Category Archives: Simple Living

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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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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How to use Bar Soap

The humble bar of soap.

Sometimes it seems like everyone has forgotten how to use bar soap. Since most people I know use liquid soap in tidy pump dispensers now. Yet bar soap is gentler, more economical, and does a better job of cleaning. Bar soap is truly a multi-purpose cleaner.

In order to make myself clear, when I speak of bar soap, I  am speaking of handmade soap. Rather like the kind I make, with all natural ingredients you can actually recognize. Like coconut, palm, and olive oils, milk, water, and essential oils, herbs, etc.

Sodium hydroxide (lye) causes a chemical change in the liquids and oils that soap is made with. This saponification neutralizes the lye and, as a result produces the familiar, sudsy soap that washes away grease and grime. Grease that washes away grease.

 

First of all, let me debunk the antibacterial myth:

Friction kills bacteria.

That’s right. Not soap, not hot water. Friction. Rubbing your hands together when you wash them creates the friction that kills the bacteria. Soap loosens foreign particles and oils from your skin, and water washes them away. But friction kills bacteria.

 

Now let’s move on to the truth about bar soap:

  • lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses. (use a handy soap saver)

  • does not harbor bacteria and grunge as long as you keep it dry between uses. (don’t let it sit in a puddle of water)

  • can be made with ingredients you recognize and with none you don’t.

 

Finally, what are the advantages of bar soap?

  • lasts a long time as long as you keep it dry in between uses.

  • can also be used to wash your hair.

  • makes a great pet shampoo.

  • is an all purpose cleaner. What removes soap scum best? Soap.

  • makes a great laundry soap. In this case, it needs to be grated very fine and mixed with some other ingredients, but that is a whole nuther post.

  • is a gentle soap for hand washables.

 

How do you use bar soap?

Same as liquid soap, use bar soap for washing your hands. Keep a bar of soap next to your sink in a soap dish or saucer. It is best to elevate it a little to keep it dry. Many soap savers are available for this purpose.

First, wet hands and soap with water. Then rub soap between hands and replace on soap saver. Finally, rub hands together, spreading soap as desired. Continue rubbing hands together as you rinse the soap off with water.

That’s it! Now go out and support your local soap maker or make your own!

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Easy Potato Soup

easy potato soup

Cooking from scratch is easy! Throw this Easy Potato Soup in the crock pot in the morning and it’s ready for dinner when you get home from work. Or whatever.

easy potato soup me

When we filmed The Potato Soup Movie for YouTube, it seemed to only make sense to put it here in writing, as well. I am including a number of things here that clarify and add to the info in the video. Proportions are for a 6 quart crock pot.

chopping potatoes

Easy Potato Soup

8 large (about 5 pounds) potatoes, any variety

1 large onion

5 large cloves garlic

2 quarts bone broth or chicken stock

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or fat from bone broth

water to cover ingredients

milk, heavy cream, or half and half (enough to thin blended soup to desired consistency)

chopping onions

Dice potatoes into bite-sized pieces and put them in the crock pot. I leave the skins on but you can peel them if desired. Add bone broth, set crock pot to high. Peel and slice the onion very thin or dice. Peel and coarsely chop garlic. Saute onion and garlic in butter until translucent. It is okay for it to be slightly browned or caramelized. Add to crock pot. Add water to cover all ingredients. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8-10 hours.

sauteed onions

 

When potatoes are soft, turn off the crock pot. Soup will stay very hot for at least an hour.

potato soup in the pot

You can eat the soup just as it is or make it creamy.

making cream soup

 

To cream the soup, ladle or spoon potatoes and a bit of broth into blender container. Fill about half way. Be careful, as you don’t want to shock a cold container and have it crack or shatter. Let the potatoes cool a minute or so and slowly add about a cup of milk or cream. Place lid on blender container and blend at high speed about 30-60 seconds, until creamy. Return mixture to crock pot and repeat until soup is as creamy as you like. If you run out of milk or do not like dairy, chicken broth or water can be used. Use less milk if soup is not thick enough. Stir well and serve.

grandpa approved

One important thing I left out of the video: add-ins. Some of these could even be added into the soup while it is cooking. Sour cream, chives, and bacon make a particularly nice “Loaded Baked Potato Soup”. Put some of these on the side for people to choose from.

Add-ins:

  • Sour Cream

  • Chopped, cooked bacon

  • Chopped green onions

  • Shredded cheese

  • Salsa

  • Chopped tomatoes

Eat fresh and stay healthy.

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