As my husband and I were driving earlier this week, I gave him a quick synopsis of why our grocery budget is what it is. I explained that many items we use have almost doubled in cost over the past 4 years. This increase has caused me to cut back in a lot of ways. One part that has been cut is my monthly trips to Trader Joe's. I love Trader Joe's. They have great food! But, the increase in prices has made me rethink what I've been buying there. Over the past year, we've been trying out less expensive whole bean coffee alternatives and other products at Aldis, Wegmans, and BJs to substitute for the products I purchased monthly at Trader Joe's. One of my kids favorite foods from Trader Joe's has been their tomato soup.
I haven't had any in the house for several months, so I thought I'd try my hand at making some. Mollie Katzen has an extremely basic recipe in one of her kids cookbooks, Salad People. I used this recipe to get me started and then completely ended up altering it.
Here's the recipe I came up with:
Quick Tomato Soup
1 - 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped and sauteed in a little canola oil (next time I'm going to add 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced)
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup milk
Put all in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat over med-low heat for 5-10 min.
I thought it tasted especially good with some grated parmesan stirred into it after the soup was served. If your kids object to parmesan, add it while the soup is on the stove so it can melt in before they see it (maybe 2-3 Tbsp.)
I did make a trip to Trader Joe's this week on Wednesday. I knew it would likely be my only trip until December. The nuts drastically have jumped in price (a staple I used to purchase their). I chose to forego the soup, crackers, nuts, frozen fish, dairy, and cereal. Instead, I purchased the items that are still a better deal there than other places.
1. dried uncrystallized ginger--I keep this on hand instead of fresh ginger, which always seemed to go bad on me
2. sundried tomatoes--they are dried in an airtight package instead of being packed in oil
3. Kansas City Style BBQ sauce (only available late spring-early fall)
4. 1 bag of Trader Joe's cheetos--for a snack on the way home
5. A few noodle bowls for emergency food supplies for my husband when I don't have a lunch to send with him to work
6. 2 containers of soup--just for an emergency
7. 2 jars of roasted red peppers--good to have on hand for recipes when I've forgotten to buy a red bell pepper at the store
8. One package of corn pasta for when friends on gluten-free diets come over.
no coffee. no juice. no nuts. It's okay.
As for the coffee... I had to find a good alternative. We had been mixing Trader Joe's decaf Columbian ($10 for 13 oz.) and caffeinated Joe Blend ($5 for 13 oz.). Together our coffee was costing around $9.25 per pound.
So, here are the alternatives I've been trying out. I regularly brew half caf coffee, so I had to find good decaf and caffeinated coffees that could be mixed.
BJ's carries a decaf Columbian whole bean that is pretty mild.
I like their Costa Rican coffee and my husband likes their Ethiopian.
All three are pretty good and run about $6/pound.
Eight o-clock Columbian from BJ's is next on my list to try.
I've also been trying out Costco's caffeinated whole bean coffees. They have a Kirkland house blend that is roasted by Starbucks. It runs about $6/pound. Larger Costcos also carry a whole bean decaf roasted by starbucks that is $6.40/lb. (when I bought it this week). They have several other Costco brand coffees that we're going to be trying over the next few months that are also around $6/lb.
It's okay. I'm thankful for the things I bought! I've also been thankful to find alternatives!