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Monday Q&A | Aldi Ethics plus Homeschooling

Every Monday, I answer a few questions from my readers. Well, at least most Mondays I do. Except for when I have a raging case of conjunctivitis.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future edition of Q&A, you can leave a comment here on this post, or you can email me (thefrugal girl {at} gmail {dot} com). If you choose to email me, I’d love it if you would put “Q&A” in the subject line.

Aldi shopping carts.

Therese sent this question to me.

When doing your grocery budget, how do you balance cheap food with `good’ food (substitute for `good’ whatever your personal preference may be: organic, local, fairtrade, ethically grown, fair working conditions etc.?)

I’ve been tracing my food budget for a while, and we appear to be spending about $700 per month on groceries (for a family of five.) But really, I don’t think I could do much less without sacrificing some of the above. (We buy about 75% organic and 75% local, and in my experience organic costs about twice as much, especially for meat and dairy.) Also, I don’t buy at Walmart or the $-store, and I’d hesitate to buy at Aldi if I had one here, because I’m doubtful about their employee practices.

I wrote about the organic/green versus cheap dilemma a little while ago, and you can read that post here. In a nutshell, I think that if you can manage to afford organic and local food, I think that’s a very worthy thing to spend money on. It’s certainly better to buy peaches from a local farm than to buy yet another purse made in China. And on the other hand, if you can’t afford to be that choosy about what you buy, there are a myriad of ways to live responsibly that don’t require a lot of money (things like line-drying, bringing reusable bags when you go shopping, and saving electricity).

I do want to address the comment about Aldi, though. From what I’ve read and heard, Aldi seems to be quite employee friendly. I think they pay their employees a fair wage (although of course there is a limit to how highly paid a grocery checker will be), and I’m guessing that their pared down business model allows them to pay more than the average grocery store. My particular store has only 7 employees, including the manager.

Since I received this question, I’ve made a habit of asking the employees how they like working at Aldi. So far, I haven’t gotten a negative comment, and more than one employee has mentioned that their work experience at Aldi has been a lot better than at other grocery stores.

I can’t speak for every Aldi store, as I’m sure the environment varies from store to store, but I feel just as comfortable supporting my local Aldi as I do supporting most any other grocery store. In fact, I feel better about supporting Aldi, since their business model is far less wasteful than other stores. Among other things, they save electricity in a variety of ways, they reduce waste by stocking a limited number of fast-selling items, and they don’t hand out paper or plastic bags for free (having to pay for bags encourages people to bring their own).

I do shop very occasionally at Wal-Mart, but mostly I avoid it like the plague. That’s not so much out of a virtuous desire to support other more worthy companies, but is motivated more by my dislike of the crowds, the lines, and the big-ness of the place. I like Aldi so much better…it’s smaller, I can park right by the store (which is a huge boon when you are trying to herd four children safely through a parking lot), and there are never long lines.

This one is from Melissa.

I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and have picked up that you homeschool your kids. I have a 6 month old at home right now and am considering homeschooling him (and his future siblings) when he gets older. I was wondering… How long have you been homeschooling? How did you get started? Did you (or do you) face any opposition from family, friends, husband, kids, school district, etc? Do you have a separate “school” room in your house? Do you have a set schedule that you follow every day? And lastly about what you teach…how do you handle teaching different aged kids? Does each child have their own lessons or do you do some together?

Lots of questions! I’ll try to answer them one by one.

1) I’ve been homeschooling since my oldest started kindergarten back in 2004. However, I was homeschooled from 1st-12th grade, so homeschooling is in my blood! I would probably have been more confused about how to get started with sending them to public school. 😉

2) I’ve faced very, very little in the way of opposition, since my family is quite obviously in favor of homeschooling. Although my husband is not from a homeschooling family, my in-laws haven’t had any objections to the way we’re raising and educating our kids either. And my husband was actually in favor of homeschooling his future children before he even met me, so thankfully that never been an issue.

3) I live in a state that is quite homeschooling friendly, so the school district has not been a problem. The laws on homeschooling vary widely from state to state, though, so you’d want to research the laws in your home state to see what they require.

4) We don’t have a separate school room, mostly because we don’t have an extra room! The kids do school at the kitchen table, in the office, in the living room, in their rooms, and sometimes even outside. We don’t do a really formal type of homeschooling, although I know some homeschoolers operate sort of like a one-room-schoolhouse. We’re just a little more relaxed than that.

5) While we don’t have a set schedule, I’d say we have sort of loose routines. Generally speaking, we try to start school right away after breakfast, and we usually get math out of the way first. However, on the days that I teach piano in the mornings, we don’t start school until the afternoon, and sometimes we go grocery shopping in the morning and do school later. I do make school a high priority, though, and the kids are not usually allowed to play and go outside until their work is finished.

6) The question about teaching different age groups is a good one. If I had to function like a regular school teacher while managing multiple grades, I would probably go crazy! Once my kids can read, though, they can do a lot of their work on their own. They read the book, follow the instructions, and if they get confused, they come and see me for help. This way, only the youngest kid needs my full attention. I think that learning to read the book and figure it out for themselves is a really helpful skill that will serve my children well in their college and adult years. I know it has been for me.

7) My kids do a lot of their work individually, but we do some things as a group. I read out loud to them all together, we do our catechism work together (even Zoe joins in), and this fall, I plan to do a study of the 50 states with all three kids (Zoe is not old enough for school yet, although I’m sure she’ll participate with us to some degree).

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Elizabeth M.

Friday 11th of September 2009

I stumbled on this looking for the opening hours for our local Aldi -- ours is right next to a Goodwill too. And we homeschool -- three kids, each three years apart. The oldest is 13. I heard about homeschooling while I was still in high school, and thought, "That makes so much sense -- why would anyone want to do anything else?" This was while I was in public school, with siblings in private school. I didn't have a particularly bad school experience, but the amount of wasted time was phenomenal.

I would suggest anyone thinking about homeschooling ask themselves what it really means to be educated -- really give it some hard thought. Keeping that in mind as our goal helps us steer a course through the curriculum options. We realized our kids needed to be able to recognize and communicate the truth; that guides everything else we do. And we want them prepared for whatever God has planned for their future, so we try to stretch their abilities and their strengthen their weaknesses. Obviously, you aren't going to know all this about a kid from the moment of birth, so it's a developing process. One resource to check out is the Maryland-based The Homeschool Resource Group -- -- they have live people who can answer questions.

Tania @ Larger Family Life

Friday 31st of July 2009

We homeschool in pretty much the same way as you. It's very interesting to hear about different ways of doing the same thing but most of the points are the same for us too.


Wednesday 8th of July 2009

I used Sonlight for 10 years and LOVED it! Very flexible, but enough structure to keep you on track. "Literature based" means that they use a lot of historical fiction and biographies to give the kids a feel for the historical era, rather than textbooks. Also, they tie the language arts lessons into the books the kids are reading for history, to reinforce the history. It's Christian-based, but you don't have to buy the Bible curriculum if you don't want to, and they aren't "preachy".


Wednesday 8th of July 2009

The wealth of information out there and the curriculum options are somewhat overwhelming at times. I love reading about other people's homeschooling experiences.

Julia: I totally agree that the topic of education in general strikes a chord with me too. I want to raise happy and fulfilled children too.

For anyone who is interested, I came across a Christian literature based curriculum that looks like it might be good. I don't have any personal experience about it, but from their website and catalog, it looks like it might be a good option, if I decide to homeschool my little guy. It is, Sonlight curriculum,


Wednesday 8th of July 2009

I have a question regarding homeschooling. My husband and I both attended public schools, but we are considering homeschooling our kids. Can anyone point me in the right direction (good resources, etc)? I have started checking around, but all of the info is very overwhelming and I don't know where to start. I have a little time (our kids are 3, 2, & 2), but I would like to be prepared so that we can make the best decision for our kids.

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