I finally made it to Aldi’s and didn’t swoon (and other thoughts on food shopping w/out transportation)

All the people who told me that I needed to go to Aldi’s if I really needed to save money on food will be relieved to know that we got a car a few months ago and now I can go to Aldi’s.

I mean…if the car starts. Which it didn’t one day last month. It needed a new alternator which we had to wait weeks to get fixed until a) we had money to fix it or b) we got approved for a special loan program that helps low income people fix their car.

Or  if it’s not one of those weeks where it’s the day after payday and we have $15 until next payday, which means absolutely no unnecessary trips besides husband getting to work and home.

But otherwise, I can now go to Aldi’s. Before, I had to take two buses to get there. I would have to take at least 2 kids with me. We live in NY. In the winter, it gets really cold. In the summer, it gets really hot ( so, that’s a no to buying anything frozen). Plus, here in Ithaca we have special weather. Ithacating. It isn’t fun. Sometimes there could be as much as an hour+ long wait at a bus stop to get our bus home. One trip to Aldi’s might take me 6 hours, even though it was 20 minutes away.
Bus fare for one trip to Aldi’s: $5.75 . One of those children required hand holding or sometimes carrying. Since we didn’t live directly on the bus line, we would have to walk about ¾ of a mile to our house from the bus stop (don’t make me mention the weather again).

Total bags of groceries I could get without hurting myself or losing track of my kid: ONE.

I never went to Aldi’s. It was too much work.

Now that I have been to Aldi’s, I think I’m supposed to tell you that it was a life changing experience and with the money I saved, I can send my kids to college!

Sorry. No.

And on and on and on those chips and snacky foods go.

For one thing, my nickname for the Aldi’s here is Ithaca’s Snack Food Emporium. Are Aldi’s like this everywhere?

Nothing against chips but I can’t feed my family just chips. Although at those prices… I could divide a bag among my whole family for 36¢ per serving! That’s a more economical snack than the fresh peaches at Aldi’s. Peaches were 59¢ EACH, and that was when peaches were in season. My food budget is roughly $3 per person per day. I’m not spending 20% of my day’s budget on one peach. I could buy a can of peaches for around $1 and there’s 3 servings in a can. That’s 30-ish cents per serving.
I hear the cries of the real foodies right now telling us poor people that “Yes, you CAN eat fresh produce on a budget!”. I swear, those people just cannot do math.

Well, and obviously, they have no idea how to deal with lack of transportation or food deserts either.

People think of food deserts as being a city thing but they’re just as much a rural issue. Where we live now, the closest place that has something that resembles food is a gas station convenience store 2 miles away. Obviously, the selection is limited to snacks and a few pre-packaged meals that are way overpriced. I could probably walk there if I needed milk but then I’d have to pay something like $5 for a gallon of milk. A gallon of milk I’d then have to carry 2 miles home, dragging kids along, and ugh, did I mention the weather here sometimes? And no, that milk is totally not organic or hormone free or whatever I’m supposed to be eating/drinking to be a healthy and ethical human these days. This scenario is not on my top 10 list of “Ways To Save Money On Food When You’re Poor” . It doesn’t even make the top 50.

We are fortunate out here to have rural bus service, even if it does run a frustrating schedule. It can be hard to even get to the food bank, let alone the closest real grocery store (16 miles).
There are a lot of people in my area without cars. I think some assume automatically that those who live in the country have vehicles. Not so much here,anyway. There is a great group of retired individuals who will give parents a ride to events and meetings at the school. It’s necessary to have such a thing here.  So, with grocery shopping… when people are able to get to the store, they are more likely to NOT buy fresh or perishable food. Who knows when you’ll be able to go to the grocery store again? Dry goods and canned foods is the way to go.

I don’t know what my point is here. The man gave me his Man Cold and my brain is fuzzy. I think I’m just trying to ask people to think before they give advice to low income folks on how and where they should shop for food and what they should eat. Generally, we (“we”= poor folks) know what we’re doing and are just doing the best we can. It might not match what OTHERS think is the best but it is what it is.

*So Many Addendums*
I had no idea so many people felt so strongly about Aldi’s. If only some of those people were as upset by poor people not having access to good food as they were by me not liking Aldi’s!

But really…people also do have to remember that their Aldi’s may not be the same as my Aldi’s and Ithaca Aldi Lovers need to think about what a new shopper’s 1st impression might be in the local store. You walk in and *boom*….it’s all the snacky stuff straight up in your face first thing. I did buy trail mixes for my daughters who are at college. They seemed to have a good ratio of dried fruit to everything else. My one daughter complained that most of the pre-packaged trail mixes are more like candy and those weren’t. So, score one for Aldi’s!
The produce is NOT impressive. I picked apples off the neglected trees in our field that looked better than their organic apples (upcoming post!) . Everyone told me I had to go to Aldi’s ESPECIALLY for the produce but when I got there ,I was like “meh” and I couldn’t really afford a lot of it,anyway.

My key point was about transportation and food shopping. Writing while sick probably didn’t help me get that point across. Note to self: camp out on the couch and binge watch Netflix next time.

#AskJamieOliver turned into ,”Hey, Jamie…how am I supposed to eat like that when I’m poor?”

The hashtag #AskJamieOliver on Twitter didn’t go so well for Jamie the other day. I think the tweet chat Q & A was supposed to be to promote his new show but it ended up being a chance for people to call him out on real food privilege . Well, that and to generally mock him.

I’ll just get this sordid confession out of the way right now: I kinda like Jamie Oliver.

I think he means well. I know,I know. Meaning well doesn’t count for much.  I live in an area immersed with food snobs who are also bleeding heart liberals. They’ll dine together over local,organic meals while passionately discussing the plight of poor people. They think they get it but they don’t and they think that by just talking about all these poor people things, they’re being good people. Being good isn’t always the same as doing good…and “doing good” can sometimes end up being a poorly executed maneuver if you don’t have a full understanding of what you’re trying to fix.

This is the main problem with Jamie Oliver.  He is in a perfect position to shed light on and change an oppressive food system but he needs to learn how to do so without shaming those who are struggling with real life problems. He needs a dose of reality and really needs to listen to his critics here.

There were some great snarky and pointed tweets the other day…
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But my favorite tweets related to Jamie Oliver the other day  was a series of tweets by @RhymesWithJen . She summed up what I talked about in The Reasons Poor People Don’t Eat Healthy  a bit more succinctly (140 characters per point,you know) . I always feel like the points are worth reiterating . The people who have had negative critique of the points usually say I’m “making excuses for poor people”, instead of recognizing that it really is that way. For real. We’re not making this stuff up.

(Oh,language advisory here. I didn’t edit out the cursing. I know I was supposed to make this blog more PG Friendly but meh…I hate censoring)
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Zucchini Recipes

two fresh zucchini isolated

If you know a gardener, chances are they start sharing their zucchini bounty with you around this time of the year. In season, they’re especially inexpensive at the grocery store.
A reader asked specifically for zucchini recipes for this reason and because, “I don’t know how to do anything with them besides make zucchini bread.”

Here are some great recipes that use zucchini:

Zucchini-Crusted Pizza (my family’s personal favorite. We’ve also used yellow squash )

Oven-Fried Zucchini Chips with Basil Dipping Sauce

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Gratin

Zucchini Fritters

Spicy Turkey and Zucchini Burgers

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Rounds with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese (I make something similar but with tomato & mozzarella)

Baked Zucchini Fries

Zucchini Soup

Zesty Zucchini Spaghetti

Grilled Zucchini and Grape Tomato Salad

Zucchini, Mint and Yogurt Spread

Zucchini-Potato Frittata

Stuffed 8-Ball Zucchini

Zucchini Brownies

Pesto Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini, Black Bean and Rice Skillet

Zucchini Milk

Zucchini and Carrot Fritters

Zucchini Boats with Mozzarella and Olives

Easy French Ratatouille

Penne with Zucchini and Almonds