Live Below the Line 2014: The Groceries

In 2013, I missed the official Live Below the Line Challenge, so 2014 is my year! Who knew I could be so excited about simulating living in extreme poverty? But honestly, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the worldwide participation in this campaign.

Based on what I learned from last year’s test run, I did my shopping at Aldi this year. Have you ever been to Aldi? It’s kind of awesome. Let me tell you why. aldi_supermarket_1


First of all, it is dirt cheap. How do they do it? The first and weirdest thing you’ll notice is how all the products are on pallets, which looks depressing but saves big on labor, so Aldi only employs 6-8 people per store. They also pay and train them better. Aldi also doesn’t provide free bags or carts. You have to pay a quarter for a cart, but get it back when you return it, which also saves on cart-wrangling labor. Aldi doesn’t accept credit cards, sells fewer items (700 per store vs. 20,000 for typical grocery stores), and uses private labels.

Second, the quality of the food is surprisingly great. The produce there is better looking than what I’ve seen at most other grocery stores. But don’t take my word for it – Aldi ranks very high on “consumer-delight indices.” (What won’t surprise you is that the bottom-dweller is Walmart.) Quality is an innate part of Aldi’s brand, which shows through their double guarantee.

So, this past Sunday I biked 3.5 miles to Aldi, armed with my front bike basket, two cloth grocery bags, my debit card, and my phone for calculating my totals. After a good 45 minutes, the winners were… 2014-04-27 23.32.31-2

That’s a good-looking bunch!

  • Spaghetti. At $1.49 for 32 oz, you just can’t beat this for sheer volume of food.
  • Tomato Sauce. Still not interesting, but this cute little can was only $.25!
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter. Creamy fans – don’t hate. I like both kinds but felt like getting my crunch on. At $1.69, this is another high caloric food.
  • Raisins. Dried fruit also is high in calories, not to mention delicious. This Sun-Maid knockoff set me back $1.89.
  • Large Eggs. Only $1.09 for a dozen at Aldi. I had paid $1.93 at Kroger last year!
  • Broccoli Florets. Word to the wise: when shopping for frozen broccoli, always get broccoli “florets,” NEVER “cuts.” The latter is mostly stems, as in “my regret for this purchase makes me want to CUT someone.” Luckily, at $1.09, Aldi made the vastly superior florets affordable.

Total: $7.50 exactly. Nailed it! Average daily calorie intake: 1,702. Wow, this is way better than my measly 1,200 last year! Plus, based on my daily needs, I’ll be able to keep up my exercise routine without starving.

As the cashier scanned my items, he asked the woman in front of me if he could place my items in the cart she was emptying out, and she agreed. Then, at the giant bagging shelf, I carefully arranged everything in my bike basket and returned my cart outside. I clicked it in and started to walk away, but another woman helpfully said “Don’t you get a quarter?” Shows what an Aldi noob I am, but yes, a quarter was waiting in the slot! Elated, I grabbed it an ran back inside to buy another little can of tomato sauce! aldi

Hot diggity!

I did ponder the validity of using the quarter, since it boosted my spending money to $7.75. I may change my mind (and sacrifice $.25 worth of spaghetti), but right now, I feel that cart-wrangling to get an extra quarter or two is part of the Aldi experience. I stuffed the can in my bike basket and made the wobbly trip home.

So, my plan for my groceries was 2 or 3 eggs for breakfast, peanut butter and/or raisins for lunch, and spaghetti with sauce and broccoli for dinner. I also had plenty of fruits and veggies to fulfill my Veggie Pacts through Pact, the health app that admittedly dictates a large part of my life (in a good way).

I’m pretty optimistic about my Live below the Line run this year. Not only did I buy more calories, but tastier foods. Compared to brown rice and black beans, peanut butter and raisins are scrumptious. Read more about how the week has been going!

What groceries did you buy for the challenge? Comment below!

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