I blinked and it’s no longer summer!  In fact, we’re almost halfway through November, which means I am one month away from finishing semester five (of six) on my journey to becoming a registered dietitian.  It’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel of a demanding semester!

On to leftovers!  A recent article in the Washington Post explored reasons for shifting attitudes toward leftovers:

The food historian Helen Veit has observed that regard for leftovers plummeted in the 1960s, when refrigeration and cheap food became plentiful. Although saving food had been patriotic during the World Wars, and economically necessary in the century before them, rising incomes and agricultural productivity pushed thrift out of favor.

I know my cooking and eating habits are not reflective of those of a majority of Americans, but leftovers have been a staple in our house for years.  We primarily use leftovers for weekday lunches; most mornings I pack dinner leftovers in glass containers for microwave reheating (Matthew and me) and in an insulated stainless steel jar (Gabriel).

Benefits of eating leftovers include reduced food waste, monetary savings, and, perhaps, healthier eating.  I’ll explore each of these more in future posts.

I often share pictures of my lunches on Instagram and Twitter.  After reading the article, I decided it’s time to show those lunches some extra love, so I’m starting a “Love Your Leftovers” campaign.  Whether it’s lunch at work, an easy dinner, or a savory breakfast, please join me in sharing your leftover-based meals with the hashtag #loveyourleftovers!

Shopping at Aldi

I’ve been meaning to write this post since the mid-January thaw, when I ventured to my local Aldi grocery store for the first time ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to Aldi.  Growing up, my family did a decent bit of our grocery shopping there, and, as a college student and a grad student, I appreciated the affordable prices.

I probably shopped Aldi most frequently my first year out of grad school, when I lived within half a mile of a store.  When I was in grad school, I lived closer to Soulard Farmers’ Market, so that was my go-to source for produce (though often not locally grown).  When you’re going by bike or on foot, it’s all about proximity!

Anyhow, my biggest issue with Aldi was and is the packaging on the produce, which this site mentions as one of their cost saving strategies.  In addition to saving cashiers’ time weighing bulk produce, I imagine prepackaging produce also cuts down on product loss — instead of being able to pick through for the best pepper, or the best apples, you take what you get, the good with the not-so-good.  But it’s a lot of packaging, especially the items (like peppers) that are placed on polystyrene trays and then wrapped in plastic.  Ugh!

On the other hand, Aldi was one of the first stores to encourage bringing your own bags (again, as a cost-saving measure), long before it was en vogue or “green,” and some of their other cost-saving measures are also good for the planet, so it’s a bit of a conundrum.

Anyway, my January trip was spurred by citrus season, and my memory of Aldi carrying fairly nice oranges and grapefruit for a very good price.  Also, we have not bothered to unsubscribe from the weekly mailer that includes the Aldi flyer, and I had seen that they were starting to carry some organic items, including apples and bananas, and I wanted to check it out.

They did indeed have good prices on citrus, particularly the three for a dollar grapefruit.  On that trip, I came home with three grapefruit (not prepackaged!), a bag of oranges, a bottle of wine, two 1/2 pound blocks of cheese, and a bag of walnuts (a pound for less than $8, vs. the $10+/lb I usually pay at the bulk bins).


My haul did not include any of their “new” organic offerings, though I did scope them out, along with a few other items:

  • Organic soymilk — good price, but sweetened, which is unnecessary sugar, in my book
  • Almond milk (non-organic) also sweetened
  • Organic bananas 59 cents/lb, but were all green, so I skipped them
  • Organic toasted O’s, but only a 9oz. box
  • Walnuts — a good price, as I mentioned above; not organic, but, for better or worse, I don’t usually buy organic walnuts anyway

Finally, the cheese.  I prefer to keep dairy consumption pretty minimal, and, as much as possible, organic [practices].  Avoiding dairy completing is tricky (and for us, unnecessary) and it does taste good.  But organic and/or small-farm dairy, and especially cheese, is pretty pricey.  Enter the “frugal foodie” debate.  On this trip, I went ahead and bought a half-pound each of two cheeses (less than $2 each), knowing they were not up to my preferred standards for dairy.

I find it ironic that many of the Aldi dairy (and perhaps meat?) products are packaged in their “Happy Farms” label, since I imagine the animals have far less than happy living conditions.  But, to be fair, the dairy and meat products at Aldi are, in general, no worse ethically/environmentally/health-wise than similar, name-brand products at other stores.

Enough on the food, though.  What finally spurred me to write this post was the current week’s flyer, which features none-other than BIKE accessories in the “Special Buys” section.


While many of these items are not likely high-quality, if you’re trying to get set up for biking, and you’re on a tight budget, it would be better to have these lights, than, say no lights (but please don’t skimp on a good quality bicycle!).

I’m particularly interested in the helmets, as my current noggin-protector celebrated it’s 5th birthday a couple of months ago (general recommendations are to replace helmets every five years (or after an impact)).  With bicycle helmets, more money does not equal more protection.  As long as a helmet has the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) stamp of approval and fits correctly, it is good to go!

I do have a few other features I want in a helmet, so I’ll head over tomorrow (Special Buys don’t start until Wednesday) to see if my store actually stocks something that will fit the bill.

Do you shop at Aldi?  Why or why not?

Frugal foodie

Is “frugal foodie” an oxymoron?  Is it possible to eat high-quality, ethically and sustainably grown food on a limited budget?

This is a tough one, and one that I’m struggling with now, as we look for ways to trim our monthly expenses.

According to various sources, U.S. households spend a smaller portion of household income on food than households in any other country.  It is possible to eat very cheaply here.  It is even possible to eat a relatively healthy diet without spending all that much money.

We consciously made the decision, as our income allowed over the years, to shift a higher proportion of our spending to food.  I’m well aware that the items I put in my shopping cart are not always the cheapest.  I’m prioritizing things that are important to me: fresh produce, local products, organic products, fair-trade or ethically grown and produced products, eggs and dairy that are local and/or free range.  But that often comes with added cost.

And now I’m rethinking that cost.  I want to buy the product that has the lowest environmental impact and is [theoretically] the healthiest choice, but it’s not [financially] sustainable with our current income.

It’s become a bit of a balancing act — there are some things on which I try not to compromise: only organic (or local, if I talk to the farmer) when it comes to produce’s “Dirty Dozen” and organic (or at least non-GMO) soy, wheat, and corn products.  I highly prefer my dairy to be organic, but I’ve compromised on a couple of cheese purchases lately — the “good” stuff is SO expensive.  I’ve been avoiding replenishing our butter supply — since chemicals/toxins often concentrate in fat, butter is one of our priority organic purchases, but at more than double the cost of conventional . . . oof!

At Matthew’s urging, we went ahead and bought several pounds of organic, fair trade chocolate from a company that helps West African cocoa farmers, but we’re also buying some more affordable (and less Earth- and people-friendly) chocolate, so, yeah, compromises.


  1. Eat at home / cook your own food: your money goes MUCH further this way.
  2. Shop around.  I’m the last person in the world to drive all over town just to get one item here or there, but I tend to know the best places to buy particular items.  Unless it’s urgent, I try to wait until I will be at or near that store again.
  3. Shop bulk bins for beans, grains, flour, etc.
  4. If you have storage, you can special order a entire bag of flour, sugar, grain, etc. (usually 10-50 pounds, depending on the item) from most grocers with bulk sections for a discount.
  5. Stock up when it’s on sale — having a deep freeze can help with this one.
  6. Grow your own — while there is noticeable start-up cost (seeds, mulch, soil amendments) to growing our own produce, having our own supply of many fruits and vegetables enables us to eat well without completely breaking the bank.  The cost of purchasing large quantities of some of the higher dollar produce we grow (e.g., raspberries and heirloom tomatoes, to name a couple) would be staggering.
  7. If you can’t grow your own, consider purchasing a CSA share.

What do you think — is it possible to be a “frugal foodie?”  What are your tips and tricks for saving money and still eating well?  And on what foods do you or don’t you compromise?

Life goes on

Does anyone else remember watching the TV show Life Goes On in the early ’90s?  I watched very little television growing up, but this was a weekly tradition for my family for a couple of years.  Not really related to this post, other than sharing a title, but I now have the theme song stuck in my head.  Anyhow.

The week before Thanksgiving, we learned that Matthew’s job would be cut to .75 FTE effective January 1, making us a household of two part-time wage earners (I currently average between 15 and 20 hours/week).

Matthew has also been carrying the health insurance for our family, and, while coverage is still available to part-time employees, our monthly premiums will double.  This increased cost of insurance means that, while his hours are only cut to 3/4 time, his take home income will effectively be cut in half — gulp!  (I’m looking into what we would pay for similar coverage in the health insurance marketplace.)  I know we’re not the only people in this boat, but it’s a little scary.

The news came just as we were getting to the break even point most months, and maybe starting to save a little bit some months.  In most respects, we’re pretty frugal, and we saved like crazy during the three or four years where we had two full-time incomes, so we’ll be okay for the short term.

Long term, we’re questioning the wisdom of both of us being in the same field (public health), one where jobs largely depend on grant funding (soft dollars), are often not particularly well-paid, and offer few guarantees position longevity.

The news also came just as we were going to go ahead and make a big purchase, a longtail cargo bike, having narrowed it down to either the Yuba Mundo or the Xtracycle Edgerunner.  While there’s some temptation to put that kind of large expenditure on hold, the fact is we have the money, this is something that we’ve been thinking about for a long time, and, if we’re going to continue making most trips with Gabriel by bike instead of by car, we want (if not quite need) something other than the trailer option.  For us, going ahead with the purchase makes more sense than not.

That said, we were leaning toward the Edgerunner, which will cost noticeably more than the Mundo, so we’re a bit back to the drawing board on that final decision, which makes the fact that we’re actually getting a longtail seem not quite real.

For the most part, we’re not panicking, though I agree with the sentiment of an unemployed friend who said that she’s okay most of the time, but every few weeks it all gets a little overwhelming.  For me, it hits home most when considering long term savings, like retirement and G’s college fund, as well as larger [potential] expenses: the bike, getting speech/language therapy for Gabriel, and airfare and lodging for the three of us for a West Coast wedding next summer.

These things are clearly all optional, driving home the point that, in the scheme of things, we are very fortunate.  We are not questioning  whether or not we’ll have food on the table or a safe, warm place to live.  We’re taking things as they come, while exploring short- and long-term career options (a bit more on that in a future post).

Though perhaps a bit different than before, life goes on.