As I said in the first part of this series, it is most definitely possible to eat well without spending a ton of money. Here’s an example from my grocery trip this week:
Oats: $3.29 (usually lasts at least 2 weeks)
Canned beans: $0.69 each ($1.38 total)
Pasta sauce: $2.50
Apples (3): $0.99
Frozen corn: $1.00
Pears (2): $0.99/lb
The broccoli didn’t fit in the picture (I got 3 heads) and the chicken got left at the store because I ran into a friend at the checkout and we chatted all the way out to the parking lot. I went back to get it, don’t worry 🙂 I buy meat about once per month or so, but typically use beans to save money. When I buy it, I’ll generally cook it the day I shop and freeze in individual portions for later use.
For the same price as the 2 cans of beans above (each of which generally gives me 2 servings), I can get a 1 lb. bag of dried beans that easily makes at least 10 servings. To me, that is well worth the minimal effort of letting them boil on the stove for an hour or 2 on a Sunday afternoon. I have a bag left from last week’s trip and I don’t use the 2 types above enough to make a whole pot, so I just get a couple of cans to keep on hand. I’ll get more into that in the next post on preparing food for the week ahead to make healthy foods the easy choice for mid-week meals.
Although this was a week where I had to get a few items I don’t normally buy on a weekly basis, there were also a few items I didn’t need to buy this week, such as potatoes, bell peppers, spinach, dried beans, and peanut butter because I still had some left from last week. Therefore, it came out to be about the typical $40 total for the week. I don’t usually eat out so that’s not bad if you consider that this covers all of my meals and snacks for an entire week and I buy organic/sustainably raised eggs and meats.
I can guarantee that chips, frozen pizza, candy, and fast food will not fill you up like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins and there is no way you could eat out every day for less than $40/week. Also, notice there are no unneccesary organic granola bars, cereals, or other fancy products. The healthiest foods are real foods, and these happen to be some of the cheapest! What do you think – is healthy eating really that expensive?
I get a LOT of questions about why I get so excited about Trader Joe’s, so I thought I would talk a little more about it. We recently went from absolutely no TJ’s in Kansas to two stores within minutes of each other, all in one month. I was finally able to make the trek to one of the locations a few weeks ago and have a little early birthday celebration with a gift card from my Aunt Teresa! 🙂
Yes, TJ’s only has about 5 aisles – refrigerated foods/breads/cereals, dry goods, frozen foods, household items, and wine…plus the usual dairy and fruit sections. So what’s the big deal?? Honestly, I was a little let down upon the sight of my first TJ’s. From all of the wonderful things I’d heard, I was imagining something similar to Whole Foods – a giant mecca of natural/organic/wonderful goodness. Sure, TJ’s is much smaller and more unassuming, but you can’t let that fool you! The lack of size and frills is why they can offer such awesome prices on unique products. Most of their products are also under the Trader Joe’s label, which is best described on their website:
“If you see Trader Joe’s on a label, then you can know that the product contains NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives; NO genetically modified ingredients; NO MSG; and NO added Trans Fats. What does it contain? Quality ingredients. Trader Joe’s… it’s quite a name, if we do say so ourselves.”
I like it. Now, what can you get at Trader Joe’s that you can’t get elsewhere? Here are some of the things I got on my trip:
Not only did I think these Indian dishes would make a great, quick, healthy meal, I’m hoping to recreate them in the future! When you have an ingredient list full of normal, recognizable foods that are all in your kitchen cabinets, this is a much easier task. I’ve already tried the Madras Lentils and they were spectacular! In each box is a foil package that you place in boiling water for 5 minutes. That’s it. Real food, real fast.
Sure, you can probably find roasted peppers almost anywhere, but these were a great deal and I really needed some. If you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of on an Indian food kick. There is a lot of cumin and coriander in there, which I LOVE, so I picked up this sauce to see if I could come even remotely close to recreating the delicious Indian meals I’ve eaten at restaurants and food carts.
As you can imagine, it didn’t take much to sell me on chunky spiced apples….and mango butter?! Yes please!! I haven’t opened either one yet for fear that I’ll demolish the entire jar in one sitting and then it will be gone…
This stuff is AMAZING. It packs so much flavor into each bite and I can’t wait to try making my own version when it’s gone.
White bean hummus? Also delicious. I like the lentil dip more, but you really can’t beat a dip made with white beans and sun-dried tomatoes in my book. The white beans make this hummus much thicker, richer, and creamier than regular hummus made with chickpeas.
Of course, I also bought two jars of my FAVORITE peanut butter – Trader Joe’s all-natural crunchy for only $1.99 per jar!! Annnnnd a bag of peanut butter filled pretzels that are so incredible that the bag had to be hidden after I demolished almost the entire thing in one sitting. They have the perfect thin layer of pretzels surrounding an interior jam-packed with peanut butter that just makes them irresistible! None of that “giant pretzel chunk with a barely detectable amount of peanut butter hidden in the center” here! Oh, and the TJ’s honey greek yogurt? Yeah. Delicious. And very fattening. Probably because it’s made with whole milk and cream….which is why it is so delicious. A wonderful treat for sure!
There were also whole wheat pitas, fire roasted frozen corn, frozen cherry berry blend, and frozen cubes of cilantro (!!) in my TJ’s haul. I really wanted to get a bag of whole wheat pizza dough and some (all-natural, non-shady) meat, but I was traveling with a very small cooler 🙂
Yes, TJ’s is small…and crowded…and you may not be able to get EVERYTHING you need there, but they have some really great, affordable finds for foodies like me! 🙂