Eating healthy food on a budget can be hard, but in this episode, Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship shares some great money saving tips for moms and families.
Katie is a teacher, a mom of four and the author of 8 ebooks. She is also the creator of the awesome Kids Cook Real Food course, which provides an easy-to-learn class for kids to learn how to cook real food on their own at all ages.
Budget Friendly Real Food Shopping Locations
Katie shares her favorite places to shop for real food and how often she shops to maximize her food budget and minimize shopping time. These are the places Katie likes to shop and some of the best deals on natural foods that she finds at each stoer:
- Costco, once or twice a month for non-perishable organics in bulk, cheese and bulk greens.
- Aldi, once a week for produce canned goods like spaghetti sauce, salmon, salmon, beans, fruit and nut bars and gluten free foods.
- Country Life Natural Foods (Michigan) for occasional bulk items.
- Farmer’s Markets when available for meats, seasonal produce, etc.
- Meijer once or twice per quarter for more obscure produce or items not found at the farmers market.
Taking Kids Grocery Shopping
As a mother of 4, Katie Kimball has a lot of experience taking kids along to the grocery store. Here’s how she not only manages it, but her tips for making it a worthwhile experience for kids.
- Give the older kids jobs to do, delegating things like, “get 7 cucumbers”
- Teach about the food you’re choosing
- Talk about numbers and counting
- Practice the skill of organizing and categorizing
- At a self checkout, have kids “beep” the groceries past the scanner and see the math
- Give them something to look forward to afterward, to avoid the “gimme’s” at checkout
- Just talk! Kids are always learning from their parents, and the grocery store is a great place to teach
For those on a tight budget, Katie Kimball’s last important tip is to plan your meals for the week ahead of time. This helps reduce waste and prevent overspending, especially on meat.
Kitchen Skills for Kids!
Katie Kimball has offered her 3-video series for teaching kids how to help out in the kitchen. It’s called, Kitchen Skills for Kids, and it’s for free to listeners of the podcast. Click here to get access now.
Katie: Katie, welcome back. Last week you were here talking about baby steps to
eating real food and you shared some amazing tips on pantry staples and
switching out some of those processed boxed foods that are so popular and
that make dinnertime easy with real food options that are also simple and
easy. This time I can’t wait for us to dive in and talk about some of our
favorite real food shopping tips and tricks. Welcome. Thanks for being here.
Katie Kimball: Thank you. You make me blush by using words like amazing, because I feel
like all I do is little tiny things. I guess the little tiny things stack up, but I’m
hoping that that’s encouraging to the listeners too. They’re normal. They’re
not amazing. They’re normal little things that anyone can do and it’s just a
matter of stacking them up tall enough to reach your goal.
Katie: I love that. That’s a great point. Your recipes, they are so good. I feel like
for someone especially making the switch, just knowing what those little
things are in the beginning, even if they are simple, can be so helpful. I
know even a decade ago when I started this, there weren’t as many blogs
but I would find just a little tip on somebody’s blog and be like, “Oh my
gosh. Why didn’t I think of that? That’s so helpful.” Your whole blog is that.
Everything that you write is, “Oh my gosh. That’s so helpful.”
Katie Kimball: Oh, good.
Katie: One thing that you are also so exceptional at is that you have four kids. You
have a lot of kids also and you also follow a budget as I do as well, I would
love for us to talk about some of our favorite best places to shop,
especially on a budget. Where are your go-to grocery stops?
Katie Kimball: I go to Costco and Aldi is kind of a new refreshed love in the last year and a
half or so. In Michigan, we have Country Life Natural Foods where we can
order in bulk. That would be similar to the one you mentioned on the last
episode that as your standard … The name’s escaping right now, but there’s
another one that’s maybe more of the West Coast. Any co-op would be
similar to that. Ours is called Country Life, here in Michigan. I do go to
Meijer. That’s our big box store. I find myself going there less and less and
less. It’s almost down to just once or twice a quarter. Basically when I need
vegetables that the others don’t carry and it’s not farmer’s market season.
That’s the last place. Of course you’ve got to shop at the farmer’s markets.
Michigan, it’s a really limited period. It’s like two months where there’s
really good food there.
Katie: Yeah, we run into that too. I’m loving, right now, this time of year because
everything’s in season. We have asparagus where we live. We’ve been eating
asparagus for pretty much every meal. We have kind of the same shopping
Let’s talk about Aldi a little bit because I know when I first got married I
went in it and thought, “This is all kind of processed food.” Or the produce
wasn’t really organic and I kind of was turned off to it, and then
rediscovered it as well about a year ago and realized they have done a
Katie Kimball: Yes.
Katie: Bringing in organic options and just more real food options. What do you
look for at Aldi?
Katie Kimball: I do buy a lot of produce at Aldi. Every time I compare the prices of basic
things like cucumbers and oranges and cherry tomatoes. Carrots, bananas,
the things that we buy every single week, Aldi wins. That’s kind of my
standard because I know I need to refresh the perishables weekly. I’ll do
Costco maybe once a month, once every six weeks, and buy a ton of stuff
because that’s mostly my non-perishables. I don’t end up getting a lot of
produce at Costco.
For Aldi, a ton of produce. Their wild caught salmon is for sure the best
price around that I’ve been able to find. We do kind of take advantage of
their new Simply Nature organic line and their Live Gfree gluten free lines.
I’ll grab gluten free pasta and that’s usually where we end up with our
cereal for our once a week, our Friday cereal day. Their gluten free cereals
are really good. The ingredients are … It’s surprising actually. When you
read the ingredients on their processed foods, I’m always looking for the
worst things. The soybean oil and the hydrogenated stuff and the artificials
and the preservatives. I expect to see some things that I wouldn’t use in my
kitchen, and that’s okay. That’s part of the 80/20 for me. I try to stay away
from the far extreme. The true chemicals that are only made in labs.
Aldi has adopted a policy that they won’t use, in their brands, it’s three
things. MSG, artificial colors and something else really important. Maybe it’s
trans-fats. That’s huge. I’m constantly impressed when I look at the
ingredients of things. They have great organic tortilla chips. Costco’s a
better price for them, but if I know that we’re not going to finish a whole
bag or I need to take it somewhere where we just need a smaller bag, the
organic corn chips are great.
They have some really good bars. Fruit and nut bars and nutty bars that are
kind of like a Kind bar. Those, again, the ingredients are always surprisingly
really good. As far as a couple other pantry staples, we do canned salmon
there and their organic spaghetti sauce is really good. Great ingredients.
No sugar. That makes it Whole 30 compliant, which is cool. That’s really
hard to find in tomato products.
Off and on, they’ll have organic canned beans and canned tomatoes, which
I like to have on hand for those days when I didn’t soak my beans.
Katie: Yeah, definitely. We buy their canned salmon as well because it’s wild
caught and definitely the best price I have found at a store.
Katie Kimball: Oh yeah. Yep.
Katie: I’m excited to see they’re bringing in … Even I’ve found grass fed beef at
ours a few times. We typically try to do a cow share when we can, but if
we’re running out or we typically run out of ground beef first, they’re even
a good place to find those kind of things now.
Katie Kimball: Yes, that’s so true. That’s so true. The last year I’ve been focusing a little
more on budget. I thought really hard about our chicken purchases. I can
get a whole chicken from a farmer who raises them amazingly well, so
that’s where I prefer to get my whole chicken. I’m just so busy nowadays
that there are days when it’s either I need to have some chicken breast or
chicken thighs that are boneless and skinless that I can just throw in the
crock pot and make or else we’re going to end up going out. I thought,
“What’s better? Going out to a restaurant where who knows what is in
there, or ordering in Chinese when, again, really who knows what?
Certainly the meat is not sourced very well even if there are vegetables in
your meal. Or going to Aldi and buying the conventional chicken?” That was
the decision I made about a year ago. Once a month, once or twice a
month, I’m just going to use Aldi chicken and I’m just going to say, “You
know what? This is poorly raised and gross, but it’s so much better than
going out to eat.” That’s one more thing that we get at Aldi. Dirty little
Katie: No, I think it really truly is about balance. Like you said, if it prevents you
from going out to eat, which for our family, not only could save a ton of
money. Just one meal eating out is a lot.
Katie Kimball: Yeah.
Katie: But also, at least you could make everything else in that meal really good
ingredients and you could add spices that are really healthful or extra
vegetables, then you’re still kind of winning in that regard.
Katie Kimball: Right. Versus the french fries that the kids would certainly choose if you
were at a restaurant.
Katie: Exactly. Fried in the vegetables oils and trans fats and everything.
Katie Kimball: Yep.
Katie: How often do you guys go shopping? Is it once a week or are you there
every other day? Do you try to do the once a month big shopping trip and
get everything? What does that look like for you?
Katie Kimball: It is once a week or less. I’m pretty tight about it just because I can’t afford
any more time to go anywhere else. We usually get down to where I’m
going, “Okay. We’re down to carrots for dinner instead of carrots,
cucumbers, pea pods and cherry tomatoes. It’s time to go shopping.” We’re
out of fresh food. It’s maximum once a week. Sometimes I end up stretching
it to once every two weeks and we do still end up with fresh vegetables the
whole time but we end up with the things that last longer like carrots and
cabbage salad instead of lettuce salad. I’ll try to buy lettuce and cabbage.
We use the lettuce first and then the cabbage lasts so long before you cut
into it. We’ll have cabbage salad the second week as I’m trying to figure out
which day I can go.
Like I said, once every six weeks probably, I’ll hit Costco and have a little
bit of sticker shock on the checkout but I’m like, “Okay, I’m not going to
come for another six weeks so this is okay.” I know for things like cheese
and frozen fruit and dried fruit, nuts, a lot of the purchases that I would
get in bulk anyway, Costco’s a better deal than Aldi. That’s a real food
shopping trick and that’s really important to spend some time and write
down your staples, the things that you buy regularly, and do a price
compare. I was actually really surprised. I thought that Aldi would win on a
couple of those things like cheese, but Costco hands down. It’s a huge
savings to get cheese at Costco. The caveat is you have to be able to finish
it. My mother-in-law and father-in-law, she loves Aldi. If they tried to buy a
24 ounce block of cheese at Costco, they would throw away 18 ounces of it
because it would get green and moldy before they finished it, because
they’re only two people. For her, she should totally get cheese at Aldi. For
me, 24 ounces of cheese goes really alarmingly fast. Costco is the clear
choice on that one.
Katie: I feel like at our house, because we don’t do cheese that often and I try to
choose good options when we can, but if I just left a block of 24 ounces of
cheese on the counter, I’m pretty sure my kids could just eat it.
Katie Kimball: I think so. That’s another compromise place. I don’t always do raw, organic
cheese just because it’s not always easy to source, so I’ll try to do … Costco
has the Kerrygold brand, which is at least better.
Katie Kimball: At least better sourced. It’s kind of grass-fed-ish cows.
Katie: Those are delicious too. I’ve tried those. They’re amazing.
Katie Kimball: They are good. At a certain point, you’ve just got to have something to eat.
Katie: Yeah, exactly. Starvation is not a good option for kids.
Katie Kimball: No.
Katie: In the next episode … I can’t wait for it next week. We’re going to talk
about teaching kids to cook real food, which you are definitely an expert at
and you tie in your teaching skills and also your real food skills amazingly
well for that. I’m curious. Do you take your kids shopping with you as well? I
think that is high on my list of ways to make my own head explode is to
take all six kids shopping. Do you do that? If so, how do you manage that?
Katie Kimball: No I would never take six kids shopping! No that’s not true. Sometimes you
would just have to. I wouldn’t do it on purpose though. My big kids are in
school now. My kids, just for reference, are 11, almost 8, 4 1/2 and 18
months. My two big kids are in school all day. Generally during the school
year they never go shopping with me. Sometimes in the summer, they do
end up with me or on Christmas break or something. It’s great because they
basically just help entertain the little ones and my oldest, Paul, I’ll give him
jobs and just kind of delegate. “Go get seven cucumbers,” or whatever.
He knows what to do partly because when my kids are four and under or
five and under and they’re at home during the day, they definitely come
with me. It’s just an event. They don’t always love it, but I think it’s a good
teaching experience or teaching opportunity in a lot of ways. It’s a good
way to teach about food. It’s a great way to talk about numbers and
counting. Again, we’re talking the preschool and toddler age, because
they’re stuck. They’re right there. They can’t run away. They’re in the cart
and generally your littlest one is staring you right in the face like a foot
away. It’s a perfect opportunity to just talk. I always tell parents, “If you’re
stuck taking your kids grocery shopping, make it a teaching experience and
just talk about what you’re doing. ‘Mommy’s grabbing this and mommy’s
grabbing that. We’re going to count our seven cucumbers.’” Obviously I
always get seven for seven days in a week. We’re going to count this and
that and they might try to help weigh something. You can talk about how a
scale works and here are the numbers.
For me, it’s a really good chance and a reminder to practice a lot of those
preschool skills and talk about the letters we see. My kids love helping at
the checkout. At Aldi obviously the checker beeps everything and does it
really fast but you have to bag your own. I’ll kind of delegate some of the
bagging and again, you can talk about counting and putting cold things
together. Putting lightweight things together and heavy things on the
bottom and lightweight on top. Even that, it doesn’t sound like a skill but
it’s totally a preschool skill, to sort and organize and categorize. Anytime
you’re doing that, you don’t even realize that you’re helping to form your
child’s brain and help them become more mature and academically minded.
That’s kind of what we do. When we’re at Meijer, our big box store, you can
do the self-checkout, which we always choose. The kids help me beep the
groceries. Scan the groceries. We always call it beep the groceries.
Especially when you have produce, you’re constantly pressing the numbers
on the keypad and weighing. There’s a lot to do with math there. It’s a
great teaching opportunity and learning opportunity.
When I’m reading ingredients, they’ll hear me say, “Ugh, nope. This one has
yucky stuff in it,” and they start to realize, “Mom doesn’t keep everything
that she picks up off the shelf. We have some standards here.” It’s not like I
talk to my four year old about MSG and what it is, but he knows there are
some yes foods and some no foods. When they’re older, we do talk about
reading ingredients and I teach them what to look for and what things we
always put back on the shelf when we see a certain ingredient. They’re like
MSG and artificial sweeteners. Those are my two no exceptions, no holds
barred. There are a lot of things that I would prefer to avoid, but if we’re
served something at a party or something, I’m not going to turn it down.
Artificial sweeteners and MSG, no way. Too risky.
Katie: That’s a good point, to have the non-negotiables, but then to have the
leeway on some of the ones that you at home wouldn’t necessarily choose
but if you’re out somewhere and there’s an option you let your kids eat it. I
think that’s a great point. I usually now go shopping either late at night or
I’ll get up super early when the kids are still sleeping or my husband’s still
home and can stay with them, but the older ones do love going and they
especially love the self-checkout. I think it’s probably the best kitchen set
ever, because they’re actually really scanning it, but they love that.
Katie Kimball: Yep. Do you have a plan for the checkout gimmes? Are your kids like … Do
they get the gimmes when they see stuff?
Katie: Not really only because we’ve never ever bought those.
Katie Kimball: Yeah.
Katie: Sometimes I’ll also bring a real food alternative if I know they’re going to
ask for stuff, and tell them, “If you wait until we get in the car, you can
have whatever it is.” A piece of chocolate or whatever, so they have
something to look forward to. I love the tip you said about letting it be a
teaching moment also. There was a study that came out recently about
preschool aged children and how many words they hear per day being a
predictor of future success.
Katie Kimball: Oh yeah?
Katie: The mere act of talking to our kids when they’re little and just, like you
said, explaining our day. It doesn’t have to be that we’re reading them a
physics textbook, but just talking to them is such a great way to prepare
their mind and just the way that they think and just to build that thought
process. It’s one of those things that I’m really grateful to my mom for
doing. When I had my first child, she told me, “Just talk to them all day,
even if they’re not talking back, and it’ll help them learn to speak and to
widen their vocabulary.” She did that with me and I’m sure people probably
thought that she was crazy. She’ll even tell stories about … She went
somewhere with me in a stroller and she was in an elevator talking about
where we were going and what we were doing and this guy was like, “What
are you … Who are you talking to? What are you doing?” She’s like, “I’m
talking to my kid.”
I’m so grateful that she did that because it gave me an example to do that
for my kids. I think that is a really special thing when you’re there with your
little ones and you can let it be a fun teaching moment but they just see it
Katie Kimball: Yeah. I think baby-wearing plays a big role in that too, in language
development. Especially in a store. My kids are all three years apart. Every
time I’ve had a one year old, I’ve had a four year old, etc, etc. Maybe the
four year old is in the cart face to face with mom and the one year old is in
the sling, so they’re both right there. Right near my face. They can see my
lips. They can see everything I grab. It’s just such an experience in life.
With and without talking you set your family culture. When I look at other
carts and what’s in them, it’s always very different than what’s in ours. Even
without talking, my kids can see that this is how we shop. We have a ton of
produce bags, and lo and behold, they came out of mommy’s purse because
we reuse the produce bags instead of grabbing a new one every time. Even
without me saying anything, that just shows them that reusing and reducing
our waste is normal and this is how life works, as opposed to grabbing a
new plastic bag every single time you need a parsnip. As important as
talking is, it’s also a really interesting opportunity to silently create a
culture of good stewardship and good eating habits.
Katie: Absolutely. Just leading by example. One thing we did recently on produce
bags, because I was the same way for a long time. I would reuse them and I
realized with seven cucumbers you can’t even really fit in a produce bag.
My girls are always wanting to sew and it’s one of those things that I’m like,
“Yeah, I should really do that with them.” But then I have to supervise so
much and it’s such a mess, but I was like, “You know what? We’ll make
produce bags.” That’s simple. They can sew a straight line. They’re not
going to probably sew off their finger sewing a straight line, and now we
have them. That was a fun mom and daughter day too.
Katie Kimball: Yes! What a great idea.
Katie: Any other great tips you have for sourcing real food on a budget? Whether
it’s stores, how you meal plan? Any other great tips to share?
Katie Kimball: Just one and it’s the opposite of sourcing. For a long time I would make
sure I bought the least expensive stuff or saved the most money when I
walked into the store, but I didn’t really think about how I used it on the
other end. I realized that no matter how inexpensive you can get your cut
of meat or your side of beef or whatever. If you’re using two or three
pounds of meat in every meal, your end of month budget is still going to be
quite high. If you’re really working on a budget, you’re going to want to plan
meals with a budget in mind. I have a system where I try to have at least
one meal that’s meatless with beans or beans and rice per week because
clearly that’s going to be a super inexpensive meal. We also try to do
something simple like cream of vegetable soup. That’s homemade chicken
stock, any leftover veggies you’ve got, some potatoes, which are
inexpensive, and then a homemade bread on the side. That’s another
inexpensive meal that doesn’t use beans or rice that we try to make sure
gets in every couple weeks, just so that meal is less money and therefore I
know that we’ll end up saving in the long run by how we eat instead of what
Katie: That’s a great point too. I know it probably drives you crazy, it drives me
crazy when I find food in the back of the fridge that that I bought and
forgot to use because it wasn’t in the plan. I think that’s a great point is to
plan around a budget and also make sure everything you have can be used
completely in that shopping trip or in that week and that you’re not going
to have food go to waste or you’re not going to need to use, like you said,
three pounds of beef in a meal because you can add in extra veggies or
other food as well.
Katie Kimball: Absolutely. I tend to use a half to three quarters of a pound of beef and fill
in with lentils or something like that. That’s another way to really watch
the budget, is just to cook up a bunch of ground beef and split it into to
bags that are pre-portioned at about, again, half to three quarters of a
pound, use it the same way you’d use a pound and the rest of the casserole
or soup will just kind of fill in.
Katie: That’s a great one. I like to, like you mentioned earlier, keep it pre-made
and frozen because it doesn’t really stick together once you cook it. You can
just dump in frozen ground beef into meals really easily and that saves a lot
of time. Not having to actually cook the beef when you need it.
Katie Kimball: For sure. Remember to thaw it the night before. A chunk, a pound of raw
ground beef is a process. You have to either thaw it at least 24 hours in
advance or you’re going to break it up for half an hour in the pan if you’re
not going to use a microwave, which we don’t. Whereas a pound of cooked
ground beef, you’re done. Pull it out. Throw it in.
Katie: Yeah, exactly. Those are great tips. Thanks again for being here and I can’t
wait for our next episode when you’re going to share some wisdom on
teaching kids to cook real food, which I think is something you do so well.
My kids have loved the course that you created. Everyone, please join us
next week for an episode about that, and Katie, thanks for being here.
Katie Kimball: Great, thank you too Katie.
Thanks for Listening
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