a whole other post required to tell that story, and actually it's a story that's still being written because it is a work-in-progress. I love that phrase - "work in progress"; it's full of the truth that things don't happen by wishes and dreams but require sustained effort (even if there are stops and restarts), and it points to process and progression.  Yep, I'm a work-in-progress.  I'll certainly tell the story - and soon - but for now I will pick it up from where I am today: needing to buy some "grawshrees"!

The way I do grocery shopping is not for everybody.  A long time ago, I broke up with Wal Mart and its one-stop-shopping empire, so I've since tested out and gone through phases with other grocery stores, trying to figure out where I could get all that I warranted us needing while still saving the most money.  I've shopped everywhere.  Ev.ery.where.  These days I am settled quite comfortably into a rhythm of shopping at Aldi and Publix, and thankfully they are conveniently positioned practically beside each other in our town.  I buy the bulk of what we need from Aldi and then head on over to Publix to get the rest.  It's a pretty fast process.

We aim to eat pretty "clean" and minimally processed foods most of the time.  If I had it my way (read: money was no object) I would buy everything from places like EarthFare and Trader Joe's and purchase all of my meat from my friend Cyndi who raises pasture fed cattle and chickens about three miles down the road from us.  Truly, eventually only buying meat from Cyndi and local farmers like her is one of my goals, but we're not there yet.  We have to eat as clean as possible as affordable as possible and right now that means for us the Aldi/Publix combination.  Every two weeks, I spend $250 to $300 to buy groceries for our family of five.  Sometimes, there is another $25 to $50 over the course of the two weeks between paychecks of miscellaneous stuff I may have forgotten or we just need more of, but I try to stick to that $500-$600 per month.

Below is the breakdown of how "clean and minimally processed foods" translates for us from each of these two stores and even categorically.  You'll see from the list some of the choices we make about what we are willing to "splurge" on and what we are willing to buy cheaper versions of.

Aldi (Aldi has a "Fit & Active" line of products as well as a "Simply Nature" line.  A lot of what we get that is packaged comes from those lines.)

Fruits and Vegetables
-bananas (I've learned the trick to making Aldi bananas last longer is to take them out of their bag and separate them from the bunch.  I keep the individual bananas in a basket on the counter.)
-citrus fruits
-broccoli crowns
-mushrooms (button and portabello)
-potatoes (baking, red, sweet)
-artisan lettuce
-bagged spinach

-nuts (I think Aldi is one of the best places for nuts and dried fruit.  They carry affordable cashews, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, mixed-nut blends without peanuts but with brazil/cashew/almond/filbert blends, pecans, trail-mix blends)
-dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, pineapple, cherries)
-woven wheat crackers (like Triscuits)
-wheat crackers (like Wheat Thins)
-tortilla chips

-quick oats (not the pre-flavored packets, but the canister of 1-minute rolled oats)
-steel cut oats
-honey-nut-o cereal

-almond milk (we made the switch to almond milk and don't drink cow's milk at all)
-soy milk (although I just don't like soy milk, so we rarely get any)
-coconut milk
-skim milk mozzarella cheese sticks

Condiments and Oils
-olive oil
-canola oil
-real maple syrup
-balsamic vinegar

Canned/Jarred Foods
-natural peanut butter
-black beans
-kidney beans
-northern beans
-pinto beans
-pasta sauce
-olives (green and black)

-brown rice
-whole grain spaghetti
-whole wheat bread (for the kids)
-whole wheat sandwich thins

-boneless/skinless chicken tenderloins
-center-cut bacon

-frozen green beans
-frozen peas
-frozen cheese pizza (About once a week or every 10 days we will "dress" the 16" Aldi cheese pizza with our own toppings like tomato, artichokes, spinach, mushrooms, and olives.  It makes a great meal.)
Publix (Over the last couple of years - and especially this year - we have transitioned into being more selective with certain food stuffs.  Publix is where I go for purchasing those "cleaner" items I can't get from Aldi. At Publix, I am definitely there for very specific brands and products on our list.)

Fruits and Vegetables
-greens like kale, chard, and cabbage
-medjool dates

-instant grits (even if they're one of the worst foods for you, my husband still loves grits a couple of times a week)
-coffee (not fans of Aldi coffee, and we try to buy the fair trade varieties)

-Kerrygold butter (from pasture-fed cows)
-Cabot cheeses
-Greek yogurt

Condiments and Oils
-T. Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressings
-Florida Crystals Organic Sugar
-low sodium soy sauce
-olive oil mayo

Canned/Jarred Foods
-chick peas (Aldi never has them and we eat a lot of them)

-Ezekiel bread (this is the bread Ma Luffin Mayun and I now eat almost exclusively.  We get the sprouted loaf bread, the raisin bread, and the english muffins.  It's in the freezer section.)
-whole grain pastas
-bulgar wheat
-LaTortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Soft Wrap Minis (I think these are amazing.  They come in several varieties like fiesta, triple seed, whole wheat, and white wheat.  They're 50 calories per wrap.  They're a staple around here these days.)

Meats/Meat Substitutes
-occasionally, I will buy organic chicken here, but I still have a hard time paying the price for it.
-Greenwise beef
-Hormel Natural Selection sandwich meat
-extra firm & silken tofu

-ice cream
I think that pretty much covers it.  I can assure you that I've left something off, but that's pretty much the list. And it's a list that makes me peaceful.  We've made good, good strides towards fueling our bodies well and economically. There's always somewhere that we can improve and we just take it an area at a time. We still have our go-to cravings of junk and purely-comfort foods, but our tastes and our habits are changing. We're not aiming for perfection. Everything in moderation.  (I can hear my friend saying, "including moderation!")

Man, now I'm hungry.  Thanks for helping me write my grocery list for tomorrow.

Where do you shop? Especially if you live way out in the country or in a "walking" city, I'd love to know. What are the "must haves" in your house?


  1. Anonymous10:23:00 PM

    Thanks. Now I want a snack.


  2. Anonymous12:50:00 AM

    What about ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, pickles, salt, pepper? I would need these condiments to make the kale, chard, Greek yogurt and the extra firm & silken tofu taste palatable. :) Seriously, I am so proud of your meal planning, your commitment to healthier eating, and, most of all, proud of YOU. I love you, Blondie. Keep writing and blogging. Good stuff.


  3. I find myself shopping mostly at Bells and Aldi. I agree that the Aldi coffee is not great but I can usually live with their Donut Shop blend. I just wish they carried more of the whole bean version and not the ground. I tend to buy the fruits and veggies that are on sale. If blueberries and strawberries are cheap I get them. If they aren't I buy something else instead. My kids like almost everything that I've gotten there except the Cheese Penguin Crackers. Emily insists on Goldfish. I buy a lot of my cereal there and I do like their greek yogurt. I think their fresh meat is lame...which is where Bells comes in. I love the Bells meat department. I buy a bunch of my canned items (beans, corn, tomatoes, etc.) at Bells when I can catch them 2 for $1 or better. We buy it by the case when I can get it 3 or 4 for $1. I've also found some random items at Bells are actually made in Georgia. They have a brand of frozen biscuits and frozen dumplings that are manufactured in Jefferson, GA.

    I love how smart and industrious you are. You make me want to be a better wife and mom.

  4. We are almost exclusively a Trader Joe's household. About every 10 days or so we do a $150-200 shop - buying almost exactly the same things that you buy! - supplementing from greenmarkets for fresh produce whenever we can. We could probably spend less on groceries, but we find TJ's to be the best way to ensure we are getting food that is the most like real food. :) Organic meats; packaged foods with only a handful of ingredients, all of which I can pronounce; a great gluten-free selection.

    It's my least favorite part of housekeeping, in all honesty. It is typically Matt's job - when he is home!

  5. I like seeing how other people grocery shop. We're lucky, lucky people cause I live 2 miles from the DeKalb Farmers' Market. If you haven't been, you might should take a trip. :)


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