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All-natural. Free-range. Pasture-raised. Antibiotic-free. Sustainably-grown. Walking down the aisle of your grocery store can be a sea of terms that are hard to define. How do you know which food is the best choice for your family? Is the healthiest option always the most expensive?

Inside Kroger

One of the issues I’ve struggled with as a mom is “food guilt” – wanting to feed my family the healthiest foods I can, but feeling like those options are out of my price range. I wanted to know what the difference truly was behind the meat, cheese, produce, and other products at various grocery stores, so I enlisted the help of registered dietitian Kim Galeaz to help solve the mystery. Kim joined my friend Jeanette and me as we shopped for the same ingredients at three different grocery stores to help us understand our food choices.

Three Receipts

Our first stop was Kroger, which is where I do most of my shopping. I assembled all of the ingredients for one of our family’s favorites, Italian Beef Sandwiches. I bought mostly store brand items, as I usually do at Kroger, and Kim assured me that these more affordable choices were just as healthy as the name brands. My total bill at Kroger? $16.25

kroger receipt

The next stop was Whole Foods. I bought almost identical items to what I had purchased at Kroger. Because of packaging, I ended up with about 1/4 of a pound less meat here, but everything else was the same. Total cost? $22.23. Yikes that’s a big jump! Was the nutritional value of what I bough worth a $6 price increase?

Whole Foods Receipt

According to Kim, it was not. Despite their higher price, the ingredients I purchased at Whole Foods were not healthier or more nutritious than what I had bought for less at Kroger. Hmmm…

Our final stop was the well-known bargain grocery store Aldi. I was able to find all the same ingredients I had found at Kroger and Whole Foods, and according to Kim, there was no nutritional difference. The meat, cheese, seasonings, and bread from Aldi were just as healthy as the ingredients from the other two stores. Final total? $12.16! WHOA! A full $10 less than Whole Foods, with no discernible nutritional difference.

Aldi Receipt

I fully support the right of consumers to spend their money as they see fit. Choices are a good thing! But as a mom on a budget, I find it extremely reassuring to know that I don’t have to go broke to feed my family healthy food. I’ll continue to shop at Kroger because I like the store and it’s convenient for our family. I’ll keep buying guacamole at Whole Foods because I think it’s delicious. But from now on, I’ll make all of my food choices without guilt, because it’s the food that matters…not the store or the price.

And in case you were wondering, here’s my recipe for Italian Beef Sandwiches:

Italian Sandwiches

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds round steak
24 oz. chicken broth
1 pkg Italian seasoning
1 bag shredded Italian/Mozzarella Cheese (8 oz)
Buns

Instructions

Slice steak into thin (1/4 inch) strips
Pour chicken broth into slow cooker and add Italian seasoning. Stir to mix in spices.
Add sliced steak.
Cook 6 to 8 hours on low, or until steak is tender.
Serve on buns topped with cheese.