Since I get paid bi-monthly on the 15th and 30th, over the weekend I automatically sat down to make my grocery list. It’s a ritual that falls in line with the coming of the paycheck, much like the lengthening of the days that come with the Spring Equinox. This week, though, I’m trying to save some money back and I’ve been looking at my budget to see where I can cut some corners in order to have a little left. As I stood at the pantry door, it occurred to me that there is plenty of food in the pantry and fridge both. I’m out of a lot of staples but, then again, I have four cans of sweet potatoes. Therefore, I’m challenging myself this week to come-up with meals solely from the ingredients I already have on hand. I decided to start with lunch.
I had 5 mushrooms left from some quesadillas we made the other night. I decided to do a mushroom pasta dish, so I got one serving of pasta boiling while I sliced the shrooms. I sautéed them in a couple of tablespoons of butter (yes, Paula Deen is my homegirl), along with some garlic, parsley, sea salt and pepper. When the pasta was ready, I poured the buttery shroom mixture over it, sprinkled on some parmesan cheese and voila. It was divine, or least if you love mushrooms it was divine. If not, then this is probably not the dish for you. However, that’s not the point. The point is I made my lunch entirely from ingredients already on hand. I plan to do this for the rest of the week and see how far I can get with those sweet potatoes and a few other miscellaneous odds and ends.
In the process, I hope to pare my pantry down so I can really take stock of what I truly need. Too many times, I go to the grocery because it’s routine. I buy more stuff, bring it home and stuff it into my already well-stocked cupboards. Even when I’m careful about costs, I’m not really saving money if I’m not using what I’ve already purchased. I’m just spending more money because it’s the “appointed time”. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m still careful about what I purchase and how much I spend. I just think I can do better.
For one thing, I shop at Aldi. I don’t bother with coupons anymore because I do 90% of my shopping there. The rest I do at Kroger and Target, depending upon the extra items I might need. I was discussing Aldi with another mom at Cub Scout camp a couple of weeks ago, when she sniffed and said she refuses to shop there because everything is so highly processed. She then proceeded to pull out juice pouches, packaged pudding and chips for her kids’ lunch, so apparently she’s not completely adverse to highly processed foods. She’s just adverse to highly processed foods that aren’t name brand. Not everything at Aldi is highly processed, though. Sure, some of it is, but that’s the case with any grocery store, even one as “wholesome” as Whole Foods. Aldi has plenty of food that’s not processed, or barely processed, though. Personally, I try to balance the good with the bad, leaning more on the good, real food side of things, anyway. Plus, I love that I can be in and out of there in half an hour, or less, and save at least 40% off a comparable Kroger bill. I’ve found their products to be comparable to name brand products (except their mayonnaise– splurge and go for Hellman’s) and their meat is good. Produce can be a little lacking at times, but in the summer we buy at farm stands and in the winter we go to Kroger, where we buy our milk. If you go, remember to take a quarter for the cart and some bags to carry your groceries home. They sell bags there, but if you take your own, even better. You do have to do your own bagging, but I actually find I prefer that because I can save my bread from certain doom. These are just a couple of ways they keep their prices down. I, however, won’t be making my bi-monthly jaunt this week. Smell ya later, Aldi.
If you decide to challenge yourself this week, even if it’s just one meal out of your pantry, let me know what you make. Also, if you have any cost-saving tips regarding grocery shopping, share them in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Aldi, or anyone else for that matter, didn’t pay me to say this because they don’t even know who I am.