Advice, Eats, Saving Money

Trader Joe’s Top 10

It’s shocking how much food my kids eat. Yes, they are running around, playing all day but it never ceases to amaze me how much food they can put away. I asked a friend recently who has 4 teenagers and a 5 year old. He said that the 5 year old eats as much, if not more than the teenagers. AH! And Elle, she would be happy to carry around a snack cup and graze all day. I forget that this age isn’t into meals so much as constant snacking.

I think that when my kids look at me they see a refrigerator or a pantry, not a person. “Eat” and “I’m hungry” might be the most common phrases around here. They wake up saying this every morning and repeat the phrase all day long. They’re even hungry right after meals – even meals that I have to almost force them to eat. They will set their plate down beside the sink, turn to me and say, “Can I have a cup of yogurt?” WHAT!

So, our grocery bill is not getting any smaller for awhile!

The best way to save money on groceries and get food that your family likes eating is to visit multiple stores. We’ve been trying to eat organic while feeding a family of 3, then, 4 then 5 and soon to be 6 for years. The documentary, Food, Inc.  (trailer at bottom) opened our eyes to the food epidemic going on in our world. Food is BIG MONEY, HUGE (as DT would say, ugh, gross) and has become less about health and more about profit. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to conceal exactly what they are selling from consumers. It’s disheartening if you spend any amount of time looking into it. (If you are curious here are two interesting articles – 1 and 2.) I am constantly trying to find a way to eat healthy and in accordance with our food values all while being on a budget. It’s no easy task folks!

Realistically, I am lucky to make it to one grocery store per week plus the local veggie stand. Grocery shopping without my kids is actually the most effective way to save money. In order to do this I am relying on my husband being home or a sitter so I’m not going to spend this time driving to different stores all over town. A friend of mine told me that she was able to save $100 per week by hitting up three different stores each week but it took her an entire school day. I don’t have this kind of time right now. So, one week I shop at Wal-mart and stock up on the things that they offer at the best prices (the milk and yogurt we like, cereal, bread, some cheeses). The next week it’s Harris Teeter (oatmeal, some cheeses, fresh fruit and veggies) and then Trader Joes (see below) or Earthfare or Whole Foods. This way, I end up going to a different store every week, save a little money in the process and am able to serve foods that we feel good about.

When Trader Joe’s first opened here, it was all the rave. Years later, the parking lot is still too small and the checkout lines are always long, though quick. Here are my top buys from Trader Joes.

Turkey Meatballs – $3.69 per pound. You can’t buy turkey meat this cheap at any store plus they’re delicious. All of their meats are hormone and antibiotic free.

Chicken Wontons – $2.99. We love these. Cook them in coconut oil and dip them in red chili sauce. We pair them with some veggie fried rice for a quick, tasty meal.

Organic Soft Wheat Bread – $3.99. This is the best price that I have found on organic bread that is actually soft and feels like regular bread.

Cereal Bars – $1.99 for six bars. I have done the math. This is cheaper than any regular priced granola style bar pretty much anywhere, including Costco.

Frozen Fruit – We make smoothies all the time and TJ’s has great prices. Costco does have better prices and lots of organic options but we aren’t members right now. Plus if you remember from last week, my chest freezer broke so I don’t have anywhere to store large quantities of frozen foods at the moment. Blueberries pictured are $2.99.

Cheeses – All of their cheese are rBGH free so you don’t have to check every label. They have tons of yummy options. I regularly buy fresh mozzarella and parmesan. This week I tried the honey goat cheese ($3.79 for a large portion) and it did not disappoint. Again, great prices.

Avocados – 4 for $3.79. I’m always looking for healthy ways to fatten up my tiny kids.

Deserts – All of their frozen deserts are yummy. Some of them come it tiny bite size portions so they are great for after dinner treats for kids when you don’t want them to start bouncing off the walls before bedtime. Try the key lime bites, the mini ice cream cones and the chocolate dipped banana bites!

Maple Agave Syrup blend – Nature just makes things best = maple syrup. We screw things up = regular syrup (full of bad sugars and other non-sense). Maple syrup is usually expensive. This blend is organic, delicious and only $2.99.

Pickles – I love pickles and not just because I’m pregnant! The bread and butter are yums. Plus the kids like them!

A few other things that we like: edamame humus, frozen grass fed beef, riced cauliflower, schoolhouse cookies, dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gorgonzola crackers, pita chips (I think they’re the same as Stacey’s for $2.00 less!), coconut oil (unrefined), organic frozen brown rice and all of their filled pasta shells. The main thing that I don’t buy at TJ’s is fresh meat. I’ve had some bad experiences in this department so I steer clear.

I’d love some recommendations if you have any! I tend to get into a rut of buying the same stuff.

Food, Inc Trailer

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