Let’s Go Shopping with the Inner Child

The end of the Thanksgiving leftovers brought in the beginning of a new shopping cycle. So be it.

I stopped at Aldi after acupuncture on Tuesday. Fruit (limited but lovely organic selections), some veggies, a pizza, some pumpkin for Oakley. OK.

At this time of year, Aldi brings in holiday goodies from Germany. Fancy chocolates; cookies; specialty cheeses; cakes and breads; crackers hum a chorus of temptation.

My adult self can tune out all but the the deep vibrato of the most celebratory chocolate. My inner child, however, needs noise canceling headphones.

I stood there with a bag of dark chocolate almonds in my hand. My early elementary self whispered,  Can we get these, please? 

Not a good idea.

Why? Almonds are good for you. So is dark chocolate.

True in theory, but what happened last time we bought a bag?

Shrug.

How long did the bag last?

Uhh… But they’re good for you. Look, they have dark chocolate and sea salt and they’re almonds!

If we eat it all in one shot, they’re not so good for you. I think we’d better put the bag down.

But–but..

PUT. THE. BAG. DOWN.

Sigh. 

The bag went back on the shelf.

Similar inner dialogs occurred in the seasonal isle with the sea salt caramels, truffles, and some crackers as well as the cheese section. We were able to compromise on some regular dark chocolate, a little extra fruit. That placated her.

We were able to get out unscathed, on budget, and with a minimum of bruised feelings. I made pasta for dinner (which makes her smile) and we went on to have a bit of chocolate for dessert, leaving us both at peace.

 

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Reconsidering Aldi

No, dears, I’m not getting paid for this. I have simply developed a fondness for it after many years.

When we first moved out here, Aldi was the store of last resort. The turn off of the main road is at an unnatural angle and shared with two other businesses. The old building, now demolished, smelled odd. Many of the foods were processed overseas, and the labels read like the culinary world’s Periodic Table. I bought what I could comfortably (read: pasta) and dreamed of the post-construction days ahead when I could shop other places without fear of overdrawing our checking account.

As do other trying times, those passed. I drove past it with little thought.

Then in came the new building.

And in came reviews and raves from unexpected sources. One friend with a kid en route to college told me over several lunches that Aldi had started to carry organic and natural and gluten-free products. Another who runs in business circles of the highest order on the east coast posted several raves about it and how much she had cut her grocery bills. Then came the biggest shocker of all: my sister whose taste buds out-discriminate mine called and told me of a delicious dinner that she’d made with fish purchased there.

Oh, and let’s not forget my personal kryptonite: chocolate. Really good high-quality made in Europe chocolate.  Hubby brought a lot home before I caved and decided to give Aldi another shot for everyday shopping. We went there one afternoon, and well, he won.

Caveats:

  • Take a quarter and bags with you. The carts are chained together and can be freed for a quarter. This prevents loss and damages incurred by rogue carts roaming the lot. They do have paper bags, but they’re something like six cents each. Oh, and you have to bag your own purchases. But it’s worth it.
  • Take an extra bag or two. Remember the stories about shopping in Cold War-era Russia where people always carried bags with them so they could purchase food, clothes, etc. to make sure they didn’t run out in case of a shortage? You never know what you might find on special at Aldi, so be prepared. Not just food wise, but kitchen equipment, household goods, and chainsaws. Really.
  • Do extra scrutiny on the labels. I bought some salsa that had sugar in it. Some argue that sugar in tomato products lifts and balances the flavor. To me, you might as well pour it on ice cream. Also the nut butters have palm oil in them with no indication about whether or not it’s rainforest safe. Their grape supplier sprays them with sulfur to preserve freshness.
  • Be careful about the meat and fish for additives such as dyes and preservatives and where it was produced. Also be aware that the dairy products give no indication about GMO or antibiotic safety.

But that being said, their parent company is in Germany, and they usually have breads, jams, and soups manufactured in the EU, so that helps with the safety factor. They have a lot of gluten free offerings: corn-based pasta, mac and cheese, pizza (which incidentally gives two Weight Watcher friendly servings), and cereals and snack bars. The produce is a little hit and miss, but they are making strides with the organic offerings.

I mentioned the chocolate, didn’t I?