Tag Archives: aldi

3 things that are surprisingly more expensive in the US than in London

30 May

homer that sounds expensive.gif

London is expensive. That’s often the first thing people mention when I tell them I live there. Things like housing, petrol/gas, and movie theatre tickets cost way more than they do in Chicago or New York, yet alone suburban Kentucky. But on this recent visit back to the states, I’ve realized there are three things that are surprisingly expensive in America compared to London.

Groceries, especially produce

I first went to Aldi in the UK a few years ago. Produce is generally cheap at Tesco (a major supermarket chain), but produce at Aldi is a whole ‘nother level of cheap. I raved about Aldi so much I inspired my mom to check out the Aldi in northern Kentucky. She agreed that the produce deals couldn’t be beat. But it was only when I went to the Kentucky Aldi that I realized we had different definitions of “cheap produce.” For example, a stalk of broccoli at Aldi UK costs 39p, approximately 50 cents. At Aldi KY it’s $1.99. At Tesco I can get organic mushrooms for £1 ($1.33). At Kroger that would be $3.99. At Tesco a red bell pepper is 55p (73 cents). At Kroger it’s $1.50. The U.S. prices don’t even include sales tax, so they’re actually even higher! I’m comparing the most expensive city in the UK to one of the cheaper cities in the U.S., too. I recently read an article on Business Insider comparing London supermarkets with New York.  London’s Tesco Express won by a landslide! Who would have thought Tesco would be one thing I’d miss when I’m back in the U.S.?

Toilet paper

I never realized I was a toilet paper snob until now. In London there aren’t many options, so I just buy Tesco Luxury Soft Toilet Tissue, which always seems to be on sale 2 for £6 (that’s two nine-roll packs for £6, so 18 rolls for $8). It’s generic for Andrex, which is British for Cottonelle. But it turns out that even though they both use cute puppies in their ads, British Cottonelle is very different from American Cottonelle, which I recently discovered is the worst toilet paper ever created. My mom bought it because it was on sale and she had coupons, and even then it wasn’t that cheap. Without any coupons, a 6-roll pack of Cottonelle costs $8! In the UK, I get 3 times as much TP for that, and it is not the worst toilet paper ever created. I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to buy my own toilet paper when I’m visiting my parents, which is probably why I forgot how much American toilet paper costs, but I hated the Cottonelle so much I decided to buy my own 4-pack of a different brand, thinking it’d be like $2, since a 4-pack in London is £1.75. A 6-pack of Charmin still set me back $5 (it was on sale too and I had a $1 off coupon – normally that 6-pack would be $9.49!) and it’s only marginally better than the Cottonelle. I’d still prefer the generic Tesco tissue. Considering Americans are known for their horrible eating habits which inevitably leads to horrible bowel issues, you’d think they’d have the toilet paper game down. Or maybe that’s exactly why it costs so much. All I know is I’m tempted to throw a 9-pack of Tesco TP in my suitcase for my next visit!

Theatre tickets

I’m going to New York next week to meet up with Stephen. While he’s in meetings, I figured I’d take in a Broadway show. So I started looking at shows on the TodayTix app to decide which one I wanted to see, and I realized something: Broadway shows are freaking expensive! That should seem obvious (it’s Broadway!) but I’m so used to seeing West End shows for so cheap. Thanks to day seats and the TodayTix app, I rarely pay more than £25 ($33) for a ticket. TodayTix seems to function differently in New York and has way less lotteries and rush tickets than they do in London. They mostly just give 30 to 50% off, which means the tickets usually still cost more than $100. I’d really like to see Come From Away, a musical about the small Newfoundland town that took in 7,000 stranded passengers on 9/11, but a matinee ticket on TodayTix is $227. I could try the TKTS booth when I get there, which is what every tourist seems to do, but there’s a chance they won’t have that show, and even if they do, a ticket will likely still set me back more than $100. It’s not just Broadway shows that are pricy, either. Part of the reason I think I wasn’t enamored with Hamilton when I saw it in Chicago last year was because I kept thinking about how expensive it was (and we got the cheapest seats possible!). Even seeing the Nutcracker in Milwaukee set me back more than a West End show. London theatre scene, you’ve truly spoiled me!

Despite my papercuts (cheeky Hello Internet reference there!), I’m having a lovely time visiting friends and family back home. It’s oppressively hot which has made running and basically everything else outdoors miserable, but I’m trying to keep my weather-related complaints to a minimum of 8 times a day.

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Recovering from London Syndrome

15 May

According to a recent AskReddit thread, there’s a term for what I was suffering from before I came back to the states: London Syndrome.

london syndrome.jpg

I think it’s all but cleared up now, thanks to some quality time with friends and family in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cincinnati and Cleveland, plus the vast areas of emptiness that you can only find in rural and suburban America. When I run here, I’m lucky if I run into one other human being (though I am obligated to wave and smile at them, of course). The European stereotype of Americans is that we’re loud, fat and friendly, and I always forget how true that last one is. I was riding the lift (I’m sorry, elevator) in my hotel in Chicago and this guy just started… talking to me. As far as I know he wasn’t trying to pick me up, he was just being friendly. It happens at the grocery store all the time too. My mom and I were at Aldi talking about how much cheaper everything was than at Kroger, and this stranger just joined in the conversation like it was a completely normal thing to do. As an anti-social introvert who has apparently lived abroad for too long, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel comfortable about that aspect of suburban American life, though as far as American stereotypes go, it’s certainly not a bad one.

My running has been suffering since I’ve been back, though if I’m being honest, it’s been suffering since Pokemon Go came out last July. At first it was too rainy, now it’s too hot. My lungs have been suffering when I go more than 2 miles, and I’m not sure why. Am I coming down with something? Am I just choking on that sweet taste of freedom and unpolluted air? I was keen to do a local 5K this weekend, but now I’m thinking I’ll do the one in two weeks instead. When did running 3.1 miles become a struggle for me? And in light of that, why did I think this was a good idea?!:
London marathon.png
(I just entered the lottery. And if my luck is anything like my Royal Parks Half luck, I will not be allotted a spot. Though I have no idea what I will do if I actually am allotted one — could I really run 26.2 miles in April 2018?!)

A random post about nothing, grocery shopping and a cute panda video

2 Mar

Hello, friends, family and internet strangers (especially those of you who found me through my Priceline refund post, I’m so happy it’s been helping people!).

I feel like it’s been too long since I last posted, yet I don’t really have anything to post about. I’m not sure one can use the word “boring” about living in central London, but no matter where you live you tend to fall into a routine — work, run, somehow get caught up in the changing of the guard while trying to cut through Horseguards no matter what time it is, eat, more work. The usual.

Our new place is finally starting to feel like home, even though we still haven’t painted or made the cosmetic changes we’ve been talking about for months. (Finding a reputable, reasonably priced builder is surprisingly hard.) But I’ve gotten used to the location and know all the best shortcuts to get around the tourist-infested streets. I can’t seem to break my once a week grocery shopping habit though. At our old place we lived over a mile from all the best stores, so every Monday I would lug my little trolley to Aldi, Iceland, Sainsbury’s and sometimes other stores to stock up for the week. But now we live reasonably close to a Tesco so I could go every day if I wanted to. I don’t need to buy vegetables on Monday for Friday and worry if they’ll still be fresh. And yet I still find myself doing a big shop on Monday, just because Monday has been grocery shopping day for so long. I can’t even wean myself off my Aldi habit. Not only are their prices so much better than Tesco, they sell things Tesco doesn’t have, like frozen cherries and blueberries. So now about once a month my trolley and I take the Tube up to Aldi and I wipe out their supply of thousand island salad dressing, frozen fruit, and dark chocolate (at least that’s what I go in intending to buy — I always leave with a trolley so full I have to bring my giant tote bag for overflow). It’s such a hassle and I keep telling myself I should stop — I can deal with the subpar, more expensive dressing at Tesco and can use other fruits in my smoothies, but the Aldi lure is just too strong. I’m looking forward to checking out Aldi in the U.S. on my upcoming visit, they just built a nice new one by my parents’ house.

Hey, I just made a post about grocery shopping, just like in the good old days of the blog!

I’ll end with this amazing baby panda video. I know they say when you work with pandas you mostly just clean up poo and prepare bamboo, but I totally wouldn’t mind doing that with this little guy in tow!

(Though I really want to tell iPanda it should be “Nanny, you can’t resist my cuteness!” Do you think they’ll accept my editing services in exchange for baby panda playtime?)

The time I lost my super power

8 Sep

So far I’ve gone through life thinking I have a magical super power. I thought I had magical DNA worthy of study that somehow made me resistant to a scourge that has plagued humanity for millennia. I laughed when I saw the products invented to ease the condition I was somehow immune to. I almost used it as my fun party trick fact: I can curl my tongue, crush a pop can between my shoulder blades and cut onions without crying.

Until today.

When I was back at my parents’ house in May, I was inspired to make caramelized onions. I wasted an hour of my life stirring onions on the stove-top, only to end up with charred onion crisps. But this week onions were one of Aldi’s Super 6 (1 kg for 39p!) and Stephen is traveling, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to consume copious amounts of onions and make my flat smell like a White Castle. (You’re welcome, neighbors). But this time I was going to do it the fool-proof way: in the slow cooker.

The recipe was easy: chop up onions, toss with melted butter, then set it and forget it (and stir it once or twice). Since I wanted to use the caramelized onions on my salad for dinner, I started chopping them right after breakfast so they could cook throughout the whole day. After I sliced the first one, I started to feel a burning in my eyes. This was unfamiliar. Was it allergies? Dust? Surely it wasn’t the onion, because I have a super power. By the fourth onion when tears were streaming down my burning eyes, I finally came to grips that my super power was no more. The pain was unreal. Even when I finished chopping the onions and they were on their way to caramelization, just walking into the kitchen made my eyes burn. Was the syn-propanethial-S-oxide airborne?!

The tears and burning eventually subsided and I was left wondering what happened. Why has an onion never affected me like this before? Was it because I usually cut onions at my parents’ house, where they’re often refrigerated and I’m wearing contacts, not my glasses? Are room-temperature cheapo Aldi onions particularly high in syn-propanethial-S-oxide in September? Is it because I rarely cut onions anymore? (Because I’m lazy and Stephen doesn’t like them, so I don’t often cook with them). And depending on how good these crockpot caramelized onions turn out, should I invest in these?

onion_goggles

The Great Greek Yogurt Conspiracy

24 Oct

Has anyone else noticed how Greek yogurt is everywhere lately? Or I guess I should say “Greek-style” yogurt, because at least in the UK, you can’t call it Greek yogurt if it’s not made in Greece. Just ask Chobani — they’re the most popular Greek [style] yogurt in the US, but got kicked out of the UK because Athens-made Fage sued them, saying Greek yogurt must be made in Greece using a particular straining process and cannot contain additives and preservatives. Chobani said “this isn’t over,” but for now, the UK yogurt aisle is full of the superior Fage Total, Liberte, and a bunch of impostors.

I don’t normally get worked up about things like this. I buy almost everything generic and go out of my way to walk to Aldi to save money. But the other day I learned the hard way that Greek yogurt is not something to scrimp on.

First, let me explain why Greek yogurt has become such a health food buzz word. As Fage argued against Chobani, what makes Greek yogurt Greek is the straining processed. This is most important because it makes the yogurt extra thick with extra protein. That’s why I like it — the protein boost, and that’s why Greek [style] yogurt has become so pervasive. Somebody somewhere on some health site said that Greek yogurt was the healthiest, best snack ever. And a bunch of non-Greek yogurt companies decided to cash in.

As I mentioned earlier, Fage Total is the authentic and best Greek yogurt, but it’s also the most expensive. Here is the nutritional information I took off their website:

fage total nutrition57 calories per 100g and 10.3g protein.

jeremy clarkson not bad
However, I usually don’t splurge for Fage because I put plain yogurt in my breakfast overnight oats and the superior creaminess and taste of Fage doesn’t shine through. So I buy Liberte, which is a Canadian brand that is always on sale at Waitrose. It’s nutritional information is similar enough to Fage:

Liberte uk nutrition9.6g protein as opposed to 10.3g, but still, not bad.

But last week I had a moment of weakness. I wanted individual pots of flavored Greek yogurt to have as a snack. I was in the queue at Aldi, which was so long it snaked around to the dairy section (I realize that makes no sense to you if you haven’t been to the store, but trust me, the queue was long), and noticed 4-packs of Greek-style yogurt. I grabbed one, quickly looked at the protein content, and thought, “6g, not bad.”

jeremy clarkson not badAnd the 4-pack was less than £1, so I bought two different flavors. And then I got home and tasted the “Greek-style” yogurt. It was no Fage. It wasn’t even Liberte. It tasted — and I hate to say this, because I don’t want to be one of those OMG CHEMICALS AND UNCLEAN FOOD people — but it tasted fake. So I did what I should have done while back at the store — I looked at the ingredient list. Keep in mind that Fage and Liberte have the same 2 ingredients: milk and cultures, that’s it. I understand flavored yogurt will have more, but check this out:

aldi greek yogurt nutritionMaize starch and pork gelatin.

This “Greek-style” yogurt should not be called Greek yogurt not because it’s not made in Greece, but because it’s not strained. It’s thickened artificially with maize starch and pork gelatin. Unless you happen to prefer extra thick yogurt, this “Greek” yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt with thickening agents. And the “not bad” 6g of protein I saw was per 125g pot — it only has 4.8g per 100g, which is less than half of Fage and Liberte.

This, friends, is why you have to be cautious of food trends. Everybody and their brother makes “Greek-style” yogurt now, but few are the nutritional powerhouses they claim to be. And now I’ll get off my Greek yogurt soapbox to show you this photo of a dapper autumn pug that I found on my external hard drive in a folder marked “Cute Animals” that I have no recollection of creating years ago:

pug blazer

Moving is the worst

24 Oct
The worst part about moving is how every part seems like it’s the worst — dealing with estate agents and securing a new flat, packing, cleaning the old flat to get the deposit back, going without Internet for 48 hours as it switches to the new address, and then the stage I’m at now, which is the worst: tripping over boxes as I try to find space for everything in the new flat because DEAR GOD WHY DO WE HAVE SO MUCH STUFF AND WHY AREN’T THERE MORE CLOSETS?!

The actual move was probably the easiest part — we had three hard-working movers who helped us finish packing then loaded and unloaded everything into the giant mounds of boxes now occupying 90 percent of our floor space. They were funny guys — one of them drew smiley faces on each box because, “you have to have a sense of humour to do this job.” As much as someone could enjoy carrying someone else’s stuff from one apartment to another, these guys seemed to.

The day after the move I stuffed a mop in my trolley and made the mile walk to our old flat to clean, which, of course, was the worst. We haven’t heard back yet if it passed the inspection ::fingers crossed:: but it was definitely cleaner than when we lived there. In a way I considered it penance for not cleaning well during our tenancy and it inspired me to keep up with the cleaning at this new place. Although I have to say vacuuming and mopping a completely empty room is almost fun.

Even though we didn’t move that far away, everything seems different. I have to make all new running routes instead of my well-worn Regent’s Park paths. I ran around The Serpentine in Hyde Park this morning, which was refreshing, but I had to wait at far too many stoplights and run on too much cobblestone to get there. Of course it was worth it because I had a CORGI SIGHTING!! My third in three years in London, not counting the 2013 Honorable Royal Corgi Spotting of Windsor.

I also made my first trolley grocery shopping trip since the move. Remember how I used to complain about walking 1.1 miles to Sainsbury’s from our old flat? Now the closest Sainsbury’s is 1.3 miles. There’s a Tesco Express much closer which carries most things I need, but not everything, so it looks like I’ll still be making regular supermarket expeditions. The good news is there’s an Iceland near the Sainsbury’s, which as you know, I’m a big fan of. I also discovered (after I got home) there’s an Aldi just down the street from the Iceland, which made me way more excited than someone should be about groceries. I’ve never been to an Aldi, but I love Lidl and oh crap I’m rambling about grocery shopping again and you don’t care. Here’s a PSL to make up for it:

pug psl

(Pugkin Spice Latte, of course!)