Aldi Harlem “Mini” Haul, Savings Galore!

After watching about a zillion Youtube videos, I’ve FINALLY popped my Aldi cherry (Harlem location)! I’ve been dreaming of this shopping experience for quite some time, but have yet to make my way there. In 2017 alone, I’ve moved from Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and luckily for me, I am now approximately 15 blocks from this Aldi location (as well as Target – control yourself, Jocelyn!)

It is true when people say that you can easily save 50% on your grocery bill by simply coming to Aldi. You don’t have to wait for sales or use coupons to save a lot of money here. I haven’t tried many of the products yet like other bloggers and YouTubers have, but I can say that the produce is fresh and well-priced. For example, you won’t find wilted salads here! Like many others have mentioned before me, Aldi supplies their own off-brand products, which so far, have been of very good quality, with many low-priced organic and GMO-free varieties to choose from. A few things you should keep in mind: They don’t bag your groceries, and you have to pay for plastic bags if you don’t bring your own. The same can be said for a shopping cart.

Unfortunately, because my husband and I have to lug back everything we purchase, we can’t shop too heavy. And, let’s face it, the bigger the value, the heavier it is! I’m not even kidding – the canned goods, the rice, the bag of sugar, flour, potatoes, etc. – that’s heavy stuff, and we only have 4 arms combined. However, the great thing is, those prices won’t disappear. They’ll still be there next week.

So, I’ll begin by sharing with you all what I’ve purchased along with a list of meals I plan to incorporate with these items. Then, I will share some good finds that I weren’t able to purchase and carry home, but felt it was worth mentioning.

Before I begin, keep in mind that I am meal planning under certain circumstances such as limited refrigerator space and cookware. This haul is meant to last 2-4 days, with a focus on snacks, lunch, and dinners. We are also shopping to stretch our food stamp dollar the absolute furthest possible.

PRODUCE:

Bag of navel oranges — $1.49, probably the best deal from this haul!

Baby carrots — .99

PANTRY:

3lb Long grain rice — $1.39, again, you won’t find this price elsewhere

2 cans of black beans — .69 ea, ^^^

2 cans of vienna sausage — .49 ea, I’m not quite sure why I bought this, I used to eat them straight out of the can as a child and it’s kind of a treat when I’m feeling homesick

Peanut butter wafers — $1.09, my husband’s guilty pleasure

DELI:

Bag of hard-boiled eggs — $1.89, this is a pure convenience purchase; we share a community kitchen with our neighbors and any time I can save in the kitchen goes a long way

Kielbasa sausage — $2.29

2lbs of potato salad — $2.49, I love potato salad, what can I say?

Honey Ham, cold cuts — $2.59, makes about 3-4 sandwiches, depending on how generous you want to be

Smoked Turkey, cold cuts — $2.59, ^^^

Cheddar cheese slices <3 — $1.89

DAIRY:

Strawberry yogurt cups — .49 ea

FROZEN:

Chicken fried rice — $3.09, meal for 2 type of thing

Frozen peas — $1.05

 

Right now, we have a decent amount of cereal, cereal bars, and granola bars, which, by the way, are mostly from Aldi as well! With that in mind, we didn’t shop for any breakfast foods. For lunches, we plan to have sandwiches with a cup of yogurt, an orange or handful of baby carrots. I have some salad dressing and hummus in the fridge to jazz things up. For dinners, we will be enjoying A LOT of rice and beans, and rice and peas (with carrots too)! We plan to throw in some kielbasa, eggs, or even some sliced ham. I will probably divide our kielbasa up between 2-3 meals and have some of it sliced, browned on the stove, then put on some bread with potato salad on the side.

Flavors will depend on what we have on hand from take-out condiments such as soy sauce or hot sauce.

In all honesty, I am a very simple eater. I am very satisfied with a bowl of rice and eggs with a little soy sauce or hot sauce. Chances are, we may go back for more kielbasa because it’s literally $2, and we can’t deny how versatile it is for meal planning – they have all-beef smoked sausage, lean turkey, etc. so there is some variety to choose from. Next time, I also plan to pick up some canned tuna because they’re .50 a can! Another simple meal I enjoy is diced tomatoes tossed in with some tuna (preferably tuna in-oil) with a few tablespoons of fish sauce stirred in over hot rice.

A few goodies I spotted but wasn’t able to purchase:

$1.99 box of fruit bars that I really wanted, but would melt before I got home :/

MILK – it’s $1 less than anywhere else I’ve been!

Spices, sauces, dressings, and condiments.

Basically all baking and staple pantry items such as flour and sugar.

What are your favorite Aldi products? What would you recommend to new Aldi shoppers?

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BLOGMAS Day #2 // Hallmark Holiday

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Christmas, once a sacred holy day, and arguably an ancient pagan tradition, may now seem like nothing more than a Hallmark Holiday. This is nothing short of the hard truth.

Hallmark holiday” is a term used predominantly in the United States to describe a holiday that is perceived to exist primarily for commercial purposes, rather than to commemorate a traditionally or historically significant event. (wikipedia.org)

However, even the commercialized, capitalistic, consumerist nature of my FAVORITE holiday is STILL founded on what I would consider good moral values. Heck, I’ll say it – I’m not even religious!

Trying to steer clear of *controversial topics here* *obviously that ship sailed 3 paragraphs ago* 

Despite this fact, I have humanist values that go hand-in-hand with the meaning of Christmas; which is altruism, humanitarianism, and social consciousness. Yes, we *do* throw mountains of money at big corporations during this time of year, but we often do it for others in the form of gift-giving. Although my goals are minimalist-focused, I recognize that a lot of the money spent by others during the holidays is meant well and often unselfish.

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I’m keeping today’s Blogmas post short and sweet (because I clearly over-wrote yesterday. LOL.) This is more of a conversation opener – an invitation for discussion. I’m genuinely curious about what you folks think! What are your thoughts on the consumerist nature of Christmas and how does that effect (or not even a little bit) how you spend the holidays?

Wanna read another Blogmas post? You can find them all here.

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Why are so many Millennials choosing Minimalism?

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“Millennials” has become quite a buzzword over recent years. I’m sure you’ve heard the term thrown around often – accompanied with several misjudgments including, (but surely not limited to) entitlement, self-absorption, and laziness. As a millennial (also known as Generation Y), I find this generalization absolutely disheartening. Some of the best people in my life are millennials. They’re beautifully selfless, giving, and hard-working individuals. These are the same people working long hours for low wages – who work 2-3 jobs just to feed themselves. Some cannot even afford a roof. Consider the fact that I have more friends who have been homeless than have not. Most of my peers have been or are undereducated, underemployed, or living below the poverty line. Most of which is simply a direct consequence of the Great Recession of 2008 – which is, in fact, the year I, and my graduating class, turned 18 and became adults.

Luckily for me, I was able to get a quality education from a top-rated university in New York City. It opened doors for me that eventually lead to me publishing my first novel, along with many new and exciting experiences that followed. However, even with receiving college funding from loved ones, as well as through government financial assistance, I found myself in debt, underemployed, and living far under the poverty line shortly after graduation. The job market seems to become more and more rigorous each day as the cost of living continued to skyrocket. I found myself clipping coupons and washing clothes in the tub (because going to a laundromat was just too far out of our budget).

I remember being in college and not being able to afford textbooks. Today, I can gladly say that I know how to order international edition textbooks for a 1/10 of the price (now legal in the U.S.) – that’s after digging for a PDF copy online.

Perhaps it started earlier than that – when I accompanied my Grandpa – we sorted through public trash cans, picking up recyclables to trade in for cash. Because that’s $10.

In truth, it was my economic reality that truly drove me towards a minimalist lifestyle. And, sure, you could say it was not a choice. In fact, last time I checked, you needed money to participate in materialism and that we did not have.

Does the principle of minimalism bring me joy? Very much so. Not contributing thoughtlessly towards capitalism does bring me joy. Giving, borrowing, and sharing with peers gives me joy. Supporting ethical and sustainable businesses give me joy. Investing in experiences give me joy. And, I think this is also what gives many other Millenials joy.

The worst recession since the Great Depression

Well, we all know the economy is shit. I know. You know. Your Mom knows. How many times have I had a friend reach out to me, discouraged over the job market, at their wit’s end, and I, without a doubt, respond with, “I know it sucks – the economy is shit.” Well, it is. We don’t make enough to live – no one does. My best friend, a single Mom living alone with her daughter, lives in one of the most “affordable” states in the U.S. (Alabama) and she barely makes enough to survive. She is probably experiencing the best case scenario, and even the best case is kind of terrible. Why is that? Well, that’s because we’re still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

Mental Illness

Mental illness is incredibly common among Millenials with nearly 20% of them living with clinical depression and 12% with anxiety disorder. The cause? Stress. More specifically, financial stress and economic instability. After experiencing a late-term miscarriage in 2013, I found myself struggling with depression for several years. Thankfully, I was able to obtain the resources and healthcare I needed to take care of myself. Unfortunately, many millennials find themselves working for employers that do not provide healthcare and often end up going uninsured.

Capitalist Opposition

Many millennials feel strongly against corporate businesses and their capitalistic nature. They spend a lot less buying cheap and poorly made products from big box companies, and instead, opt in for local businesses. This leaves many retail businesses in worry as more and more millennials are not invested and severely uninterested in the experience of shopping.

Experience Investment

One of the core principles of minimalism is the investment in experiences instead of possessions. Millenials are also postponing marriage and growing their family in exchange for experiences with travel. They’re also uninterested in settling down (in one spot), which directly affects their interest in home ownership.

I sympathize strongly with my peers, and at the same time, I praise their positive, selfless and hard-working nature. They’re dangerously smart, incredibly clever, so very loving, and they are paving the way towards our future. They’re engaged in social and political affairs with the largest voter turnout in history. They’re some of my best friends, and I root for them each and every day.

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Sept. 2016 Grocery Haul / $100/M Budget!

It’s definitely been a hot minute since I’ve shared any kind of haul on this blog! As I’ve mentioned in other recent posts, money has been tight on our end, so investing in hauls has overall been a challenge. This doesn’t change that I do believe that buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, is essentially the smartest, most time sensitive, and efficient way to save money.

As I’ve mentioned time and time again, this can be particularly challenging for city dwellers, who don’t have access to big box grocery stores, especially those who do not or can not drive, and are more or less limited to their surrounding 5-10 block radius. (*Like yours truly.) That in itself is one of my biggest challenges in saving money. I can’t hop in my car and go to a Walmart. I don’t have a license. I don’t have a car. Even if I had a car, I’d have nowhere to put my car.

Thankfully for us, convenience delivery services are popping up left and right for nearly every industry out there. From laundry, to grocery delivery, you can get that delivered to you, and in many cases, the time and money saved in doing so is extensive.

So, let’s see – yesterday, I found myself with a $50 food budget. Ideally, I’d like to stretch it over the course of 2 weeks. The only way I’ve ever really been able to do that is by taking advantage of “value packs” at Stop&Shop and digging through tiny Mom & Pop convenience stores in the neighborhood for marked down items (in short, crap shoved to the back of freezers and shelves – crap that nobody wants).

Frankly, the prices at my neighborhood Bravo and C-Town has been really bad for months. Meat and produce prices are to the roof, so Stop&Shop/Peapod seemed like the next best move. And, am I glad I did it! In short, I put over $75 worth of groceries in my cart and paid only $50 for all of it. I used a $25 off $75 coupon, as well as free delivery coupon! There is absolutely nothing complicated about it either. Simply use the “60daysfree” coupon code at check out and you’re good to go! Any order you make over the next 60 days will also have free shipping! Awesome right?

The best part is definitely the seasonal items – pumpkin spice EVERYTHING! I am so ready for Fall. I can’t even tell you how absolutely READY I am! The weather has been really nice too. Today’s high is 71, and the low is 50. Fantastic hot cocoa and a book weather.

Ok – let’s get right to the good stuff! My receipt! LOL.

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I’d also like to point out that Stop & Shop DOES often miss a few items in your order. For example, I did not get my Stop & Shop frozen vegetable mix (x2). It’s also important to note that – like in-store merchandise, things do sell out. It happens. So be ready for that possibility.

Now, I didn’t just throw anything on sale in my cart. In fact, I was meal planning as I go. Yes, I did end up spending probably 2 hours shopping online, but there really is a benefit in sitting down and planning out your meals and taking your time with this. It’s a time-consuming process – that’s definitely a part of it.

The way I shop for groceries is pretty simple. I focus on bulk meals. Large “dinners” that can be stretched over several days. Every meal will offer lots of leftovers. Go with soups, stews, and chili – whatever is easy to reheat – foods that “get better” the longer it simmers on the stove. My husband and I often eat very simple breakfasts and lunches – often a cup of tea, banana, egg-in-the-hole, and/or oatmeal. If we want something a little more hearty, we go with pancakes because they’re dirt cheap and a box of generic pancake mix can last forever!

 

Here is what we have planned for this grocery haul:

  1. Spaghetti + meat sauce
  2. Creamy mushroom chicken
  3. Chicken corn chowder
  4. Chicken tortilla soup
  5. Chili + rice
  6. Chili + corn bread
  7. Chili dogs
  8. Chili mac
  9. Hot dogs + baked beans
  10. Goulash
  11. Hamburger steak + gravy
  12. Loco Moco
  13. Cheese burgers
  14. Corn beef hash + eggs
  15. Fried bologna + eggs

The chicken dishes will use up about 10lbs of chicken, and ground beef recipes will use up about 6.5lbs. Give or take. Each dish will use about a lb of meat.

Alright guys, I’ll keep you posted on how the next few weeks plan out and let you know if we stick to our meal plan or not!

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!

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Living Frugally: Is Money More Precious Than Time?

Many would say that saving money, particularly on food, requires a huge commitment of time and effort. And, that really is true in most cases. Cooking in bulk, clipping coupons, using grocery apps, and meal/budget planning before even leaving the house are big factors in saving money. And, all of these tasks require disciple, commitment, and a whole lot of time. Being frugal is indeed a time-consuming process – but a process that does pay off in a big way.

Over time, I’ve realized that this kind of investment of time isn’t always an option. When I ask others what stands in the way between them and their goals, the answer is always TIME and INVESTMENT. Over recent months, I’ve learned that even I find this way of life not ideal. Ideally, I would like to reduce the time and effort it takes to save money. You’ll notice this when you read some of my blog posts regarding concepts such as grocery delivery where time and effort are greatly reduced. Think crock-pots!

Truly, what’s the point of saving money, if you have no time to spend it elsewhere? Yes, saving money, living minimally, and frugally, is important to me, and I choose to live this way for numerous reasons, but that is not who I am. Balance, baby.

Before everything else, I am a wife, a daughter, and a friend – an optimist, a humanist, a lover of life, an educator, a poet, and a painter. Heck, most of my free time is actually spent gaming! Eventually, I’d like to learn to incorporate all these other parts of me into my blog. I’m sure my readers don’t actually think my life is just an array of throwing together tasty slop, clipping coupons, and writing about it!

What is the purpose of this post? (You don’t need to tell me I went off on a very obvious tangent – I see that :P) I just want to tell all of you that if you’re making progress, you’re doing everything right – keep pushing, keep grinding, but most importantly, be you always. Also, that I wrote this post for you just as much as I wrote it for myself.

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Ipsy Dipsy August

Through a friend’s referral, I was able to get my first Glambag for only $5! What can I say? I’m already in love. Not only was my Glambag valued at over $70, YES SEVENTY DOLLARS, each produce is absolutely amazing!

Any frugal fashion or beauty guru would be quick to tell you how fantastic the Ipsy Glambag is. However, no product subscription comes without a little gamble, am I right? In fact, you won’t know what products you will receive until it’s shipped. However, with Ipsy, you can easily receive five high quality, high-priced beauty products for only $10 a month! (both full-sized and large deluxe samples that are long-lasting!)

In my opinion, Ipsy is a fantastic way to not only discover new products, but also to build a collection of high quality make-up products without investing a lot of money doing so.

At first I thought – this really isn’t a very minimalist thing to do! And, in a way, it’s not. However, I don’t think that’s entirely true. I believe that having few high quality items that bring us joy and make us feel good about ourselves is a big part of what minimalism is all about. My suggestion? Well, we know these are great products, however, sometimes we simply have no interest or use for them. Instead of holding on to these products for the sake of holding on to them, consider trading or giving away with friends and family! In short: Use what you love, and let go (share) of the rest!

My favorite product in this month’s Glambag was definitely the Luseta’s Argan Oil Hair Masque. Not only does this masque keeps your hair soft and moisturizer for days at a time, it also prevents future tangling (and I have very long, very thick, easy to tangle hair!) So far, I’ve also noticed that it prevents my hair from getting oily in this hot and humid weather!

What did you gals receive in this month’s Glambag?

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Buy Local, New York!

I’ve said this time and time again, yes – I know, but I really can’t stress this enough – buy local! One of the greatest benefits of living in a highly diverse metropolitan city is being able to shop an extensive amount of local businesses spanned across many “Little” cities or ethnic enclaves such as Little Italy and China Town. There are tons of mom and pop shops in almost every neighborhood in NYC. My home, Washingtonian Heights, is its own Little Dominican Republic with many Latin American specialty shops and restaurants.

These small shops rely on their neighboring residents to keep them in business, and in many ways, they often offer very competitive prices and cater specifically to their residents – sometimes better than what you can find in chain stores within the neighborhood. Just last week, I found a tub of yogurt shoved in the back of a fridge inside a small shop priced for $1.59. I could find the same product in our neighborhood Bravo Supermarkets for $3.69. The only thing I recommend is to always check expiration dates! If you’re willing to take your time to dig, you can find some really affordable pantry items, as well as frozen and refrigerated goods. Many of these shops will often have your basic grocery needs such as milk, bread, and eggs for cheaper than your neighborhood supermarket.

Just a few days ago, I discovered a small local chain, “Deals and Discounts” that offers department store merchandise for very cheap. Though not a mom and pop, definitely check it out! They have many of your name brand products, as well as generic (which, I must add, is most of the time, just as good! I always recommend to try the generic – you’ll be surprised that a lot the time, it’s not very different from the name brand stuff.) They had basic apparel for the family, seasonal + household products, and some edible goods – your usual convenience store set up. Check them out here: http://www.deeii.com/locations.htm They may have a store in your neighborhood!

Skip the chain stores today and discover your new favorite mom and pop shop, 99 cent store, bodega, or local market!

Got a favorite local business you’d like to share? Leave their information in the comments below!

Happy shopping,
Jocelyn

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Peapod Grocery Haul – $28.09 Per Week Budget/Meal Plan

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I can’t even begin to explain how much I am loving Peapod right now, and how much of a bargain it has been for me and my family. When it comes to feeding myself and my husband healthy and wholesome meals (for the most part 😛 ) for very little money, this really is where it’s at.

So, just to start, I’d like to let you know that my order came out to over $100. About $20 of those dollars went to household items such as toilet paper, dish soap, and cat food to last the month. The rest? Food for nearly 3 weeks.

It could last a bit longer depending on how much we actually end up eating on a day-to-day basis. We also aren’t quite at bare fridge/freezer yet. We have a 3-4 days, if not more of meat in the freezer. We also have frozen vegetables, and leftovers in the fridge. Regardless, I calculated this food plan for 21 days.

I’d like to also throw it out there that I will probably be going to the street markets once a week and spending a few more dollars on fresh fruit for snacking and smoothies. I might also pick up some rice. I also took it upon myself to “shop the pantry”, therefore there are some items I will be cooking with over the next 3 weeks that I already have at home.

Though my meal plan is still sort of a rough draft, this is what I have in the works right now:

Breakfast:

  • Waffles
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal (in pantry)
  • Smoothies

Lunches:

  • Sandwiches
  • Smoothies
  • Leftovers

Dinners:

  • Italian sausage, Peppers, and Potato Bake x3
  • Spaghetti & Meat Sauce x3
  • Beef Stew x2
  • Teriyaki Chicken x3
  • Spanish Chicken Stew x2
  • Classic Roast Chicken x3
  • Tacos x2
  • Chili x2
  • Oven-baked Fish Fillets x3

The idea behind this meal plan, (and for the most part, all of my meal plans), is buying and cooking in bulk and eating leftovers for 2-3 consecutive dinners. It is also using the same ingredients, with different seasonings, for many different dishes. Stews are very inexpensive to cook and it makes a TON!  The stews, as well as the Italian sausage bake will all incorporate the same vegetables. Chili and tacos are both very low-cost, especially if you buy your beans dry and cook them in bulk for the week. (However, this week, I did buy them canned because they were less than 60 cents a can.) The fish fillets are indeed frozen – value size bag of 12 for $3! Teriyaki chicken is very low-cost and simple as well. It only calls for (the cheapest cuts you can find) chicken, soy sauce, sugar, and a few fresh ingredients such as garlic and ginger which I keep on hand.

This is really handy for families who have differing work schedules and don’t spend a lot of time at home during meal time. It not only saves time and money, but when it comes to soups, stews, and chili, it really does get better the longer it cooks and the more times it is reheated on the stove.

I honestly really enjoy the process of cooking, but I realize that a lot of people just don’t have the time/don’t want to invest the time in cooking when they could be investing that time in doing something else (leisure activities, for example). I’d rather be spending my free time playing video games than cooking and cleaning! No lies here!

 

 

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Reminder: Check A-L-L Grocery Catalogs!

 

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When I load up my Flipp app, there are literally hundreds of catalogs that pop up. On a regular day (or week), I usually don’t bother looking at any of the catalogs for stores that I don’t frequent. To be honest, I am probably missing out on deals I’m not even aware of. In truth, it is kind of a pain to skim through tons of catalogs, but in the long run, you do save money. Effort always pays off.

 

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Frugal Tips – Shop Your Pantry!

Today was a great example as to why it is important to shop your pantry before going out to buy something else.  Let me explain.

This morning my husband woke me with news that there was an error alert on my desktop screen. Of course Luna (my cat) decided to sleep on my keyboard last night. She somehow  managed to manually reset my computer! (LOL) I was not surprised; this is definitely a Luna thing. She has turned off our Xbox One with her tail, as well as reset the internet – quite the trouble maker! Unfortunately, I spent the remainder of the day getting my laptop back in working order!

Anyhow, all of this had me completely forgetting that I had the Peapod delivery set for this afternoon! I missed 3 calls from Peapod while focusing on my laptop fiasco – one that they were in the neighborhood, another when they arrived, and a last one that notified me of out-of-stock items that did not make it in my delivery. It is one of my favorite features about Peapod, yet the alert only works if you pay attention to your phone…

So, as you can imagine, I was completely thrown off from my meal plan I had put together for the next few weeks. Instead of going out to the store to pick up those missing items, we decided it would make more sense money-wise to first see what we had in our pantry.

A lot of the time we think there is nothing to eat in our homes, but in reality, we have food – we just don’t really want to eat it – or don’t know what to eat it with, how to prepare it, ect.

This is a great time to get creative and/or to check out some recipes online. Tomorrow we plan to do just that! I’ll keep you folks posted on how well we improvise with what we already have at home!

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