Pause to give thanks, remember those less fortunate

I read a very sad Thanksgiving story recently, naming that one in four people are planning to skip Thanksgiving because of rising food costs. At this time of year it’s easy to forget those less fortunate than we are.

This report from  MoneyTransfers.com changed that for me. Findings included:

  • 45% of all respondents this year felt Thanksgiving was causing them financial stress.
  • 54% of Gen Z and 51% of Millennials feel the strain more so than their older counterparts

Asked how they plan to save money this Thanksgiving, respondents said:

  • 37% Cook more from scratch
  • 36% Have fewer side dishes
  • 35% Have fewer dessert options
  • 27% Cut out alcoholic beverages

I’ve posted about how to save money food shopping during these inflationary times. Think about donating some of your savings to a reputable organization that will help people who need help.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Our grocery shopping habits are a’changing

A recent Chicago Tribune story about the planned Albertson’s takeover by rival Kroger included a chart (see below) that was a dramatic reminder of how our grocery shopping habits have changed over the years.

The chart shows that while traditional supermarket Jewel still maintains the top spot in the Chicago area in terms of number of households that shop there, discounter ALDI has the second largest share of the area’s grocery shopping market, followed by Walmart and then Mariano’s, a Kroger brand.

A few decades ago, the Chicago market belonged to Jewel and traditional rival Dominick’s, two supermarket chains that were Chicago born but eventually were bought by national chains (Dominick’s no longer exists, local say Safeway drove it into the ground before shutting it down).

You can see why traditional chains like Kroger want to get bigger. They mistakenly think being bigger will protect them from all the rivals — Walmart, Target, Costco and let’s not forget Amazon which didn’t make this chart — trying to grab more marketshare. Sadly, getting bigger hasn’t worked in traditional retailing, so why would it work in food retailing?

The Pandemic drove many people to try online grocery shopping. Some are abandoning that. Indeed a new survey shows online grocery sales were down 3%, year-over-year, in October. The survey is from brickmeetclicks.com.

But that’s still $7.8 billion nationally being spent online. Expect that to increase as all the stores on the Chicago list try to hold onto or gain marketshare as well.

Aldi, Walmart promise Thanksgiving food price breaks

Aldi and Walmart have captured media attention recently by saying they’re rolling back prices on their Thanksgiving offerings to 2019 or 2020 price levels. The moves come in response to what seems like a public obsession with inflation these days. (That obsession is overblown in my opinion, you can adapt by how and where you shop to still find food deals as I’ve written about here).

Checking their sites for more details, I found that Walmart is very specific in terms of what prices will be held down.

“We’re removing inflation on an entire basket containing traditional Thanksgiving items. We made significant investments on top of our everyday low prices so customers can get a traditional Thanksgiving meal at last year’s price at Walmart*,” according to a press release on the Walmart site.

Having covered Walmart as a food business journalist, I can tell you its senior execs are very serious about always offering the lowest prices. Their buyers get continually pushed to find lower prices. So this move doesn’t surprise me, it fits with the DNA of the brand.

Aldi is less specific about what prices are being rolled back. When you click on its Thanksgiving Price Rewind graphic (on the Aldi website), it simply takes you to an online shopping page. Aldi is claiming to roll back prices to 2019 levels, significant since we did express price increases in 2020 and 2021.

I’m going to be checking both locations to see if either is offering low-sodium turkeys, fat-free gravy, or healthier butter substitutes for prices lower than the local supermarket chains. I’ll let you know what I find.

It’s not just inflation driving up Thanksgiving turkey prices in 2022

Inflation isn’t the only culprit driving turkey prices up at least 20% per pound this Thanksgiving. There’s also a nasty case of bird flu making the rounds of U.S. turkey flocks, killing 6 million turkeys through late October, the Washington Post reports.

Beware turkeys like this one that are self-basting. They’re loaded with salt. My annual search for a low-sodium turkey has begun for 2022.

“It was really a sad time to see that many birds pass to something that was that aggressive and that uncontrollable. It definitely did impact our availability and supply, and we won’t have everything for everyone like we normally do; we just won’t,” one turkey farmer told the Post.

My advice — start looking early for your low-salt turkey. I’ve already seen some at my local Jewel supermarket for around $2.90 a pound but the products aren’t listed in the Jewel shopping app which tells me only some stores have gotten them.

Shortages of low-sodium turkeys have sent me to buy them at Whole Foods the past two years but shop around this year.

In years gone by, even Costco had low-sodium turkeys at lower prices than supermarkets.

Remember, any turkey that is self-basting is also very high in sodium. Buy one that isn’t self-basting and then buy low-sodium chicken broth and baste it yourself.

How to find a low-sodium turkey, a post I wrote in 2014, is still one of the most popular on my website.

Another spice to consider — Casa M Spice’s Cattle Drive packs a kick

I’m not sure why, but I seem to be hearing from a lot of new spice companies lately. I recently reviewed some offerings from Burn Pit and now I’m going to tell you a bit about Cattle Drive from Casa M Spice Co.

I asked to sample Casa M’s Cattle Drive because it’s marketed as low sodium. And it is, 30 mgs a serving. The company says of it, “Use to replace pepper on your table and add to anything you’d add black pepper to.”

Casa M’s Cattle Drive and its nutrition info.

The original formula, which I tried, is rated at two peppers, but it tasted more peppery, read hot peppers, to me than that.

Continue reading “Another spice to consider — Casa M Spice’s Cattle Drive packs a kick”

Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal is Back on Store Shelves!

After weeks away, Trade Joe’s High Fiber Cereal is back on store shelves in my Chicago north suburban store. I stocked up on eight boxes Sept. 1 after trying a variety of alternatives during the weeks the TJ’s cereal was not available.

Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal is back on store shelves, thankfully.

The shopping trip reminded me of a lot of reasons I prefer the Trader Joe’s to other high fiber cereals. Not the least of those factors is the price, $2.99 a box. For alternatives, I paid $6.99 for Fiber One, $4.99 for All Bran on sale and $4.99 for Buds on sale (each was $1.80 off their regular prices).

Given that I eat a box a week for breakfast, the savings over a year are substantial — $208 compared with Fiber One, $156 with All Bran or Buds (assuming I get those for the sale price all year).

I’m thankful that TJ’s high fiber cereal has not joined all the other low-salt, low-sugar products Trader Joe’s has cut in recent years, such as salt-free shrimp sauce, salt-free whole-wheat bread and no-salt-added marinara sauce.

Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal Remains MIA — Here Are Some Alternatives

Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal has been missing from TJ outlets in the Chicago area for two weeks now and I’m becoming more and more convinced it is being discontinued. Store managers have consistently told me it would be in the next day only to not have any that day. This is a food disaster for me since that cereal has been my breakfast go-to for the decade since my first stent went it. I’ve written about how it is relatively low in salt and sugar compared with other breakfast cereals.

Nutrition information for three alternatives to Trader Joe’s High Fiber Cereal, which is gone from TJ stores in my area north of Chicago.

But facing the harsh reality that it may join a long list of low-salt Trader Joe’s products that have been dropped in recent years, I decided to see what alternatives are available on supermarket shelves.

I bought boxes of General Mills Fiber One, Kellogg’s All Bran Original and Kellogg’s All Bran Buds. A friendly woman in the store suggested the Buds to me, saying they are her husband’s favorite. Maybe he enjoys the added salt and added sugars. Buds has 300 mgs of salt and 12 mgs of sugar, highest among the three. Eating a cup of them left me extremely gasey as well, not a pleasant feeling to go through the day with.

Fiber One looks a bit like TJ’s except the strings are darker and a but thicker. It has very little taste but at least the nutrition numbers are;t bad, 140 mgs of salt and no sugar. The original All bRan has the least salt per serving, although the numbers are skewed a but because it and Fiber One considers a serving as two-thirds of a cup while the infamous Buds calls half-a-cup a serving.

All of these cost more than TJs, by the way. I paid $6.99 for Fiber One, $4.99 for All Bran on sale and $4.99 for Buds on sale (each was $1.80 off their regular prices). I’m going to keep an eye out for General Mills coupons for Fiber One.

I’ll be visiting the New York City area shortly, I’m planning to check there to see if TJ has in fact stopped selling the one item that would regularly draw me to its stores.


Keeping your food budget down in inflationary times — here’s a great example

I’ve written about how important it is in these inflationary times to plan your weekly grocery shopping trip or trips based on weekly sales. So I loved coming across this rather long piece on BuzzFeed: I Feed My Family Of Five For $120 A Week — Here’s What A Week Of Groceries & Meals Looks Like For Us.

Pre-planning your shopping can save you significant dollars, as seen on this receipt of mine.

The author is a mother of three form Colorado. She mentions that her weekly budget has gone from $100 to $120, a 20% increase. And she reiterates my point, writing, “I start by looking at my local grocery store’s weekly sales so I know what items will get me the most bang for my buck. This first step has become more important than ever to my planning and budgeting lately.”

There’s a lot more to read, take a look and let me know what you thought of it in the comments here.

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Pandemic Food causality — Trader Joe’s High-Fiber Cereal?

Healthier foods — that is those low in salt, fat and sugar, have been disappearing off store shelves during the pandemic, as I wrote here. By now though, you’d think we’ve seen the last of disappearing healthier foods. Not quite.

Fiber One has more fat, calories and salt than TJ’s High-Fiber Cereal, but today it was my only choice, at $6.99 a box, more expensive than TJ’s as well.

I went to two different Trader Joe’s in the northern suburbs of Chicago today only to find they had no Trader Joe’s High-Fiber cereal. At both, I was told it was not available at this time. That’s been a code in the past for times Trader Joe’s was dropping, like its salt-free marinara sauce.

The manager at the second store I visited, in Glenview, Il., told me it would be back in a day or two. I wondered where he would put it since the cereal section of the store has shrunk and been moved to the very back. There were no empty spaces for high-fiber cereal there.

I was forced to go to a mainstream supermarket and buy General Mills Fiber One, which has twice the fat and almost twice the salt per serving as does Trader Joe’s. It claims to have more fiber but getting that at the cost of more salt is not a trade I wanted to make.

We’ll see if this is just another case of a store ending sales of a lower-volume, healthier item and blaming the pandemic for it.

Multi-stop shopping becoming the norm in these inflationary times

Shopping around for the best deals is a must-do strategy as you try to control your food bill in these inflationary times. I’ve offered several suggestions for how to do that, such as pre-planning every trip you make.

This was what awaited me during a Pandemic shopping trip in senior shopping hour at a local supermarket — packed aisles and long checkout lines. The lines are shorter these days.

Now the rest of the country seems to be catching up to me, according to data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

More than three in four consumers (78%) in April adjusted their grocery-shopping behaviors in an effort to save money amid rising inflation,” reports Winsight Grocery Business. “In comparison, 72% of consumers said they had made one or more changes to their shopping behaviors in March.”

“While the pandemic saw consumers trying to complete their grocery shopping in one trip, it seems the trend is now reversing, as 17% of consumers now visit multiple retailers to get the best deals, IRI found,” the Winsight article reports.

Only 17%? Until more of us do more comparison shopping and go to different places to get deals, prices will stay high. For more tips on finding low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar products during these high-price times, check out my smart shopping page.

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