ALDI 101: What To Buy At Aldi
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This is the third and final post in our ALDI 101 series. But I have to be honest — I kind of don’t want this series to end!
I have been having so much fun reading your comments over email, tweets, Facebook, Instagram, and in the comment section below about Aldi! From those of you who have been longtime fans and have shared your great tips and favorite items, to those of you who may have never set foot in an Aldi but are considering giving it a try, it has been so cool to hear about each person’s unique experience with the store. I have to admit that a reader totally made my day when she shared that she ventured into an Aldi for the first time this week, and loved it. That is so cool!!!! :-)
Well after our first two posts — Why I Shop At Aldi and How To Shop At Aldi — today is the post that gets down to specifics on what to buy at Aldi. I feel like I should probably give a huge disclaimer that this post is based 100% on personal opinion. I have all of my own quirks and preferences, and as you will see below, there is a large section of the store (cereals, many non-organic meats, pet food, makeup, etc.) that I have not tried because those areas do not fall in my normal grocery shopping. And I’m sure there are plenty of items where our opinions may just simply differ! The pina colada popsicles that I adore just may not be your thing.
So please feel free to take this post with a a big grain of Aldi’s sea salt. ;) My hope is to offer a few starting points, and then hopefully you can try some new items and form your own opinions. To organize this post, I have included a few brief thoughts about each section of the store, and then a brief “to buy” and “not to buy” list of specifics. As always, I would love to have you share your thoughts on what you like to buy in the comments below.
This concludes our Aldi series! Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and I look forward to resuming regular recipe posting with you tomorrow!
The pantry items are where I recommend people start at Aldi. Almost everything I’ve ever tried in this section is high-quality and consistently way cheaper than anyplace else. Granted, again, there is only one of most items to choose from. So you do not get the option of white whole wheat flour, unbleached or barley flour — there is usually bleached all-purpose flour, and that’s it. But this is an awesome section to stock your pantry, and even try a few of their specialty pantry items in the process.
What To Buy:
- baking essentials (flour, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, basic spices, condensed milk, etc.)
- real vanilla extract
- chocolate chips (semi-sweet, butterscotch,
- nuts for baking (pecan halves, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
- garlic vinagrette (with the garlic floating on the bottom!)
- Fit & Active light balsamic vinaigrette
- natural peanut butter
- clover honey
- whole wheat pasta
- potato gnocchi
- strawberry light & crispy cereal bars
- oatmeal (any kind — there are lots of options!)
- dried beans
What Not To Buy:
The only iffy pantry item I have tried at Aldi is their chili powder, but I’m a bit of a spice snob. I think that you get what you pay for anytime you buy $1 spices at a grocery store. I’m also not a big cereal connoisseur, but I do know that their version of Cheerio’s does not taste exactly like the original. Just like at any grocery store, many of the cereals or granola bars are made with extra sugar, so be sure to check out the labels if you’re going for healthy.
Snacks and Sweets
There is actually a really wide variety of snacks and sweets to choose from at Aldi! I don’t usually let myself buy potato chips at the grocery store, but when most all of their chips are under $2, I have to admit that I have now sampled quite a few. And they are pretty much awesome. :)
What To Buy:
- dry-roasted almonds
- waffle bowls
- tortilla chips (restaurant-style, blue and multigrain varieties)
- sweet potato chips
- kettle chips (sea salt & vinegar and jalapeno are my favs)
- moser roth chili chocolate bars
- anise pizzelle cookies
- Haribo cola candy
- chocolate-covered coffee beans
What Not To Buy:
I don’t have any no-buys in this section. I will just mention that occasionally the lower prices equal lower serving sizes in some products. Again, to use chips as an example, often their bags are only about half full. So plan accordingly. (Or just use it as an excuse for portion control!) ;)
Dairy & Refrigerated Items
This is one category where it is “to each his own”. The majority of Aldi’s dairy products are not organic, although more and more organic options (and alternatives like almond milk!) are starting to pop up. The refrigerated section also seems to have a lot of variety and turnover, so while there may be marscapone and brie some months, they might not be there year-round. Still, my cart is always filled with lots of items from this section each time I go! And I always stock up on butter each time I’m there. It tastes great, and it is always so cheap!
What To Buy:
- fresh mozzarella balls
- hummus (roasted red pepper, garlic and cayenne are my three favorites)
- fresh salsas (I love the medium)
- soft cheeses (gorgonzola, blue, goat and feta are usually available)
- cream cheese (regular and reduced-fat)
- greek yogurt (often they have the Fage brand, and I also like their black cherry)
- original organic soymilk
- natural almond milk
- skim milk, 2% milk, whole milk, half and half, heavy cream (none are organic, but they are pretty good!)
- cinnamon rolls
What Not To Buy:
Obviously if you are looking for organic, anything that is not marked as such is a no. I also think that many of their block cheeses are ok, but probably about worth what you pay for.
Ok, people, this has become my favorite section of Aldi! Trust me — there is some amazing produce to be found here at some of the best prices I’ve found. But here’s the deal…
You must be smart about choosing your produce. Just like at the normal grocery store, not every piece of produce is going to be perfectly ripe or at its peak season each time you visit. Case in point — Aldi can have incredible deals on avocadoes. (They are $0.19 each this week!) But if the avocado is wilted, or hard as a rock, it’s probably not a good day to buy it. The same goes for if you see any produce that looks super over- or under-ripe. If it looks iffy, you should probably wait until your next trip. Or you may need to eat it immediately, or wait a week for it to ripen if need be. But most of the time, I am completely impressed with their selection of ripe, affordable, delicious produce.
Most of their produce is also not organic, so just a heads-up if that is an important factor to you. Also many of their produce items (onions, zucchini, oranges, apples, kiwi, etc.) come in bags or in bulk. So there is not always the option to buy a single of some items.
Still, I always load up my cart with Aldi produce, so here are some of my favs!
What To Buy:
- baby carrots
- green onions
- sweet mini peppers
- specialty lettuce
- berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries)
- zucchini and yellow squash
What Not To Buy:
Again, anything that looks iffy. I find that their roma tomatoes typically are not very ripe or flavorful. And I would also offer a special note on the bananas — they are awesome, but often they are over- or under-ripe, so you need to eat them in the proper timeframe.
As I said above, I prefer to buy most of my meat organic, so I haven’t tried tons of Aldi’s refrigerated meat options. But they have some killer deals on meats, especially in their weekly fresh meat special buys! Be sure to always check for those specials when they are published each Wednesday, as they tend to disappear quickly! A lot of the meat at Aldi is also seasonal, so be sure around the holidays to check out their hams and turkeys. They are amazing!
What To Buy:
- turkey bacon
- ground turkey
- thick peppered bacon
- spiral-cut ham
What Not To Buy:
Just a heads up that their cheapest bacon is really thin and not very lean. I would “splurge” and go for one of the thicker cuts, since that is practically the same price as the inexpensive bacon at the regular grocery store!
Thus far, I have had 100% positive experiences with the canned and jarred section at Aldi. They have a great selection of your basic canned fruits and veggies, and lots of canned sauces and such to choose from. And the prices are fantastic! Once again, I would caution to read the labels. Their canned peaches have a ton of sugar, as the generic canned peaches do at most stores. And some of their sauces and soups contain more processed ingredients than I prefer, as is common in many jarred sauces. But still, don’t be scared of any of the canned produce from Aldi — it’s awesome!
What To Buy:
- canned veggies
- canned fruits
- canned beans
- jarred marinara sauce
What Not To Buy:
Anything that you might be iffy about being overly-processed. (Look for some Gimme Some Oven recipes for easy alternatives to make soups homemade!) And again, keep an eye on the sugar content with canned fruits.
To be honest, this is a section that I don’t know a ton about. I usually stick with pretty straight “ingredients” in the frozen food section — frozen fruit, fish, veggies, etc. So if any of you have insights on more of the prepared frozen foods, would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
What To Buy:
- jumbo shrimp
- fruit popsicles (pina colada, lime and strawberry)
- moose tracks ice cream
- frozen berries (strawberries, blueberries, mixed berries, etc.)
What Not To Buy:
Any of their frozen shrimp that are not “jumbo” are tiny. I have also not been super impressed with their frozen salmon. Like most salmon in that price range in any grocery stores, it seems a little lacking in flavor. Also a heads-up that most of the frozen meats are not organic.
Gah, I wish I had more experience here! I promise you guys I’m not a super health nut, but I also pretty much stick to water, tea, juices and coffee in life. So I have hardly any experience here when it comes to beverages. But my friends tell me that most of their options (like the Aldi brand of Crystal Light, teas and flavored sparkling waters) are pretty much identical to the originals. Here are a few that I have tried.
What To Buy:
- sparkling juice (I love all of them!)
- refrigerated 100% orange juice (go for the nicer of the two options for better flavor)
- Naked juice (when in stock)
- flavored sparkling water drinks
- iced tea
What Not To Buy:
I am definitely a big of a snob when it comes to my coffee. So I shy away from any of the bulk or super inexpensive coffee options, but I am sure they are comparable to their counterparts in the regular grocery store. I was also unimpressed by the cheap refrigerated orange juice — seemed to concentrate-y for me.
First of all, it’s important to point out that wine and liquors are not available in all Aldi’s. I live in KC, and our Kansas stores are not allowed to carry alcoholic beverages, but most of the Missouri locations do. So this will depend on your state.
A reminder to all who are iffy about the cheap wine at Aldi — this store is owned by the same company that is the home of 2-buck-chuck, Trader Joe’s! So before you immediately write off the drink section, I would recommend you try a bottle or two. In my experience, you get what you pay for and a little bit more. The $3 wines taste maybe like a normal $5 wine. The Bailey’s knockoff isn’t precisely like Bailey’s, but it’s darn close and a great deal for a fraction of the price. But my favorite of all time is available seasonally, and I wish it was offered yearround — Aldi’s sangria! Oh man. I never knew that I would like sangria from a bottle, but this stuff is crazy good. And you get an enormous bottle for like $4. If you see it, you must try it.
What To Buy:
- SANGRIA! (seasonal)
- wines in the $5-10 range
What Not To Buy:
I think you get what you pay for with the super inexpensive budget wines — they are definitely hit and miss.
For some reason, I held out on this section of Aldi for years, and now I have no idea why. They have some terrific household products at amazing discounts! Especially since I typically get annoyed at having to spend money on these things anyway, it’s awesome to have a more affordable option at Aldi. Two areas that I have not tried are their pet section and the makeup. Would love to have you chime in if you have experience with either of these!
What To Buy:
- disinfectant wipes
- plastic freezer and sandwich bags
- trash bags (they are thin, but they do the job)
- Crest toothpaste
- women’s razors
- pain relievers (ibuprofin, etc.)
- ultra soft & strong toilet paper
- paper towels and napkins
What Not To Buy:
You totally get what you pay for with the super cheap ($1 for 4 rolls) toilet paper. It is super thin and not very soft. But their thick TP is awesome!
My Top 10 Favorite Items At Aldi:
9. roasted red pepper hummus
8. fresh mozzarella balls
6. sea salt pita chips
5. pina colada popsicles
4. artichoke hearts
3. almond milk
Other ALDI 101 Articles:
I buy Aldi’s organic whole milk plain yogurt. It is very good. It contains live and active cultures, even though the container does not say this. I found this out by contacting them and asking. This particular yogurt is made by Stonyfield.
I love all things aldi but I have to say their pizza dough was kinda yucky, very weird consistency and the pizza sauce was completely gross, made pizza for my son and ended up with calling our pizza place and getting it delivered, the dog ate the rest of the God awful pizza, she loved it but can’t go on opinion of a dog as they eat their own poop
Aldi is not owned by Trader Joes. FYI. Aldi was started by 2 brothers in Germany. The 2 brothers (both deceased now) decided to go there separate ways. Aldi north and Aldi south. One remained with the Aldi stores and one created trader Joes. So, while the brothers were related, the 2 stores are not what-so-ever. Research it!
Not true. Trader Joe’s was started in Monrovia, CA. Aldi’s bought Trader Joe’s several years ago.
I respectfully but strongly disagree with your recommendation to buy dry-roasted almonds from Aldi. I’ve purchased both the regular roasted and smoked flavors of Southern Grove brand almonds sold at my local Aldi in Plano, Texas and they are awful. The Southern Grove smoked almonds are beyond horrible…sickeningly over-salted and the smoked flavor is so overpowering that they are inedible. Both the Great Value and Blue Diamond brands are so much better, and just one dollar more…well worth it, though, as the Aldi smoked almonds aren’t fit for consumption.
I adore their facial tissue!
The dill pickle chips are super thick AND crunchy as well as delicious.
The corn chips are AMAZING!!
I love ALDI for their quality on most items and the savings is wonderful on most items. I buy chicken there and it is often Perdue Brand. I have also tried their lean ground beef and ground turkey as well as pork chops and pork roasts. I do not like any of the pet products since I do not feed my dogs any products unless real meats (not meals & grains) are used. I can always save money there. We do not like their frozen fish, salmon, or frozen or regular yogurt. Their regular ice cream and dairy are very good.
I love ALDI for their quality on most items and the savings is wonderful on most items. I buy chicken there and it is often Perdue Brand. I have also tried their lean ground beef and ground turkey as well as pork chops and pork roasts. I do not like any of the pet products since I do not feed my dogs any products unless real meats (not meals & grains) are used. I can always save money there. We do not like their frozen fish, salmon, or frozen or regular yogurt.
Shopping at Aldi’s is always a pleasure especially seeing the great prices and surprises on their products. Nobody can beat their whole milk, it has a wonderful taste and being an avid milk drinker, I love the taste. The soy milk is wonderful and you cannot beat the price. Butter is a great buy. Eggs are priced very inexpensive and the shelf life is quite long. The Kirkland brand of chicken is very good and soft when cooked. The marinated pork tenderloin is fabulous! Corn chips are very good. The fresh fruit does vary from week to week, but I never leave without an item in the produce section. Having a water softener in the house using the 40 pound bag of salt is a real bargain. The kitchen utensils are very durable and reasonable. Will continue to shop at Aldi’s in the future on a regular basis. One must know their prices for comparison.
Wondering if you ever buy these boxed chicken stock. I know making my own is best, but at times when making soup, and not using chicken I like something quick. Have bought aldis, but seems not a lot of flavor. Just curious about your choices
Aldi’s Chefs Board chicken stock is very good.
Are Adli’s meats imported from other countries ?
Would love to see a section of no sodium foods,or low salt items more. We love Addis and are regular shoppers but have to seek elesware, for these items. Thankyou!
Their $2.98 bottle of Winking Owl Moscato is terrific! Everyone who I’ve served it to likes it, and at that price we drink wine regularly now. Cheese is the BEST deal at Aldi’s – especially goat cheese & fancy cheese like manchego. You can make a killer cheese tray affordably – including red grapes, nuts, etc.
Tip on avocados: never buy a ripe avocado! Always buy them rock hard and let them ripen on your counter. You’ll have perfect avos. If they are ripe in the store, you’ll have bruised fruit and end up throwing out a portion of it. Ripen at home and use 100% of the fruit.
Also big buy: Dole gold pineapple is always less than $2 bucks at Aldi and always sweet and delicious.
Their organic salsa (I buy mild) is awesome! Delicious flavor – my favorite salsa of any brand.
Also their Italian dressing is fantastic – again, my favorite of any brand on the market.
OMGosh! I LOVE the Winking Owl Moscato! They recently won an award for their champagne.
“Budget supermarket Aldi is winning more awards for its reasonably-priced alcohol.
Its Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut (£11/$14.50) won a Silver Outstanding medal at the International Wine and Spirits Challenge.
Aldi’s entire wine range scooped an impressive 20 accolades at the annual competition.”
I have 3 small kids and shop at Aldi in NJ.
Our regular buys are creamy peanut butter, cereal bars, rice crispies (can’t beat the price!!) whole milk yogurt, milk eggs, bagels, cream cheese, shredded cheeses, canned beans & tomatoes, fresh (peppers, onions, cucumbers, apples, berries, oranges, bananas, romaine, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, limes), frozen fruit (love), frozen chicken, and fresh meat (ribs, pork tenderloin). My kids like the frozen chicken nuggets, too! Best prices: yogurt, canned beans (0.49) and fresh berries!
Thanks for sharing with us, Meggan — isn’t Aldi the best?! :)
I found the Indian cooking sauces last week and decided on the Korma to try first. Since trying it I have to agree with other commenters (on other sites) that the sauce is overly thickened and way too sweet. I suspect that the recipe uses coconut cream. It is unlike any korma I have ever had–despite the wide variety in this popular Indian recipe. I liked the spice blend flavor, but it had no detectable cashew nut flavor which is also a mainstay of a good korma. I don’t recommend it. I did read many glowing comments about the Tika Masala sauce so I look forward to trying it.
Actually without digging too deep I have found at least one mistake. A new Aldi was opened next to our Booths supermarket and the butter is cheaper in Booths as are grapes Surely things that Aldi have to export from Germany can’t stand up against a supermarket that gets it s produce from local suppliers Has a heavy bias towards Aldi
WE REALLY LIKE THEIR SPECIALTY VANILLA ICE CREAM. IT’S SO GOOD AND BETTER THAN THE MAJOR BRANDS AND ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS. ALL THE CRACKERS ARE SO GOOD ALSO. THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEIR PRODUCTS WE LIKE. ALMOND MILK IS GREAT.
I PURCHASED BOULDER TWIN LOCK GALLON FREEZER BAGS AND WAS REALLY DISAPPOINTED. MOST OF THE BAGS SPLIT AFTER THE TWIN LOCKS. PROBABLY WONT BE BUYING THEM AGAIN
I was JUST looking for artichoke hearts at my Aldi and couldn’t find them – surprised to see them on your list! Of course our stores could just be different, but I was hoping you could tell me where in the store you find them (by the canned veggies? or the Italian stuff? or somewhere else?) so I can take a second look next time? I love this series, thanks for putting it together!
We don’t have artichokes at our local Aldi. :(
I love Aldi’s. I have not got anything there that I was not 100% pleased with. I go to Aldi’s a lot and plan on a specific item and end up spending way too much. Can’t resist the variety of things they offer. I love to browse the non-food isle. You will find everything from bed pillows to games, out door items for your yard and the list never ends. The only thing I have purchased at Aldi’s that I was not pleased with is the coffee. I have to say no matter where I buy coffee I only buy Red Diamond. For us that is the best. Aside from that, I cannot thing of anything negative to say about Aldi’s. If I had to say anything I have a problem with is the great buys they offer on things like ” Outdoor Grills ” which was a special this week. If you don’t get there the day of the sale then you lose. I wanted one of the grills so bad and by the time I got to it they were gone. They have some fantastic buys all the time but their specials are GREAT.
Please bring back your mango chipotle vinaigrettes salad dressing that’s my favorite thing to buy at aldi. Thank you
I highly recommend Aldi’s. It makes luxury affordable (e.g., fresh-squeezed juice from cheap oranges, croissants, choice rib-eye steaks.
Smoked salmon (process with cream cheese and lemon juice for dip)
In-season fruit (strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
Pink Lady apples (bag)
Butter, Milk, Half &Half
Croissants (6 for $2.50 – warm in oven for a treat)
Lightly salted almonds
Coffee (not as good as my favorite, Peet’s, but better than cheap coffee elsewhere)
Higher grade bath tissue
White flour (too chalky)
Pickles (tasted off)
I think the cheap prices were just initially to attract people and get them hooked on shopping there. I’ve noticed large price increases on items recently that now rival or exceed national brand prices. Their butter used to be $1.89 now $2.99. Vanilla extract was $1.89, now $3.99. I find my self shopping there less and less now. Going back to larger chain stores for lower prices.
It’s July 2018 and I have also noticed large price increases. Of course our Aldi opened a little over a year ago but they just remodeled the inside (?!). I’m sure that’s why.
I bought a 2 pound bag of seedless green grapes last week at Shop Rite and had to throw them away. They were small and soft, actually mushy, inedible. The bag cost $4.98. Then I went to Aldi and picked up a 2 pound bag for $2.99 and they were the best green grapes I’ve ever had: large, sweet, and so fresh they were actually crunchy! I also love the Fit and Active 100 calorie packs of chocolate wafers and the Fit and Active 90 calorie cinnamon coffee cake breakfast bars. Best part: I’m always amazed when the cashier tells me the total!! I LOVE Aldi!
What am iI missing.? Went to Aldi for the first time today. It was AWFUL…the store is dingy and looks dirty. The products are nothing but garbage food. All packaged processed crap. The meat scared me. It looked so unappealing. I am not a snob and wanted to love the place. Just one word…YUCK. Will never go back. Love Trader Joe’s but this place is just subpar.
What initially attracted me to Aldi was the price of milk. At the time, I had a teenage son going through milk like it was water. Being the food snob that I am, I didn’t even consider buying the “no name” food. Fast forward a few years, and I was in an Aldi getting milk, when I found the wine section. That introduced me to a new wine that has become one of my favorites. They recently opened a store relatively close to me which I now shop frequently. I recently tried their soft and strong toilet paper. This was a gamble for me as I am somewhat of a fanatic about a certain name brand ultra strong toilet paper. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I prefer the Aldi brand. It’s thicker but also more degradable. I’m a fan of their dairy, canned foods, and most of their cereals as well, and on my most recent trip, I found a Tikka Masala simmer sauce that blows the name brand out of the water.
I shopped at aldi’s the first time about 3 years ago. I wish I had seen these articles before I went. It might have been less confusing. The only negative thing I have is that they don’t always have the same things all or even most of the time. As an example I tried a coffee they had at a good price for the 12 oz size bag and liked it a lot but I never saw it there again. And it was their brand. Another thing I tried was their version of a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl and I found it to be at least as good as the other, but it was only available some of the times I went. There are a couple things that I buy just about every time. They are Moser Roth 70% cocoa dark chocolate bars. It looks like one very large bar, but it’s actually 5 small individually wrapped bars that total 4.4 oz and they were $1.99 last time I bought them. Great for portion control. I also like their frozen asparagus and their ice cream. They also have great prices for baked goods like basic bread, good donuts and apple fritters. Something I was pleased and surprised about was the quality of some of their inexpensive tools. Check them out before buying. I don’t go as often since I moved but I do try to go once a month if possible. I’m in Minneapolis MN and ride the bus everywhere. Thank you for your articles.
Aldi’s has organic whole milk, very good. In Kentucky !
I’m planning on stopping at Aldi’s to check it out this week. Haven’t shopped there before. Thank you for this series of posts! Loved the tutorials.