Aldi comes to the East End, so use these tips to get ready

This is going to sound like poppycock, but I don’t care. I might not ever leave the East End of Louisville. The grocery stores on this end of town keep me in their orbit, and now my favorite is setting up shop.

Aldi will open at Westport Road on March 5, according to Business First of LouisvilleFor those who haven’t been blessed with an Aldi in their vicinity, this European discount grocery store chain is Trader Joe’s brother in price, operations and origin. I’m a huge fan, as I’ve written about on the blog here, here and here.

My fellow East Enders need to check out my blog post about navigating Aldi for the first time. Your grocery budget will thank you for visiting a grocery store with inexpensive cooking staples and so much more.

Don’t sleep on Aldi for your holiday baking needs

Pineapple thumbprints were the first cookies of this holiday season in the Thompson house.
Pineapple thumbprints were the first cookies of this holiday season in the Thompson house.

Three years ago, I started a Christmas tradition by accident.

It was a bittersweet holiday season. I had just started a new day job, but the first paycheck hadn’t come in yet. I was also freshly married, so my family tripled in size. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I wanted to do something nice for my relatives.

That November and December, I baked and baked and baked. Batches upon batches of sugar cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, chocolate chip cookies and double-chocolate cookies filled my freezer. Cookie sheets and parchment paper were my faithful companions, along with a dog eager to catch batter that flew out of the mixing bowl. And bless my poor oven’s heart — that thing really earned its keep that winter.

Fortunately, the cookies were a hit. And to keep up with my annual holiday baking, I’ve turned to one of my favorite retailers — Aldi.

I’ve shouted my love of this bargain grocery store on the blog before. This year, I realized Aldi is the perfect place to stock up on baking essentials at low prices. The center aisle at the Dixie Highway location was filled with Christmas goodies and odds and ends, like a bag of teeny Andes Mints for cookies or a whole pumpkin pie kit.

Here’s a look at some of the baking goodies I snagged on my last visit:

  • Molasses for my gingerbread men*: $1.99
  • A four-pound bag of sugar: $1.39
  • A bag of pecans for my shortbread cookies: $2.99
  • A tube of Betty Crocker icing for aforementioned gingerbread men: $1.99

Now that I have all of my ingredients, it’s time to get back to baking. If you’re interested in hitting up Aldi’s baking supplies, Aldi is located at 3442 Preston Hwy., 5109 Dixie Hwy. and 4301 Bardstown Rd. in Louisville. There are also southern Indiana locations at 3131 E. 10th St. in Jeffersonville and 3118 Grant Line Rd. in New Albany.

Just remember to bring your quarter.

*Gingerbread people? I’ve watched all of Transparent on Amazon Prime, so I want to use the preferred gender identity of my cookies.

What’s your favorite neighborhood grocery store?

Local Louisville grocery stores are having their moment.

Insider Louisville profiled Sean Reynolds, an entrepreneur who plans to open Reynolds Grocery Store in Clifton next month. The store, which will be located at 1813 Frankfort Avenue, will be “closer to an indoor farmers’ market/Paul’s Fruit Market model than a full grocery.”

Reynolds will join a growing line-up of grocery stores that offer regional food at reasonable prices. Here are some of my favorites and what I turn to them for:

  • The Root Cellar. This relatively new store has two locations in Old Louisville and Germantown, and is $1,000 away from creating a Root Mobile to deliver produce to food deserts in South and West Louisville. Great for seasonal produce, farm-raised meat, dairy and eggs.
  • Paul’s Fruit Market. The Paul’s location around my way hits its peak between 5 and 6 p.m. That’s when office drones like me run in for last-minute ingredients to complete weeknight meals. Paul’s has a little bit of everything in its selection, from cheese and crackers to pasta and pesto. Great for fruit baskets, fresh orange juice, deli meat.
  • Frank’s Meat & Produce. If your parents where raised in Louisville, ask them about Frank’s. More than likely, they made frequent stops to this grocery store on Preston Highway. I don’t know what’s better at Frank’s — the hot lunches that never break $10 or the butcher’s counter with its steady supply of fresh meat. Great for meat, lunches, hard-to-find snacks.

What is your favorite neighborhood grocery store in or around Louisville?

My Favorite Things: The tiny carts at Kroger

(Blogger’s note: Every once in a while, I come across something so awesome that I must shout it from the blogosphere. If Oprah can have her favorite things, why can’t I?

“My Favorite Things” is an occasional feature in which I gush about a product, store, gadget or other food-related item that has made my life a little sweeter.)

Oh, tiny cart. So petite, yet efficient.

I fell in love with Kroger’s tiny carts when I started living on my own and grocery shopping for one. I ust had to play a game of Goldilocks and the Three Bears to figure that out.

Kroger’s hand baskets are suitable until you decide that you HAVE to buy the 12-pack of Diet Coke. Then you end up with a Grand Canyon-sized dent in your arm. The regular-sized carts are hard to manuever, and lend themselves to some unneccessary purchases (why, yes, I WILL buy the three boxes of Raisin Bran Crunch that’s on sale — I have the room in my big girl cart!).

The tiny carts, however, are the Mini Coopers of consumerism. These tiny wonders are the perfect size for singles buying food just for themselves. They hug the curves as you round the corners of the aisle. And they’re just so darn cute.

These carts are usually stranded on the grassy knolls of parking lots or abandoned on the fringes near the streets. Cart collectors don’t make much of an effort to get these little guys back in the store because they don’t neatly fit into a row with their big brothers, the behemoths designed to haul both children and groceries. But if you’re single, or just need to pick up a few items, it’s worth a trip to the back of a parking lot to use one of these carts.

Time to stock up on $2 wine – Trader Joe’s is officially coming to Louisville

It’s official. Trader Joe’s is coming to Louisville this year.

Business First of Louisville and the Courier-Journal reported Thursday that the grocery store chain will make a home in St. Matthews in the Shelbyville Road Plaza.

Now, excuse me while I do my happy dance:

Why am I so excited? I was exposed to the wonder that is Trader Joe’s during my time in D.C. and on mini road trips to Cincinnati. Here are some things I like about this retailer:

  1. The store stocks great tasting food that includes lots of organic options.
  2. The prices are SUPER reasonable.
  3. There is a wide variety of cheap wines, including the famous $2 Charles Shaw, aka “Two Buck Chuck” (I’m not too crazy about Chuck, but lots of folks are).
It seems like a lot of people are as excited as I am that Trader Joe’s is making a home in Louisville. What part of this chain’s offerings are you the most excited about?

Here’s what I learned about food and money during year of living modestly as a VISTA

I didn't have a lot of this during the past year. Photo courtesy of AMagill via Flickr.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I earned a “modest living allowance” while I completed my term of service.

Translate that as you wish.

I was recently hired by the organization where I served as a VISTA for the past year. But the new habits I developed to save money have become a permanent part of my life, even though I make a slightly higher income.

I started this blog as a way to explore how to spend money on good food when I didn’t have much in my wallet. I’ve learned a lot and had fun doing so. But a few food lessons stick out.

  1. There is a huge difference between a need and a want. I need food. That’s a given. But do I need to spend $20 on an entree? Do I need name-brand shredded cheese? Do I need a new slow cooker? Not necessarily. I learned be more thoughtful and strategic in identifying my needs versus my wants and to find an appropriate balance.
  2. Buy more basic ingredients. A stocked pantry full of basics and motivation to cook have helped me survive between visits to the grocery store. For example, I wanted some cornbread to go with some beans I had bubbling in the Crock Pot, but I didn’t have any cornbread mix. I did, however, have a carton of cornmeal, milk, flour, an egg and the Internet. Twenty minutes later, homemade cornbread muffins without having to go out of my wallet. My new favorite staple? Oatmeal.
  3. Cut back on the packaged food. It’s tempting to buy bags of potato chips, granola bars and individual applesauce cups. But convenience items like these get expensive.
  4. Eat more produce. It’s cheap. It’s good for you. Nothing to dislike here. And trips to the farmers’ market are fun.
  5. Cook more. I learned to cook seven years ago when I had my first internship and discovered how expensive eating out is. I revisited my beloved cookbooks (along with plenty of food blogs) and went back to the kitchen to save money.
  6. Shop around. I read Sunday ads religiously to find the best deals around town. If Aldi doesn’t have something at the right price, there’s Kroger. Or Walmart. Or ValuMarket. Be willing to be patient when shopping to find the best deals.

How do you save money on food?