G5-“How we Met”… the story of two hopeful romantics

2005.  A year of positive change.  22-years-old, graduating college, moving into my first real apartment with the love of my life, giving birth to our beautiful son, applying for and starting graduate school, and paying real bills.  It is here that my love affair begins.  One smoldering summer day, with a belly ready to pop, I could not imagine putting one more piece of food into my compacted stomach.  Unfortunately, the little boy within me and my big boy enjoying a hard day’s work, felt different.  No matter what mama’s feeling, you can always count on the family feeling one way…hungry.  Belly to the steering wheel, I slowly made my way to the post office to mail a package. 

Waiting in the infinite mail line, I contemplated another dreadful trip to the grungy, headache inducing Super-Walmart.  As I headed down the street a yellow, blue, and white sign caught my eye. “Aldi” the sign read.  I saw grocery carts outside.  At this point, I would pretty much prefer to go anywhere than the humongous Walmart.  I would have loved to go to nice Hy-Vee or Price Chopper, but they were miles away.  That would cost way to much in gas, not to mention more expensive groceries.  I decided to give this “Aldi” place a shot.  I walked up to the store and “boom”… I was not shot, but caught without a quarter.  I explained to the gal at the checkout that I was a newbie and she gladly loaned me a coin to get a cart.  As I pushed her quarter into the cart, memories of studying abroad flooded my brain.  At that moment, I knew my life would never be the same.  This place links me to my happy place…Seville, Spain.  Just another town in this huge world who rents grocery carts with euros. 

As I made my way through the aisles, I was slightly skeptical, but extremely interested.  The prices on milk, bread, potatoes,  soups, cereal, chicken, tomatoes, garlic, avocados, and all the other important staples were far less than the headache monger could provide.  It did not take long for me to realize that I could make 99% of my favorite meals with ingredients from my new favorite place.  Better yet, I could make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 2, 7 days a week, for less than $40. 

When my son was born, I needed Aldi even more!  Baby food was way too expensive.  Health benefits or not, baby boy would be eating homemade baby food because mama still wanted to eat cheese and drink wine.  I’ll never forget the phone call to my mom.  “Guess what, Mom?  Baby boy had his first people food.”  “That’s great, Rach.  What was it?  Did he like it?”  “Broccoli puree, Mom.  Yah, he loved it.  He gave a tiny grimace and then ate every bite!”  Dead silence on the phone… The only thing better than the silence would have been to see the look of shock on my mother’s face.  “Who gives their baby broccoli as their first food?”  “Well…, I do.  Broccoli from Aldi , Mom.”  Since that day baby boy has not stopped eating.  From chicken curry to spinach tortelini soup, Aldi’s goodness mixed with mama’s and dada’s love, have formed him into an almost 6 year-old small man.

As the years have progressed, my husband and I have worked hard and found our careers.  Paychecks have slowly increased, rent has turned into mortgage, our daughter has been born, but the grocery budget has stayed proportionally the same.  We have since moved closer to big, fancy, grocery stores.  I find myself being reeled in by their ads and sales.  I have been hooked several times.  I go in, I buy the items on sale, I usually buy a few extra things I don’t really need, and then he dumps me.  The next week, I go back to my one true love and I instantly realize that I had made a huge mistake.  Aldi has and will continue to nourish my family and my wallet.  Together, we will travel through life encouraging each other to eat gourmet and to be gorgeous…in every essence of the word.

G5- Gorgeous Tip #5 is to keep part of your frugalness from when you had no choice but to be frugal.  The payoff is gorgeous!

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Posted in Aldi, budget friendly meals, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, parenting, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Meal 16- Teriyaki Salmon with Basil Rice and Broccoli

Three simple foods…made three gorgeous ways!  This meal could not get any more gorgeous.  It is easy to make.  It tastes gourmet.  It is inexpensive.  It is full of nutrition.  Need I say more?  Yes, I do.  All the ingredients can be purchased at my counterpart…Aldi.  During my most recent trip to Aldi, I picked up a teriyaki “wok” sauce.  I have never seen this product before.  I used about half the jar on my salmon filets and cooked them on the skillet.  I chose the skillet instead of the grill to maintain a wetter fish.  I paired the salmon with a simple jazzed up white rice and steamed broccoli.

Necessary ingredients: 3-4 salmon filets, 1 cup white rice, broccoli floret to serve 4, teriyaki wok sauce, olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, dried or fresh basil.— I added a simple romaine and Roma salad…gorgeous, but not necessary.

Prepare 1 cup white rice according to directions on bag.  Clean, cut, drizzle water over broccoli florets, and put a plate on top of the bowl.  Steam broccoli in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Cover salmon with teriyaki sauce.  Cook salmon over medium-high heat on a skillet.  Add a little more sauce if desired.  Drizzle the rice with a few rounds of olive oil.  Sprinkle on garlic salt, black pepper, and basil.  Stir.  Serve and eat.

Aldi Price Breakdown: 3-4 salmon filets $3-$4, 1 cup white rice 19cents, broccoli floret to serve 4- 75cents, teriyaki wok sauce- 84cents, olive oil, garlic salt, black pepper, dried or fresh basil. = $4.79 for a gourmet and gorgeous super food dinner for food!  Add $1 more for 4 salmon filets and add $1 more for salad.

Posted in Aldi, budget friendly meals, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, Recipes, salmon, super foods, teriyaki | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meal 15- Mama’s Lasagna- Rated A

I did not plan on Mama’s lasagna being rated “A for anyone can make it”.  However, life happened and my rated A for awesome husband stepped up to the plate once again.  With 3 text messages, some thawed out meat, and a compliant 2-year old, he pieced together my childhood favorite dish.  Mama always makes her lasagna with low-fat cottage cheese.  I had no idea ricotta existed for quite some time.  I have made some lasagna with ricotta and other extravagant lasagna ingredients, but it never lasts.  I always retreat to tradition.  Mama’s lasagna is truly the most gorgeous of all!

Necessary Ingredients: 1 lb. ground turkey (or ground beef), 1 package lasagna noodles, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, 1/2 container of cottage cheese, 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese, 1 egg.  Use chopped onion, minced garlic, italian seasoning, garlic salt to flavor meat if you wish.

Boil water and cook lasagna noodles until they are close to being done.  Drain them.  Cook ground meat.  If you are using onion and garlic, add them first.  Season with italian seasoning and garlic salt.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Add spaghetti sauce to meat.  Mix together shredded mozzarella, 1/2 container of cottage cheese, and 1 egg.  Spray 9×13 with canola oil spray.  Layer noodles, meat mixture, cheese mixture, noodles, meat mixture, cheese mixture, noodles, cheese etc.  Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (if you like extra spice in life).

Aldi Price Breakdown: 1 lb. ground turkey $1.39, 1 package lasagna noodles $1.19, 1 jar spaghetti sauce- $1.19, 1/2 container of cottage cheese- $1.00, 8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese- $1.49, 1 egg- 8cents,  Meat additions- 25centsish= $6. 59 for a gorgeous lasagna for 6-8. 

My family of 4 only ate half of this.  Super planner would make the lasagna in two small square pans and toss one in the freezer.  That would give you two meals at $3.30 a piece.  Serve it with a side salad and bread for added goodness. 

***Feeding a crowd, making a dish for a well deserving friend, or wanting loads of lasagna in your freezer?  Try doubling the ingredients and make 2 9×13’s or 4 9×9’s.  When doubling the meat I get fancy and use 1 lb ground turkey and 1 lb pork sausage.  A little more gourmet, a little more gorgeous.

Posted in Aldi, beef, ground turkey, Italian, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, pasta, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meal 14- Pork Pot Sticker Edamame Soup with Egg Rolls- The 2 year-old and 5 year-old open their minds and mouths.

     Several weeks ago Aldi had pork pot stickers on “clearance” in the freezer case.  They were 99 cents for a box of 10 Asian dumplings.  I bought 2 packages.  I threw them in the freezer and then forgot about them.  I also forgot to thaw something out before work this morning.  So when I got home,  it was “dinner hunt time”.  Much to my surprise, I found those little boxes of something called pot stickers praying to get out of the cold, dark freezer.  I warmed them up in the microwave and threw them in a hot pot of yummy Asian broth.  What better to pair them with than something else I have never cooked before…edamame.  I have heard of the health wonders of edemame.  When I found a frozen bag at Aldi last week, they immediately jumped into my cart.  Tonight, they found an even better home…in my tummy!  Nothing is cuter than a 2-year-old saying “mo emamame peas, mama”.  I can’t believe I haven’t been feeding these to her for years!  Wait…she is only 2.  I guess starting now will is sufficient.  I knew the soup would satisfy the taste buds, but I wasn’t so sure about the stomach.  For this reason only, I paired it with 4 pork egg rolls.  In hindsight, they weren’t really necessary, but made dinner extra gorgeous. 

Ingredients: 2 packages of Pork Pot Stickers, 3 cups beef broth (or 3 cups water and 3 squares of bouillon), 2 large carrots, 1 small onion, 1/2 bag frozen edamame, sprinkle of ground ginger and ground pepper, round of olive oil, soy sauce,  4 egg rolls.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Thinly slice onion.  Heat a round of olive oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and cook slowly.  Peel and thinly slice 2 large carrots.  Put edamame in a glass bowl with 1/2 cup of water.  Cook in microwave for 3 minutes.  Stir and cook 2 more minutes.  Add carrots to pot.  Put egg rolls in oven for 18 minutes.  Drain edamame pods and rinse.  Pop beans out of pods.  (If you are a scab picker or pimple popper, you will especially enjoy this step.)  Get your appetite back and add the edamame to the pot.  Pour in the beef broth.  Sprinkle on ground ginger, black pepper, and soy sauce.  Put the bags of pot stickers in the microwave for 2 minutes.  Add to the pot.  Keep the soup warm until the egg rolls are done.  Serve and enjoy!   

Aldi Price Breakdown: 2 packages of Pork Pot Stickers- $1.98 (regular price is $1.99 each…get lucky and find some a few weeks after they are the special item), 3 cups beef broth (or 3 cups water and 3 squares of bouillon)-I did it the bouillon way…I’ve had the jar for so long that I have no clue how much the jar of bouillon cost…I will say 30cents for 3 cubes, 2 large carrots- 16cents, 1 small onion- 20cents, 1/2 bag frozen edamame- 75cents, 4 egg rolls- $2.49.= A very gorgeous $5.88 for a gourmet meal for 4!

Now for a proud mommy moment… the wee ones seriously tried the soup without hesitation and ate EVERY bite!  If you like pasta, pork, carrots, and green beans, there is no reason you should not enjoy this meal.  Make mommy proud. The next time you are at the store throw something in your cart that you have never heard of before…or perhaps something you have heard of but never had the bazoinkies to try. 

Posted in Aldi, Asian, budget friendly meals, edamame, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, parenting, pork, pot stickers, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Meal 13- Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Alfredo is one of the kiddos’ favorites.  You can serve it over any type of noodle.  No need to stick to fettucine, unless you happen to have it on hand.  Tonight I used the last of the box of whole wheat penne for the kids and the last of the box of whole wheat spaghetti for the adults…for obvious reasons.  I went lazy tonight and spent a few extra cents on the jar of alfredo sauce from Aldi.  There is, however, an even more gorgeous homemade sauce.  Depending on cream cheese prices it can be cheaper.  It definitely feeds a larger crew and is probably a little more nutritious.  My sister Michele, who feeds 3 growing boys and 1 grown man, taught me the latter version.  I use the latter quite frequently and I highly recommend it to all large alfredo loving families around the world.

Necessary Ingredients: 2 Chicken Breasts, your favorite shape of noodle, one jar of alfredo sauce OR (1 package of cream cheese, 1 cup chicken broth or water with chicken bullion), 1 fresh broccoli crown, garlic salt, pepper, italian seasoning, grated parmesan cheese, one Roma tomato (if you like tomatoes).

Boil water and get pasta cooking.  Cut thawed chicken breasts into strips.  Sprinkle garlic salt, pepper, and italian seasoning on all sides.  For homemade alfredo sauce, put cream cheese and chicken broth or bullion into a sauce pan.  Slowly stir and melt on medium heat.  Add a few splashes of milk to thin, if necessary.  Chop up broccoli in small pieces.  Steam in microwave by putting in a bowl with a tiny bit of water, cover with a plate, and cook for 2 minutes.  Cook chicken in skillet.  Add steamed broccoli.  Add the sauce you made or the sauce from the jar.  Stir in about a 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese.  Serve over pasta.  I chopped up a fresh Roma tomato and sprinkled on top as well.  What can I say?  It’s pretty. 

Aldi Price Breakdown: 2 Chicken Breasts- $1.83, your favorite shape of noodle- 45cents, one jar of alfredo sauce- $1.69 OR (1 package of cream cheese $1.29 (price just went up…grrr), 1 cup chicken broth- 69centsish or water with chicken bullion), 1 fresh broccoli crown- 75cents (Yahoonies…the price on broccoli went down this week!), garlic salt, pepper, italian seasoning, grated parmesan cheese- 25cents, one Roma tomato 19cents=  $5.16 for a gourmet and gorgeous family favorite for four

BTW… this would also be gorgeous with shrimp!  It would be about $2.00 more. 

Posted in Aldi, alfredo, budget friendly meals, chicken, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, pasta, Recipes, shrimp | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meal 12- Ham and Cheesey Potatoes aka “Comfort Food”

After spending several days with my extended family, it is time to get cooking.  My time away from the kitchen has been spent celebrating and remembering the life of my amazing uncle.  After battling cancer in the most courageous way possible, God decided he had bigger plans for him in heaven.  While I am still so sad for his family who has been left with a hole in their hearts, I am deeply touched by their grace, love, and courage during this difficult time.  One of Uncle Fran’s most enduring qualities is his humor.  I say “is” because I know his jokes will continue to make family and friends laugh for years to come.  Therefore, in his memory, I will write “Comfort Food” tonight.  One thing I have learned is that with death comes abundant comfort food…or as my cousin put it, a bountiful harvest.  People ranging from forever friends to complete strangers all bring food.  Even when you don’t feel hungry at all… even when it sickens you to think about eating… the pains of hunger ground us and remind us that we are alive and must move forward with our loved ones’ legacies in our pockets.

“Comfort Food” Aside from chocolate and wine, the next best known comfort food is meat and potatoes.  Tonight I bring you a cheap and slightly more healthy version of mama’s homecookin’ cheesy potatoes and ham.  The ham I use is actually a turkey ham.  It has less fat, costs less money, and is absolutely delicious.  I have never bought one for over $4.  For a weekday meal, it suits us just gorgeous.  I like this so much, I would use it for Easter.  However, I would have to buy about 6 of them to feed our crew.  So, I will focus on tonight’s meal and save Easter for a WAY later date…I’m talking years.  Major extended family meals are frightening.  I admire all mothers, mother-in-laws, aunts, grandmothers, and (I suppose) rare men, that cook them with grace and happiness.  I, for one, hope to never stick my hand up a turkey’s butt.  I will gladly let the other women in my life wear that title…the “I stick my hand up the turkey butt” title.  If the day comes that I have the pleasure of making a holiday meal for the entire crew, I guarantee it will be ham and not turkey.  Unless, however, it is 6 Aldi Turkey Ham’s… then I guess it would be turkey, but without the title.  My favorite thing about the Aldi Turkey Ham…I get a gorgeous ham dinner out of the little turkey guy, plus another ham meal.  My favorite day twos are ham friend rice or 1-potato-2’s.

Necessary Ingredients: Turkey Ham (a little less than 2 lbs), 1/3 bag of golden potatoes,1/2 onion,  side vegetable of choice (I chose the no-purpose peas from Meal 4), can of cream of mushroom soup, a couple of dollups of sour cream, half can of milk, two handfuls of shredded cheddar, garlic powder, pepper, handful of crunched up cereal (preferably not fruit loops…cornflakes or chex type work well).

Wash and cube up potatoes and half an onion.  Spray 9×13 baking dish with canola oil spray.  Throw in potatoes, onions, cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 can milk, a couple of dollups of sour cream, and a handful of cheddar cheese.  Stir and add a sprinkling of garlic powder and pepper.  Cover with foil.  Put potatoes in 325 degree oven.  Unwrap ham and put in baking dish.  Add to oven.  Cook for about an hour.  Pull out potatoes and throw on a handful of crunched up cereal.  Bake for 10 more minutes.  Pull out and serve with vegetables of choice.  A simple steamed pea or green beans would probably be best, as cream of mushroom soup is just not very good for you.    Use low-fat or fat-free versions of all the creamy goodness and it will still be…well… creamy goodness.  Mama’s recipe has a stick of butter in the potatoes and the cereal mixed with melted butter.  I left that out for heart and Mexican vacation purposes and it tasted just as gorgeous. 

Aldi Price Breakdown: Turkey Ham (a little less than 2 lbs)-$1.95 ( $3.87 divided by 2…because you will use the other half within the next few nights for fried rice or 1-potato-2’s), 1/3 bag of golden potatoes -60cents, 1/2 onion- 8cents, 1/3 bag frozen steamed peas- 22cents , can of cream of mushroom soup (I haven’t bought a can since I started this blog and I really can’t remember…but I’m sure it is gorgeous.  I’ll shoot high and say 89cents), a couple dollops of sour cream 25cent, half can of milk- 10cents, two handfuls of shredded cheddar 70cents, garlic powder, pepper, handful of crunched up cereal- 10centsish= A gourmet gorgeous meal for 4 at $4.88.  The truth is I got lucky tonight.  My in-laws called and said they wanted to stop by to see the kiddos.  Since I had meticulously prepared a ham all day, I told my husband to invite them to stay for dinner.  I added a romaine and tomato salad for about $1.00 more, served the entire ham, did NOT increase the potatoes, and we had a dinner party for six at $7.83…with leftovers!

Posted in Aldi, budget friendly meals, ham, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, potatoes, Recipes, turkey | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Meal 11- Taco Tuesday (Rated-A)

Keeping it simple tonight.  I worked late tonight, so my husband had dinner patrol.  Once again, we are rated “A” for “anyone can make it”.  Tacos are easy shmeasy, but I’m pretty sure I could have them three times a week and be completely content.  Aldi has all the essential pieces at gorgeous prices.  I use 1 lb ground turkey, 1 taco seasoning packet, 1/3 package of shredded cheddar cheese, 2 Roma tomatoes, 1/2 chunk romaine lettuce, 1 package soft taco shells.  Cook your meat and the taco seasoning as the packet instructs, chop up the tomatoes and lettuce, put it all in bowls, open the soft shells, throw all the stuff on top, roll it up, and eat.  Record breaking speed, Captain.  Of course there are a million gorgeous twists you can add to the taco to make it gourmet.  I guarantee to go there eventually, but for tonight its Taco Tuesday… the foundation from which gourmetgotgorgeous will grow and show her obsession with Mexican food.

Aldi Price Breakdown: 1 lb ground turkey- $1.39, 1 taco seasoning packet- 35cents, 1/3 package of shredded cheddar cheese- $1.00 , 2 Roma tomatoes- 33cents, 1/2 chunk romaine lettuce- 42cents, 1 package soft taco shells- 99cents= $4.48 for plenty of soft tacos for 4.  If you need a little extra umph, add a half bag of steamed frozen corn for 33cents more.

Posted in Aldi, budget friendly meals, ground turkey, Mexican, Money Saving Recipes, money saving tips, tacos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment