YouTube has become my virtual “window to the world.” Whatever you can think of, someone has produced a video about the topic and posted it on YouTube. Perusing YouTube was invaluable when I had my first ever surgery four years ago and was terrified! Thanks to a vlogger who had the same surgery, I discovered ways to lessen pain and have all items I’d need at hand near my chair or bed so I didn’t have to stand up/sit down/walk around very much the first few days. I detest cooking and love rice. (I’m going somewhere with this….) A few years ago I purchased a rice cooker and enjoyed black beans and rice, rice with various veggies thrown in, Spanish rice…then I wondered if the rice cooker could be used for other types of food. YouTube to the rescue!! Amazingly, rice cookers can make…pretty much anything, including foods I prepared in my crock pot in the past and MUCH more quickly! A rice cooker and microwave are my absolute kitchen “must haves.” Second wave is my George Foreman grill and NutriBullet blender. The last time I used an oven was when I owned a home – 2oish years ago – and stove burners very infrequently used to boil water for spaghetti which I now make in the rice cooker.
I discovered the Bullet Journal how to create a capsule wardrobe, and everything minimalist on YouTube. I tend to get on one topic and binge watch. Since the movie, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was released, thanks to YouTube I’m now a semi-expert on Queen, Freddie Mercury, and Rami Malek. The genre of videos is seemingly endless. Last year I came across a video by a young American woman who lived and worked in Japan. That was fascinating watch fare as it spanned several of my favorite “categories” – what life is like in other countries, minimalist living (the Japanese have this down to an art), and cooking items that never would have occurred to me but are now my staples. As per internet analytics, if one watches a video, more of this type show up. After watching a video by another young American woman living in Germany, I began to get suggestions for Aldi videos. I’d first heard of Aldi many years ago from Clark Howard a radio host who provides advice on “Spending less, saving more, and not getting ripped off.” Aldi is a grocery store but I’d never seen it in my area…until last April when I began going to my current doctor. I spotted an Aldi on the way home, between the doctor’s office and my apartment. It is about 15 miles away so I wouldn’t have made a special trip there, especially not regularly, since there are a plethora of grocery stores, within walking distance even, including my beloved Publix. Being the curious type, I watched an Aldi video nonetheless which appeared to have been made by Aldi vs a personal vlogger. I discovered that Aldi is a German company and is an abbreviation of “Albrecht Diskont.” The very similar store in the “living in Germany” video is Lidl. Interstingly, Trader Joe’s is owned by the same group. A Trader Joe’s is located near Orlando but a lot farther away than Aldi.
My main interest in Aldi is their pricing – apparently lower than the average American grocery store. This is accomplished by methods very common in Europe but somewhat odd (to me) in the U.S. These include paying a quarter to unlock a cart, then relock it after use to retrieve the quarter, limited staff who multi-task among the various departments, no grocery bags provided (I’ve been taking my own canvas bags to grocery shop for quite awhile and it is becoming commonplace in general), no bagging of groceries, having limited choices of an item as compared to the average American store (I often find the huge selection of especially items such as toilet paper, ziplock bags, etc. overwhelming so that sounded good), and not maintaining huge warehouses, thus stocking produce, meats, dairy and such to be used fairly soon after purchase. Ok, I wanted to at least stop by Aldi’s to check it out but kept forgetting to bring my bags or was in the wrong lane when I got there and didn’t want to back track.
I had a Dr. appointment last Tuesday, remembered to bring my shopping bags, and experienced Aldi for the first time. I approached the carts located outside the store with my quarter in hand; however, a woman who was returning her cart said someone had “given” it to her so she was not going to lock it. I became the next quarter-free user of it and a HUGE shopping cart it was. I’m tall with long arms but I had to literally lean down into the cart to place an item in it. Wondered what short people did as I entered and walked past the first items – produce. They looked GORGEOUS and offered semi-exotic varieties of some things that I enjoy but have never seen at Publix nor Walmart. Getting excited about produce was a first for me. I checked out the prices and my mouth fell open. It’s strawberry season and my mother had mentioned looking forward to the lovely strawberries we get this time of year. (We live about two hours from “The Strawberry Capital of the world” – Plant City.) I snagged a container of huge, luscious berries as well as a bag of small mandarine oranges I know she enjoys. Next up was the bread area – same deal with unusual but luscious items. I’m trying to exclude breads from my diet but couldn’t resist a loaf of brioche laced with vanilla cream. I wanted to check out their prices on cat food which definitely was a lot less expensive but a brand I’d never heard of. I purchased a few cans and noticed when I opened the first one at home that it has no GMO ingredients nor preservatives. Interesting. Thus far my two fur-babies enjoy it at least as much as what I had been purchasing.
On to other staple items – plucked a roll of paper towel and toilet paper from the shelf, a jar of marinated artichoke hearts (jar was twice as big as the one I usually get at Publix for at least half the price) and a can of chili beans as I’d planned crockpot chili this week. I wandered through the meat department to get an idea of prices and determined to make Aldi’s a regular stop after each doctor visit. I was “sold” – no pun intended. Proceeded to check-out – only two open – with the cashiers sitting on stools instead of standing. (I’d seen that in the German store video.) As the items were scanned, the cashier placed them back in the shopping cart, after which I went to a long, stainless steel shelf and bagged my purchases. Honestly, most of the people who bag my groceries at Publix (at Walmart I use their self-checkout) place too much in each bag, making them heavy to lug from the parking lot to my apartment and I often re-arrange them so I had fun with this. Loaded the purchases into my car, then replaced the cart without locking it to allow the next person the same courtesy I was offered.
I watched a few more Aldi videos that night, including one by a health-conscious young man on “eating clean” using Aldi products. He said that many of their items come from Europe, thus contain no GMO, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients I wish weren’t in American foods. That also explained the brand names that were not recognizable to me. Last night I watched an “Aldi haul” video by a young woman showing how she feeds a family of four for $56.00; I’m assuming for a week but maybe longer. Cost is the primary reason I checked out Aldi. I have used food stamps or SNAP since I first quit working which are a HUGE blessing but now that I have a Section 8 housing voucher and pay about 1/3 of the total rent, I know that will either go away or be greatly reduced so finding low costs for groceries is a must.
I will still go to Publix and Walmart (the smaller “neighborhood grocery” variety recently opened in our town) but I foresee stocking up on items with each trek to the Dr.