If you pass me in the grocery aisle, I probably won’t say hello. My lips might be moving silently.
I’m trying, rather desperately, to keep a running total in my head that matches the items in my cart. It usually starts to crumble when I hit the produce section, and start multiplying price-by-pounds to add to my running total.
So by the time I get to the checkout line, I’m usually a bit off. Mostly I’ve underestimated how much my groceries cost, upsetting the week’s budget or forcing me to walk straight to the customer service counter to return the bacon or cereal or whatever my splurge-of-the-week may be.
I finally started compensating, stopping a dollar or two short of my budget limit for margin-of-error, or holding my splurge items back until the total showed up on the screen. (I think the checkout people aren’t thrilled to see me.)
So when I heard Aldi would be coming to town, I eagerly anticipated the November opening date. When you primarily shop at Walmart and Dollar Tree (which, by the way, once sold me three pounds of rice for a dollar, and twice sold flax seed at $1 a pound), another discount grocery store is something to be excited about.
I braved the crowds on opening day. That was a mistake, but it should tell you just how very excited I was.
I haven’t shut up about it since. And as I’ve already sung the store’s praises to everyone who will listen (and some who won’t), I’m inflicting you with it now.
See, every time I end up in the checkout line at Aldi? I’ve overestimated the cost of the products in my cart. Usually by several dollars. Eggs are currently 69 cents a dozen (thanks to a price war with Walmart next door), and produce, while variable, generally has cheap options.
I’m willing to put up with a small selection, no credit cards and bring-your-own bags for those prices!
Our food budget is tight. Journalism isn’t exactly known for big pay checks, and pursing a doctorate isn’t exactly lucrative either. Plus we have other goals, like restoring our house to something sellable over the next couple years, or finally seeing Venice some day.
But we’re also trying to be (somewhat) healthy. That first summer we were married, we lived on $25 a week for groceries and mainly ate potatoes, rice, pasta and hotdogs or cheap, disgustingly fatty ground sausage, with canned green beans or apples as produce.
Because that’s what’s cheap, and filling. And not at all good for you.
We both put on 20-plus pounds in short order.
We eat better, and added a little to that food budget, since then. But since Aldi opened? Well, our quality of dinners has spiked. I bought feta yesterday, for the first time in I don’t know how long, and watched it melt in panfried fresh spinach. I have grapefruits waiting for me and crackers for him and dried cranberries in my salad for lunch.
I spent $19 yesterday.
The cashier laughed when I told her that I loved shopping there, because my groceries always cost less than I expected; and she wished me a happy new year and I bagged up my items and faced the bitter cold.
Grocery shopping is fun again. So if you have an Aldi, may I suggest you drop by? You might just never want to leave.
(And no, I’m not important enough to be asked/paid to write about Aldi. This is just me running out of people to tell.)