Supermarket Smackdown – Aldi America vs. Aldi Germany

Thrifty Travel Mama | How Does Aldi USA Compare to Aldi Germany?I’m sure you’ve already gathered from my posts through the years that grocery shopping in Germany is not at all what it is in America. But, the two places do have one thing in common – they both have Aldi!

Which Aldi is better, east or west of the Atlantic? Could I get the same products on both continents?

And, if I could indulge in my favorite German treats every now and again, would this reverse culture shock beast be just a bit more manageable?

German Aldi

Do you have a default grocery store where you can be found nearly every week?

While living in Freiburg, Aldi was my jam. I couldn’t stay away. Their prices were just amazing, and we eventually came to love many of the off-brand products sold at ALDI SÜD.

When we returned to the US in 2014, I wondered what American Aldi would be like. Would they stock the best-tasting pretzel sticks, delicious organic yogurt, and balsamic vinegar from Italy?

Now, I did shop at Aldi a little bit in 2010 when the chain first came to Orlando. Confession: I didn’t like it one bit. In fact, I kind of hated it.

The store seemed a bit trashy, dirty, and the products of low quality. Truthfully, it was this first impression that made me hesitant to shop at German Aldi when we moved to Deutschland.

I soon came around though – German Aldi is awesome!

Thrifty Travel Mama | How Does Aldi USA Compare to Aldi Germany?

An Aldi store in Freiburg – no American Aldi is this cute.

American Aldi

Fast forward to the fall of 2014 when we arrived back in Orlando. Nerdy as we are – and more than slightly terrified of Walmart, we rounded the kids up and drove down to the neighborhood Aldi to check out the scene.

In the car, everyone shared their hopes of what might be on offer – chocolate, muesli, flips, pretzel sticks, flavored peanuts. We all had the jitters. A certain someone even dressed up for the occasion (search the photos for a clue..).

I’m certain we are the only people to have ever darkened Aldi’s door with that much excitement.

Stepping out of the car, we first noticed that the lack of carts in the parking lot. Yes! Grab your quarters boys and girls, because otherwise you’ll find yourself without a shopping cart. Since this is standard in German supermarketsno free carts there and no exhausted teenage employees corralling them – we felt instantly at home (seriously, nerds).

Quarters in our fists, we raced to the entrance. First shock: the tiled floor had to have been bought by the truckful at rock bottom prices because it was just. that. ugly. The décor didn’t invite me to relax and part with my entire paycheck (apparently Aldi needs to take a cue from her cousin Trader Joe’s). The store seemed almost deserted save one or two uniformed employees.

Things were not looking good.

I prepared myself for disappointment, but then a mere three feet later I spotted it… Moser Roth chocolate! Could it be? The very same bars I used to buy in Germany? No way – impossible! But yes, the brown bar had indeed crossed the ocean just to be gobbled up yours truly.

Thrifty Travel Mama | How Does Aldi USA Compare to Aldi Germany?


Further on down the aisle, our kids found their favorite muesli – made in Germany! – that just so happened to be about the same price as it was at “home.”

Ohhh, things were certainly looking up. Dare I hope for even more delights?

Every few meters, we found treasures. Mustard made in Germany. Peanut butter flips – those crunchy puffs of nutty goodness that are like Cheetos but with savory peanut butter instead of cheese.Thrifty Travel Mama | How Does Aldi USA Compare to Aldi Germany?

But there, in the middle of the store, lay the most thrilling find of all… Weihnachten (Christmas) treats! Nearly every standard sugary German Christmas delight waited patiently, calling my name, begging to be bought.

At the end of the display, I spotted our family’s absolute favorite – Spekulatius cookies. Though the ingredient list appeared identical to the German version, I remained skeptical. They couldn’t really be the same, could they?

In the interest of blog research (naturally), I put the American version to the test. Oh, how glorious to discover that these sweet gems look and taste the same as the biscuits sold in our old Aldi in Freiburg. Hallelujah – thank you, Jesus! Christmas cookie time cannot come soon enough…Thrifty Travel Mama | How Does Aldi USA Compare to Aldi Germany?

At this point, we couldn’t be much higher on joy. The only thing that might have nudged us to the very top of the scale would have been authentic German bread and fresh-baked pretzels.

Nice try, but no.

Unfortunately, American Aldi does not carry any German bread besides Fitness Brot (like this). The rest of the bread selection disappointed, only squishy American carbs full of additives and preservatives.

No German pretzels, and no fresh bakery. I might have shed a tear or two.

For my curious German readers, we didn’t see a tub of Quark anywhere, but I recently spotted a promising product at SuperTarget with the words “Creamy German Style” on the label.

The Verdict

So, which one is better?! It’s a tough call, but one that someone’s going to have to make. If I didn’t already love German Aldi, I don’t think I’d give a hoot about Aldi in the US. And, while American Aldi scores massive points for carrying many of our favorite munchies, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. We love you ALDI SÜD!!

Sadly, no Aldi stores exist in Arizona, so I won’t be looking to Aldi to cure my reverse culture shock any time soon. The nearest one is in Texas, but I read recently that Aldi plans to give the southern California area a run for its (grocery) money. One can only pray and hope.

Until Aldi moves in next door, would I drive four hundred miles for muesli and cookies? You betcha!

What’s one of your favorite treats from a place you used to live? Would you drive four hundred miles to stock up on precious ingredients or products you love?

Signature Thrifty Travel Mama Image Credit




Ketchup: The Past Four Months + the Future in 1000 Words (or More)

Practicing our Spiderman skills in Croatia

Practicing our Spiderman skills in Croatia

So now that I’m back in the saddle, I thought I’d try to close the distance between where I left you and where we are now.

I’d like (you) to think I’ve been nothing but a good student for the past four months, but I’m a terrible liar. While it’s true I always did my best to complete my homework, it’s equally as true that I played hookey a good bit during my studies. In between the worksheets and flashcards, our little family has had plenty of adventures near and far, both exceptional and everyday.

Ready for the recap?

In no particular order..

Multicoolty, a blog that compiles stories about expats living in Germany, featured me in May, though I wrote my thoughts way back in January. Check out what I had to say and a silly old picture I dug up from our first trip to Berlin here.


Köln (Cologne)

My husband gave me a fantastic birthday gift this year – two days alone (ALONE!!) in Köln (Cologne). This was before language lessons had started, so it was a blissful quiet time to do whatever I fancied whenever I pleased.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Keukenhof Gardens with Kids

The biggest boy exploring the tulips with me at Keukenhof in the Netherlands.

To ease my disappointment over last year’s pathetic lack of tulips at Keukenhof in the Netherlands, I took my oldest son on a quick trip for a better look. We took the overnight train up to Amsterdam, bussed over to Keukenhof to gawk at the fields of tulips, made our way back to Amsterdam, scarfed down a pancake dinner, and caught the night train back home. Whew! And yes, it was actually fun, and yes, he was a champ on the overnight trains. I would definitely do it again!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro

Flying away in Zadar, Croatia.

Several days after our up-and-back Netherlands trip, the five of us flew to Croatia for ten days. During our trip, we stayed in Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Split. We also drove through a bit of Bosnia and took a day trip to Montenegro. One of the most fun moments of the trip was meeting SJ of Chasing the Donkey and her family!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Mexican Food in Germany

The taco truck!

While we didn’t find any Mexican food in Croatia (and opted out of another fantastic dinner at Los Pilones in Amsterdam in favor of a pancake feast), we have been going gangbusters at the Holy Taco Shack taco truck. We took our American-expat-in-Luxembourg friends there a few weeks ago. They’re just as salsa-crazed as we are, and they gave the burritos two thumbs up. Now, if I could just get the taco truck to deliver…

Thrifty Travel Mama | potty trainingThis little champ has kicked daytime diapers and now only uses a nappy at night and during his nap. We did the same thing with all three boys – an awful, torturous, bodily-fluid-soaked potty training boot camp for a weekend followed by the shock and awe of daytime dryness.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Picking Strawberries in Germany with KidsStrawberry season came earlier this year, and we hit the fields several times. We made many of our favorite recipes from last year including strawberry fruit leather, strawberry syrup, and strawberry shortcakes.

Those strawberry shortcakes were made with coconut cream for me as I went dairy-free at the beginning of the year and have kept it up except for a four-week break while we traveled to Croatia. P.s. – I miss cheese and there is NO substitute that even comes close..

Thrifty Travel Mama | Losing TeethOur oldest little adventurer has lost enough teeth to officially apply for Jack-o-Lantern status, and the tooth fairy is flat broke. This photo is a few months old. He’s now missing three teeth on top, and two on the bottom!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Riding a LaufradThe youngest learned to ride a bike without pedals (Laufrad). And now we are losing sleep over his daredevil ways that now are ON WHEELS. Yikes.

Can you guess why we called it the poo hike?

Can you guess why we called it the poo hike?

As soon as the thermometer sailed over the 12C mark, we flexed our hiking muscles. In between our travels, we’ve been able to do a handful of hikes, including one we affectionately call the poo hike and one insane 15km trek with four kids and nearly no complaining. Kilimanjaro, here we come!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hiking in the Alps with kids

Back in the Alps!

And, speaking of hiking, we (okay, mainly me) became obsessed with the Alps after our excursion to Schilthorn last summer. Last weekend, we took our first summer hike near Engelberg, and we’ve got more ideas for Swiss outings than there are Saturdays before the snow falls again.

Due to an insane amount of planning and the wonderful generosity of friends, I managed a week of solo parenting (single parents, I know this is wimpy – hats off to you!) while my husband went off to Milan for a conference.. and to look for a new job.


The last point brings me to a big change coming for our family…

We have decided that Doc Sci won’t be renewing his employment contract here in Germany when it ends later this year. Professionally, he needs to move on; unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an opportunity to do that where we currently live.

Where will we end up? Only God knows, but most likely, we’ll move back in the US, though we may consider something in Europe if the circumstances are right. This is a decision we have wrestled with for months. We love so many things about living in Europe; it will not be easy to leave our life here behind. But, ultimately, we both know our days in this city are numbered. Sigh.

And, if you will forgive me for throwing one.more.thing your way, I’ve decided to change the boys’ nicknames here. When I started this blog, I never dreamed that anyone would read it, let alone the hundreds that do. I also never thought I’d be writing for nearly four years. In that time, the boys have painfully outgrown their silly pseudonyms.

This also may be a good time to explain why I use nicknames. Yes, there’s the usual safety concerns, but really, it’s a matter of respect for me. My kids aren’t old enough to know that I write about our life on the internet (heck, they don’t even know what the internet is). As such, they have no say in the things I post.

When they are older, they may not wish to have their faces and names plastered all over this space for public viewing. So, until the day when we can have a conversation about their wishes, I’ll respect the option of anonymity by using nicknames.

But then, there’s the matter of what to call them. I thought Small, Medium, and Large was good enough for me, basic… but boring. I tried it in German, but I just can’t call my kid Gross (large).

I’m still keeping it simple, but I’m steering in the ABC direction. The boys will now go by the first three letters of the Pilot’s Alphabet that is commonly used in the travel industry – Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Plus, these names are actually spot on when it comes to their personalities, Creepy!

I’m seriously over my 1,000 word target, and that’s about all the changes and updates I can handle. If you have a blog, post a link (or three) below with exciting news, fantastic trips, handy DIYs, or winning lotto numbers. I’ve love to catch up with you, too!

Now, tell me, which of our adventures above would you like to read about first?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama


Thrifty Travel Mama – 2012 – A Year in Review

Whew!  2012 has been a wild ride, full of experiences and surprises.  “Year in Review” posts are all the rage in the blogosphere, so despite my inclinations to do the opposite, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

In January, I went fully frugal.  I shared my source for Free DIY Passport Photos.  I pointed you to the European Backpacker Index, a tool for researching expenses in European cities.  Oh, and I saved you from having to run to the store at the last minute by showing you how to make your own brown sugar.

February brought me a birthday, and Doc Sci took me to Milan (sans kids) to celebrate.  We ogled da Vinci’s Last Supper and the views from the roof of the Duomo.  We got caught in Carnival madness, and stuffed our faces with risotto, bread, pizza, and (of course) gelato.

I went crazy in March trying to make our awful concrete student housing apartment more homey on a very small budget.  I spiced up the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.  I constructed a ginormous cork board wall in the living room and plastered it with photos.  I somehow also found the time to completely finish Rosetta Stone German and post a final review.

In April, our little family went home to the US for 3 weeks, stopping in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  We soaked up the sun, and made kid-friendly activities a priority.  Among the boys’ favorite was our trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Back in Germany, May was part work and part play.  Doc Sci and I both took week-long intensive German courses.  We also managed a date night to the movies, complete with popcorn and assigned seats.

Doc Sci let us tag along with him to Berlin in June.  He attended a brainiac conference while the boys and I played at Legoland.   And speaking of brains, I got mine to work long enough to pass my German driver’s license exam.

In July, I switched to extreme nesting mode.  I stocked the freezer with a gazillion meals, and organized our life into one happy turquoise notebook.

I took a six-week break starting in August to bring our third and final little traveler into the world.  His birth story is the kind nightmares are made of.

We ventured out to Frankfurt in September to get the little guy his passport when he was only two weeks old.  And good thing, too.  Later that month, Big Foot found himself coasting through five countries on four planes, five trains, and two buses, in the span of three days.  No sweat for a seven week-old.

In October, I posted reviews of flying Delta Airlines and easyJet with a baby.  I should’ve shown you these fashionable Oktoberfest pull-ups, but I was too busy scoring freebies for babies and mamas in Germany.

November was an exciting month for us.  We bought a car!  Doc Sci wrote a fabulous guest post detailing the adventure.

We took our car on a little road trip to France in December.  It was all the travel we could muster in between the zillions of Pinterest projects that filled my days and nights before Christmas.

Every year has its highs and lows, surprises both good and bad, and 2012 was no different.  It’s just how life goes, and I’m thankful to live it with my awesome-amazing-how-could-I-describe-you-in-just-one-word husband and three blessed boys who make me laugh every day.  Here’s to 2013!


Dashboard Confessional: Restless

It’s summer.  The weather is beautiful.  But most days I’m home.  Inside.  Not traveling.

A strange season this end-of-pregnancy thing is.  I desperately want to get out and enjoy this time of warmth.  But I also just as fiercely want to avoid the stares and comments I get everywhere I go.

Yes, I’m as big as a house.  Yes, it’s all baby, and it’s all out in front.  No, I do not need you to remind me of this.  Or ask me when I’m due.  Or show shock and horror when I reveal I still have a few weeks to go.  And, please oh please, stop staring.  Haven’t you ever seen a pregnant woman before??

To avoid the awkwardness, I honestly try to just stay home.  And it’s at home where I read about friends’ trips to fun places like Malta.  And Tuscany.  Colorado.  I itch to pack my bags, but I know now is not the time.  Hard as it is for me to believe right this exact and very minute, I will find myself traveling again.  Just not quite yet.

Until then, I’m relegated to the city parks and pools.  Ahhh, the pool.  What a great way to cool off in a summer with no air conditioning, right?  Right.

Well, right, except for the fact that it’s only been warm enough to go to the pool two or three times (it really has to be 85+ degrees F outside – the pools are filled with ice cold river water) .  Last week, I actually needed a jacket.  In July.

And then there’s the issue of the dreaded maternity bathing suit.  Need I say more?

So, me and my cankles are hibernating.  Not slacking though, mind you.  I’ve always got irons in the fire.  A summary of my latest projects…

I’m working on a Household Notebook – a resource to organize our family’s information and streamline my mama-of-three-boys job.  Oh, and to help out Doc Sci should he ever have to know things like what size shoes the boys wear or the pediatrician’s address or my Facebook password.  And since I can’t just settle for someone else’s product, I’m creating my own notebook structure, layout, and design.  It’s nearly complete, and a post on the finished product is forthcoming.

Speaking of design, I’m taking an Adobe Illustrator e-course.  Reasons for taking this course range from “I want to” to “I should be learning if I’m not working” to “it gets me a discount on child care for Screech.”  The best part about it is the homework is not required or graded.  But for some reason, I still do it…

I’m researching, prepping, and freezing meals for an army – an army of boys, that is – to eat after the baby comes.  We have very few prepared meal options in the grocery store, and even fewer choices for decent (edible) take-out.  Since I don’t want to find myself eating spaghetti, chicken nuggets & fries, and pizza for weeks on end, I’m cooking up other options.  It’s a challenge to do with so little freezer space and no cream-of-mystery-soup ingredients, so be on the lookout for a post detailing how I managed.

Last week, I finally stopped procrastinating and photographed our annual Day in the Life project. I really do like the idea of digitally scrapbooking one ordinary day in the life of our family.  It’s the actual documenting of everything (and the trouble I put myself through to avoid any unflattering camera angles or lighting that might further accentuate my roundness) that made me put it off for weeks.  Now, I just need to find a deal on a photo book and put it all together.

These are just a few things keeping me on my toes – and inside, away from the pregnancy paparazzi.  And while all these projects are fun, helpful, or just plain good for generating blog content, what I really want to do is just lie on a beach in Croatia.  The beauty of the Dalmatian Coast reflecting in my sunglasses.  The sun tinting the bodies of my little boys.  Gelato satiating my stomach.  Foreign words filling my ears.

Ah, well, maybe next year.


Expat Taxes

Thrifty Travel Mama - Expat Life - TaxesI recently had a friend ask me about my taxes.  Not as in, “Are you done with them yet, slacker?”  She’s a nice friend.  It was more like, “How different is it for you since you don’t live in the US?”

Well, truth be told, I am a slacker.  I hem and I haw and I drag my feet all through January and February, and even the beginning of March.  I hate doing my taxes.  I know, I know, I’m not the only one.

Might I suggest to you, though, that expats (expatriates, Americans living abroad) dread taxes even more than the average American?

As an American living in Germany, I can attest that doing US taxes is the pits.

We don’t get W2’s.  We get paid in foreign currency.  We have to translate our year-end income statement from another language.  We have to get all our tax forms from any US financial interests electronically or find a buddy to open our mail, scan, and email the documents to us.  And we have lots and LOTS of rules with confusing definitions.

As you can imagine, most people just pay a professional.

I am not most people.

I have an absolutely irritating DIY work ethic.  I’m also thrifty as all get out.  If I can do my own taxes for free, why would I pay someone upwards of $300 to do it for me?

And, if I don’t do my taxes myself to understand the system, how will I ever know if $300 is a bargain or a rip-off?

Since I’m NOT a CPA or a lawyer, and I do not have any tax advice for you, I’ve decided to offer you an absolutely thrilling array of random facts regarding my expat tax experience.   Just what you’ve always wanted.

  • Expats get an automatic two-month extension on their tax due date.  The only catch is that you must attach a statement explaining why you qualify for the automatic extension.  I’m an expat.  I’m special.  The end.
  • Expats can deduct up to $92,900 (2011) of foreign-earned income as long as they meet certain requirements.  This made my tax bill for 2011 a nice fat even zero.  Since we pay German taxes, it would really be a joy-killer to give Uncle Sam a helping, too.  Now you know how much we do not make.  
  • Expats must have been out of the US for 330 days in a 365 day period in order to qualify for the income deduction mentioned above.  It’s also possible to qualify by living and working outside of the US for an entire January-December tax year as long as trips were infrequent and not business-related.  As always, such requirements are never simple and many restrictions apply.
  • Even expats can e-file their taxes.  Though not all programs support this feature, it is possible.  I use TaxAct (and I don’t make any money if you click on that link).  Bonus: TaxAct has a free e-file version regardless of income.
  • Expats must notify the US Department of the Treasury of any foreign bank account that reaches 10,000 USD at any point during the year.  Though this isn’t filed with your taxes and doesn’t go to the IRS, it’s part of the process and must be reported yearly.  Expats failing to fill out this form while having a fat overseas bank account can be fined $100,000 or more.
Itching to know more?  Check out the IRS Tax Guide for US Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.  I highly recommend indulging right before bedtime if you’re having trouble sleeping.

So, Happy Tax Day to you, dear reader.  If you are one of the lucky Turbo-Tax-and-go Americans, celebrate!  Other Americans actually envy you.

If you have ever filed taxes as an American living abroad, leave a comment to let us know your experience.Signature-Marigold


Frohe Weihnachten!

Oh my goodness, is Christmas over yet?  I’ve had enough parties and gingerbread to last me until next winter.

But no, we still have plenty of festivities left, at least in Germany.

Though the Americans have ripped off plenty of traditions from the Germans, there are still many differences.  It’s my second Christmas in Deutschland, and I’m still not used to everything yet.  Here’s a quick rundown of the German way…

  • Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas.  Advent calendars start December 1.  Don’t confuse the two!
  • Many families set up an Advent wreath, laid flat on a table with four candles.  One candle is lit for each week of Advent.
  • Germans are crazy about baking Christmas cookies.  However, their cookies are not usually decorated as elaborately as in the US (probably due to the lack of available items!).
  • Christmas trees are not put up until Christmas Eve, usually while the family (children) are at church.  When everyone returns home, voila!, the tree is lit and presents are stacked underneath or tied on the tree.  In some regions, the doors are locked to the room where the Christmas tree stands.  Children must wait outside until a bell rings.
  • Some families still use REAL candles on their Christmas trees.
  • Stores often close by 2pm on Christmas Eve and do not reopen until December 27.
  • Presents are opened on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day (and stockings are another day all together).
  • The Christkindl, or Christ child, brings the presents, not Santa Claus!
  • In some parts of Germany, the Weihnachtsmann (like Santa Claus) delivers the presents –  in person.  He doesn’t have a sleigh or reindeer.
  • Germans have Christmas Day #1 and Christmas Day #2 (called Boxing Day in the UK).
  • Sometimes the Christmas Eve meal is simple, followed by elaborate Christmas dinners on the first Christmas Day.
  • Goose, duck, rabbit, lamb, fondue, and pork (of course) are typical centerpieces of the Christmas meal.
  • Trees are often left up until the second week of January (after Three Kings Day – more on that to come!)

Of course not every German celebrates Christmas exactly like this and traditions vary by region.  By and large, though, these are quite typical of German Christmas festivities.  Did you find any traditions on the list that your family also observes?

Frohe Weihnachten! (Merry Christmas!)


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life - American FoodEdit August 16, 2011: I’ve explored more stores and online expat forums and become good friends with my German/English dictionary.  I’ve edited the list below to reflect new finds.

I’m approaching meal plan burnout.  I only brought a handful of recipes from my US collection, and I think all boys (big & small) are a little sick of having pizza, spaghetti, lentil soup, and lemon chicken in the rotation. We miss Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burgers and Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries (the onion rings are delish too).

I spent some time this weekend searching for new recipes, especially slow cooker/CrockPot ones.  I was frustrated after only like ten minutes.  I quickly realized my problem: a variety of ingredients and the extreme lack thereof.

I found so many recipes that called for things like a can of this or a can of that, refried beans, baked beans, cheddar cheese, cream-of-something soup, ricotta cheese, a box of cake mix, a box of cornbread mix, a bottle of BBQ sauce, sweet potatoes, a whole chicken, chicken thighs, chicken wings, chicken quarters, chicken brains (just kidding), etc.  This really limits my options.  Like really.  Like totally.

I should also add that we don’t eat pork, sausage, or really any other kind of meat except chicken, beef, and turkey (no weird parts either, please).  That’s about half of Aldi right there.

Since I often get asked by super great friends and family what they can send me that I can’t get here (and for super great readers that are just curious), I thought I’d compile a list.  Then instead of fumbling for ideas off the top of my head (which I am, uh, uh, um, terrible at), I can just politely thank them and refer them here.

Some items I’m going to list below can be obtained in Germany but are included because they are either (1) eye-popping expensive or (2) Sherlock-Holmes-grade difficult to find.  Or the store is on the other side of town nowhere near anywhere I might possibly need or want to go.  Or it tastes so incredibly different from the original that it doesn’t even count as the same (black beans with sugar, anyone?).

(side note: I discovered that has food for sale just like have a look around and let your own eyes bug out at the prices!)

And, yes, I am a do-it-yourself-er and often make things on my own.  But, I now have three nights per week where I need something that is fast (as in 20 mins or less, start to finish) or can be made ahead in the CrockPot.  My freezer is hilariously small and cannot hold more than one frozen pizza or one bag of French Fries, but not both.  Edit: I have a new fridge/freezer now!

  • Goldfish crackers
  • Nature Valley – style crunchy granola bars
  • Graham Crackers
  • Molasses (I hear it exists but have never seen it)
  • BBQ Sauce (expensive; only at certain stores)
  • Ranch Dressing (liquid & seasoning packets for things like fries, dips, etc)
  • Yellow Mustard (such as French’s)
  • Peanut Butter (just peanuts & salt)
  • Mac & Cheese (instant) – Rewe carries the boxed stuff for 2,50
  • Stuffing Mix
  • Whoppers
  • Reese’s / any other peanut butter candy
  • Jelly Beans / Peeps / other American-style holiday candy
  • Refried Beans – Rewe carries Refried Beans for 2,00 per can
  • Black Beans (dried or canned – that taste like real black beans) – Found at a Portuguese store
  • Jalapenos (raw) – Found jarred jalapenos for salsa at Rewe and an Asian ethnic food store
  • Tortillas – Aldi and Lidl carry flour tortillas during American weeks
  • Salsa!
  • Tortilla Chips that taste like tortilla chips
  • Taco / Fajita seasoning – Rewe carries Old El Paso brand but it is almost 2 euro per packet
  • Spices (we have salt, pepper, garlic powder, curry, paprika, and cinnamon – everything else is €€€)
  • Hominy
  • Corn tortillas
  • Other Mexican / Tex-Mex ingredients (chiles, cumin, chipotle powder, etc)
  • Cheddar Cheese (only at certain stores – from Ireland) – Lidl regularly carries sliced cheddar
  • Ricotta Cheese (actually found this today – but only one kind, full-fat)
  • Greens (like spinach and kale – I have seen spinach but it is sold in a huuuuge bag, dirty, and rare)
  • Sweet Potatoes – Rewe stocks sweet potatoes and I have seen them at Real-
  • Brown sugar (the soft kind – we only have the crunchy crystal kind)
  • Chocolate Chips / White Chocolate Chips / Peanut Butter Chips
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Cool Whip
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Pancake Mix
  • Canned Pumpkin
  • Bagels – Lidl and Aldi offer these during some American weeks
  • Breakfast Cereal (we have some kinds of Kelloggs cereals, but that’s about it / definitely nothing high-fiber!) – Found bran flakes at Lidl
  • Dr. Pepper / Root Beer / Cream Soda
  • Almond Milk (soy is everywhere but anything else is hard to find)
  • Gatorade / Powerade
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Salmon (something similar is sold but it’s not the same)
  • Edamame
  • Frozen French-Style Green Beans
  • Vital wheat gluten (for homemade wheat bread)
  • Ziploc-style bags (not food but expensive and hard to find)

As you can see, trying to be creative in meal planning without standard staple ingredients you are used to week after week can get older than the annual Christmas fruitcake.  You eat it ‘cuz you have to, not ‘cuz you want to.

Do you have any fresh quick-to-fix dinner ideas?  I would love to hear them!  Even links to great websites with fast, healthy recipes would be greatly appreciated.  Now, go make some chicken nuggets, mac & cheese, and Frenchy green beans and think of me.

Oh and if you happen to stop by this blog, live in Germany, and know where I can find these things – I’d love for you to leave a comment!


Woulda Coulda Shoulda

I have had the best of intentions.  Really.  But man alive, I must be getting old.  I’m constantly forgetting my camera.  Or just forgetting to do things entirely.

I recently learned you can make your own BBQ sauce.  I’m in hog heaven!  I used to make pulled chicken and miss it intensely.  Can you miss food intensely?

I have managed to find an American branded bottle of BBQ sauce, but it is over 5 euros per teensy bottle.  No way man.  I’ll make my own.  Really, I will.  If I can remember to write it down.  And then do it.  That might be asking a lot.

I discovered an AMAZING salsa recipe to share with you, AND I actually made it.  But I didn’t take pictures.  This is, in part, because I totally expected it to bomb.  It did, in a rock-my-world-with-spicy-heat kinda way.  No fear, though.  I will definitely make it again.  And show you instead of just tell you this time.

Since we’re talking food… I made the most delicious, sugary, incredibly bad for you cinnamon rolls EVER.  But they’re not simple.  So they can’t be categorized as Simple Pleasures.  But I can make you drool.  And give you the recipe.  You should make these for Valentine’s Day.  You’re welcome.

I can't believe something this delicious came out of my kitchen. Absolutely dreamy.

It’s sale season in Europe, and I thought maybe I could tell you about that.  But who wants to hear about sales with no pictures?  And I thought it would be over by now, but it seems to be the never-ending Euro-retail sale.  Which is cool.  But tempting.  I can resist full price any day.  But on sale? clearance? 70% off?  I’m a sucker.  Lollipop grade.

We have beggars here in Germany the same as in the US.  Only here I can’t read their signs.  But I know something’s off when I see it.  Like a guy using a pony to beg.  And then finding another guy with the same sign and another pony in another part of town… also begging.  Huh.

I would like to know how this man got the pony into the middle of the pedestrian zone in my city.

Doc Sci says, "He rode the pony into down. Duh." My man knows lots about science, not so much about ponies.

This time I had my camera!  But – I thought maybe it was rude to photograph people who beg.  So I had to do it on the sly which means my rinky dink point-n-shoot didn’t get the greatest of shots.

I have decided.  This week I will do it.  I will be better.  Do better.  I will remember my camera!

What have you recently resolved to do?



You’ve (Sent) Mail

Today, I bit the bullet.  I resolved to face the giant.  I told myself, I will successfully mail two letters.  Sheesh, what ridiculousness.  How scary can the post office be?  Really?  But let’s back up a bit.

Mail (except for big packages) is delivered via bike here. Needless to say, the mail delivery people are pretty buff.

In Germany, air TV is not free.  Well, you could lie about watching it and then it would be free.  But TTM is about getting a deal on the up & up, not on the D.L.

Basically, “they” (I still haven’t figured out “their” exact identity) send you a letter asking if you watch TV, listen to the radio at home, or use the radio in your car.  If you say yes to any of these things, you must pay.  How much, I don’t know.  I really don’t watch the TV, listen to the radio, or even have a car.

My boys leave their mark everywhere - even on mail.

After you fill out the form using the popular German honor system, you must mail it back to “them.”  If you do not, “they” will keep sending you this same form and perhaps even stalking you, showing up at your front door.   I don’t like unexpected visitors of the official variety, so I will try to be a good pretend-German and mail it.

Deutsche Post and DHL are in cahoots, I mean, a partnership.

The problem?  The front of the envelope does not say “no postage necessary if mailed in the US.”  This means a trip to the Deutsche Post which I have heard is notorious for NOT speaking English or being very friendly.

Apparently a party store also wanted to cash in on the popularity of Deutsche Post.

But, today I did it.  How?  I just didn’t say anything at all.

Two euro for two letters. And I thought USPS was expensive!

Domestic stamps cost 55 cents.  I also mailed a card to the US.  That cost me 1,45 euro and came with a free puzzled look on the clerk’s face.  She measured my made-in-China, bought-in-US, mailed-in-Germany envelope THREE times, including once with one of those ancient wooden folding measuring tapes.  Ha.  Excellent.  I just hope she didn’t rip me off when she finally settled on a price.

Post office boxes exist here, too.

Random fact: the stamps are not self-adhesive.  Germany still uses lick-n-stick.  If you’re like Sandra Bullock’s character in Two Weeks Notice, I hate to disappoint you but I have no idea how they taste.  The clerk used her sponge, and that was just fine with me.


How to Determine if a Bike Is Abandoned

It's just a hunch, of course, but something tells me this dreamboat hasn't got a rider.