grocery shopping

Throughout the pages of my new book Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide are tricks that help me save time, money, and sanity. I call them “Crazy Tricks That Actually Work”. I’m sharing a few of these on my blog.

The Smartest Place to Buy Herbs & Spices

I’m a pretty frugal shopper, and shelling out $6 for a tiny jar of dried herbs is painful. So I head to the ethnic foods aisle. Did you know that the herbs and spices there are generally a lot less expensive than those found elsewhere in the supermarket?

(Yes, I know some cooks have very discriminating tastes and prefer to buy theirs at specialty shops. I’d rather save time and money wherever I can.)

Example 1: Smoked Paprika

Cheapest smoked paprika in the spice aisle (.9 ounces): $5.99

Smoked paprika in the ethnic foods aisle (2 ounces): $1.79

Example 2: Ground Ginger

Cheapest ground ginger in the spice aisle (.8 ounces): $4.99

Ground ginger in the ethnic foods aisle (1.5 ounces): $1.79

What are your best money-saving tricks at the grocery store?

Dinnertime Survival Guide

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My Favorite Packaged Foods

by Sally on March 10, 2014

In the last few years, I’ve made a conscious decision to make more food from scratch. But I still buy packaged food (read “From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!“). Several readers asked me for more details on the kinds of packaged products I buy, so I wanted to share some of my favorites.

When choosing packaged foods, I always read labels, looking for a simple ingredient list and a food that’s naturally nutrient-rich (not something heavily processed that’s been pumped with vitamins and minerals). Because I have a food budget, price is also important. So while I know that the natural foods markets are teeming with terrific packaged options, everything on this list can be found at a regular grocery store or Target at a pretty reasonable price (with the exception of the “Splurge Snack”).

smuckers-creamy_300 Peanut Butter: Smucker’s Natural

Just peanuts and salt and a thick, grainy, satisfying texture.

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Breakfast Sausage: Applegate Chicken & Apple

The ingredients are chicken, dried apples, water, honey, and spices. No antibiotics. And my fourth grader can now make eggs and sausage for himself and his little brother in the morning all by himself. Hallelujah!

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Frozen French Fries: Cascadian Farm Shoe String French Fries

They’ve got the look of fast food fries but are made with organic potatoes and have hardly any added sodium–so you can sprinkle on however much (or little) salt you want.

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Crackers: Triscuits

Just three ingredients—wheat, oil, and salt. I like that these crackers, unlike some others, have no added sugar.

Honorable Mention: Wasa crispbreads, which are hearty and satisfying, and delicious with a smear of natural peanut butter or a slice of melted cheese.

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Cereal: Barbara’s Puffins

Just 5 grams of sugar per serving (that’s a bit more than 1 teaspoon) but sweet enough to feel fun to my kids.

Honorable Mentions: Read “My 5 Favorite Boxed Cereals

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Splurge Snack: Simply Balanced freeze-dried fruit (at Target)

Contains only fruit and tastes like a special treat. This is what I buy my kids at Target when I’ve been dragging them around on way too many errands.

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Energy Bar: KIND bars

Short ingredient lists, and big chewy pieces of nuts, dried fruit, and seeds.Honorable Mention: Larabars, because I love the super-simple ingredient lists and (in some cases) no added sugar.

My Favorite Packaged Foods by Real Mom Nutrition Boxed Mac-n-Cheese: Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat

Filling whole wheat pasta and no neon colors.

Honorable Mention: Annie’s Organic Whole Wheat Shells & White Cheddar.

Want more ideas? Prevention Magazine recently released its “100 Cleanest Packaged Food Awards” for 2014. A few of these brands–including  Smucker’s, Cascadian Farms, and Applegate–made that list too.

What are YOUR favorite packaged foods?

Disclosure: I’m happy to be working with Applegate this year as a member of their Advisory Board, because it’s a brand I buy and respect. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!

March 3, 2014

I believe that a diet based around whole foods is the way to go. I believe we should know what’s in our food, that we should strive to eat food that isn’t laden with preservatives and artificial flavors. Over the years, my suspicion about ingredients like artificial colors has grown, and I’ve become increasingly annoyed with […]

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Do Food Labels Even Matter? Here’s Why I Say YES.

February 28, 2014

This week, the FDA proposed some big changes to food labels (aka the Nutrition Facts label). Some of the changes include: Requiring information about the amount of added sugar, not just total sugar. Putting the calorie content in larger print. Revising servings sizes on some products to better reflect the amount people actually eat. Removing […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week #3 Meal Plan & Home Stretch!

November 12, 2012

Should beer and wine count toward the weekly Pantry Challenge grocery budget? Not surprisingly, my husband–who is no fan of the Pantry Challenge–emphatically says no. If he’s right and it doesn’t, I stayed close to my $50 goal last week. I even hosted a neighborhood party–and I tried to use what I had on hand […]

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Pantry Challenge: Week #2 Meal Plan

November 5, 2012

The good news is that I stuck to my meal plan pretty closely last week (read: Pantry Challenge: Week #1 Shopping Trip & Meal Plan). The bad news is that we had two last-minute events that busted my budget. One was an out-of-town trip that involved pizza delivery. Another was hosting a night time Nerf […]

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Aldi Haul: My Best Finds This Week

October 14, 2012

I’ve already waxed poetic about Aldi (read: Ode to Aldi). So I won’t go on and on about how much I love the discount grocery chain. But I couldn’t help but share these especially good deals (and a few new finds) from this week’s shopping trip: 16-ounce bag of frozen fruit for morning smoothies Aldi […]

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Ode to Aldi

September 5, 2012

I’m pretty frugal. I coupon. I’ve even been known to hoard groceries when I come across a really good deal. So naturally, I love Aldi. I love their no-frills approach. They don’t need fancy lighting and free samples. They’re not going to give your kid a balloon at checkout. They’re not even going to bag […]

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Organic Mom

September 14, 2011

Organic Mom was in line behind me at the grocery store the other day. Full disclosure: I have this really bad habit of looking at the contents of other people’s grocery carts. I’m not judging them. Okay, sometimes I am judging them. Mostly, I view it as “research”. But when Organic Mom was behind me […]

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Pantry Challenge Update: Week One

February 8, 2011

Ten days into my Pantry Challenge, and my half-empty refrigerator is making me uneasy–especially because I know it’s only going to get emptier. This week’s revelations: Grocery shopping with $25 is depressing. Armed with a calculator, Henry went shopping with me Sunday and added up our purchases as we went along. We spent $22.25 on […]

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