Monday Q&A | Produce Packaging and Encouraging Frustrated Children

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I buy produce at the farmers market, but when the market is closed for the season my choices are: A) shopping at an local but expensive organic store to buy items in bulk and produce that is in not packaging, or B) shopping at Aldi, where I can get cheaper items and produce but it is always wrapped in plastics. Given the choice between spending less for prepackaged produce vs. more for un-packaged produce, which should take priority? I am torn between saving a dollar or saving the environment.


This is such a hard dilemma, isn’t it? Not to be unhelpful, but the right answer probably varies from situation to situation.

I would say that if you can afford to buy unpackaged produce, and it’s a high priority for you, then you should buy the unpackaged produce guilt-free. I think it’s awesome that you have access to packaging-free organic produce, as it so often comes heavily packaged in plastic.

Here’s how I typically decide what produce to buy at Aldi and what to skip.

  • If I can get it unpackaged at Aldi, I’m totally happy to buy it there. Cucumbers, melons, avocados, grapefruit, pineapple, and a number of other types of produce are packaging free (hallelujah!)
  • If Aldi packages it just the same as other grocery stores, I’ll buy it there. Things like grapes, spinach, celery, grape tomatoes, and berries come in plastic packaging in almost every grocery store, so I might as well pay less for those items by buying them at Aldi.
  • If I can get it packaging-free at a regular store, I usually don’t buy it at Aldi. I can easily get produce like asparagus, peppers, broccoli, and zucchini without packaging at almost any regular grocery store, but at Aldi, they usually come in shrink-wrapped packages (boo.)

I wish Aldi sold all of their produce without packaging, but I do understand that their business model requires efficiency, and that the packaging does sometimes prevent food waste because the food is more protected in the packaging.

And packaging notwithstanding, I appreciate that Aldi makes produce affordable for families who live on really limited budgets because I think that a person’s choice is between buying packaged produce and buying no produce at all, the packaged produce is a better choice.

I know you home school, and I admire that, and I have an education question of my own. My son is almost five, and he starts school in the fall, and we have been doing lessons through the summer. He is showing signs of LD. I myself am dyslexic, and ADD, and my husband has ADHD. My son gets frustrated so easily, and I try to encourage him, without luck. I know you must deal with frustration daily from your kids, trying to teach them something and they get frustrated or bored. How do you encourage your children? I try to make it fun, but it seems the only way to get him through something (besides the fun things) is to bribe him. Please help, I am open to any suggestion.


My kids definitely do get frustrated with their work, so I can sympathize (though of course, what you’re dealing with is probably more tough than what I deal with, since my kids don’t have the same learning challenges.)

When my kids start to lose it over a school subject, I’ve found that it’s often helpful to take a break. This could mean working on a different subject, or taking a little break from school altogether (go eat lunch, take a shower, play outside for a half hour, etc.) Sometimes a little time is all it takes to get them back into a decent frame of mind.

If it’s a particularly tough subject, breaking it up into two segments can help too (do half the math lesson before lunch and half afterwards.)

I also remind my kids that they’re not going to be perfect at things the first time they try them, and that imperfect efforts are ok. You just have to keep trying and practicing.

Even when they’re struggling with a subject or lesson, I try to find something to encourage them about. For instance, if they’re having a hard time forming a letter during handwriting practice, I find the best letter of the bunch they wrote on the page and point it out.

I’d also just add that sometimes, kids are flat-out not going to want to do school work, just like they’re not always going to be thrilled about taking baths or brushing their teeth or doing their chores. So, while I try to make things fun and try to remove stumbling blocks for my kids, there are times where they just have to buckle down and do the work whether they like it or not.


Readers, how do you handle the produce packaging dilemma? And do you have any tips for encouraging frustrated children?


Today’s 365 post: Dear Children: Next time you have this much trouble opening a tuna can…


  1. Stacy says

    Ran across something called “Brain Breaks” yesterday. Do a search in pinterest to check them out. There were breaks to do physical things like a yoga plank, or silly ideas like play air guitar.

  2. Battra92 says

    My beef with packaging things like broccoli is that I can’t tell how fresh they are or if they are wilted. I guess it does cut down on how much the stuff is handled, though.

  3. Annie says

    Katie, my 11 year old son is Dyslexic and has ADD as well. We struggle on a daily basis with overcome certain learning differences that greatly impact his ability to take in information and process it they way a “normal” student does. One of the most helpful thing for us is to saturate his mind with stories of influential people who have Dyslexia and are successful. Tim Tebow, Charles Schwab, Orlando Bloom, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein to name a few. We find stories, you tube clips, biographies, anything to show him he is gifted with his learning difference for a reason.
    You mentioned that you have noticed some LD in your son who is 5. Might I recommend a book for you that literally changed my perspective on my sons LD? It’s called The Dyslexic Advantage by Dr. Brock and Fernette Eide. You can purchase it off Amazon. It explains Dyslexia in such a way that it takes the stigma off having this processing disorder and show you how it can actually be to your childs advantage. We also use the Barton Reading and Spelling program which is specifically designed for Dyslexic students. We are on level three and my son who once could not tell you b from d or when to use c, k, or ck, can spell full sentences with very minimal mistakes. Check it out at
    Lastly check out series of books from the library entitled The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses and read them to your son. They discuss learning differences in a fun and sensitive way. We loved the books from the series- If You Are So Smart Shy Cant You Spell Mississippi? and Mrs. Gorski I Have The Wiggle Fidgits. you can also get them from Amazon.
    I hope this bring some help and encouragement to you! I can symapthize with your situation and know that there are many out there with twice exceptional children like ours! If you would like my email and want other resources i have found helpful let me know!

    Blessings, Annie

  4. Virginia Dare says

    If you are trying to decide what to buy organic and what not to, check out the ever-popular “Dirty Dozen” list. (link below) It can help when you need to prioritize. This list is based on the amounts of pesticides that can remain on the food. As a complement to the “Dirty Dozen,” there is the “Clean Fifteen” list, which highlights foods that are the least likely to have pesticide residue on them. These lists are intended to help you avoid actually eating pesticide residues. However, there are other reasons to buy organic; namely, the impacts on the environment and on farm workers. For this reason, I have tried to keep an eye on which organic foods are only marginally more expensive and I buy them even if they aren’t on the “Dirty Dozen” list. For example, organic bananas are about 25 cents more per pound. I estimate that I spend about 35 to 40 cents more, total, buying organic bananas. For me and my budget, that is worth it. On the other hand, depending on the season, non-organic green bell peppers are 99 cents each while organic ones are $2.99–and they are much smaller in size. That’s a big difference! But bell peppers are definitely on the list recommended to buy organic so…I usually just don’t buy the peppers unless they are critical to a recipe.

    Side note: not having every possible food at any given moment was hard to get my family to embrace, though they did come around. “Why don’t we have [insert food]?” “Beacuse they are out of season and very expensive. And also, this is neither a restaurant nor a grocery store, so we don’t have everything all the time.” :-)

    • Kristen says

      Yes…this is why I never buy watermelon or peaches in the winter. They’re expensive, and honestly, not very good! Better to wait until they’re in season.

  5. says

    For the produce packed in plastic bags, if you choose to buy produce wrapped in plastic, you could try to get another use out of the plastic before it gets tossed. For example, carrots in a 5 lb. bag. When I’m done with the carrots, I turn the bag inside out, and rinse off the part of the bag that came in contact with the carrots. When dry, it’s just the right size to wrap a mini loaf of quick bread, or some muffins for the freezer. Large bags of oranges and grapefruit come in perforated bags. I find the best use for these is to line the bathroom or my sewing room waste basket (where garbage is usually dry and leaks are not an issue). Plastic clamshell packaging can be great for storing things you’d like to see, but want to keep organized — yarns for knitting, pantyhose, craft supplies.

    • Virginia Dare says

      Those plastic bags like carrots and apples come in are recyclable in plastic bag recycling programs.
      Clamshell containers are almost universally not recyclable. :-( That is a great idea about putting pantyhose in them!

  6. Julie says

    i think that a good point is brought up in your Q&A post today–that sometimes we are teaching our children more than one lesson at a time. yes, we might teach them how to master a planned lesson task but more importantly, the lesson might be about teaching the child how to master frustration. there are many children, adolescents, and adults who have not learned good ways to handle their frustration–so they react with temper outbursts, avoidance, upset, giving up too quickly, substance abuse, etc. learning to manage frustration well is a very valuable lifetime skill–and we need to recognize how we manage our own frustration and how we can teach our kids good ways to manage theirs. and yes, we can’t do it for them, nor is that a good idea. FG, it sometimes is about just buckling down and working through it. easily frustrated adults find achieving success difficult–they might not have learned good methods for pushing through roadblocks or boredom or tedium as children, especially if adults with good intentions stepped in to quickly to “fix” it.

    • Julie says

      wait, did my reply come off like agreeing? that’s what i meant to convey–that both the reader’s question and FG’s response are wonderful–moms paying attention to their child’s feelings and helping them with that part in mind. i like how these posts and the reader’s replies are focused on the helping and the good. when i was a young mom, i wasn’t that enlightened about my own feelings and how i expressed them. i was, in fact, rather afraid of my feelings. my response was to run when they got intense. i am telling you part of my learning, then–i had to learn to deal with frustration and with feelings both.

      • Kristen says

        Yep, I understood what you meant…no worries. And your point is good-that often when we’re helping our children with schoolwork, it’s about more than just the academic learning part of it.

  7. says

    Dealing with frustrated kids… yes, that can be very difficult. What I have found though, is that for some reason my son gets more frustrated when his parents are trying to teach him something then when someone else is trying to teach him something. I know this may not exactly help, but know that it may be very different at school then it is at home. We decided that part of the frustration for him was learning it from his parents. So while we do still teach him things and do some school over the summer, we try not to think that this is something that will make his schooling more difficult and that it won’t keep him from learning things.

  8. says

    Ah the old save the environment or save a dollar question! My personal favorite is when you can save a buck and be green at the same time, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Although it’s definitely best to buy unpackaged produce if you can, I think it’s still environmentally conscious to purchase packaged produce if you reuse the packaging. For example, reuse the plastic bags as doggie poop bags (gross, but true).

  9. Katy says

    Hi! I am a teacher. Before I became a stay at home Mom, I taught a class called Personal Development. I taught this class to each and every student in our school of 7th and 8th graders – from students who had IEPs to English Language Learners to well adjusted high achievers and everyone in between. In this class I taught what is called the Conflict Cycle. I learned about this through a Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) training and Aggression Replacement Training (ART). Understanding the Conflict Cycle (Stressful Incident leads to Thoughts leads to Feelings leads to Observable Behavior leads to Reactions of Others…could lead to another Stressful Incident) has helped me deal with the frustrations of all of my students, my daughter, my family, the dog we rescued, and grumpy people I bump into when moving about the world on a day-to-day basis. I would suggest looking into this and learning the ins and outs of the conflict cycle. This will help the frustration you probably feel as your child gets frustrated. It will also give your whole family great strategies to practice and use when you experience stressful situations.

    You can google Life Space Crisis Intervention and Aggression Replacement Training to learn more. Please don’t be afraid and think that this information is only for children and youth with aggressive tendencies. This is information that is useful for all children and adults.

    I hope this is helpful and “direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!”

    P.S. A great book series is the Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos. Joey Pigza is a boy who has ADHD. The books takes you through moments of challenge and success of Joey.

  10. Kris says

    Katie, you may find it helpful to request the services of an occupational therapist. You should be able to get this through your school district. Talk to your son’s teacher and don’t be afraid to push for services if the teacher or district tries to pooh-pooh you. Occupational therapists who work in schools specialize in helping kids with different disabilities (learning, developmental, physical) be able to perform to the best of his/her ability in school. Typically during the first visit the OT will assess your child and talk with you to determine specifically what problem(s) are occurring. For example, it’s a fairly frequent occurrence for children to have difficulty with managing sensory input. Our brains constantly pull information from our world. Most kids in a classroom enjoy all the bright colors from posters on the wall … can work on a project with a little background noise … happily wear their new back-to-school outfits. A few, however, may find that the colors and noise level are overwhelming and the new clothing feels scratchy. As a result, their brains are so busy trying to make sense of all of this information coming in that they are unable to pay attention to the teacher or do their assignments. An OT can identify this and teach strategies to help “re-wire” the brain. This is just one example and obviously I don’t know your child, but I strongly encourage you to address this sooner rather than later. Kid’s brains are more malleable at an earlier age and in kindergarten, they will not associate any sort of “stigma” with therapy. There is a genetic component with learning disabilities; good for you for being on the ball and noticing that with your son! If you don’t get satisfactory results from your school system, your pediatrician should be able to refer you to an OT. I’m sure you know this, but learning disabilities are NOT a reflection of intelligence–my nephew had sensory issues such as those I described and he has his master’s degree in a science field and is working successfully. But … he had performance issues and behavioral issues in school that I think would have been much easier to deal with had he had OT services.

    Wow, that was long-winded. Thanks for reading and I hope this is helpful.

  11. Kelley says

    My son has ADHD and when he was in elementary school I had to take breaks. I would take him to a park, have him do a few math problems, go and play 10 minutes and then come do a few more problems. He did get frustrated easily and I think its all part of the ADHD. It’s not for everyone but I had my son medicated (for school days only). It did help with focusing.
    (I also have ADD so I understand how his brain works)

  12. Cheri says

    Hi Katie,

    We home school and my oldest is almost 14, she has an LD. Our local school district wouldn’t even test a child until 2nd grade even though I felt I knew in my heart she had an issue. If we hadn’t home schooled She would have been in for at least 3 years of frustration and extra work like kindergarten summer school.

    As it was she didn’t learn to read til she was twelve. She is incredibly smart so we didn’t make a big deal about it. We kept telling her about all the smart people over the course of human existence (Einstein didn’t learn to read til 12.) to keep her spirits up. She wanted to learn but couldn’t decipher the text. We read to her and she listened to books on tape far above her grade level.

    I guess I am just saying to know what’s in store and have patience. All in good time. Enjoy the journey!


  13. Carolyn says

    It’s not easy being dyslexic and ADD. I know from personal experience. Frustration is a constant companion for a student with these challenges. While it is important for a parent to help a child deal with frustration, the real need for such a child is to address the underlying developmental problems. There is federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Act) that requires school districts to test children for learning disabilities when a parent makes a written request for such testing. Once a child qualifies for special education – and, no it’s not just for children who are mentally retarded or emotionally unstable; it’s mostly for ordinary kids who have problems learning and need extra help – the school district is required to provide direct and supportive services to alleviate the child’s academic problems – including occupational therapy and physical therapy. An excellent resource on this topic is Such services are expensive and many school districts resist obeying the law. A parent must be willing to fight for the services a child needs, but eventually they will be provided. Moreover, the sooner a child suspected of being ADD or having LD is tested, the sooner services can start and the sooner improvement will occur. And just so you know it works, this former LD/ADD student ended up graduating cum laude from college and law school and eventually became a judge.

  14. says

    I hate it when you have to buy pre-packaged fruit and veg! That is one of the things stopping me from going to Aldi (and the fact that it is quite far away). The main reason I don’t like it is because they’re nearly always packaged in larger sizes than I would usually buy, which means even if they’re cheaper per kilo, I have to spend more money on the package. Sometimes I only need one tomato for the week, especially with prices the way they are at the moment, so I just want to buy one, not a whole kilo. I also don’t like all of the extra packaging, as like someone else said, you can’t tell how fresh it is.

    • Kristen says

      Yes! I’ve written a blog post about that before. Sometimes I buy loose mushrooms and pay more per pound just because that way I can buy exactly the number I need and no more. Extra mushrooms just end up going to waste, so it’s cheaper to pay more per pound and just buy less.

  15. Lisa says

    Hi! This response is for Katie. I have a slightly radical question: Is it necessary for your son to start school this early? I am a teacher and have observed that some children are simply not ready for school and all the focusing that is required until they have matured further. Where I live, students do not have to start school until the year they are six turning seven. For a long time, my school has conducted readiness testing for students entering school, and we have sometimes recommended that students do not start until this age. While this will not change whether your son has learning diabilities, waiting for greater maturity and development might help with some of the frustration issues.

    • Kathy says

      I totally agree with Lisa’s comment. My son has ADHD, is 13, and a couple of years ago I started wondering how much of a difference it would have made if he waited a year to start kindergarten. But he had a March birthday and is a bright camper, so no one ever suggested he might benefit from waiting a year. What a difference it would have made in terms of greater impulse control!!

      • Kris says

        I don’t think it’s radical at all, Lisa! My daughter has a November birthday (in Michigan, currently the law states that they can begin k-garten if they are five by Dec 1). Our district has full-day kindergarten and while academically she is advanced (she taught herself to read at age 4), socially and emotionally she isn’t. I waited till last year when she was 5 going on 6 to start her and am very pleased that I did. Our district has a wonderful self-paced reading and math program which addresses her advanced skills so I don’t feel there is any “dumbing down” occurring in her education.

  16. says

    I don’t homeschool, but I do support at home. I’ve already noticed a difference between my Daughter (1st born) and Son (2nd born) and their interest and concentration when it comes to school work. My 4-yr-old Son becomes frustrated (aka bored) easier than my Daughter did at that age and that isn’t due to any specific reason that I know of- maybe because he’s male or maybe it’s just him? I don’t know. It seems that my Son is more physical, and enjoys walking around and moving more and my Daughter will sit longer (this was demonstrated early on at meal-times). With boys maybe taking learning outdoors may keep their interest longer? Chalking on the floor out back? making marks (letters,numbers etc) in the mud, or counting whilst enjoying sand play that kind of thing… you can do Maths and English wherever it doesn’t have to be writing in a book… that’s what I’m trying to do more of. We’ll see whether it works! :-)

    • Battra92 says

      The problem with the public schools is that they are designed to make sure girls learn. When boys don’t learn like girls they tell the parents they have ADHD and drug them up.

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