All grocery stores are not created equal; therefore, I have a not-so-secret obsession with them all-even Walmart. Wow, I can't believe I typed that. In case you didn't know, gluten free shopping in a small southern town is a challenge. It wasn't until the past year that local stores started carrying a decent selection of gf products. During a typical week I buy groceries at three stores because each one stocks something different and has what I need...I mean what I want. Thomas and I have started calling our weekly shopping excursion "Friday Night Date Night." I do get a little excited about what I might find during my weekly quest! The kids hate it. Fortunately for them (and me), both sets of grandparents live nearby and are always happy to visit with the kiddos while we get the grocery shopping done. That also helps save money because I don't have extra people putting extra items into my shopping cart. I also love to make new friends in the gluten free aisles! I learn a lot from other customers and enjoy sharing product suggestions while I shop! I have found that the gf community is very friendly! We have to stick together!
Our Friday Night Date Night typically starts at Aldi. Prices are lower and they offer a good variety of gluten free products in their Live GFree line. They change up their product offerings regularly, so it is hard to set a menu and plan what to buy at Aldi, but we always buy milk, eggs, produce and grass-fed beef there. The Live GFree products that are always on the list include the brownie mix, pretzels and blueberry pancakes.
There are a few things you need to know if you have never shopped at Aldi but want to give it a try:
1. Take a quarter to get a shopping cart. No, they don't charge to use the carts--they simply request that you insert a quarter to unlock cart. Your quarter is returned when you return the cart. That keeps carts from being all over the parking lot and also prevents damage to your car.
2. Bring your own shopping bags. This helps the environment, but can also save you money. Bags are available for purchase, but I find it easy to bring my own.
3. Don't be scared to try a private-label product. Most of these products are excellent and Aldi offers a double satisfaction guarantee if you don't love it. They will refund your money AND replace the product.
4. You will save money. I have been buying milk at my local Aldi for $1.49/gallon. Yes, that said gallon! Eggs and produce are priced significantly lower than competitors as well. Almost everything sold in Aldi is priced lower than competitors.
Our next stop on Friday Night Date Night is Kroger. Just as all grocery stores are not created equal, not all Krogers are created equal. I sometimes hit more than one Kroger to knock out the majority of my shopping list. A friend I met in a grocery store aisle recently informed me that she spotted gluten free items in the bakery section of her Kroger. I haven't seen them in my store, but we will make a special trip to her Kroger this weekend! Kroger has a growing selection of gluten free items including bread, hamburger buns, pizza, corn dogs and other quick-serve meals for the kids and items for school parties. I also like the fact that Kroger awards points for each dollar spent in their store that can be redeemed for saving at the gas pump. Using the Kroger card also tracks what I buy so they can send coupons for items I purchase--even hard-to-find gluten free product coupons. I always download coupons from the Kroger.com website, including the Free Friday download coupon, before I shop! If it is free it is for me!
Our final Friday night stop is at my local Walmart. While it is not our favorite store, I will admit that some things are cheaper and our small-town store has dramatically improved it's gluten free section over the past few months. They now stock Schar Artisan Multigrain Bread, which Nathan says makes a good pb&j. I also have been purchasing Glutino Chocolate Chip Cookies, Glutino Strawberry Toaster Pastries (like a Pop Tart), and McCormick's Gluten Free Taco Seasoning.
On special occasions, like Saturdays (just kidding, we don't go every Saturday), we will drive 40 miles into a neighboring state to Whole Foods or Sprouts Farmers Market. I love Feel Good Foods chicken and vegetable egg rolls at Whole Foods and I buy all they have in stock every time I go. They are fabulous! I have recently discovered Sprouts and I am really impressed with their selection! Almost everything we tried at the GFAF Expo a few weeks ago was available in Sprouts. I was also able to use a lot of the coveted coupons that I received at the expo. I love to save money!! Another thing I love about Sprouts, is the yellow price sticker on the shelves that signifies that the product is gluten free. It makes shopping a little easier, especially with kids. I spoke with the grocery manager who offered to special order items since I drive so far. I was really impressed with their friendly employees and excellent customer service. I just wished there was a Sprouts a little closer to home.
While most couples would think grocery shopping for a date night is stupid, we disagree. Thomas and I love good food. We love spending time together and we have fun picking out new foods to cook at home. We have turned grocery shopping into an adventure that we look forward to every week!