Shopping healthy for cheap

We have gone mostly raw, and almost totally vegetarian in the last few months.  The vegetarian is mostly because organic meat is expensive and my husband discovered recently that it is one of the triggers of a fairly bad allergic reaction he has and which we have been trying to discover the trigger for (that sentence could have been worded SO much better.)  The raw part is mostly because  we have been trying to avoid using AC and the oven heats up the house–so other than quesadillas, grilled cheese, the occasional curry, eggs (just the kids as hubby and I are severely allergic) and fried bread (all using our griddle or the stove top–we don’t own a grill) we have been living on salad, dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruits and veggies, and occasionally thawed frozen ones.  And coffee–lots of coffee.

Today Rachel and I decided to take a walk but it was raining (trust me, this connects to the topic, really).  So she asked to go to the mall to walk.  Since we are trying to save on gas and are still borrowing Dad’s beast (a wonderful grandma car–a Buick Roadmaster to be exact) and are trying not to fill it with miles so he can sell it, Shamus said we could only go if we could think of some other errand to combine with our walk.  We couldn’t think of a thing we needed at the mall but we did need a few groceries and so decided to walk at Target then go to Aldi for the groceries.  We had a set budget of $66 due to a variety of other expenditures.  I figured this would be a great extension of our recent discussions of budgets and how much money we have coming in and going out.  Well, it was, but grocery prices went up and we went over, by $66 to be exact.  But that isn’t the point.

At Aldi there are tons of cheap unhealthy options.  There are also a ton of slightly more expensive but much more vitamin packed options and those were what we went for.  What did we get for our $132?

  • Lots of preservative free dried fruits and nuts (we have to be careful with this as Rach is severely allergic to preservatives and about half the options have dyes or preservatives–read the labels.)
  • Lots of frozen fruits and veggies (nothing with seasoning packs–just good healthy plain and simple fruits and veggies).
  • Lots of  fresh fruits and veggies–no these aren’t organic but we got a big bag of mixed type of pears, lots of veggies, peaches,potatoes, peppers, and tons of bananas, oh and mushrooms–my kids LOVE mushrooms.
  • Canned fruits and veggies (again we have to be careful as a lot of their canned goods have preservatives or tons of added sugar but light canned peaches and apricots with a little corn syrup tossed in the freezer then thrown in the food processor are much better than ice cream)
  • Crackers.  I got a variety of crackers, some Rach can eat, some she can’t but those and tortillas provide most of our simple starches.
  • Rice, lots of rice.  I make a lot of curry so we needed rice.
  • Pasta.  Aldi now carries whole wheat, extra stuff free pasta for $1 a box.  Brilliant.
  • Cheese. Aldi’s cheese is some of the cheapest, and best tasting around.  No it isn’t organic but we couldn’t afford the raw, organic stuff available to us.
  • Treats for hubby: Nilla wafers, honey grahams, pretzels, ice cream sandwiches–Aldi’s has lower fat, slightly simpler fancy ice cream sandwiches, similar to those from DQ-a whole pack for the price of an individual one, which is his favorite occasional treat.  And these are all things that make him happy–much better than say, Gardettos, Combos, and his other favorite junk foods.

On the way home we discussed why we went over and how to avoid it next time.  We also talked about how hard walking had been in Target.  Rachel figured out that if she had bought everything that she saw and wanted while walking around she would have spent over $500 and we just walked the perimeter of the store–she decided that she could easily have spent over $1000 if we had gone into some of the other aisles.  We talked about how hard it is to shop for things needed, on a budget, when someone is constantly asking for things then moping because she can’t have it.  At the conclusion Rachel decided that walking to Sheetz (her favorite walk because she likes their drinks and smoothies) and walking the mall and Target are not nearly as wise as walking someplace where there is no temptation.  It was a good lesson, though expensive (it is awfully hard to turn down someone requesting mushrooms, peppers, and asparagus.)