The Ideal vs. The Reality — Grocery Edition, part 3

After reading the last couple of posts, my friend Kathy told me that she wanted to go grocery shopping with me!  Hahaha!  I sort of dismissed the idea, because I thought that it would probably be really, really, really tedious for her, and didn’t want to subject her to three or four hours driving hither and thither, reading endless labels.  Selfishly, the more I think about it, the more I like it, just so I can enjoy her sweet company.  😀  So, is it a date, Kathy???

Just to recap my aims in this grocery series:  I balance on a thin line, trying to:

  • Accommodate my family’s special diets (gluten and/or dairy-free, multiple food allergies, etc.)
  • Stay within a budget — which is roughly $4 per person, per day
  • Eat as naturally, and as cleanly as possible — unprocessed, no chemicals, organic when I can
  • Just FINDING the foods I need, locally

(Part 1 here, Part 2 here.)

So, to continue, here are some more of my current grocery-store faves, some healthy, some not so much:

  • Hormel Natural Choice Deli Sandwich Meats are (collectively) one of the best products to hit store shelves in recent memory.  They are minimally processed, and contain no preservatives, nothing artificial at all!  Take, for example, the ingredients in Oven Roasted Deli Turkey:  Turkey Breast Meat, Water, Salt, Turbinado Sugar, Carrageenan (from seaweed), Baking Soda, Natural Flavoring, Lactic Acid Starter Culture (not from Milk).  The price is slightly more expensive than most packaged deli meat, but, again, stock up when it’s on sale, and use a coupon when you can!  The best price I’ve found is at SuperTarget (of which I’m not a huge fan, actually);  their NON-sale price hovers around $2.50 per 8 oz package.  The price in most other stores is $3-4.  Hormel labels the packages as gluten free, as well.  (Granted, gluten-free labeling is not yet regulated in the United States, and I don’t know what Hormel’s official policy is on it.)
  • This three-for-the-price-of-one entry comes to you courtesy of Trader Joe’s.  I really love Trader Joe’s.  A friend who recently started eating healthier visited a local TJ’s and was overwhelmed.  She left discouraged, and said that she felt like the store was just for rich people.  That really surprised me, as so many of their items are REALLY cheap, and I’m not rich.  However, the store is set up differently than most grocery stores, and they do definitely have a healthy/natural/trendy twist on just about everything, and I suppose it could be disorienting, and maybe even off-putting to newbies.  Their meat is expensive;  I almost never buy fresh meats from there.  However, in my opinion, the pros of Trader Joe’s way outweigh the cons, and if you have a TJ’s near where you live, it is very much worth the effort to acquaint yourself with it.I have a fairly long list of must-have from Trader Joe’s but there are three particular items I would really miss if they became discontinued (which does happen from time to time, and without warning, at Trader Joe’s):  Basmati Rice Medley, tri-color baby potato medley, and Spanish Extra-Virgin Olive Oil.
    • The Basmati Rice Medley cooks just as fast as normal white rice, even though it contains wild rice and is generously flecked with dried veggies.  I almost never prepare it with straight-up water:  pan juices from roasted chicken, olive oil and organic veggie bullion, broth made from Chicken Better Than Bullion… there are endless ways to prepare it.  Each bag contains about 4 cups of rice (which, even in a big family like mine, is at least two dinner’s worth, plus leftovers), and is a steal at $1.69 per package.  Where else can you make a healthy, good-sized, tasty, easy, quick side dish for under a buck???  Not many other places.  Therefore, we eat this rice at least once a week.  My only beef with it is that it contains a too-generous amount of dried orange peel.  Orange ZEST would be great.  CHUNKS of orange peel??  NO.  When I make the rice, I fish through to weed out the orange peel.  This is over my husband’s protests, as he likes the occasional shock of biting into the world’s most bitter mouthful of rice.  Ugh.
    • I don’t know the “official” name of the potato trio at Trader Joe’s — it just contains a mix of baby-to-small-sized Yukon gold, red-skinned, and purple potatoes.  They are beautiful.  And, at $1.99 for an 28 oz bag, really very reasonable.  I saw a similar bag — a 16 oz package of Melissa’s organic Gemstone Potatoes for $3.99 in my regular grocery store.  That’s more than three times the price of the TJ’s potatoes!  Plus, any little bit I can do to save the world from the monoculture of the Russet is good by me.  The recipe on the blog from which I lifted the above pic goes with a wonderful-looking veggie-potato salad recipe but I must say that my favorite way to serve these tasty tubers is to make a pouch of large, heavyweight foil, toss quartered potatoes with olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, thickly sliced onion, and an herb — fresh rosemary or dried thyme are my favorite — seal it up tight, and throw it on the grill over low heat for about an hour, turning once or twice.  Mmmm…  Caramelized onions, rich roasted color, potatoes infused with the flavors as they steam and sizzle in the pouch…  It’s potato heaven.
    • Speaking of olive oil, my current fave is Trader Joe’s Spanish extra-virgin olive oil.  TJ’s adjusts its prices up (and down!) with supply and demand, but as I write this, the Spanish EVOO is $5.99 for a 1 liter glass bottle, which is really a fabulous price.  It has the perfect flavor for olive oil, in my opinion:  more peppery than fruity.  I say “peppery”, but it’s not overwhelmingly so, and I both cook and bake both savory and sweet goods with this olive oil…  I typically run through a good liter per week.  🙂
  • Ritter chocolate.  I am a huge fan of chocolate:  nice, deep, dark chocolate.  I would say “the darker the better”, but I can’t eat straight-up unsweetened, so I guess I do draw the line somewhere.  From time to time, when I’m grocery shopping, I treat myself to a bar of chocolate.  My favorite, hands down, is German-made Ritter Sport.  I’ve sampled a number of Ritter products, but my faves are the dark chocolate with whole hazelnuts or the dark chocolate with marzipan varieties.  Either one, and I’m in chocolate heaven.  Speaking of Trader Joe’s, they carry the dark-with-hazelnut kind, and it’s $1.99 per 100g bar (about 3.5 oz.  For comparison’s sake, Hershey’s Dark comes in a 41g bar.).

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on September 7, 2010, in Budget, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, Friendships, gluten-free, Shopping. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Nice post Karen! I’m taking notes. And yes – we must set up a date for grocery shopping! 🙂

  2. I almost always grab a Ritter chocolate at the check-out counter at TJ’s! 🙂

  3. Dangit. Now I want a bar of Ritter chocolate. We go to Trader Joe’s weekly. Their soy yogurts (my boys will only eat soy yogurt, even though my husband serves them Dannon on occasion) are cheaper, consistently, than the ones at Kroger. I can find gluten free pasta there WAY cheaper than anywhere else in town. I love the prices on nuts for my granola. And my kids love how kid-friendly the store is; our local store has a daily challenge to “find Stroopy”–a stuffed cow they move around the store daily. If the kids spot him, they get a TJ’s lollipop (no artificial colors, what’s not to love?)

    • I get brown rice pasta at TJ’s — some in my pantry right now! Usually, though, I get rice noodles from the Asian market. I stocked up last night, in fact! They usually are about $1 for a 14 oz package, and come in just about every thickness you can imagine.

      I get nuts from Costco. It used to be that TJ’s was the cheapest for nuts, but now, Costco is, for most of what I buy. Seeds (like sesame, sunflower, pepitas), I get in bulk from a local chain.

      Stroopy!! What a cool idea! I wonder if my TJ’s does something similar. They do have the mini grocery carts, which are so cute! 🙂

      • No mini grocery carts here; those are at our Kroger’s. Nothing cuter than watching my five year old carefully unload his little cart onto the checker’s conveyer belt. He takes his job so seriously!

        TJ’s had some traditional Thai rice noodles, and I liked those a LOT. I liked the texture better than the brown rice pasta (naturally). I will have to get them again. They were about 1.99 for a 13 ounce package. Nobody else in my family likes rice pasta. At all. I’ve tried. It would be nice to not be making two meals some nights.

  4. Dark chocolate and marzipan. I love that particular bar! In fact, I love marzipan in everything. When I was small (or actually, quite large), the only cake I’d countenance for birthdays and special occasions would be Battenburg (, probably because of the marzipan.

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