Food Finds and a Lunch Favorite

Food Chat

I’ve been shopping for groceries for a good 15 or so years now and I think I’ve gotten worse at it. I have still not managed how to keep my shopping to one store and only visit once a week. In college, I loved that I could go to Safeway with $40 in my wallet and have plenty of food for the week. Yoplaits, seasoning mix for “Chicken in a bag”, Diet Coke, cottage cheese, bagged salad, Life cereal. That was the constant list.

The next stage of shopping happened when Jy and I moved in together. We tried to spend $80 a week and ate plenty of processed food. The weeks we had $100 to spend felt luxurious. Lots of frozen meals, canned beans, spaghetti and more cereal.

Stage three. Married with two boys. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Here I am, 15 years from the $40 Safeway trips, feeling frugal if I can make it through the week having only spent $200. My husband eats a lot. My boys eat a lot. I eat…uh, never mind. The majority of our food budget goes to all things dairy. Lactose-free for one child, regular milk, eggs and eggs and eggs, yogurt times a thousand. Then meat, then produce.

I usually hit three stores a week and they vary. My store tour changes depending on sales, my time, our cravings and needs. Here’s what I prefer from each store:

  • Fresh & Easy – Ready made food in a pinch, produce, breads
  • Sprouts – Sale produce, natural meats and yogurts
  • Costco – Produce, dairy, organic chicken
  • Whole Foods – Organic meats & fish
  • Safeway – Pantry or last minute items, sale stuff, coffee
  • Trader Joe’s – Fun snacks, hummus, nuts, fruit

I don’t think I’ll ever get it down to a science and I think I’m finally ok with that. I’ve even added online shopping to my tour, which I’ll talk about below.

I wanted to share some treats as well as a new favorite meal. Who doesn’t love new food ideas?

Let’s start with some Trader Joe finds.

This isn’t a new product, but if you haven’t tried it, you really should! I think it goes for $3.99, which is more than the other hummus options, but it is really worth it. It’s so creamy and full of flavor, my kids love it too. It doesn’t have that dry, pasty taste that so many pre-made hummus’ do.

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Still at TJ’s:

Crunchy Black & White Rice Rolls. My mom turned my family on to these little rolls of 45 calorie, sweet and crunchy bites. They taste like little logs of Sugar Smacks. Not bad, eh?

Almond Butter with Sea Salt. I just described it.

Chocolate Almond Granola Cereal is just what it says! You’d expect 1001 ingredients in this cereal, luckily you would be wrong! It’s made of pretty basic stuff, including sugar. I’d consider this another treat as well and found it to be really tasty mixed with some flavored Greek yogurt.

Dried mandarin oranges! Clever, right? Just as the bag claims, they are soft and juicy! A tiny bit tangy, but mostly sweet, these dried oranges are a perfect way to distract your taste buds at the movies or on a long drive. Just be careful, there are SIX portions in the small bag.

The roasted coconut chips are such a treat, they are sweet little slices of coconut. After asking another mom at the park about what she was eating, she gave me a few to try. I’m sure she was just trying to make me go away, but I was really interested and so happy she shared! There are two servings in a bag and I think they are a great little treat.

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I’ve gotten super into tea lately and bought a load of Teavana. You know, that expensive tea store at the mall? Yeah, that tea. It wasn’t until I got home and read up on their sales practices that I realized I wasn’t the first person pressured into way more tea and pricey tins than I would need. I didn’t love their customer service and won’t be supporting them until they change the way they work. Instead, I’ll continue to buy Adagio Teas!

My tea-loving cousin introduced me to this brand and though I was leery at first, it turns out buying tea online ain’t such a bad way to go! Their website is easy to navigate and the reviews are really helpful. Dorie (my cousin) suggested a specially blended tea, called Bilbo Brew. You’d have to check out their shop to really understand just how many tea blends there are! What I love about the blends (other than the actual tea) is the fun packaging! While I can’t say I understand the whole fandom thing, I do love that I can get a cute bags or tins of tea with some Game of Thrones, Sherlock Holmes or Harry Potter artwork on the packaging. (There are others too)!

Dorie was right, by the way. I do love the Bilbo Brew. I don’t know if you can read the package in this photo, but the blend consists of Irish Breakfast, sweet potato, vanilla green & cinnamon bits. Basically, it tastes like cinnamon roll tea. It’s wonderful and comforting. I have a ton left, so I don’t have to worry, but it looks like Bilbo is out of stock at the moment.

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So let’s say you want to drink some tea and don’t have a few business days to wait for it. Hit the grocery store and look for tea that has actual leaves or flowers in it. Not the remnants of tea, I’m talking real tea. I found a box of Two Leaves and a Bud’s chamomile and have to say it was totally worth the $6 for the box. That seems so steep for a grocery store tea, but check out the photo below. It’s legit! You won’t need two bags for flavor and you can feel good about the source of the tea.

If you become addicted to buying online tea, you can shop Two Leaves this way, too.

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And one more yummy suggestion. Grilled chicken over spaghetti squash with grilled apple chunks. It’s my new favorite. Be sure to season your chicken with some sage, because it totally works. The key to this meal is taking the extra hour to let your chicken brine. It’s worth all 60 minutes (or more). If you need a good recipe, I’d suggest giving Adam Perry Lang’s grilled chicken breast a try. If you don’t have that kind of time or that amount of spice on hand, just read over his basic technique and use what you’ve got on hand. If you put this meal together, snap a photo and let me know what you think!

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