What I Buy at Aldi (almost) Every Week

I’ve become an Aldi fan. It saved our budget – want proof? I compiled comparable items at HyVee and Walmart, and the results were WOW. But first, the backstory.

Our food budget has gone through some upheaval in the last couple years. First, we moved to Kansas City and were shocked at the food prices. Our eating habits hadn’t changed, but our food costs were consistently running about 20% higher than in Texas. Part of this is the fact that there is no food tax on Texas, the rest is just higher prices in general.

I consider myself a savvy food shopper, so I wasn’t happy about this situation. I don’t clip coupons, but I meal plan, utilize leftovers, shop the sales, and meal plan (big deal!).

So what’s a girl to do? Food budget situation not good.

Then my friends started talking about Aldi. I’d thought Aldi was full of cheap junk food, but turns out there is a lot of healthy, affordable food to be found on those tiny narrow aisles. So here is a look at what I buy on a regular basis. These items are in my cart almost every week.

You can see that most of these are healthy, real food items. Not processed box dinners or junk food. But a couple treats. ;) These are my staples.

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  • Tortillas
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Cherry pie filling – I don’t buy this frequently, but I included it because it is dye-free and does not contain high fructose corn syrup. This is rare to find, and never at this price point.
  • Granola bars
  • Ketchup – organic because it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup
  • Applesauce jar

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  • Milk
  • Blue corn chips – Brett’s favorite
  • String cheese
  • Eggs
  • Frozen broccoli – a lot of store brand (and name brand) broccoli seems to have a high stem content. My kids don’t eat stems. Lots of florets here.
  • Grapes

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  • Caesar salad kit – My kids eat salad!
  • Cinnamon rolls – I don’t buy these frequently, but I included them because they are seriously better than even Pillsbury. No kidding.
  • White cheddar “Cheezits”
  • Storage/freezer bags
  • Avocados – they’re .39 on sale and only .69 regular price.
  • Black beans
  • Petite diced tomatoes
  • Gum

So just to check if I was actually saving money, not some kind of magic Aldi placebo, I pulled up comparable items at HyVee and Walmart (via the online ordering system), choosing store brand items when available for the lowest possible prices. I used regular prices for the Aldi total but included sale prices for the others (as of 7/10/16). Here are the results for the 20 items shown above:

Aldi: $34.35

HyVee: $52.85

Walmart: $45.50

So it is actually cheaper. By a decent margin!

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300!

This is my 300th post. If you’d told me 5 years ago that I’d be typing my 300th post on an iPhone app while sitting outside watching my three children play at our home in suburban Kansas City (far from Olive Street), I probably would have fallen over.

There have some big gaps between posts, mostly because of these small people who take my sleep and my brain power. But without them, I wouldn’t have much to write about. ;)

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But over the years, I’ve …

Walking around Breckenridge

I’ve documented family moments like…

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Looking on past posts, I see recipes I forgot about and now can’t wait to make again, like…

Chillin' at the hotel

And I’ve tackled some serious topics that really seemed to resonate with readers…

Milestones are fun to recognize the distance, and it’s been motivating for me to move forward. I’ve been reminded of what a fun legacy this is. I love looking back at the posts of adventures when Hannah was little. This is my scrapbook and my journal. And I also get to share deeper thoughts with friends and family and sometimes a few more. ;)

Thanks to y’all for sticking with me!

Taquito Time: The Basics

Want a go-to meal you can throw together in 30 minutes with whatever you have lying around the kitchen? Endless variations and the kids will eat it? I found it.

The Taquito.

If you’re picturing something greasy from the freezer section, think again. This version has way better ingredients and is baked instead of fried.

You’ll find taquitos on our menu plan several times a month for these very reasons. Today, I want to share the basic method, and you’ll be able to take that in any direction based on what you feel like and whatever’s in your fridge. You think you’re not a good cook? You can handle this! And it gets better? Yep, only one bowl and one spoon to wash.

First, the ingredients. This is simple.

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These are versatile ingredients that I always have on hand. I make big batches of shredded chicken in the slow cooker and freeze them in 2 cup portions. So I just thaw a bag-ful, and we’re ready for taquitos!

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Mix the ingredients. You could move on to the next step right here – chicken, cheese, cream cheese – tasty and done! Or you could scan an eyeball around your fridge and find some random things that might need a destination.

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I found a cob of grilled corn, some cilantro, and a green onion. So those guys go in, too. Just say no to food waste!

After mixing, spread in tortillas, wrap up, and put seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet.

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When they’re all assembled and placed, lightly spray the tops with the cooking spray. I guess this is optional, but it helps them get a little crispy.

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Put them in an oven at 425 for 12-15 minutes. Depends on how brown and crispy you like them. Then top (or dip) and enjoy! These are a family favorite over here, and I’ll be featuring some yummy variations.

Here’s the simple rundown:

Basic Taquitos

  • 8-12 tortillas
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken

Mix and spread into tortillas. Roll up and place seam-side down on a sprayed baking sheet. Lightly spray tops. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes.

taquitos

Dinner tonight: Catching up

I’ve been short on food posts lately, so today I’m scrolling through my camera roll and posting the various meals I’ve remembered to photograph recently.

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Grilled cheese sandwich with turkey and jalapeño artichoke spread. One of the best sandwiches I’ve eaten ever. Just made it up.

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Goat cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. Ohmyword. From Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. (I highly recommend this book, by the way. A part-memoir, part-cookbook, it covers hospitality, community, the church, infertility and dietary changes alongside recipes for risotto, enchiladas and anything involving goat cheese.)

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Homemade pizza. When the weather is nice, I use this grilled flatbread recipe for the crust, and Brett grills the pizzas. Quicker crust prep time and doesn’t heat up the house.

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Tortellini pasta salad. I put in some fresh basil from my herb garden, and it was fantastic. I think I’ll be making this a lot this summer.

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Quiche with a quinoa crust. Based on this recipe with fancier ingredients, I tweaked this and used spinach and bacon I had on hand instead of asparagus and artichokes. But still the goat cheese, because goat cheese.

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Buffalo chicken poppers. So fun and tasty! I simplified the recipe by mixing all the filling ingredients together. I also made some plain ones for the girls first, then added the buffalo sauce to the rest for Brett and me. Everyone liked them, though Violet pretty much only wanted to eat the roasted cauliflower.

Something that makes grocery shopping more fun but puts my meal plan out of whack…

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HEB has started discounting produce that is about to expire. So I can find some amazing 99 cent deals. These items originally totaled $14, mine for $3. It’s usually pre-cut produce, so convenient! This turned into easy veggie fajitas that night.

So those are some old favorites and new recipes that I’ve tried lately. Anything new you’ve tried lately and loved or hated?

Freezer cooking weekend

I don’t have the time or stamina to do a whole freezer cooking day like some people. So when I decided to re-stock the freezer, I gave myself a more flexible time frame. I made a list of things I wanted to make and bought all the ingredients. Then I started last Friday and just cooked whenever I had time. (and Brett grilled some chicken in the cold) It took four days to get to everything on my list, but now it’s done!

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Back, left to right: cheesy chicken enchiladas x4, cinnamon rolls x5, “Lawnmower Taco” casserole x2, chicken divan with cheddar crust x2, granola x2
Front, left to right: “refried” beans x4, shredded chicken and sliced grilled chicken

I recently got a new freezer cooking cookbook, and the enchiladas, taco casserole and chicken divan recipes are all from there. The cinnamon rolls are from The Pioneer Woman and the granola is based on my mom’s recipe. All budget-friendly, “real food” recipes.

So that’s at least 18 meals plus beans and chicken for many more. The only problem now: where to put all this food. I need some freezer organization help. I really don’t know how this is going to fit. And did I mention we’re getting 1/8 of a grass-fed cow next week? Yeah, 1/8 sounds like a small fraction, but that’s going to end up being around 50 lbs of meat!

If you’re a freezer organizer extraordinaire, please come to my house. I’ll send you home with food or beef.

The proof is in the pages: How dirty is your cookbook?

My friend Vanessa started posting weekly meal plans on her blog, and in her recent post she included a photo of a pancake recipe on a stained page from a cookbook. I smiled as I thought of all my “oops” moments as I’ve dripped or splattered various things on my recipes.

So I went on a hunt, through the pages of my cookbooks to find the stained pages. Wrinkled, dirty or stuck together with who knows what.

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Here’s my Saturday morning pancake recipe. The page is warped from spills and has a couple mysterious splatters. I actually memorized the recipe a while ago, so the page isn’t getting weekly use even though the recipe is. This is in the “More-with-Less” cookbook.

One of my other favorites is the “Betty Crocker Cookbook.” (link is for most recent edition) A messy page in there is for Cucumber Salad. Runner up is blueberry muffins.

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Anyone else think dill weed would make a great insult? Like, “Arrrrgh, he is such a dill weed!” Anyway…

These stains aren’t a mar or a ruin, they are proof of real cooking!

I actually don’t use “real” cookbooks very much any more. Most of the new recipes I try are ones I come across online. And the cookbooks I have purchased recently have been in Kindle form which I pull up on my iPad.

A splattered cookbook page may be a badge of honor, but a splattered iPad is just gross. I quickly realized I needed to keep my device out of mess range. This was harder than I thought; there are many cabinet-mounted iPad racks available, but I needed one that could hold mine with the cover on. I found this on Amazon.

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This is great! And the recipe on the screen is from the Kindle book “Crock On” by Stacy Myers.  I made this one a couple weeks ago, and it was really good. The rack keeps my iPad clean and safe plus gives me more counter space. It works with lightweight cookbooks, too.

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What is the messiest page in your cookbook? Anyone else use a tablet device in the kitchen? I’d love to hear what everyone else is doing. Let me know in the comments.

Zucchini revisited

A couple years ago, I solicited zucchini recipes from my friends and family to share on the blog. It’s almost October, but there’s still plenty of zucchini at our Farmer’s Market. I should have posted this earlier, but better late than never, right? Extend the summer and give these  try before you pull out all your pumpkin recipes.

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Zucchini smoothies

veggie stew

Moroccan vegetable stew

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Summer sauté

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Zucchini salad

stuffed zucchini

Stuffed zucchini

Olive Street highlights

If you’re new to Life on Olive Street, or if you’re like me and could always use a refresher, here are some of my favorite posts from the last two and a half years. Family and fun first, then food. Mmmm, looking back over these is making me hungry.

smashing cookies

Happy Father’s Day – drama!

Nice donkey.

Wild West Fest – miniature donkey and miniature Hannah, the cuteness is off the charts

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Violet’s birth story – written by our doula

Food:

ginger chicken noodle soup

Ginger chicken noodle soup

verde soup

Chicken verde soup

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Crockpot applesauce

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Fancy acorn squash

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Brussels sprouts hash

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Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin and green bean casserole

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Vietnamese noodle bowl

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Chicken salad

Smothered chicken – a no-recipe recipe

There are lots of things you can serve with chicken, but lately I’ve had fun putting things on chicken. I stick with simple chicken itself, either tossed in flour and pan-cooked in olive oil or seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled. These basic preparations provide a great base.
Then on to the fun part! Smothering. This is where you can be creative with whatever’s in your fridge or at the farmer’s market. Like tomatoes and leeks…
blt chicken
This is a pan-cooked chicken cutlet with a bacon, leek and tomato sauce. I cooked the bacon then took it out, leaving some bacon drippings. Then I sautéed the leeks and tomatoes in the bacony goodness (how to: prepare leeks). With a little bit of butter and a couple table spoons of flour, I made a roux and stirred in a cup of chicken stock. When this thickened, I added the bacon back in, mixed it together and there’s the BLT sauce.

And when life hands you hatch chiles…

green chile chickenThis is a similar process – a no-recipe recipe! I sautéed the mushrooms and green chiles then made a roux and added a cup of chicken stock. I added a dollop of sour cream at the end. Spooned over grilled chicken, tasty!

So the basics:

  • saute chopped veggies
  • make a sauce with a roux and chicken stock
  • serve over simply-prepared chicken

Easy, right? And all “real food” ingredients. No cans or cream of whatever soup. This could be good with all kinds of veggies, peppers and herbs. And of course bacon.

What would be some good combinations to try? Give me some more ideas…

Cup of cake

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We have the “Mr.” and “Little Miss” books, and Hannah has recently discovered these classic little squares of fun. In “Mr. Funny,” the quirky title character finishes by having a “cup of cake.”
How silly!
Or is it?
I’d tried a couple mug cakes before, so I thought it would be a fun and spontaneous tie-in to make our own Mr. Funny snack. I did a quick internet search and gave Hannah the choice of flavor. She picked vanilla and I found a recipe. We each mixed our ingredients in small bowls and took our turns in the microwave. Hannah was delighted!
I had vanilla coconut milk on hand this week as our non-dairy option, so I used that as the milk sub. Sooooo good. Just writing about it makes me want another one…
If you haven’t tried a mug cake, give it a shot. There are a lot of recipes out there, and it’s a fun quick treat. A cup of cake!

Food photo fails

When I post recipes on the blog, it’s fun to play food-stylist and create an appetizing picture. However, sometimes a dish just doesn’t work for the camera, no matter how delicious it may be. So some yummy recipes don’t get posted. A few examples:
Instead of meatloaves, I like to make “meat muffins,” often with spinach or other vegetables in the mix. They are tasty and always a hit with Hannah, but they don’t look particularly appealing in a picture. I’ve tried shooting a couple different meals.

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Another meal whose picture did not live up to its tastiness was creamy (and dairy-free!) chicken and leeks on rice.

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The taste was yum but the photo was blah. But more color doesn’t guarantee an appetizing photo. Check out my black bean cakes on polenta with a roasted tomato and green chile sauce.

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This was a Diana original recipe, and it was delicious. Brett was disappointed to hear we didn’t have any leftovers the next day. But, it turns out black bean cakes are just not appealing on camera.
I’ll leave you with a good picture. We got these beets in our CSA basket. I forget what the variety was called, but they were gorgeous!

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