Ok, so I realize there’s a thousand different books, apps and guru’s out there for budgeting. That’s not where I’m going with this exactly. I just want to focus on how to stretch your grocery budget while eating whole, healthy food, how to use what you have and in the process have a healthy family.
First things first, I can’t express how much I LOVE ALDI. This is not a commercial for ALDI, but there’s no way to post this without going into detail about this great store. ALDI is a discount grocery store that offers organic, non-gmo, no artificial dyes, gluten free and no added msg products for the same price of “normal” products in a regular grocery store. The main way this store is able to offer all these “specialty” foods is by using their own brand of foods. They do not have to outsource brands, they set their prices and are not dictated by major food company’s price limits. 90 to 95% of the products offered in ALDI stores are their brand with limited items that are name brands. Now, I know all you brand loyal folks out there are about to stop reading and give up on this post, but wait don’t do it! I, like many of you have had my brands and products I am loyal to. Some things just cannot be duplicated or replaced. I completely get it. I’ve tried 20 kinds of steak sauce and there is only one for my family, A1 sauce has no rival in this house. However, almost everything else you can think of I have found at ALDI and it’s just as good if not better. I’m not kidding some of it is better than the national brands.
A few other ways ALDI is able to pass some price savings onto the customers are; they do not bag your groceries for you as well as they don’t have bags for your items either. You can purchase bags for $.06-.10 each depending on if you want paper or plastic bags. Most people though just bring reusable cloth bags from home and they have a bagging counter where you can bag up your groceries after checking out. Another way they are able to offer lower prices is the way the stock their shelves, it’s sort of like Sam’s club I guess, with products on the shelves still in boxes. Oh and the other big thing they do is, you have to have a quarter to get a cart. When you return your cart to the corral after shopping, you then get your quarter back! (I always have an ALDI quarter hidden in my console where my kids can’t find it.
Now, I didn’t jump in with both feet, into this ALDI place. The first two times I went, I was leery of their brand so I kinda just dabbled some and tried a few items to see how I liked them. Low and behold by week 3 of shopping there, 85% of my groceries were coming from ALDI. We are a larger family (not huge), I cook about 6 dinners a week not including breakfasts and lunches. Before switching to ALDI our monthly grocery spending had reached an all time high of $750-800 per month. GASP!!!! When I realized this from my check register I about had a cow! I currently work very part-time in order to care for our children and ensure the quality of family life we desire. So, this large monthly expense was my motivation for change. After going to ALDI for the last year, my new average per month on groceries is $400-$450 per month. That’s $350-400 each month that I’m saving!! Ya’ll that’s a part-time job in itself!! Not to mention I have a ton of healthy food in my fridge and pantry, that meets all the special needs of our diets.
Food price was not my only reason for trying ALDI, I had read about all the other great features as mentioned earlier that ALDI offers. In our family we have one child extremely sensitive to red dye, another who is very sensitive to gluten, another family member allergic to msg and I myself have to be gluten and gain-free as well as low carb. Guys, I tell ya being able to buy “cheetos”, cereal and even yogurt without having to constantly check for red dye is a brain saver, not to mention I have a happy child for sure. There is also a very tasty and affordable gluten free line of products for my gluten free kiddo, who is happy to be able to eat pizza, crackers and bread again. None of ALDI’s brands have added msg either. I’m starting to think this store was made for us! As for me and my gf, grain-free low carb way of eating, the very affordable produce, dairy, nuts and meat make it a no brainer as to why they are great for me.
Alright, now that my ALDI plug is done I need to spend some time on the importance of regular consistent cooking. What it costs on average for one to one and a half kids meals you can feed your entire family. For our family to eat at Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s it generally costs about $25. That’s being as frugal as possible while trying to meet our diet needs. Now, for our family to eat a home cooked meal, which I know is better tasting and more nutritious, it only cost our family $5.59. This meal was grilled Chicken wings ($3.74), green beans($.65) and seasoned veggies ($1.20) on the grill. On average our meals cost about $4.50-7.50 per meal. Whether you shop at ALDI or not this price difference between eating out and home cooked is still going to be significant. Let’s also not forget about leftovers. I can feel some of you cringing…..yes I said it….LEFTOVERS. Leftovers can be used for lunches, late night snacks and even another dinner. Some weeks we have a night of leftover smorgasbord. Other options are to use leftover chicken and beef to make soups, chicken and dumplings or to use as sandwich meat. Another habit in our house is we do not throw away fruit. If it seems as though all the bananas aren’t going to get eaten before getting overly ripe, we pop them suckers in the freezer. Most of our frozen fruit goes into making fresh cool smoothies that my kiddos freak over. One of the household favorites that I do is make homemade croutons from our leftover buns, heels and bread. They’re super simple and fast, not to mention delish. Plus, my gluten free kiddo gets croutons made from the heels of his gf bread. There are so many ways to be frugal, you just have to get creative sometimes. For instance, if there is a week or two in the summer and ice cream or popsicles are a little on the expensive side, I will check the price of the yogurt tubes (they’re generally cheaper). I freeze these for yogurt pops for the kids. I do realize that some of these ideas may seem time consuming, but so is having to pickup another day of work each week to make up for these money saving ideas. There are numerous other things you can do, but the main thing to do is to sit back and analyze your family’s needs and habits and look to see where you can be less wasteful and “recycle” so to speak the foods you all are eating.
I hope this information and these ideas help to spur even more money saving ideas for you and your family! So, don’t turn away from a new store just because it’s different or weird at first. I promise, the savings and quality are worth it. Before you know it, you’ll be walking around your old grocery store mumbling to yourself “How did I ever pay this much for these?”