meal planning

ALDITextSeveral years ago, my friend Lisa was raving about ALDI. But I was skeptical and stubborn. I had my routine and knew my neighborhood grocery store inside and out.

Luckily she persisted. One day she took me to ALDI, showed me the ropes, and pointed out all her favorite items. Then I was hooked.

Now I rave about ALDI too (and was thrilled when they invited me to be a part of their ALDI Advisory Council, along with several other registered dietitians). And now I take friends on my own version of an ALDI tour.

When I talk about ALDI on this blog or my Facebook page, I usually hear from someone who was just like me–not convinced ALDI is right for them, unfamiliar with the system, and unsure of what to buy. So since I can’t take all of you on my ALDI guided tour (though I wish I could!) here’s the next best thing:

What To Know Before You Go

    • ALDI takes a no-frills approach. Food is stocked on the shelves in boxes and on pallets.
    • ALDI stores are smaller than typical supermarkets. While a supermarket stocks about 30,000 items, ALDI carries about 1,400. Regular grocery stores have 30-plus aisles, ALDI has just 4-5 aisles. This means a streamlined shopping experience. I’m usually in and out in 20 minutes!
    • ALDI carries mostly ALDI-exclusive brands, though you will find some brand name products there too.

What To Bring

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom NutritionPut your quarter in, get a cart. Get your quarter back when you return your cart. There are always kind souls in the parking lot giving other shoppers their carts (and sometimes refusing the quarter).

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom NutritionALDI only accepts cash, debit cards, and EBT cards. They don’t take checks or credit cards (that saves you money!).

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom NutritionYou’ll bag your own groceries on a counter near the checkout lanes. Forgot your reusable bags?  You can grab an empty box from the shelves or buy bags from the cashier.

My Favorite Things To Buy

This list is by no means comprehensive. Every week, I discover new things or my local ALDI adds something great. Availability of items also varies from week to week and store to store. But even if a product isn’t in stock, other new things probably are. That’s part of the fun!

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom Nutrition1. Organic Milk: We drink a lot of milk, so this savings really adds up for us.

2. Kefir: Though they mostly carry their own ALDI-exclusive brands, they usually have some name-brand items as well. I like picking up Lifeway Kefir as a treat for my boys.

3. Speciality Cheeses: Different varieties of goat cheese, blocks of parmesan, tubs of crumbled blue cheese, balls of mozzarella–all for less than you’ll see elsewhere.

4. Veggies: Some of the produce is already packaged up, but that suits us just fine. This is where I get broccoli, bell peppers, and Brussels sprouts to roast or shred into salads.

5. Fresh Pineapple: They also have great prices on melons, berries, and other fruit (including organic apples and bananas).

6. Artisan Lettuce: Three different varieties of lettuce that look beautiful chopped and tossed together. Though this lettuce isn’t organic, they do carry bagged organic mixed greens, arugula, kale, and baby spinach.

7. Citrus: I always stock up on limes and lemons for cooking (and oranges right now for snacking!).

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom Nutrition8.  Nuts: I get bagged nuts for baking and snacking. They usually have a nice variety, including walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and mixed nuts.

9. Dates: I love using unsweetened dates in smoothies and cookie bars.

10. Whole Wheat Flour: I practically danced in the aisles when this product arrived at my ALDI.

11. Spices: This is where I stock up on the spices I use the most, like garlic powder, oregano, and cumin for making things like homemade salad dressing, taco seasoning, and BBQ sauce.

12. Pure Vanilla Extract: WAY cheaper than the grocery store.

13. Coconut Oil: And it’s organic! I use this to make stove-top popcorn. I also buy olive oil at ALDI.

How to Shop at ALDI by Real Mom Nutrition14. Woven Wheat Crackers: We are hooked on these. Three ingredients. A dead ringer for Triscuits.

15. 100% Pure Maple Syrup: We always have a bottle of this in our fridge for homemade waffles and pancakes.

16. Cereal: ALDI has a few kinds of organic and natural cereals. I love this Shredded Wheat, which has just one ingredient.

17. Choceur Dark Chocolate: German-made dark chocolate! My husband takes half a small bar in his lunch every day.

18. Whole Wheat Pasta: It’s made with 100% whole wheat.

19. Organic Chicken Broth: Comes in regular and low-sodium versions.

20. Oats: I keep at least two tubs in my pantry for making granola, my favorite peanut butter cookies, and of course morning oatmeal!

If you’re not an ALDI fan yet, I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think! (Go here to find out if there’s a store near you.)

If you’re already an ALDI fan, what are YOUR favorite things to buy there?

Disclosure: I am a member of the ALDI Advisory Council, which means I am paid to work on occasional projects for them. However, I was not asked to write this blog post, nor was I paid for writing it. I just wanted to share the information!


5 Foods I Don’t Buy Anymore

by Sally on November 2, 2014

Since starting this blog five years ago, I make a lot more food from scratch. Perhaps it’s because my kids are older and less demanding and no longer require me to be within two feet of them at all times. Perhaps it’s because I started paying much closer attention to ingredient lists. Or because my palate is becoming a bit more refined, preferring the taste of from-scratch to the taste of shelf-stable.

That being said, I also know my limitations. There are plenty of foods I’d like to make from scratch all the time, but I don’t want to spend my whole life in the kitchen (read: From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!). There are many foods I’ll make if I have extra time and energy, like bread or spaghetti sauce. Then there are the foods I always make myself, because compared to the store-bought version, they’re tastier (and usually cheaper) enough to make it worth my while.

Here are my top five:

1. Vinaigrette Dressing: We eat salads almost every night, and I used to buy a lot of bottled dressings. But it only takes minutes to make it ourselves.

Recipe for Quick Vinaigrette

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

2. Taco Seasoning: Tacos are practically a weekly fixture in our house, so we used to be stocked with seasoning packets. But when I started reading the fine print, I found questionable items like preservatives and even hydrogenated oils. Now I make a triple batch of this homemade seasoning and keep it in a jar in the pantry.

Recipe for Taco Potion #19

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

3. Waffles: My kids (and husband) love waffles. Years ago, Eggos were a staple in my grocery cart. Then I upgraded to Van’s. Then I got a waffle iron and everything changed. I make double batches of these on lazy weekend mornings, then squirrel them away in the freezer for weekdays.

Recipe for Yogurt & Flaxseed Waffles

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

4. Barbecue Sauce: My kids, like all little people, love to dip their food into various sauces. Many jarred barbecue sauce contains high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and preservatives. So we started making it ourselves and now prefer the taste.

Recipe for Homemade Barbecue Sauce

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

5. Pizza Dough: I’m a little obsessed with homemade pizza. Ever since tasting a friend’s dead-ringer-for-delivery homemade pizza, I’ve been experimenting with different crusts, techniques, and toppings (current parent favorite: spinach and sausage).

Here are the three pizza doughs in heavy rotation here:

Citizen Mom’s Homemade Pizza Dough
Perfect Pizza Crust from Dinner: A Love Story
Hometown Pizza from my book Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom NutritionWhat foods do YOU always make yourself?


Free Meal Planning Worksheet

September 23, 2014

Meal planning is a gift that keeps on giving. Spending 5-10 minutes on it at the beginning of the week means no more 5:30 “what’s-for-dinner??” angst. A crucial step in meal planning is food shopping. I make my week’s dinner menus and grocery list at the same time. That way, I can avoid last minute trips to […]

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Why I Love My Old-School Recipe Book

July 23, 2014

Did you have a scrapbook as a child? I did. In the pages of mine are ticket stubs to U2 and Depeche Mode concerts, photos from church camp, and dried corsages from high school homecoming dances. I don’t know if kids today keep scrapbooks (at least the paper kind) but I’m so thankful for mine. It’s like a roadmap […]

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{Giveaway} A Freezer Meal Cooking Program to Help You Reclaim the Dinner Hour

April 10, 2014

Ever feel a 5pm wave of angst when you realize you have no idea what’s for dinner? I do. It’s a lousy feeling. Batch cooking and freezing is one of the best ways to replace that wave of angst with a wave of relief. Having a set of freezer-friendly recipes and expert instructions helps an […]

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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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Make-Ahead Green Smoothie Packets

December 6, 2013

I’ve seen these make-ahead smoothie kits all over Pinterest. But I wasn’t convinced until my friend Kelly recently texted me to report that yes, freezing fresh spinach totally works. Kelly and I, who share a love of green smoothies, often bemoaned the fact that the small box of spinach was never enough–but the jumbo one […]

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One Of The Best Things You Can Do On A Sunday

September 3, 2013

If you read my last post, you may be thinking that by “one of the best thing you can do” I mean “go to yoga class” or “ignore the mountains of laundry and snuggle with your kids” (read “A Back-To-School Pledge To Myself“). And yes, do those. And go to religious services. Or watch football. […]

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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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Pantry Challenge: Week #1 Shopping Trip & Meal Plan

October 28, 2012

It’s the first day of the Autumn Pantry Challenge! Today, I made trips to Aldi and my neighborhood supermarket and spent only $32 on groceries for the week (my weekly budget is $50 or less). Week One Meal Plan Sunday: Beef Barley Soup, Homemade Oatmeal Yogurt Rolls, Salads Monday: Leftovers Tuesday: Cod from freezer, Whole […]

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