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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Chinatown, NYC // Manhattan Adventures // Mini Haul

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A lot of people don’t know how absolutely tiny Manhattan is. It is literally a teeny tiny little island. What you may understand as New York City – the neon lights and skyscrapers, is just a tiny fraction of the whole pie. In a span of just a few short blocks, you can walk out of the Financial District, into Chinatown, and out into Little Italy. So, in essence, you could pass by a courthouse, pick up a pork bun (which my husband is particularly obsessed with. LOL.), then swing by a pizza place on the way home. That isn’t entirely what I did on Friday, but it’s pretty darn close!

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It’s been a hot minute since we’ve had an adventure. The last time I spent an ample amount of time out in the city – just exploring – was when my parents came to visit from Hawaii. Not only that, but I’ve been starving for many homesick essentials, particularly Asian foods that I grew up with and enjoyed as a child. These *essentials*, which I guess aren’t *really* essentials, range from fish sauce, to shrimp crackers, to green tea with roasted brown rice!

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Every week, for the last month, we’ve found ourselves in Chinatown. Each time we discovered something new that we loved. One of my favorite places to visit (and try) is Asian bakeries – I absolutely adore Chinese and Taiwanese pastries. My mother enjoyed going to them often while I lived in Hawaii. Our favorite bakery was Saint-Germain, also known as Dee Lite Bakery in Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was always such a treat to get a hot dog bun. In NYC, we have a small Asian bakery chain called Fay Da that serve delicious low-cost pastries, bread, cakes, and cookies. My favorite item of theirs is the green pea & scallion twist. They also serve a variety of cakes including Taro and Mango topped with fresh fruit. Some stores serve mochi, custards, and a mix of all other types of yummy Asian goodies.

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Before heading out, I checked Yelp for the best Asain supermarket in Chinatown. We ended up at New Kam Man on Canal Street, and believe me, we didn’t regret it! I was able to snatch up all of my essentials for a fraction of what I usually pay for. In fact, nothing I bought was over $2! Can you believe that? The best bargain was definitely a 23 oz. bottle of Lucky Brand Fish Sauce for 1.95! At the grocery stores nearby, it would run me $6-7 dollars for a small little bottle! I also picked up 4 packs of Doll Instant Noodles in a variety of flavors, 2 bags of Nong Shim shrimp crackers, a small jar of Huy Fong chili garlic sauce, Yamamotoyama’s green tea with roasted brown rice, and Meiji’s chocolate Hello Panda! Most of these foods have sentimental value. Both the tea, as well as the shrimp crackers, were foods I enjoyed regularly in my childhood. I had tea in the morning with my grandma, and my grandpa used to buy these chips for me after school every day.

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It was definitely a nostalgic experience to eats these foods again after nearly 6 years of not having them.

What are your favorite Asian foods? Do you have a particular Asain comfort food that comes to mind? I’d love to hear from you!

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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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Key Foods Haul $60 2-week Budget

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This morning my husband and I trekked to Key Foods, about a mile away from our apartment. I’ve only been here a few times and already I can tell this is going to be  new favorite neighborhood grocery store! (I also just found out they deliver to Brooklyn!)

They have an awesome selection of generic, as well as premium foods. In terms of bargains, the best was hormone free/organic chicken thighs for less than $1/lb this week. They also had some nice cuts of chopped steaks and pork chops for less than $2/lb.  Key Foods offers many mark downs and manager’s specials on both meat and produce. As you can see in my photos, I scored both mark down veggies as well as meats.

If it wasn’t so far away (and it wasn’t soooo damn hot outside!), I’d definitely be heading down there more often. I can’t seem to locate my receipt, so here is a list of what we purchased:

  1. Gal. of Milk
  2. Pure Leaf Sweet Tea
  3. Jelly Rolls
  4. Peach Pie
  5. Prelude Popcorn Chicken
  6. 5.5lb Hormone-Free Chicken Thighs
  7. 3lb Pork Loin
  8. 1lb Cubed Steaks (4 total)
  9. Jennie-O Turkey Kielbasa
  10. Oscar Myer All-Beef Hot Dogs
  11. lb Lemons
  12. Earthbound Farm romaine lettuce
  13. Carton of White Button Mushrooms
  14. Veggie Medley – Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli (fresh)
  15. Jumbo Yellow Onion
  16. 12 Pack Poptarts
  17. Bag of Berry Colossal Crunch – Generic Cereal (Captain Crunch)
  18. Town House Butter Crackers
  19. Best Yet Angel Hair Pasta – Whole Wheat
  20. Italian Village Cheese Ravioli – Frozen
  21. Friendship Sour Cream
  22. Key Foods Paprika

Meal Plan:

  1. Teriyaki Chicken Thighs
  2. Chicken Noodle Casserole
  3. Creamy Mushroom Chicken
  4. Raviolis
  5. Meat Jun
  6. Teriyaki Steak
  7. Smothered Pork Chops
  8. Breaded Pork Chops
  9. Kielbasa Stir-fry
  10. Homemade Corn-dogs

Lunches – Sandwiches/Salads, leftovers

Breakfasts – Cereal, Pop-tarts

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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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Minimalist in Manhattan Update

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Hey gang,

Summer is officially here! What does that mean? Seasonal fruits popping up at your grocery stores, BBQ-ing, and outings with family and friends to local parks and beaches, among many other things. I’ve noticed some very obvious changes in sales at our local grocery store that has somewhat made budgeting difficult over the last few weeks. Aside from eggs and cold cuts (such as hotdogs), everything has been insanely over priced!

Before I meal plan for the week, I’m going to check out all the catalogs for nearby grocery stores that I don’t usually shop at to see if prices are any better.

Anyone else experiencing a spike in prices?

-Jocelyn

 

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Easter Haul: Staying Conscious In The Mist Of a Sale

When I go shopping, I always ask myself – will I wear this regularly? Even more importantly, I ask myself – what will I wear this with? Even if I love this piece of clothing, this shade of lipstick, or this pair of earrings, if I can’t foresee myself wearing this item right now -I won’t buy it. I only buy something because I love it.

Just because I have a gift card, doesn’t mean I should buy it. Just because it’s dirt cheap, doesn’t mean I should buy it. Today was a great example of this conflict. I have been doing quite a bit of shopping lately and I’m starting to notice how much consumerism can bother me. Spending money makes me feel guilty. Have you ever felt this way?

I admit, I’ve been stressed down to my bones due to life’s usual ups and downs, and retail therapy – wearing something new, really brightens my day!

Truly – minimalist or not, you should not feel guilty about treating yourself to something you love. Every once and a while, buy yourself something you love. It is a form of self-love. When we dress ourselves, we are loving ourselves and expressing ourselves too. When I wear a colorful floral top, or a bright shade of pink lipstick, I’m saying – hey! you know what? today I’m going to have a bright and colorful day.

Before I get anymore philosophical on ya –

Here is what I managed to snag off several $5 and $7 clearance racks!

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Floral print “swing” tops by Ambiance Apparel from Rainbow Shops, NYC. 
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Thick marble open-front cardigan (mid arm length) – brand unsure, Velvet elephant print (hippie, bohemian) wide-leg yoga pants by Hot Kiss. Super soft denim jeggings by Sapphire Red.
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Copy-cat perfume/body spray of Carolina Herrera fragrance.

 

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Easter 2016 Sales: Where To Get The Best Deals This Weekend

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How are you spending this holiday weekend? Hunting for eggs, morning church service, or shopping for a much needed spring wardrobe?

If you plan to relax at home, and perhaps do a little online shopping – you’re in luck!

Courtesy of International Business Times, I’ve got a list of some of the best deals running all weekend. Check it out!

American Eagle is offering 50 percent off men’s, women’s and Aerie clearance items on its website through next week.

Pier 1 Imports is offering 20 percent off customers’ purchases with the code SPRING20. Indoor dining room furniture and cabinets have their own sales running, as well.

Macy’s will give shoppers 20 percent off with the promo code EASTER. On top of that, home goods are 15 percent off — some of the best deals include a $29.99 Black & Decker blender and $600 Vitamix. If you spend more than $50, you can get free shipping through Saturday.

Through Saturday, Michael’s is giving $2.95 shipping with the promo code 295MARCHW. The store is closed Sunday, so be sure to take advantage of the buy one, get one half off Easter basket stuffers before then.

Urban Outfitters is taking 20 percent off all dresses both in store and online.

At Williams-Sonoma, you can get free shipping on big orders with the promo code SHIP4FREE. Also score 20 percent off soaps, roasters and spring bakeware, or nab a Wüsthof steak knife for 60 percent off.

Your order at Old Navy will be 30 percent off even without a promo code. Their spring styles sale features T-shirts as low as $5 and dresses starting at $15. Get free shipping by entering FREEDOM at checkout.

This weekend, H&M is giving customers free shipping if they use the code 3371 at checkout. The brand also has deals that make prices as low as $4.99.

Rad.com is offering 40 percent off spring essentials, which include T-shirts and sweatshirts with a variety of prints.

There are several promo codes you can use on Snapfish to get cool photo prints at low prices. Try 50SPR16 for half off your order, or 29FS0316 through the end of the weekend to score free shipping. Plug in 3BKSM16 for a buy one photo book, get two free deal.

Xbox is running a spring sale where you can buy an Xbox One for $299. Games are up to $20 percent off.

 

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How To Take College Level Courses For Free!

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Education and learning as a form of personal enrichment is a big part of my life. The process of learning anything is very rewarding. Now you have this bit of knowledge, and/or this skill that you can tuck away for later. Over recent years, I’ve noticed that everything I learn will eventually become useful to me – every book I read, every course I take, every skill or trade I engage in will ultimately change how I engage with the world, with other people, and how I think.

Life-long learning should be a goal that is celebrated and encouraged – unfortunately, the cost of such a feat prevents many scholars and thinkers from taking those courses that they may be interested in.

After spending my undergraduate studies at a private institution, paying nearly 30 thousand dollars a year, I realized that this just isn’t working. There has got to be another way – especially for people who aren’t after a degree. Some folks just want to be in the classroom with other people to learn and discuss what it is they’re interested in or passionate about.

That is when I stumbled onto Udemy. First as a student, but eventually as a premium writing instructor. Udemy is an invaluable source for free and affordable education. This site is about sharing knowledge with other people. Not only is the platform user-friendly, but there is some really amazing content provided by regular folks with a knack for something, as well as professors at universities across the states.

I’m sure you’re probably wondering what the heck I do when I’m not blogging! I write – quite a lot actually. So much that I published a novel, free via Kindle, have written the better-half of a second novel, and worked in research writing. Currently, I offer two writing courses on Udemy: one paid (Writing Workshop: Introduction to Creative Non-Fiction), but always on sale for at least 80% off, and one always, 100% FREE (Crash Course: Creative Non-Fiction Essays). Though both courses are online and self-taught, I pride myself in engaging with my students. I built them both from the ground up – every lecture, every assignment, everything.

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Meal Plan 3/17-3/24 – Simple Dinners

Hey all, this week is all about simple, easy, and no-fuss meals. Nothing complicated  happening on this week’s menu – and that’s exactly what I’m after!

All of these dinners can be made for less than $30. My budget usually sits at around $40 dollars a week. I use the remainder $10 dollars on oats, cereal, milk, and bread. Sometimes we have leftovers for lunch, otherwise, I pick up some deli meat or canned tuna to make sandwiches – whichever is cheaper.

Here is what’s on the menu:

Baked French Onion Chicken

Basic Chicken Strips

Basic Fish Sticks

Meatloaf 

Spaghetti with meat sauce

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