I was inspired by a comment at the post on trusting in your meal blessing. April says, You can tell which months I decided, “No more junk food! I don’t care how much it costs…we’re eating real, natural food!” and the months where I said, “I’m going to feed us as cheaply as I possibly can…Hello, Aldi!”
It made me think: can you get a healthy meal made from Real Food at Aldi or Save-A-Lot? I decided it’s probably possible, although you might have to compromise on the highest definition of “real food” and just go for “food with good nutrition“. Here are some ideas:
What to Buy
I almost always buy my canned tomatoes, beans (canned and dry), oats, frozen ground turkey, roll sausage, and some baking supplies at Save-a-Lot or Aldi, because their regular prices (until recently, sadly) beat most sale prices. You can do a lot with these as a base!
It’s so important to have a “go to” list for easy party foods that are made with real food, those items I can make quickly and without much thought when I have to bring a dish to pass to a big (hopefully peaceful) family gathering. Whether you’re hosting something yourself and need Mary’s tips for Stress-Free Entertaining or are traveling with food, If you are still looking for some healthy appetizers and homemade party food, you’re in luck!
When I bring food to a party, (whether it’s a football party, or a holiday party, or any other type of potluck get together) it must follow some if not all of the following qualifications:
- Real Food (whole ingredients, homemade, not processed)
- Not Too Expensive (is it tacky to say “cheap”?)
- Quick and Easy (often mutually exclusive with nos. 1 & 2, so this one is regularly compromised)
- Simple to Pack and Pass
Keeping these easy party food rules loosely in mind helps me to Eat Well, Spend Less when I’m sharing food or hosting a party, and that makes everyone happy.
Oatmeal, scrambled eggs
Added Bonus: Save-A-Lot prices on rolled oats are the cheapest I’ve ever seen, even less than bulk foods. They also have locally purchased eggs from a Christian farm, which make me happy (even if they are from a factory farm).
- Rice and Beans (Mexican, Cuban, or Chicken rice)
- My Save-A-Lot doesn’t have brown rice, so you’d have to supplement from another store, but rice is not very expensive.
- You can make chicken stock with chicken from anywhere, so if one of these stores has it inexpensively, go for it! Sure, organic, pastured chicken would be best, but we’re doing what we can here. Carrots, onions and celery are frugal, too. I saved over $30 last time I made a big pot of stock!
- Pasta dishes
- Whole grain pasta is just over $1 for a box, and Save-a-Lot’s spaghetti sauce is tasty, although it has high fructose corn syrup in it…You can make your own with some simple Italian seasoning and a big can of crushed tomatoes, with no added sugar. I love to use the frozen hot sausage, a can of diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, half a bag of spinach, pasta and shredded mozzarella cheese for a meal. So tasty, and easily under $5 to feed a family of 4-6 people!
- Chili, White Chicken Chili and Turkey Chili can be almost completely assembled with ingredients from discount stores.
- Lentil Stew and other bean dishes
- I’ve noticed Aldi carries many vegetables: baby carrots, onions, and peppers especially at prices much lower than my other stores.
My advice would be to shop for basic staple ingredients at Aldi, Save-A-Lot or similar. Don’t get hooked into packaged meals. You can get a lot of nutrition by cooking from scratch, and the money you save on ingredients can go toward the areas these stores don’t usually cover: whole grain flours, rice, healthy fats and oils, and organic produce. It works for me!
Just be careful at these discount stores: certain items are much more expensive than a basic store sale price. Cheese is one good example. Don’t get conned by the idea of shopping cheap – always price check and know what a “good price” is at your regular grocery stores.
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