I’m not a true food blogger, nor am I a finance blogger or a homemaker. But I am super cheap and I like to eat delicious things. I also love to cook. The idea for this post has been rumbling around in my brain for a while, and after my constant, borderline-obsessive raving about Aldi, I figured I should explain myself. And I’ll try not to make it too lame.
No really, despite the Tetris game I play with my shopping cart each Monday evening as I grocery shop, I’ve probably told every one of my close friends and co-workers about the glories of Aldi, and I may have lectured them that if they aren’t shopping at Aldi, they’re missing out. Solid quality, cheap prices… I could be their spokesperson. (Hey Aldi, what’s up? Forget all those Pinterest moms, I’m the young, cool face you’re looking for!)
My attempt at a beautiful, picturesque spread of groceries like in the real food blogs…
So last week, in order to bring this blog post to fruition, I picked up this pile of ingredients from Aldi totaling about $35, and (in addition to those items disclosed below) I used them to make dinners for Monday through Thursday nights. And for lunch on those days, I had leftovers of said dinners – well, that Monday I had other leftovers, but you get it. (Um, a half-sandwich for lunch at Whole Foods is $5.)
To be honest, my receipt for about 4 days’ worth of meals (which includes dinners for two, breakfasts for two, my lunches, and the occasional lunch for Charlie) usually totals anywhere between $27 and $40. I’m not even sure if that’s impressive anymore now I’ve been shopping at Aldi so long.
Anyway, if you care at all, this is how I do it:
Aldi is Incredibly Cheap
I could not do this shopping anywhere else… even Food Lion. If you don’t already know, Aldi is a German-based discount supermarket, and it’s owned by the same company as Trader Joe’s so you know it’s legit. You have to put in a quarter to get a shopping cart (don’t worry, you get it back when you return the cart, Mr. Cheapskate), and if you need grocery bags, you gotta bring your own or pay a few cents for their grocery bags at the counter. These cost-saving measures, as well as the non-brand name foods, the fact that they don’t accept credit cards, and supposedly even the layout of the grocery store lend to Aldi’s super cheap prices. And I LOVE it!
Make a List and Check it Twice
Like Santa. So preferably on Sunday, I do my usual meal-planning routine. Check Pinterest for inspiration, make a shopping list, and cross-check that list with everything in the pantry and refrigerator, throwing out things that have obviously gone bad in the process. Also, I don’t count Friday in this planning because it sometimes it’s #paydayfriday and I go out to lunch with some friends from work… and dinner on Friday is always up in the air, because clearly it needs to be fancier than the everyday faire (it’s practically the freakin’ weekend).
What my shopping lists look like. Yes, I did buy that cumin.
To even consider doing this post, I also had to get my mind right and not forget (or get too lazy) to snap pictures of the food I made each night. No, I did not take enough photos to create a step-by-step guide or make the meals look perfect (I’m still not the Pioneer Woman or anything), but I wanted the post to include a list of meals, the source of each dinner’s recipe, and some decent pics. You are welcome.
Other Cheap Moves
A note about breakfast: Every weekday I have one piece of toast and a fried egg, courtesy of Charlie. I top the toast with the egg and top the egg with cheddar and/or avocado (whatever we have on hand) then douse it with Valentina hot sauce (a liter for $1.99 at Aldi, yes a liter – that is a shit ton of hot sauce, I know, but it lasts a very long time, even considering the fact that I keep it permanently on the table beside our couch as if it were part of the decor). OR to change it up, I eat the toast separately with peanut butter and jelly (it is delicious; seriously try it and change your breakfast life). Basically for the two of us, breakfast each week consists of a dozen eggs and loaf of bread. About $3.80 at Aldi. Cheap!
Sundays: The receipt from last week shows a couple cans of off-brand ravioli and spaghetti-o’s which are not included below in the list of dinners… I just had a craving and thought they’d make great Sunday food. They did. Sometimes I’ll also buy a case of the Aldi off-brand ramen noodles, just because I. love. that. shit. This saves on the hungover tendency to order takeout for every single meal on Sunday. I do not always abide by this tip.
Plan your Menu Around Things You Already Have
If a recipe requires me to buy five or more things that I don’t already have in my apartment, I’m not making it. Unless it’s Friday because Friday is fancy. Five things is not a hard and fast rule; sometimes I get annoyed and won’t make a recipe if I have to buy even three extra things, unless it looks fantastic of course. I also try to pick recipes that have a couple of grocery items in common. This seems like obvious advice, therefore…
So, um, full disclosure, there are several other things that my meals for last week included which I already had in my pantry. I don’t consider this cheating. I consider myself smart:
5 lb bag of jasmine rice, fish sauce, Panang curry paste (I have a solid Asian pantry stocked up), Aldi mini tri-color bell peppers and flour tortillas from last week’s meals, a little leftover heavy whipping cream, half a jar of pesto, mayonnaise, pasta, flour, and butter (those last four are staples everyone should have), a can of coconut milk (I heard rumors that Aldi has this now, hooray!), and basil from my balcony. Don’t even ask me about oil, salt, and pepper.
So it’s gonna be a total of $35 ishhhh. Hey, don’t hate the player.
Without further ado, my menu…
Monday – Homemade Macaroni & Cheese and a Bag of Caesar Salad
Yes, I made a roux and everything. No, I didn’t plan to do a meatless Monday (like Marcus Samuelsson suggests) but it happens. Cutting down on buying meats really cuts costs too, obvi. And we all know how much Charlie likes that bagged salad – I let him make that. We both had macaroni for lunch the next day.
Here’s the Homemade Mac Recipe for your reference. It made quite a bit.
Tuesday – Slow Cooker Chicken Enchiladas
I love these enchiladas – they are super easy. I like using the Crockpot (this one is perfect and super cheap!) at least once a week because then you can come home feeling relaxed and all like “oh I guess I can go to the gym since I don’t have to cook anything.” We also had a ton of the enchilada filling leftover, which is great for a low carb lunch or to serve over rice, and it makes great hash to serve with eggs on the weekend. No really.
Wednesday – Panang Thai Curry
Make sure you get yourself a good wok. I actually found mine at Aldi! I know, I’m nuts.
Thursday – Caprese Panini, Add Bacon
This idea originated from the brains of me and Charlie. Fancy bread, mayo, pesto, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and bacon. I cooked mine in the pan with butter. Charlie just toasted his. We each assembled our own, because some people prefer more mayo.
I also sustained a severe bacon grease burn in this process due to being an idiot and trying to outsmart the bacon.
Yeah, totally almost forgot the bacon
Charlie’s toasted version (not as cool)
Bonus Cheap(er) Friday Tip
So usually we’d go out to dinner on Friday nights. That typically entails a definite $50-$80 spent if we don’t get too crazy.
However, recently, in an attempt to be cheap, we’ve just been cooking fancier meals… provided Charlie sends me $20 to $25 via Venmo and I do the non-Aldi, specialty item grocery store shopping after work on Friday. That’s our deal. (And it sounds fair to me.)
For instance, this Friday we had some seared tuna, blistered shishito peppers (Trader Joe’s!), and an assortment of meats and cheeses with crackers… with some good beers and wine. Last Friday, we made Korean short rib tacos, and before that, pork bolognese with fresh pasta. All dank.
Yes, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a TON to spend on groceries for one night… but when’s the last time you ate (and drank wine and beers) at a restaurant for $25 total? Right.
FYI – This post contains a few affiliate links.
What am I saving money for? Stay tuned for that…
And if you’re interested in more of my weekday Aldi meals, check out this post!