Shopping Is Hard (Or: Why Nobody Looks Happy At The Grocery Store)

Monday, September 19, 2011

By Chef Terri

So, after a long weekend spent out of town, I hit the ground ready to do this Hunger Challenge. I was frazzled, low on energy, and felt like this would be a great time to do my shopping for the week, really was the only time I had. Armed with my previous weeks research on comparing food costs (which I realize that most people on SNAP would not have the time to do, and only served to frustrate me further), I headed to Aldi with $35 in my pocket. I had made a grocery list that corresponded with my menu for the week (again, something most folks on SNAP don't find themselves with time to make) and resolved to do the best I could to get everything on it, even the stuff in the "Optional" column.

At Aldi, I purchased:
1 paper bag: $.06
2.42 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts: $5.35
1 jar of creamy peanut butter: $1.69
1 can fire roasted tomatoes: $.89
1 jar of strawberry jam: $2.19
1 bag of white tortilla chips: $1.19
1 dozen eggs: $1.49
2 large mangoes: $.98
1 large container of vegetable oil: $2.69
1 loaf of whole grain white bread: $1.29
1 8oz block of sharp cheddar cheese: $1.99
1 bag of baby carrots: $.49 (my best bargain of the whole bunch!)

Grand Total (after tax): $20.77

Then it was on to Target, where I knew there were a few things I could buy at a cheaper price. Interestingly enough, although ALDI and Target are immediately adjacent to each other, the shopping experience is wildly different between the two. While both were brightly lit and well labeled, it was very clear that Target had more money to invest in a "pleasant" shopping experience with wide lanes and spacious product layouts, whereas Aldi seemed focused on getting you the most variety and the greatest number of items in the smallest amount of space. Both have their advantages, but it was interesting to jump so quickly between the two spaces.

At Target, I purchased:
1 9oz bag of spinach: $1.99
1 bag of 4 red tomatoes: $1.49
1 gigantic yellow onion: $.79
1 lb dried black beans: $1.24
1 jar medium salsa: $1.89
1 bag of brown rice: $.79
1 box of 24 black tea bags: $1.22 (nobody would have loved me this week if I didnt have any caffeine, promise)
2 Braeburn apples: $1.28
3 bananas: $.72
1 lime: $.42
1 bag of mixed frozen vegetables: $1.04

Grand Total (after tax): $13.16

Total From Both Trips: $33.93

We'll see how far this stretches, especially as I have to rustle through my car to dig up the loaf of bread that somehow escaped on my trip home. If I had actually lost that loaf of bread and been on SNAP benefits, that would have ruined my meal plan for a whole week. Its pretty scary to know that a loaf of bread can really be the thing that makes or breaks a weeks worth of food, but when every calorie counts, that bread would be sorely missed.