20 Favorite ALDI Products List, Quality for Less

      When an ALDI discount grocery store opened up in our area, I decided to compare some prices and check out various products. I came up with a Top 20 list of my favorites products, plus a couple other lists that I hope others will find helpful as well. In general, from what I’ve found, ALDI’s groceries are much lower in price than foods from our “regular” supermarket, and cheaper by far if compared to smaller grocery stores. Other stores can sometimes have sales that are better than ALDI’s regular prices, especially if you combine with coupons, but then again, ALDI actually run weekly sales as well, and these prices are outstanding! I think some of ALDI’s products are not only inexpensive, but downright better than their counterparts from other stores! If you happen to have a Trader Joe’s near you (known for products with healthier ingredients), check out this post on reviews of, and ingredients in their beauty products! The ingredients are looked at in light of chemicals to avoid, and how safe these products seem to be compared to those from regular super markets.  ALDI and Trader Joe’s have different owners but from the same family. One thing to be aware of is that ALDI is a smaller grocery store; some of their products are available only at certain times, so if a product is all of a sudden no longer available, you may very well find […] Read more »

Improving Cake Mixes: Rise Taller, Taste Better

    Using a box cake mix is a very convenient and easy way to quickly whip up a delicious cake. I want to share with you some simple tips that I hope you will find helpful in order to make these cakes even better. Tip number 1: How to fluff it up and make it taller: If the box calls for more than 1 cup of water, I have found that it is best to use a little less than called for, sometimes down to 3/4 cup. In general, I just make sure the cake batter is a little on the thick side, because I find that the cake will rise better to be taller and fluffier. I baked two cakes side by side to show the difference. In the first picture, I added the amount of water that the box called for: In the second picture, I put in a bit less to make the batter thicker. As also seen at the top of the post, here’s the result; the piece of cake to the left was from the first recipe, using a normal amount of water, and the piece to the right was from the thicker batter. Tip number 2: How to make the cake taste “from scratch” while also making it healthier: Use apple sauce instead of oil. Yes, apple sauce, no kidding! It is healthier by far, with more fiber and other nutrients, and has far fewer […] Read more »

Making Homemade Soft, Spreadable Butter. Recipe

  For several years we have made our own soft spreadable butter to use on our sandwiches in place for margarine. Even though we keep it in our refrigerator, it stays soft, unlike regular hard butter. It is ready for use at any time. This homemade “margarine” is very convenient to use, and has also saved us money by stretching our butter to last twice as long. If you do try this recipe, I would really appreciate a quick comment with a star rating (option found immediately under each recipe). It helps me out tremendously! Thanks in advance! I grew up using margarine to spread on my sandwiches. It was nice and convenient to be able to grab the tub of soft spread right from the fridge and use it without crumbling my slice of bread. It was also believed that margarine was better for us than real butter. After I grew up, I have come to believe that it’s the opposite way, butter being the healthier alternative as it is a natural product, unlike the heavily processed margarine. That doesn’t mean every natural product is good for you, but being that margarine ingredients after processing are altered, and in my opinion not natural in any way, I can’t see how margarine can possibly be better for the body than butter, or equal to it. When we first started using butter for our sandwiches in place for margarine, we would […] Read more »

Juicers: Comparing Breville to Hamilton Beach

    Juicing is an excellent way to help add more nutrition to our diets. A while back my husband and I decided to purchase a juicer using a centrifugal system, extracting juice from produce while separating the pulp, to make a thin juice full of vitamins and minerals. We tried two different extractor juicers: Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juice Extractor 67650, $49 at Amazon, and Breville Juice Fountain Plus JE98XL, $145.38 at Amazon. These are the best prices we have found of the two machines. In this post I will compare these two juicers to each other, and conclude whether we thought it was worth the extra money to get the Breville rather than Hamilton Beach. Breville versus Hamilton Beach juicers: Which one is better? Cost: Cost wise, the Breville machine is more expensive by about $100, so we were expecting much better results as well. The results of testing both machines side by side, however, had us surprised! We found the best prices of either machine at Amazon. Sometimes items can be found cheaper on e-Bay, but my experience is that their new items often go for full price, especially if you add shipping. It can be worth looking into, though. Design: The Breville machine is beautiful, with a sleek and expensive look to it. It comes in an attractive box, even! It is taller and wider than Hamilton Beach, requiring a bit more storage space. At the […] Read more »

Which is Better; Blendtec or Vitamix? Why We Chose Blendtec

  Recently I blogged about using a powerful blender to make whole juices (“Making Whole Juice: Vegetables, Fruits, Berries. Recipes“), and comparing blenders like Blendtec, to the extractor juicers Hamilton Beach and Breville (“Juicing: Comparing Blenders to Extractors.”) In my post “Juicers: Comparing Breville to Hamilton Beach,” I  do a comparison of these two extractor juicers. But first I’d like to point out, regarding our decision to purchase a new blender, why Blendtec was the winner for our household. Our old blender could not keep up with crushing ice or other hard items, so we knew we needed something far more powerful. Blendtec and Vitamix seem very similar to me, though Blendtec has a couple of additional features that we love, and has proven itself more than capable of meeting our needs. Both machines are great options for making whole juices, smoothies, and other foods such as hot soup or ice cream (OK, I don’t know for a fact that you can use a Vitamix to make ice cream, but it seems like you could. You can in the Blendtec.) My husband actually purchased our Blendtec as a surprise, and I couldn’t be happier with his choice!! (And no, this is NOT meant to be an advertisement, and I don’t get as much as a penny for writing this blog entry. I simply love my blender, that’s all.) The best price I have found of the model we own of […] Read more »

Juicing: Comparing Blenders to Extractors

  After watching the online documentary movie “Hungry For Change“, we decided to start juicing. We figured juicing would be an easy and convenient way to add more nutrition to our family’s diet. Originally we started juicing by using an extractor juicer. Later we went over to a high performance Blendtec blender instead of the extractor juicer, and have found this to be a much better fit for our family. In my previous post, Making Whole Juice: Vegetables, Fruits, Berries, Recipes, I showed how to use a powerful blender to make whole juices or smoothies from fruits, veggies, berries, and more, and how you can easily come up with your own recipes, or make the drinks different every time by using whatever you have on hand. We tried two different models of juicers: Breville and Hamilton Beach. In my post Juicers: Comparing Breville to Hamilton Beach , I write about our experience with these two juicers. And in my post Which is Better; Blendtec or Vitamix? Why We Chose Blendtec ,” I compare the two popular and powerful blenders Blendtec, and Vitamix. In this post, I will compare our experiences with extractor juicers to our blender, and explain why we prefer our Blendtec blender over extractors. On the bottom of this post, you will also find the results of an experiment I did to compare the machines side by side, making juice of carrots and apples. Here’s my Blendtec, an […] Read more »

Dinner Menu Planning to Reduce Stress in Busy Households

  Dinnertime can be a stressful time of day in an active household. To try to run this busy time more smoothly, I have found that a planned menu is very helpful. I first tried a similar system a few years ago, and failed, but the adjustments I have made since then have been very helpful for our family. The way I tackled it the first time did not work, and here’s why: I created a large menu plan that would repeat once we reached the end of it. We would then start over from the beginning instead of going through the effort of making a new menu. I created a menu that extended over 7 weeks, to give us variety. It turned out that 7 weeks was not enough time between certain dishes, and we got really tired of dishes that we used to enjoy. We have found that we can eat some meals quite often without ever going tired of them, while others are only enjoyed if served infrequently. Another problem was that over the course of several months, our daily schedule changed too much to work with the current menu. I also found that the amount of leftovers changed as our young kids grew and ate larger portions. All in all, too many adjustments needed to be made, and it became too complicated to continue. The new menu plan that works for me! What does work for […] Read more »

Saving Money on Quality, Inexpensive Discount Herbs & Spices

    Herbs and spices are essential in cooking and baking. However, they can be quite costly, especially if you need a lot of them, such as when you make rubs and marinades. I have found that you can save a lot of money by purchasing in bulk, at discount stores, or even store brands. Some people are reluctant to purchasing discount or store brands, even if they will save money by doing so, because they believe they get a tastier and healthier product by purchasing brand name foods. If you are one of them, you may want to CLICK HERE to read this very interesting article by Consumer Reports, which includes taste-test results of store brands vs. name brands; you may be surprised, and find yourself going for store brands soon! Here’s a quote from the article, though please read the article itself if you have a chance, as it is quite interesting: “Don’t be reluctant to give any private-label product a try. In fact, our results may knock some of those iconic brands off their pedestals.” Here are a few examples of price differences, though you may be able to do even better than I did if you have bulk stores near you. I probably do as well, but I haven’t been able to locate any, so far. I did go to our local supermarket to compare prices of brand name spices (McCormick), to store brands and other […] Read more »

Aldi Chocolates, Best Hidden Secret!

Do you have an Aldi store in your area? If so, you may be surprised to find that they carry a variety of wonderfully delicious, high quality European chocolate! Growing up in Norway, I was spoiled on great chocolate, and for me, the regular ol’ Hershey’s bar will never measure up. It doesn’t melt well, and I find the flavor to be harsh. And before I go on: No, I do not work for Aldi’s and I do not get paid for advertisement. I simply want to share my find with others. Aldi is a discount supermarket based in Germany and their stores have a bit of that European feel to them. When an Aldi store opened up close to where we live, I was excited because many of their groceries are sold at lower prices, and for the most part we’ve been happy with the quality of their products. I recently wrote a post on what I like to buy at Aldi, 20 Favorite Aldi Products List, and of course chocolate did make the list! When I first discovered Aldi, I didn’t even realize their chocolates were anything special until I took a closer look and noticed that they are made in Europe, which instantly intrigued me. I decided to purchase a bar to try, and found the quality to be excellent! I really couldn’t believe it; outstanding quality chocolate at lower prices than other comparable brands. It is […] Read more »

How to Easily Bake Perfect, Professional Looking Cookies

  When serving cookies of different kinds, I am often asked the question “Did YOU make these cookies?” Um… yeah… “How do you get them so round???” Well, that part is easy enough. Here’s what I do to ensure even, just about perfectly round cookies, making them look like they were baked by a professional, and certainly not by me: I use an ice cream scoop, similar to this one (click to buy on Amazon). (Mine is slightly larger; 45mm) I have three different sizes that I use for different recipes: I prefer the middle one (45mm) for most of my cookies. The cookies end up nice and large, but not overly so. They end up anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 in. in diameter, depending on the type of dough used, and how much the cookies spread out. The larger scoop (55mm) would make jumbo sized cookies. The smaller scoop (35mm), gives cookies approximately the size of an Oreo. I think that’s generally much too small!! (Although there’s a time and a place for that size, too.) I love cookies, and I want a big one, not a little one! And it looks much more generous when you serve others. When being served, I would feel greedy if I helped myself to more than two cookies, and I would imagine others feeling the same way. Taking one cookie is expected. Taking a second shows you really love them! Compliments […] Read more »