Grocery Shopping Staples: Hy-Vee

Grocery shopping is always something of a chore for me.  Anyone else? Tuesday night I write out the menu for the week and our shopping needs.  Wednesday morning I head to the grocery store and power through.

Depending on my friend Jennie’s schedule, I sometimes have Evie with me. She’s adorable, but she’s a shopping terror.

Evie demands the “kids pink cart” which is the worst invention for parents as it weighs 900 pounds and has a turning radius similar to, well… there is none. She sits in the cart for 5.7 seconds before demanding to walk AND hold my hand. That means I maneuver that damn kids pink cart with my left hand, left elbow and collarbone. This of course happens while Evie tries to pick up every egg carton, samples everything in the produce aisles (as in the grapes for sale… not samples), and usually has at least one meltdown. It’s as awful as it sounds.

I know the layout of the Health Market at Hy-Vee like the back of my hand so I write my list in order of the items in the aisles. Anything to make it through alive, right?!?

I am often asked what items we get from each location (Hy-Vee, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods), so I wanted to share that with you. Today we will start with Hy-Vee. I’m not including produce in each review as that’s a given. I’m mainly sticking to “aisle” items.

While Hy-Vee (local chain) is my normal Wednesday shopping store with a monthly trip for items to the other locations, I’m finding some of the prices at Whole Foods are actually cheaper for the items we buy, as in substantially cheaper… $2 per item cheaper!  WOW!  I’m going to be reassessing my shopping and comparing lists in the next few months.

Here are our Hy-Vee staples. Our Hy-Vee offers 10% off Health Market (mainly organic) items Wednesday, hence why I shop that day. So take 10% off the shown prices for what we pay.

Almond Milk. We used to go through more milk, but the kids primarily only drink water. The almond milk is used for oatmeal or other cooking needs. Occasionally they will have a glass, but not like before. I usually have 4 1/2 gallons on hand, but lately we just finish 3.


Animal Crackers. Finn loves these things! Evie is mostly uninterested in crackers/cookies, with a few exceptions. Someone recently asked me why we spend the higher amount on “organic” snacks. It’s a good question. While most of these snacks still contain refined flour, they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup or other added “fake” ingredients. It’s a compromise.


Nick’s Sticks. When we have gone through our stash from buying them directly from the farm, I pick up a few from the grocery store. They are a little more expensive this way, but they are such a great snack… and sometimes meal!


Melina’s Salsa. This salsa is the BOMB! All real ingredients and so tasty. A pantry staple for our house.


Enjoy Life Bars. I buy these every few weeks for Finn. They are his FAVORITE snack.  He calls them “my bars.” :) Sometimes will have  good deal on them, as well.


Ezekiel Bread. This is my splurge. Because Ezekiel is sprouted and I don’t go through this quickly, I leave this in the freezer and pull out a piece when I want it. This is a quick breakfast for me some mornings with homemade super butter (almond butter).



Chicken Nuggets. Kids love nuggets, don’t they!?! Since we don’t eat fast food, these are our “fast food nuggets.”  Finn calls them “brown chicken” and gets insanely excited when I pull out the Pizza Pizzazz to make them every few weeks. I’ve seen these at Super Target for the same price, but with Hy-Vee’s 10% Health Market Wednesday, it’s a no brainer.


Eggs.  When we were first easing Finn into eating eggs, this was the one egg that didn’t make him react. They are local, they are good, and we stick with these. (We’ve since tried a few others at my parents and he’s shown no reaction.)


Pepperoni and Turkey. We love Applegate for homemade pizza Friday’s.  We occasionally make paninis on the weekends and this turkey is great for that.


Almond Butter. Although we make most of our almond butter (or buy at Trader Joe’s), these little packets are great for lunches out at the park or with friends. Justin also likes them for travel.


Olives. True story: I love olives. I honestly don’t know what’s different between the Hy-Vee brand and those at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, minus the price. I stock up when I go down this aisle. IMG_9656


Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods staples to come.

What are your standard grocery store staples?

Halloween Candy Plans

Throwback to 2010 and this was our Halloween…

Rash 2010

We ventured over to some friends so Finn could trick or treat. He had one bite-sized Twix and ^^this^^ was the result. Over the next hour he got more red and bumpy. We had our suspicious about allergies and food concerns but this really put us over the edge.

When Finn was 2 (2011), we started trick or treating a few houses in the neighborhood with his buddy Ryder.


We only went to a few houses and were able to easily pick out and move aside the candy. It wasn’t about candy at this point! He had no idea what he was doing… can’t you tell!?!

The following year (2012) got a little trickier as he was curious about everything, but the process was still very manageable.


Last Halloween, Finn and I went through the candy item by item when we got home, which we will do again. (This was also during the Red Sox World Series games!!)


We talked about why they were “safe” and “not safe” (putting each item in the respective pile) and were able to have a general discussion about healthy options and eating too much sugar… why it’s not good, what it does to our bodies, etc.

Let me get this out there: I don’t want to be the party-pooper on candy.  Do I really want my kids eating all the junk (or any junk at all)?  No.  I don’t want them eating high fructose corn syrup and enough food dye to turn them orange.   I know what it does to them, both the short- and long-term consequences, but I also know that if I hide it from them or lie to them or tell them they can never have it, it will only make them want it more.  I can’t bully my way into forcing them to make the choices I want them to make.  There’s no easy answer to this, but we’ve settled on a plan.


1. When we return home, we will individually go through Finn’s entire bag with him and put items in one of two piles: “safe” or “not safe.” As we are doing this, we will discuss the why, which I think is the most important piece for him to understand. We will also talk more about sugar, healthy choices, and treating our bodies well.

2. We will let him pick out two pieces to eat right then and there. No restrictions.

3. We will have him save 5 pieces (because he is five years old) to keep for future “special treats.” Any “safe” candy items is fair game, even if it’s one we wish he wouldn’t choose for whatever reason. It’s his candy. It’s his choice.

4. Option 1: Finn can then trade the rest of his pieces of candy in for coins. Normally we put coins in his piggy bank, but these coins will likely be quarters which he can use to buy a toy.  I believe there is a “Switch Witch” locally where you can bring candy in for coins. We might go there, too. We’ll see! Regardless, he will be part of the process of exchanging the candy for something else.  It will teach him nothing if I do it without him.

5. Option 2: (Finn gave this option 2 thumbs up after I asked him his thoughts.)  This idea comes from reader Sarah in the comments below who does “The Great Pumpkin” with her kids.  According to Sarah… The remaining candy “is left out front before bed for ‘The Great Pumpkin.’ He leaves a reward for the candy left behind.” Love this idea!!!

As he gets older, I know he will do the same thing you and I and every other child did at some point.  You know what I’m talking about! When you jam as much candy as humanly possible into your pie hole and then you seriously want to throw up all over yourself for days because you feel so sick?!? Am I right? I think we will just have to let him do that. (I actually remember opening a bag of some Tropical Skittles when I was little. They were SO disgusting, but I kept eating them. That’s the power of sugar right there…. so much so that I still remember it.)

I hear so many people say, “just let them be kids.” …. “It’s only one night.” …. “What’s a little candy going to hurt?” … “Get off your high horse.”

Here are my thoughts on that.  It would be OK if it really WAS just one night, but as every parent knows, it’s NOT just one night.  It’s one night on Halloween and it’s 3 times a week at school and it’s after soccer practice and it’s at church and it’s at the next birthday party and it’s at the bank and it’s at the grocery store and on and on and on.  Plus, it’s not just one night at Halloween.  It’s one night of collecting the candy and then weeks of mass consumption of junk.

That is not one night and every parent knows it.

What are your plans for your kids Halloween candy? I’d love other ideas. 

Farming for a New Prairie

**This piece by Nick Wallace of Wallace Farms and Nick’s Sticks is being shared with permission. Please take a few minutes to read his background (in italics) and the full piece, Farming for a New Prairie, below the family picture. It will revitalize your soul as we dream and work together to restore the land to what Mother Nature intended.**

As many of you may know, I was involved in a very serious snowmobiling accident near my Iowa farm nearly two years ago.  Since then, I’ve been re-adjusting into a new role and place within Wallace Farms and Nick’s Sticks. 

Prior to the accident, my daily routine was fairly labor intensive and often quite tiring… feed the animals, correspond with customers, pack orders in the freezer, load the truck, make deliveries.  Go to bed.  Wake up. Repeat!!!  During my many hours driving in the truck, I thought constantly about what was wrong with the current agriculture system and how it could change for the better.  But I never put those thoughts on paper… until now.

I have a hard time doing the daily chores these days.  Packing orders in the freezer is nearly impossible, and loading and unloading the truck is a daunting task.  But what I can do is finally get my thoughts about agriculture, our food and farming on paper.  So, I’ve decided to start expressing my ideas –  crazy or sane, idealistic or practical – about our connection to the land.  My only goal is to get people to think more broadly about the subject, to start the conversation with friends and family, to blow up some of the myths about what can and cannot work within our edible landscape.

I don’t know what the future holds.  On some days, it feels like people are waking up.  It feels like our foods and farms can change….for the better.  Whether it changes or not, I do want to know that I entered the arena and spoke my mind.

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Farming for a New Prairie

I often daydream while I drive the back roads of Iowa.  There isn’t much to look at these days.  Rows and rows of corn and soybeans, the occasional hog-confinement and abandoned farm houses with crumbling barns. The small towns that dot the countryside have a faint pulse… maybe a convenience store and bar serving fried food with ranch dressing.  The “Norman Rockwell” warm and fuzzy feeling of the past might be what the rest of the country envisions, but those days are but a distant memory.

Our current state of agriculture continues to move away from the concept of producing food.   That is the purpose of farming, right?  To produce the best tasting, most nutritious and life-sustaining and abundant crop we can produce?  It probably started by feeding a family, then the village, then a town and the town became a city.  It’s lately taken on the mantra of “we have to feed the world”.  Maybe we should consider feeding our country first.  We are the sickest country on the planet.  Our kids are riddled with ADD, ADHD, and Autism.  No one denies the childhood obesity epidemic upon us.  Yet the headlines boast of all-time record yields and farms making all-time record profits.  Here’s a crazy thought:  if the grocery store closes tomorrow how many farmers would starve?  I’m being serious.  Farmers aren’t producing food anymore, they are producing a commodity.  Most don’t have gardens or livestock.  So if the store closes what would they do?  A farmer who can’t feed his or her family… I wouldn’t call that progress, would you?  Please don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a rant against the farmer.  Government policy over the last 40 years has slowly turned a once self-sustainable and self-reliable farmer into an industrial tool of Agri-business.  They don’t have a choice to grow something besides corn and soybeans.  To do so is a risky proposition because the subsidized crop insurance and infrastructure dictates the crops to be grown.  These farmers have their families and farms to keep afloat. The biggest fear a farmer has is losing the farm… you’ll never get them to say it but trust me.  I know because it’s one of my biggest fears.  Imagine running a farm that has been in the family for over a century and you’re the one who drops the ball.

Back to my daydreams.  Instead of corn and soybean fields I see more… a lot more.  Emerald green pastures dotted with cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys and ducks.  A micro-dairy for each county… maybe 2 dairies.  One does fresh raw milk, the other artisan cheese, cottage cheese, butter and ice cream.  The whey, a by-product, feeds the chickens for eggs.  The eggs go to town with the neighbor’s organic red winter wheat for the corner bakery.  That bakery sells buns to the local burger joint.  The burger joint is using the grass-fed local beef and the cheese from the dairy.  Score 2 points for the dairy – wait, make that 3 points because the burger joint sells milkshakes too!  Don’t forget about the vegetable farmer that provides the lettuce, tomato, and pickles for the burger.  Add some organic potatoes for the best French fries you’ve ever had.  You know why they are so good?  The burger joint buys lard from the acorn and apple-finished pork producer down the road.  You haven’t had French fries until you’ve had them fried in lard.  Oh yeah, the neighbor’s hogs make hot dogs in case you’re not in the mood for a burger.  Those bruised apples the pork producer used to finish his pork came from his neighbor’s orchard.  The orchard’s best apples, peaches, blueberries and strawberries went to the baker who made pies.  Pies with the organic red winter wheat and a lard crust.  Are you starting to get the picture?  This makes so much sense on so many levels but remember it’s just a dream.  Maybe we can start to make it a reality!

Thank you for your interest and support of our companies – Nick’s Sticks and Wallace Farms.  We truly value each of our customer relationships.  With every purchase you make, you’re helping our vision of restoring land back into the “new” prairie.

For additional information on our farm and how to purchase our products, please visit and

Let’s save the dirt together!


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