Costco and Aldi Grocery Delivery

costco groceries
I could not contain my excitement when I learned about Costco and Aldi grocery delivery in my area. I immediately checked it out and gave it a try. Instacart is the service used by Costco and Aldi here in Southern California. Ralphs, Stater Bros., Smart & Final, and Petco are also available through Instacart here, but I don’t really shop those stores.

costco instacart

Cost

Much like Fresh, I was able to choose my delivery time. There is no option for attended or unattended, so you probably want to be there when your groceries are delivered. Items are packaged in store bags, for which you will be charged here in California. Costco items are as is or in boxes, just like at the store. Drivers are independent contractors, so tips are appreciated but not required. Mine did a super job and I want them to keep on doing it, so I tip. This is where there is a big difference with Fresh. Instacart delivery is $5.99 for orders over $35, or $9.99 for under, plus a 10% “service charge”. I tip another 10-15%. There are monthly plans for various amounts of free delivery.  The Starter plan, for $79 a year, offers 2 free deliveries over $35 per month. TheBasic, at $149 per year, includes 4 free deliveries over $35 per month. For unlimited free deliveries over $35, choose the Unlimited Plan, for $199 a year.

aldi groceries

Personal Shoppers

One thing I like about Instacart is the personal shoppers. I get a text when they start and when they are on the way to deliver. If the store is out of an item, I get a text that it was refunded. I can then approve that and request a substitute. I can also text my shopper if I feel I need to clarify anything. My shoppers did an excellent job of picking out produce. My only complaint is that the ice cream was a bit melted. So one thing to be aware of.

aldi instacart

Bugs

One thing that can be confusing on the site is the way you order your produce. Be very careful in reading the description. I don’t have it completely figured out yet. If produce is loose and priced per pound, sometimes they will put a price per piece at the top and per pound in tiny numbers underneath. This is where I have trouble. I think you just order per piece. Bagged produce is priced per bag, with a reference to what the per pound price is. You cannot break up a bag, so that is simpler. I am doing most of my fresh produce at the local farmer’s market now, anyway. Delivery of my other items frees up the time for me to walk over and enjoy the market.
As with Fresh, most items are marked up a bit. There are items on sale and coupon items. The advantage is that you can check it all out as you shop online instead of driving from store to store. You can also get rewards points that count towards cash back and free delivery.
No, I am not getting any compensation for this review. But if you would like to try Instacart for yourself, we can each earn $10 if you sign up through this link: Instacart and enter referral code: RDOLAN19F11D.

 

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Amazon Fresh Grocery Delivery

amazon fresh grocery delivery

My first Amazon Fresh Grocery Delivery was very exciting! I got to choose my delivery time of 8-9 in the morning and with attended delivery, which means someone has to be there. They also offer unattended delivery. When the postal service truck drove up and I saw my bags sitting there I got goosebumps. The fact that Fresh is delivered by USPS in this area means no tipping. Which is great. Because they are paid well and have benefits and stuff. It’s not like it’s a private driver who’s an independent contractor.

broken egg fresh     cracked smart water lid fresh

My food arrived in good condition. One broken egg, one broken lid on a smart water bottle, but didn’t lose much out of the bottle. So I’m okay with that. I love the way it was packaged. Insulated bags for all the perishables.

fresh ice cream dry ice

The ice cream was packaged in an insulated bag with dry ice.

fresh ice packs     fresh cooler

The other perishables were packaged in an insulated bag with cold packs.

fresh paper bag

The smart water and tortillas were in a large paper bag. It did get wet, so I don’t know if they’ll re-use it. I love the packaging because I can just leave it out and the USPS driver will pick it up if he comes back by. Or I can leave it out on my next delivery and he will pick it up. Either way. Dad’s disappointed because now we can’t go running around shopping. But my goal is to get him to go out with me in the RV. Short trips, camping at the beach and stuff. So maybe he will do that now to get out of the house.

Prices are comparable to supermarket and Costco. My advice is to know your prices because some things are substantially more. It might be worth going to Costco or your local supermarket for their sales. For instance, microwave popcorn from Costco is about 23 cents a bag. The brand available for that price on Amazon Fresh was out of stock and the other options were more than twice that. So watch the sale flyers for your favorite stores. Grocery delivery does take some pre-planning because there are some things on Amazon Fresh, for instance, that are out of stock, or not available until a posted date. So you want to keep a grocery list so that you can order before you’re out of something or before you really need it.

fresh groceries

Amazon fresh is a membership service with Amazon Prime. For $14.99 a month you get unlimited delivery on orders over $40 (now $50). I don’t know about you, but with 5 adults (4 plus a teen boy) to feed, I can easily order over $50 a week. Also, you don’t have to subscribe to the membership and you can just pay $9.99 per delivery if your order is under $50. Not too bad, especially if it’s going to take you a couple of hours shopping.

Vons also has grocery delivery available in my area. It’s $20. I haven’t tried them yet, but their website says the first delivery is free. After that, it says they have weekly coupons for lower-priced or free delivery so you can get their meats and vegetables for their weekly sale prices. Check your favorite grocery store and see if they have delivery.

fresh meat veg dairy eggs

My other favorite is Sprouts, but they don’t have delivery. So I’m thinking a once a month run to Costco and once to Sprouts to hit their Wednesday double sale should make my life much easier.

I have been looking at Amazon Fresh for a couple of years now, but we’ve been on the road, in “middle-of-nowhere” towns, mostly. So it hasn’t been a viable option for us. A week or so ago I read that Amazon bought Whole Foods market and so I decided to give them another look. Just like anywhere else, you’ve got your stuff that’s overpriced and your stuff that’s competitively priced. And your screamin’ deals. So you’ve gotta know what you’re shopping for. You can read the labels on most of the items on the Amazon Fresh website, so you can check for undesirable ingredients. And if you can’t read the label, you can pass on that item. Also, I had them pick out some lettuce for me and I got a beautiful, crispy, fresh head of romaine. I was very happy with that.

fresh reuse

A couple of things I dislike about Southern California are the traffic and the heat. So grocery delivery is a lifesaver for me. Also, the best time to run errands around here is 10am-2pm. That’s also my best creative and working time. I really need my working hours. It’s hard to get them with my grandsons here several days a week and taking care of my dad and supervising my high schooler’s schoolwork. Getting my working time in is really important. So grocery delivery is a real game changer.

 

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Moving to the Urban Homestead

urban homestead

I moved in with my 83-year-old dad at the beginning of this year to help him stay independent in his home for as long as possible. Hopefully to live out his life here.

Although we are in the middle of the big city in Southern California, I am trying to homestead it as much as possible. In a multigenerational household, this is tricky, as 3 out of 5 of us are very convenience and disposable oriented.

This is a 50 something-year-old home, so much of the infrastructure has broken down and had to be replaced in the last several years. New water and sewer lines each cost about what we paid for the house, to begin with. A new roof wasn’t cheap, either. There are a few other large projects waiting, but hopefully, nothing that will be a disaster before we get to it.

Some of the little changes I have been making:

Bathroom

handheld shower head

  • Shower chair

  • Homemade all natural bar soap/shampoo bar

  • Homemade lotion –still working out the bugs with the liquid formula

  • Low flush/power flush toilets

Cooling

  • Using ceiling fans and room fans before turning on a/c

ceiling fan

  • Keeping windows and doors open during cooler hours so we can keep the a/c off for longer (trying to keep it off til noon)

  • Turning off a/c as soon as air cools outside (around 7 pm)

Kitchen

  • Using the outdoor grill as much as possible to avoid heating up the house

outdoor kitchen

  • Using the crock pot outside to avoid heating up the house

  • Hand washing dishes, as it takes several days to fill the dishwasher for a load, and they don’t get clean unless they go in clean (doesn’t make sense, does it?)

  • Decluttering cabinets and getting rid of broken, unused, and excess stuff

  • Cooking most meals at home

Pool

pool and drain barrel

  • Drain barrels to hold excess water from pool vacuuming, for treating and using to clean patio and water garden.

  • This is still in the experimental stage. Theoretically, the chlorine breaks down and evaporates in a few days. We have a salt water system, so I am not sure if the salt electrolyzed into chlorine breaks down, or stays salty to harm the plants.

Garden

  • Some successes and some failures.

  • Constant battles with slugs and mites.

  • Not as much food as I had hoped, but taking care of the boy, the dad, and the grands take priority and I get pretty tuckered out.

Projects I’m working on or that are on the list:

  • Gray water system for laundry, showers, and kitchen, leading to lawn and garden

  • Solar power for pool pump and trailer

  • Improve rain guttering and add rain barrels, leading to lawn and garden

  • Thermal draperies and curtains

  • Improve garden

  • Heating

  • – Firewood

  • – More efficient fireplace insert

Sadly, I am not using a clothes line to dry clothes, as my housemates frown upon that. Happily, our gas bill (we have a gas dryer) is very low, so I guess our dryer is pretty efficient. My share of the laundry is minimal, anyway.

The gray water system and the two small solar units are priorities, as these 2 utilities have been directly affected by the extra watering of the lawn and garden and the running of the pool pump, respectively. The only reason the gray water is taking so long is that I keep putting off looking under the house to figure out the best way to do the showers. The kitchen and laundry systems I have figured out, it is just a matter of taking the time to get the materials and set them up. Keeping in mind that my housemates want everything to look nice. Definitely not the country bumpkin I am.

My laundry routine is pretty well settled in, so I may put up a discreet clothes line that can be taken down before everybody’s home from work.

So that is how we’re adjusting to homesteading in the big city. I hope to have updates on these projects soon. But next on the list is a trip dad wants to take to the old farmstead, next month, so we’ll be getting ready for that.

 

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How to use a Soap Cozy

soap bags

How to use a soap cozy

What is a soap cozy? Simply, it is a little bag to put your bar of soap in. It can be used for:

  • soap storage

  • as a washcloth, without even having to remove the soap

  • put your soap ends in it and tie it shut, to use them up

  • use the tied up soap to scrub your sink or shower. What removes soap scum the best? Soap. Just make sure you rinse it off well.

soap cozy

Soap cozies can vary in size. At 4″x6″, 4″x5″, 5″x6″, they make great gift bags for small items. Also a nice pouch for carrying your cell phone or spare change and lip balm. Mrs. D’s soap cozies are made with cotton or cotton blend fabric and have long 10-12″ ribbon ties.

You can sew up a dozen of these in about an hour if you’re so inclined. Any scraps of the appropriate size (you are welcome to make them larger or smaller) will work. Trim them to a large rectangle or two smaller rectangles. I make mine about 4″x6″ give or take, or fold an 8″x6″ piece in half.

First, sew the top hems. Fold the fabric down about 1/4″ at the top and iron. Fold and iron again. This is the top of your bag. Now stitch away to hold the hem in place. I use a built-in decorative stitch for this. I do not cut the thread on each piece, I just pull it out a bit and start the next one. Then I cut all the threads when I’m done.

Next, make your bags. With right sides together and top hems together, stitch one side and bottom seam (or just one seam if you are folding). Trim threads if you are sewing several bags at once like I do.

Now for the ribbon ties. You can use the bags without them, but I like to add them because I use them to close the tops. Cut 2 12″ pieces of ribbon for each bag. Hold or pin them about 1″ down from the top of the bag, with the long ends inside the bag and coming out the top. You are leaving a tiny bit on what will be the inside of the bag to hold it there. Stitch the last side of the bag. Trim all threads.

Finally, clip corners and trim seams if necessary. Turn bags right side out and poke corners with a ruler, chopstick, pen, or another corner turner. Iron if desired.

Use and enjoy your soap cozy. Give as gifts. Or sell them at your next craft fair!

 

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Summer School

summer school

We do summer school.

Some homeschoolers take the summer off. We go year round. Some homeschools are structured. Some are completely unstructured. We are semi-structured. What I mean by that is that Yak has a daily list of assignments that he can pursue on his own time, within reason. I want his assignments done by 2 pm because often I will have a project for us to work on together. Usually, these projects are school related. Some days we have a field trip or something to do in the morning, which moves assignments to later in the day. Or even gives him a day off from his assignments.

We do school on Saturdays.

Yak gets his assignments done in 2-3 hours a day, so doing school on Saturdays is not unreasonable. It is a lighter assignment day, though. Usually, we will have some “alternative” schooling going on Saturdays, as well. This also keeps us moving towards finishing up high school requirements. Now we can move on to exploring life skills and possibilities for making a living. Deciding whether or not college will factor in. Did you gasp? Look around. Today’s college grads have lots of debt with student loans but they have to claw their way into any kind of decent job. College is not the solution that it used to be. Unless your student has a clear notion of wanting to enter the medical, legal, or engineering professions.

bike cruisers

So what are some of our alternative schooling and projects?

Learning to cut and fit new light panels in grandpa’s ceiling.

Caulking the bathroom sink.

Brushing, skimming and vacuuming the pool.

Working on mom’s truck: replacing brake lights, fuses, learning to check the fluids.

Fixing up the bikes we got at a yard sale: washing, replacing tires, adjusting brakes.

And more.

Field trips?

We’ve gone to the movies (historical fiction/fact).

Beach.

La Brea Tar Pits

Park days with homeschool group

Escape room

Hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls, San Antonio Falls, Murphy Ranch.

And more.

We document everything and save it in electronic files. Even pictures and videos. Soon I will be deciding how I will structure his portfolio and I will begin putting it together from all this documentation. This way he will have an official record when he decides to apply for college, jobs, or whatever.

In the meantime, it’s summer. I hear the swimming pool calling.

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Towards a Simple, Sustainable Life