Back when I was a poor college student, Aldi was a no-frills necessity — a grocery store I used solely because my threadbare budget told me to.
Stores were dim and dated, selection was limited, and transactions were strictly cash-only.
What a difference a few decades can make.
Today’s Aldi stores are bright and modern, and the inventory has evolved from bare-bones-basic to slightly chic. Yet the low prices remain — beating out the prices of even Walmart, as a recent analysis found.
The company says that it operates at least 1,900 stores in 36 states and that more than 90% of its products are Aldi brands.
After years of shopping elsewhere, I rediscovered this delightful discounter about five years ago and have never looked back.
Following are my favorite things to buy at Aldi. The prices quoted are from my local store, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Confession: I have a thing for chocolate. Over the years, I’ve developed a fairly refined palate that can quickly discern the “good stuff” from the “not-so-good stuff” — after all, there really is no bad chocolate, is there?
I’m happy to report that for the price, Aldi has some of the finest chocolate around, most of it produced in Germany, Belgium and Austria.
Choceur is one of my favorite private-label Aldi brands. From truffles to dark chocolate covered coconut almonds, Choceur has all the hallmarks of a master chocolatier.
Pick up a massive, 200-gram (about 7 ounces) Choceur dark chocolate and almond bar for $3.79 or an 11-ounce box of Choceur milk chocolate-covered almonds for $3.99.
I’m not a coffee snob, but I do love — or more accurately, require — a few cups of strong brew in the morning. Thankfully, Aldi gets me.
Aldi’s Barrisimo brand coffee can compete with the very best beans out there. A 12-ounce bag of organic, single-origin, Fair Trade, whole bean coffee costs $4.99 — a deal considering that a 10-ounce bag of Kicking Horse organic, Fair Trade coffee recently sold for substantially more on Amazon.
Non-organic options are even less expensive. I’m a fan of Barrisimo’s Fair Trade French Roast ($3.79 for a 12-ounce bag). Seriously, if the caffeine doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the savings will.
With the holidays upon us, who isn’t looking for a few ways to save on wine?
Though laws in some states restrict or prohibit the sale of alcohol in grocery stores, my local Aldi has a respectable selection. I counted nearly 40 brands of red, rose, white and sparkling wine — most priced between $4.49 and $9.99 a bottle.
If there’s a dinner party in your future, pick up a bottle of Copperwood Merlot 2016 or Antoine Delaune Chardonnay 2018 for $5.99 each.
Want to go cheaper? Try Aldi’s private-label Winking Owl. A bottle of Winking Owl Moscato will set you back a mere $3.
4. Canned soup
On a scale of 1 to 10, my culinary skills are a solid 4. As a result, canned soup is a staple in my kitchen. I use it as a base, adding loads of steamed vegetables and rice to make healthier and more substantial stews.
Aldi’s Deutsche Küche brand soup is this lousy cook’s best friend. Varieties include German Bean, Harvest Potato, Harvest Vegetable and Hearty Pea. Each 28-ounce can sells for $1.99, a price that’s on par with a much smaller (19-ounce) can of Progresso soup.
Tip: I find German Bean to be the hardest-to-find Deutsche Küche soup. If you become a fan of this delicious soup, remember to buy multiples when you see it.
5. Organic food
In response to consumer demand, most grocery stores now offer organic options. Aldi is staying competitive by carrying a wide selection of organically grown produce and organic and/or non-GMO packaged items.
Two of my favorites include organic Linden Cinnamon Lemon tea by Benner Tea Co. (another private-label Aldi brand). An 11.2-ounce bottle costs $1.79.
And Aldi’s Simply Nature organic granola cereal is a staple at my house. At $2.99 for a 12-ounce bag, it’s a better deal than similar products I’ve seen elsewhere.
It may sound crackers, but Aldi is the place for cheese.
My local store carries Gouda, Camembert, brie, Asiago, and several varieties of goat cheese. The cheese selection alone is proof of Aldi’s international reach and makes it the perfect place to stop on a Friday afternoon for weekend “essentials.”
Though prices on cheese and other European products may increase due to recent government tariffs, Aldi’s gourmet cheeses won’t shred your budget — at least not yet.
I picked up an 8-ounce package of Emporium Selection brand fresh mozzarella for $2.39 and a 7-ounce package of Specially Selected brand Gouda for $2.99. Both brands are private-label Aldi brands and both were wonderful.
7. Fresh produce
Though Aldi’s produce section isn’t as extensive as most other grocery stores, it covers the basics well and its prices can’t be “beet.”
A 10-pound bag of Wisconsin-grown russet potatoes is $3.79, a few cents cheaper than my Walmart’s price.
Chiquita bananas are an “a-peeling” 41 cents per pound — lower than many grocers’ sale prices.
Avocados are always on my shopping list — and they always seem to be slightly larger and fresher at Aldi. Hass avocados run 89 cents each, cheap enough to make avocado toast for the whole family.
Do you shop at Aldi? What are your favorite go-to items? Share in a comment below or on our Facebook page.