Frugal Fri-PAY: 4 Amazing Aldi Hacks To Keep Those Coins

Frugal Fri-PAY: 4 Amazing Aldi Hacks To Keep Those Coins

I love Aldi.

I mean that from the depths of my soul.

If Aldi grocery stores were incarnated in human form, I’d consider divorcing my husband and marrying that human.

I would cook for Aldi, I would clean for Aldi, I would happily have little Aldi babies.

For those of you living under a rock, Aldi is the inexpensive food market chain owned by German company Albrecht Discounts (abbreviated “AlDi”), who also owns Trader Joe’s. The chain began in 1948 and now has about 7,600 stores in Germany, Europe, Australia, and the United States.  

aldi

Aldi has been my cornerstone and saving grace for many moons. From being a newlywed, back to college, and to my youth, me & Aldi go waaaaayyyyy back. I’m not even going to act like North St. Louis ain’t raised me. But even if you live in more prominent areas, there is no denying that Aldi is the most cost-effective grocery store around. I believe this is in part because their product manufacturers do not spend as much money on advertisements. As a result, the products are off brand, but there is no upcharge, and you as a consumer get the same products as high-end grocers for less than half the price.

Now there are some of y’all out there who are brand whores & proud of it.  I’ve actually met people who turn their nose up at the average Aldi shopper. To that I say, do you boo boo. Do YOU!! If name brand cereal is how you get your kicks in life, then by all means, do what makes you happy. If you got it like that, I say go for it!! 

But honey, I’ll take ‘Chocolate Waves’ over ‘Oreos’ any day, especially if they’re less than half the price.

There was a point where I dabbled in Extreme Couponing, and this was the only time in my life that I couldn’t shop at Aldi because the prices there are so low that they do not accept manufacturer’s coupons. That is literally their store policy.

That being said here are 4 ways I’ve learned to use my frugality for good, even at places like Aldi, where saving money is already a given.

1.Set & Subtract

You’re in the aisle. You see an item on your list. You see the price, whip out your calculator and tally up each item you plan on buying as you place it in your cart. You finally get to the register with a rough figure of how much you’re about to spend. Then the dreaded moment arrives when your cashier announces your total,( Sidebar: Is it just me or do cashiers intentionally announce this a little more LOUDLY than they should?) and that total is not at all what your calculator said it would be.  How many times have we all found ourselves in this predicament?

I used to shop this way myself so don’t feel bad. You’re not a terrible frivolous spender without any self-control, so chill out. There will always be a discrepancy with this method unless you account for items not originally on your list, and taxes, which varies depending on the area. For example, an Aldi in the ‘hood of North or West St. Louis city may charge tax at 8.11%, whereas an Aldi in a Chesterfield suburb in West County will charge around 6 or 7%. (Another Sidebar: Why the poor & disadvantaged in St. Louis are being charged more in taxes is an entirely different blog entry for another day, but stay with me here)

To have a more realistic outcome on your calculator, implement my handy dandy ‘Set & Subtract’ method. Meaning:

  1. a) SET a realistic cash amount as a goal for how much you plan to spend. No more no less. Resolve that you will not succumb to Swipe-itis and leave your debit card at home. Once your cash is gone, it’s gone. If you happen to receive Food Stamps, you can still set a limited amount for yourself to swipe.
  2. b) Enter your cash limit amount in your calculator. Each time an item lands in your cart, SUBTRACT it’s listed price from the amount of cash you have on hand. Instead of giving you an estimate of how much money you’re about to spend, your calculator will now show you an estimate of how much money you get to take home (if any).

I’ve done this a few times, and by the grace of God, sometimes I leave with more money in my pocket than I calculated for.

2.Skip the first aisle

“Make sure the first thing your consumers see when they walk in the door is items they don’t need but will want to spend money on.”

This marketing scheme is the same in most grocery stores but it’s especially true for Aldi because their store layout is practically identical. The very first aisle in every store is chips, crackers, candy, & sweets. Every single store. And to add insult to injury, you HAVE to walk down the very first aisle to get to the rest of the store because the aisle is literally blocked off from everything else. This is no coincidence, kids. As much as I love Aldi, they still want your money, honey! And what better way to fall off your financial & diet goals than to buy something you don’t NEED to eat.

Don’t give in.

Skip the first aisle & head straight to the produce section. If there’s something on your list you really need from the first aisle, and your self-control is wavering…you can always go back to get that item later when your calculator has already put in some work and you’re of sober mind.

3. Beware of Special Buy Items

I live and die by a list but even Aldi occasionally throws me off my game with their Special Buy items. Could be anything, really. Home decor, kitchen utensils, small appliances, lifestyle gear, or my personal favorite…limited edition food items. Aldi has no shame. And they get you because there’s no telling how long Special Buy items will be on the shelves or if there will be new shipment of the exact same special buy items to your store.

So if you see something you think you could use, you either buy it right then & there or risk never seeing it again in stores. I’ve fallen victim to this a few times mainly because the item in question was such a great value for the price. I’ve gotten a knock off NutriBullet from Aldi for about $30, that’s a steal considering they usually run for at least $80. And my little knock off has lasted me about 4 years now.

blender

Just the other day I saw an electric vegetable chopper on Facebook for about $50. But lo & behold, I get to Aldi…I’m doing my shopping…minding my own business and there’s a comparable model on sale in the Special Buy section for less than $30..WITH TWICE THE ATTACHMENTS AS THE ONE ON FACEBOOK???!!!

Just take all my money, Aldi! Just TAKE IT!!

electric slicer

Yeah, just skip the Special Buy aisle too while you’re at it.

4.Circle Back

So you made it through the trenches with your list, calculator, and your sanity intact. You’ve conquered the Special Buy Demon and resisted the Snack Aisle Spirit. Hallelujah!

At this point (keeping your calculator at bay), you can circle back through the store one last time and reward yourself with an item not originally on your list. At this point, you have an opportunity to consider which is a priority for you: a temporary treat, or keeping those coins? Doing this AFTER you’ve got everything on your list into your cart, ensures that you’ll be smart about the money you have left over to treat yourself. 

I do this because in many areas of my life, especially grocery shopping, I am on AutoPilot. I like to get it over with as quickly as possible so that I’m less tempted to overspend or forget anything. If I’ve done a great job staying on-task, I’ll reward myself by going back for those sea salt kettle chips or salted caramel candies that I saw in the first aisle (cash budget permitting, of course).

I also do this because try as I might, sometimes I ignore my intuition and go to the store hungry. This is the absolute worst way to shop!! But alas, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a snack for the ride home. I mean, you gotta get your strength up before you haul all those grocery bags into the house, right?

So there you have it, guys & gals. 4 Ways to save at Aldi. What money saving hacks do you guys like to use? Comment & let me know!

Til next time, Happy Fri-PAY!!

Your favorite “frugal foodie”,

-A

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Parmesan Sliders

Meatless Monday: Eggplant Parmesan Sliders

Soo….. you got a bunch of baby eggplants & you don’t know what to do?

Never fear my loves, I got 3 words for you:

Eggplant.

Parmesan.

Sliders!!!

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Inspired in part by my absolute favorite sandwich of all time from Snarf’s, these eggplant parmesan sliders made me almost forget there was no meat in them!

THE SAUCE IS THE BOSS

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I decided to forego regular marinara sauce for this recipe and instead chose Freddie Lee’s Ghetto Sauce. It’s made, packaged, & sold locally here in St. Louis. It’s frikkin delicious and that’s an understatement.  I found this divine gift from above at the Historic Soulard Farmer’s Market one Saturday afternoon. I just gotta say, this sauce really took this dish to a whole new level. It is marketed as a multipurpose sauce and baby they ain’t lying. I’ve used it as a marinade for salmon, and as a salsa in my tortilla soup. And as if it being delicious wasn’t enough, it’s gluten free and has no high fructose corn syrup! Now that’s something I can get with. 

No worries though all you non-St.Louisans. Even if you don’t have Ghetto Sauce on hand, regular pasta sauce will do just fine.

PREPPING THE PRODUCE

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So first of all, let me just say that when you’re working with eggplant you must remember it is mostly water so you will need to prep it by drying it out.

I did this by slicing them all into small discs then placing them in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch the water. Sprinkle sea salt over each layer of eggplant, then place a paper towel over the top & weigh it down with something heavy. I used two cans of soup, but you can use anything heavy like a tea kettle or a jug of water. Let your eggplant sit for about 30-45 minutes.

I know, I know, it seems like forever but just watch an episode of Blackish, or Queen Sugar, you’ll be fine. These sliders are worth every minute of your time.
When you return, pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel & get ready to roast it, baby! I seasoned mine with olive oil & pepper but you can use whatever you like.

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After roasting, it’s time to prepare your sliders!

INGREDIENTS

Sliders:

  • Dinner rolls or Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • Eggplant, sliced & roasted
  • Red pasta sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella

Butter Glaze:

  • Melted butter
  • Minced garlic
  • Parsley flakes
  • Grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Slice the rolls in half lengthwise.
  3. Place the bottom half on a 9×13 baking tray.
  4. Spread the eggplant evenly on the rolls, followed by the red sauce, then mozzarella,
  5. Place the remaining half of the rolls on top
  6. Mix the melted butter with the garlic, parsley, and parmesan.
  7. Brush the top of the rolls with the butter glaze.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Slice, then serve!

I must say, this dish was truly egg-cellent, some might even say egg-straordinary!

(hehe, I had to throw those in there guys) 😉

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Give this recipe a try and stay (mostly) meatless 🙂

-A

Mushroom “Beef” & Broccoli

Mushroom “Beef” & Broccoli

There is no Chinese food quite like the kind you will find in St. Louis. Period. Hands Down. Other cities can’t hold a candle to it.  It’s so delicious it’s indescribable, but I will try to do it justice.

For all intents and purposes, I will be referring to the Asian cuisine as “Chinamen” from here on out. It is the politically incorrect term of endearment that us St. Louisans use to describe our beloved hometown staple. And no, we’re not talking P.F Chang’s or Panda Express..We’re talking about the mom & pop shops nestled between liquor stores and nail salons. We’re talking about eateries equipped only to place & receive orders, where seating is minimal and the soy sauce packets are plenty.

So, what makes “Chinamen” so good here in the STL?

1. FRIED RICE

When we say fried rice, we mean business. If your fried rice is light brown with peas & carrots in it..your rice is NOT from the Chinamen. No ma’am. Veggies or not, the complexion of your fried rice must be similar in color to a salted caramel or darker. Real Chinamen fried rice is still delicious sans soy sauce..and if you don’t get high cholesterol just by looking at it…that ain’t the rice for you, boo.  

2. FRIED ANYTHING REALLY

As if the fried rice isn’t already heaven, a true Chinamen will also have an artery-clogging assortment of deep fried items to choose from..many of which are not necessarily considered chinese food to begin with. Fried chicken, fried shrimp, fried fish, fried crab sticks, fried mozzarella sticks.

Hell, depending on the place, if you ask them to batter & deep fry a whale’s scrotum they might just do it for you.

3. ST. PAUL SANDWICHES

Ahh, a Missouri delicacy. The St. Paul sandwich is so unique it’s earned itself it’s very own Wikipedia page (no joke, just google it). It’s an egg foo young patty topped with pickles, onion, & mayo on two slices of white sandwich bread…cause you know..buns are for those uppity restaurants. If you really want to intensify this eating experience…ask for it with cheese!

If you ever decide to cross the Mississipi & come to St. Louis, immediately upon seeing the Gateway Arch you need to stop what you’re doing, find yourself a black friend, and have them escort you (during daytime hours of course) to the nearest poverty stricken, borderline gentrified, predominately African-American neighborhood for some Chinamen.

It’ll be the best thing your taste buds will have ever known.

CHINAMEN…GONE MEATLESS?

One day my love and I decided to get dinner from our Chinamen of choice, and I realized that with my meatless lifestyle I had to forego my regular order and (gasp) try something new. I settled on a Veggie St. Paul sandwich with cheese. Never one to leave me feeling left out, my husband decided to also try something new on the menu. He settled on Beef & Broccoli. He loved it so much it got my wheels turning. I just KNEW I had to find a way to make a meatless version of his new fave.

I’ve told you all once before…I’m incredibly lazy. That being said, your girl was not about to create her own beef substitute measuring out & kneading mixtures of coconut flour, nutritional yeast & what not. That’s just not my ministry.

Enter…MUSHROOM CAPS!

I’ve always been a fan of mushrooms, but when you take a portobello cap, slice it and season it a certain way..it’s very reminiscent of beef. I mean, I’d already done something similar with my Mushroom Burgers, but this time, I knew I was on to something.

Now, this here recipe STILL ain’t got nothing on real St. Louis Chinamen, but if you want to stay in the house and save a few coins, give this recipe a try:

Mushroom “Beef” & Broccoli

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SAUCIN’..I’m SAUCIN’…I’m SAUCIN…on you..

THE SAUCE PREP

sauce..beef n brocc

1⁄2 cup beef broth

2 tbsp Soy Sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp cornstarch

THE GOODS PREP

1 tbsp Olive Oil

2 Portobello Mushroom caps, thinly sliced

Salt & Pepper

1 white onion, chopped

1 tsp minced garlic

1 broccoli crown, cut into florets

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, make your sauce by whisking broth, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set Aside
  2. In a large wok or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat
  3. Add mushroom caps and saute with salt & pepper until fragrant
  4. Remove mushrooms from the skillet and set aside
  5. To the skillet, add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds
  7. Add sauce and broccoli
  8. Cover and cook until broccoli is bright green
  9. Add mushroom caps back into the pan:
  10. Stir well and cook for another 2-4 minutes

And enjoy!

I think this is pretty amazing on it’s own but you can always pair this with fried rice, but regular rice works too. 

Stay (mostly) meatless!

-A

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

ER-MAH-GERRRD!! You guys, I had no clue how delicious these things would turn out. I’d never made asparagus before, the sound of the word alone made me turn up my nose.

I’d seen people wrap their asparagus in bacon before. Though it seemed tempting for a second, pork and I just don’t agree. So what’s a girl to do with a new piece of produce?

Cover it in cheese & roast that bad boy!

I received my asparagus as part of another veggie haul from a friend of the family. I’m glad I got it when I did because I’d just finished paying bills, and I had about $7 to my name. While I’m certain that my love would have no problem at all bringing home a pizza, I just cringe when I see too many food purchases on the bank statements, especially when there’s a kitchen full of food. Y’all know how I am about my coins, so I figured hey…time to make a miracle happen in this kitchen.  

PREP TIME

My asparagus was right on the edge of going bad, so if this ever happens to you, know that you can still salvage it by washing off the liquid really well in the sink, and cutting off the stems and tips. Be advised, produce going bad (especially the green stuff) will stink. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  

ROAST IT BABY

This one took no time at all. I ended up pairing it with a zucchini/squash casserole that I’d previously made on Sunday, and some honey garlic potatoes. Definitely making this simple side dish again!

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Ingredients

(I didn’t really measure anything this time, so use your best judgment on what works for you)

parm asp 1

Asparagus

Sea Salt

Black Pepper

Olive Oil

Shredded Parmesan

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prep Asparagus by washing and cutting down to size
  3. Place asparagus spread out on greased cookie sheet
  4. Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes
  6. Remove from oven
  7. Sprinkle shredded parmesan over asparagus
  8. Return to oven for another 10 minutes

And enjoy!

Stay (mostly) meatless!

-A

Carrot Chips – 2 Delicious Ways!

Carrot Chips – 2 Delicious Ways!

You guys…it happened. I almost gave in. It was just before pay day, my stomach growled and I ransacked my cabinets looking for a fix.

It was like a cruel & surreal joke..cereal, no milk…peanut butter, no jelly. What was I to do? My cup of hunger-induced tears ranneth over.

It doesn’t help one bit that I live next door to a McDonald’s, and the smell of chicken nuggets rose throughout my building. As much as I like to avoid McDeath, that chicken nugget smell really takes me back..

Then I found it.. a small mostly eaten bag of veggie chips. The blend included sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, YOU NAAAAME IT!…

But for some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it. I’d already picked out a majority of the sweet potato chips, my favorite of all the chips in the bag.

Bruh..

Remember that gargantuan, donated bag of carrots I mentioned in my  ‘Brown Sugar Baby Carrots’ post?

Behold my loves, Carrot Chips!

carrot chips prep

They’re so easy to make. I recommend making a bunch at one time because once you start snacking it’ll be hard to put these babies down. Be advised these are super delicious so prepare yourselves.

If you happen to find yourself binge eating carrot chips, no worries! They’re lower in calories and fat than traditional potato chips.

So “romaine” calm & “carrot” on. (haha, I couldn’t help myself with that one)

Pack some for your lunch or keep them in the car to keep you from pulling into the drive thru after work.

 

And for added measure, I’ve given you 2, count em..TWO seasoning options.

So whether you prefer a savory snack, or if you’ve got a sweet tooth, these are sure to satisfy either way.

carrot chips finished
Carrot Chips! It beats buying a can of Pringles

Carrot Chips 2 Ways

 

Ingredients:

2 or 3 large carrots

Olive Oil

Seasoning Options

  1. Salt & Pepper, Parsley for garnish
  2. Cinnamon & Nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
  2. Using either a knife or mandolin slicer, cut carrots into circular disks
  3. Toss carrots in olive oil & whichever seasoning option you like (see above)
  4. Spread evenly across greased baking sheet
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes

Enjoy! Leave a comment & let me know if you love it!

-A

Brown Sugar Baby Carrots

Brown Sugar Baby Carrots

I have a close friend of the family who is like a mom to me. Lately, she’s been receiving an abundance of leftover produce from her employer, items that regularly would go bad or be thrown out. Luckily for me, she had me in mind. She will call or text me at work to let me know that she has another haul of veggies and that she’s headed my way.

First of all, y’all just don’t know how this generosity blesses me AND my wallet. That’s grocery shopping I don’t have to do! (Cues shout music)

fresh carrots
Ehh..what’s up doc?

Her most recent haul included a large bag of carrots. This bag was huge, and a bit overwhelming. Now I couldn’t be out here in these streets on my Bugs Bunny ministry, chomping down on these bad boys, so I took some time to prep said carrots & came up with a game plan.

I’ll be real with you guys, prepping your produce is a pain, but it’s definitely worth it because it ends up saving you time during the week. I’ve found that if I don’t buckle down and get on with my prep, I’m less likely to ever touch that piece of produce during the week, and it ends up sitting in the crisper until it’s not salvageable. How many times have you all done the same exact thing? Bought a bunch of fresh produce, put it in the fridge, and never touched it again?

Yeah, I’m not about that life.

For me, prepping fresh carrots means thoroughly washing them in the sink. Then I cut off the stems and tips using a large knife. Next, using a potato peeler, I’ll peel each carrot so that it’s void of any brown spots or imperfections. Depending on the recipe, I’ll then cut the carrots down to size

cut carrots

Of course, you can always just buy a pack of baby carrots, but preparing them yourself can save you a few coins. I just so happened to receive mine completely unprocessed, so some sort of prep was necessary. Honestly, I’ve got more carrots than I know what to do with, so bear with me because carrots might be the star of the show for the next few recipes I post.

Haters gon hate, but I don’t really carrot all. (lol see what I did there?)

 

Stumped & in need of a side dish? Check out this easy carrot recipe using only 5 ingredients. 

Give it a try & drop a comment to let me know if you love it!

brown sugar baby carrots

Brown Sugar Baby Carrots

Ingredients:

  1. 1 package baby carrots, or regular carrots cut to size
  2. 1/2 cup butter
  3. 3 tablespoons honey
  4. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  5. Chopped dill

Directions:

  1. Wash, peel, and cut carrots if necessary
  2. Place carrots in large pot of salted water
  3. Bring carrots to a boil, about 10-15 minutes
  4. Drain
  5. Return empty pot to stove
  6. Melt butter
  7. Stir in honey & brown sugar
  8. Add carrots and stir to coat
  9. Allow carrots to cook another 5 minutes
  10. Garnish with dill

Stay (mostly) meatless 🙂

-A

Banana Oat Pancakes (Dairy & Gluten Free)

Banana Oat Pancakes (Dairy & Gluten Free)

If you’re just now catching up with me, welcome to my (mostly) meatless world!

Now what kind of woman would I be if I didn’t give you guys a post with a recipe? That’s what you’re here for right? (and of course to take in all of my awesomeness, jk jk) 😉

And what better way to kick off the recipes than with…BREAKFAST?! (woot woot!)

This recipe has me so excited I just couldn’t wait to share.

Pardon my midwest slang, but I can eat breakfast food ALL DAY, ERRDAY. Lol.

Seriously though, I live for all things breakfast, brunch, all of that. Of course, the usual breakfast template for the western world is riddled with high-fat processed meats and meat byproducts. We don’t have to limit ourselves to this alone though.

I’m here to tell you: Sausage, Bacon, & Steak, does not a breakfast make!

(Not always, at least)

I promise you can have an amazing, fulfilling, easy to make breakfast, without any of these western breakfast staples.

I heard a song once called “Banana Pancakes” by a guy named Jack Johnson. It’s the perfect Saturday morning lazy song. And up until I heard it, I’d only ever tasted pancakes made from a mix of flour, eggs, & milk. Ihop & Aunt Jemima could do no wrong in my eyes. The song alone was catchy, but when I figured out how to make pancakes out of bananas….oh, baby it was on like popcorn!

If you’re lazy like me, don’t worry, the base recipe only calls for 3 main ingredients.

*If you like fluffier pancakes add about ¼ tsp baking powder

Banana Oat Pancakes

Ingredients:

  1. 2 Very Ripe Bananas (the blacker the better, you’ll need the mushiness)
  2. 1 Cup oats
  3. 1 Tbsp Vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Mash Bananas with a fork
  2. Place mashed bananas in a blender
  3. Add Oats and Vanilla extract to blender
  4. Blend
  5. Heat skillet with oil
  6. Pour mixture into skillet
  7. Top uncooked pancake with your add-ins (See Below)
  8. Flip and cook the other side
  9. Once finished cooking on both sides, transfer to plate & enjoy!

The best part about this recipe is that you can add in whatever you want to the base recipe.

A few flavor combinations to try include:

  • Shredded Carrot & Walnuts
  • Chopped Apples & Cinammon
  • Chocolate Chips & Raspberries
  • Pineapples & Coconut flakes

Or my personal favorite…Blueberries!

3 ingredient no egg pancakes
Banana Oat Pancakes with Blueberries. Issa win!

 

You can pair these beauties with some syrup, honey, agave, Nutella, cookie butter, or even fresh fruit.

And that’s breakfast, baby!

Give this quick breakfast recipe a try & let me know if you love it.

Stay (mostly) meatless  :-*

-A