I have always tried to be a frugal shopper. When my husband and I first got married, I turned our apartment’s linen closet into a pantry so I could buy more foods in bulk. But, like many of us, I didn’t get serious about it until I had kids. After having Big Boy I switched to part time work, and when Little Man was small I left the world of steady paychecks behind for good. I thought once diapers and special foods were a thing of the past, our grocery bills would get smaller. I didn’t take into account that two growing boys eat more than I do. Living on one average size income with two big boys can be a challenge. Luckily, registered dietician Kim Galeaz was willing to take the time to go grocery shopping with Liz (whose farm we recently visited), the boys, and me, and help me find the best deals on the best foods, and give me a few health tips along the way.
My first impression of Kim was that she reminds me of myself. Of course, a much healthier and driven version of myself, but still. She’s down-to-earth and understands that life happens. She’s not one of those, “only eat the right foods or prepare for an early grave,” she’s more, “all things in moderation.” In the cereal aisle, she asked us to pick up our favorite cereals. The boys chose Reeses Puffs, I picked up Cheerios and Lucky Charms. I said, “well my FAVORITE is this [the Lucky Charms], but the one I actually eat is this [Cheerios].” Kim said, “if you want to eat the Lucky Charms every once in a while, that’s OK.” It’s all about balance. If you choose the Lucky Charms, don’t also eat the donut, milkshake, and chocolate cake for dessert. But one sweet treat will be OK. The boys’ favorite moment: when she told us frozen pizza is not a junk food. She and the boys worked together to pick out all the food groups represented in a frozen pizza (grains, dairy, vegetables, protein). She suggested adding some fresh veggies to a frozen pizza for a quick dinner that has health benefits.
To Organic or Not to Organic?
In the words of Big Boy, “to organic or not to organic, it doesn’t really matter.” I know this is a hot button topic. My personal choice is to buy local rather than organic. I don’t put a lot of faith in the organic label at the store, but everyone is different. Kim recognizes that organic can be very cost prohibitive for some, and if that’s the case do not feel bad at all about serving your family conventionally raised foods. She shared a really interesting website that calculates how much conventional produce you can eat before being affected by the chemicals found on it.
Read the Label
“Why did you choose turkey for this recipe?” Kim asked. “Because it’s leaner,” I immediately respond. As soon as it was out of my mouth, I realized I’d gotten caught in one of those teachable moments I always try to trick my kids into in public. Yep. Guess what. Turkey is not always leaner. Just like other kinds of meat, look at the label. There are ground beefs that are just as lean, if not leaner, than some ground turkeys found in the store. As someone with a family history of high cholesterol, for me it’s much more important to look at the cut and percentages on the label than it is to assume one type of meat is healthier for me than another.
Thanks to label reading, we discovered that not all of our turkey is created equally. Fresh Thyme offered ground turkey on sale for much cheaper than the other two stores, but it does not tell us how fatty it is. Considering it does tell us it is dark meat, we can guess that it has a higher fat content than the 93% lean turkey we purchased at the other two stores.
Don’t Read the Label
Do you suffer from brand loyalty? I sure do. But the fact is that many store brands are the exact same product as their more expensive counterpart. The Walmart gallon of milk? It’s the exact same as the Dean’s. Literally. Exact same milk. The only difference is the label, and a couple of dollars you’ll save by buying the store brand.
Now for the Shopping
I came to our grocery tour armed with a grocery list to prepare one of my favorite meals: baked turkey meatballs with pasta and sauce. We visited three grocery stores: a high-end (Fresh Thyme), a “regular” grocery store (Kroger), and a discount store (Walmart) to see where we could buy the best ingredients for the lowest prices. Here’s what we found:
|Ground Turkey||$2.38 (1.99/lb)||$4.49 (4.49/lb)||$4.34 (4.34/lb)|
|Grated Parmesan Cheese||$4.49||$2.99||$2.98|
|Eggs||$2.99/ dozen||$3.19/ dozen||$2.93/ dozen|
|Small Onion||$0.40 (0.88/lb)||$0.64 (1.29/lb)||$0.54 (0.88/lb)|
|Spaghetti (Whole Wheat)||$1.29||$1.29||$1.00|
A summary of what we learned: Fresh Thyme has killer sales. If an item is on sale, like the turkey, it’s unbeatable. HOWEVER, they gouge you on other items, like the saltines. Fresh Thyme also offers many items in bulk, meaning you can only buy what you need. Hence getting oregano for a quarter. Overall, Fresh Thyme’s and Kroger’s totals are within a few cents of each other while Walmart was about $3.00 less. I knew Walmart touted low prices, but I was really surprised to see such a difference between it and Kroger.
Now For the Food
Finally it’s time to get down to the business of cooking all this food! These baked turkey meatballs are a really fast and yummy source of protein. They come together and bake quickly, and they also freeze well. I use my cookie scoop to make forming the balls even faster and easier. Also, I crush saltines in the food processor in place of bread crumbs. It saves money and works just fine.
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c breadcrumbs
- 1/4 c grated Parmesan
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 c fresh basil, minced
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Grease a cookie sheet with non-stick spray.
- Mix all ingredients together by hand and form into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle.
- Serve with your favorite pasta and sauce.