Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
Shopping regularly at Aldi can save you money, but if you’re not careful, you can end up spending as much or more than you would at a regular grocery store.
Here are some tips to help you sort out the best — and worst — deals at Aldi.
Note: Prices were accurate as of the time of publication but may have changed.
Buy the basics
If you need milk, eggs, and other basics, shopping at Aldi will save you money.
Even with inflation, eggs still cost less than $2 per dozen, and even the organic eggs, at $3.55, are cheaper than most grocery stores and food cooperatives.
Milk, at $2.66 per gallon, is also reasonable. Even the organic, almond and soy milks cost less at Aldi than most other stores.
Other basics like butter, sandwich bread and cereal also typically cost less than most grocery stores, too.
But be careful with the bacon
Regular bacon, turkey bacon and bulk breakfast sausage are cost savers. But the price of bacon can range from $3.99 to $4.79 all the way up to $7.49 and sometimes even higher.
And although I’ve noticed a slight difference in quality between the regular bacon and the applewood smoked, thick-cut bacon, it’s not big enough to justify the cost.
Eat your vegetables
Unless I’m shopping directly with a farmer, practically all my produce comes from Aldi. Produce basics — think bananas, romaine lettuce and onions — all cost less at Aldi.
Even the organic produce section also typically costs way less, and the 1-pound container of organic mixed greens is way cheaper than mixed greens at almost any other store.
Fresh cilantro is another good deal, and Aldi recently started carrying some other varieties of herbs in containers.
They’re also a good deal, but Aldi usually only sells two or three varieties, and if you’ve got your heart set on tarragon, you probably won’t find it here.
But beware of trendy produce
One of the worst deals I’ve seen at Aldi are the trendy vegetables and fruits.
Think Cotton Candy grapes, which cost about $8 a bag, or three small portions of berries in one container. They’re placed at the beginning of the produce aisle, and as tempting as they are, they will not help you save money.
Bagged salads, while cheaper than other stores, also cost more than mixing it yourself.
Aldi’s can-do attitude
Aldi rocks at almost everything that’s shelf-stable. Whether it’s boxed mac and cheese, canned tomato paste or bagged beans, this non-refrigerated aisle is where you should stock up.
Basic cooking oils, vinegars and condiments are also way cheaper at Aldi, as are nuts, cookies and potato chips.
If you have to make school lunches, you’ll find plenty of bargains for lunch boxes.
But avoid name brands
It’s best to avoid anything that has a name brand on it at Aldi. Name brands always cost more than the Aldi store brands.
The LaCroix seltzer water always costs way more than the Aldi Belle Vie brand. The same goes for Oreo cookies versus Benton’s sandwich cookies. If you’re using the cookies to make a pie crust, there absolutely is no reason to buy the name brand.
Campbell’s Soup and Cheerios might cost less at Aldi than other grocery stores, but Aldi will not accept any coupons so you probably can find them cheaper elsewhere.
Salt, pepper and basic dried spices cost way less at Aldi than any other grocery store. Most can be had for about $1, and whether you need cinnamon for your oatmeal or if you’re looking for a seasonal blend for grilling steaks, Aldi’s is way cheaper.
It’s also worth noting that Aldi also regularly carries some tubes of basil, garlic and cilantro, which are great to have on hand, and its selection of spices and spice blends has expanded in recent years.
That said, if you absolutely need to have a specific spice — say, celery seed for your tuna salad or turmeric for your curry — it’s hit or miss, and you might not be able to find it.
Also, it’s worth noting that while Aldi does sell fresh peppercorns in a grinder, it doesn’t sell them by themselves.
It’s not cheesy to read the fine print
Block cheese, which costs about $1.99 per half pound, is an amazing deal at Aldi. Aldi also sells gourmet cheeses, from imported Manchego to fresh chevre, that also cost way less than most grocery stores. But it’s important to read the fine print on the cheese.
Aldi makes it easy to comparison shop, as it lists the price per ounce in smaller print on almost every price tag in the store. That’s how I could easily see the thick-cut shredded cheddar cheese costs 27.2 cents per ounce versus 21.9 cents per ounce for regular shredded cheddar cheese.
Cheese is not the only item you should read the fine print on at Aldi. You should definitely read the fine print on meat, poultry and fish at Aldi.
Typically, frozen meat and fish will be less expensive than fresh, but within those categories, there can be a wide variation in pricing and specific offerings.
Ground beef, both fresh and frozen, tends to be better priced at Aldi, but you need to shop around because sometimes other stores have better sales.
Frozen salmon, cod and shrimp are often better priced at Aldi than anywhere else, but fresh salmon tends to be more on the expensive side.
Bake your cake and eat it, too
If you need sugar, flour or baking powder, you’re not going to find it cheaper than at Aldi. You’ll also find pie fillings, brown sugar, yeast and vanilla extract for less than most other stores.
Aldi also sells a variety of chocolate chips, cake mixes and even gluten-free mixes for less. That said, it doesn’t sell straight gluten-free flour.
It sells a gluten-free baking mix, and if you’re looking for certain cake decorating items out of season, you might need to look to other stores.
But Aldi fans regularly post on social media elaborate wedding cakes and cookies that they’ve made with all-Aldi ingredients, so most of your baking needs can be taken care of for much less money.
Look for red stickers
Red stickers, indicating 50 cents, $1 off and even $2 off, can lead you to bargains. I’ve found meat, fish, milk and bread with these stickers, and they’re invariably a fantastic deal.
Most recently, I stocked up on fresh chicken thighs that were nearing but not on their sell-by date, and after purchasing double, the extra packages went straight into my basement freezer.
Here today, gone tomorrow … along with your budget
Aldi regularly stocks seasonal items that are only in stores for a short time, and they’re marked with a “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” tag.
While they can be fun — my mother-in-law adores their chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies that come out around the holidays — these are usually pricier than regular items.
If you absolutely have to have the gluten-free pumpkin doughnuts or the spring macarons, just know that they’re usually not an especially good deal when it comes to your budget.
Many of these seasonal items will be marked down when it’s slightly past the season or when Aldi’s ready to introduce other new products. I’ve found, for example, several of their German specialty items (Aldi is a German company) on sale a few weeks later.
But sometimes, these items are going, going, gone, and if you really want them, you won’t be able to buy them until they come back into Aldi’s stocking cycle a year later.
Wine and dine
Aldi’s selection of wine, beer, hard selzer and hard cider is more extensive than you might think, and there are definite bargains to be had.
Aldi fans wax poetic about the Winking Owl wine brand, which costs about $3 per bottle, and some fans even drive to Aldi stores out of state if their state’s liquor laws prevent their sale.
Beyond the nocturnal bird brand, Storm Chaser red blend is a good wine for fans of Apothic, and Sunshine Bay is pretty good for fans of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Aldi now carries hard root beer, session IPAs and even a hard seltzer lemonade pack that rival name brands.
You won’t find hard spirits, and the wine-based margarita beverages and Irish cream aren’t technically spirits because they’re actually made with wine, but they’re easy to drink, and they’re also pretty easy on your pocketbook.
If you’re looking for wine publication or beer publication-rated products, Aldi won’t have them. But if you need a brew for a barbecue or a wine for a brunch, you can probably find something you’ll enjoy, and it will be under $20, if not under $10.
Register those at-the-register prices
Finally, don’t be tempted to grab items from the displays at or near the cash register.
The sparkling water costs about $1 each, when the whole pack of 12 or 6 costs less than $4. Same for the candy.
But the alcohol by the register (at least in a few Aldi stores I go to) is often marked down. Go figure!