Back when I was a struggling college student, Aldi was a no-frills necessity — a grocery store I used solely because of my threadbare budget. 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 one analysis found. Aldi’s online store directory shows that it operates around 2,300 stores in 39 states. The retailer’s steady growth is led, in part, by the success of its private label products, which account for nearly 78% of sales.
After years of shopping elsewhere, I rediscovered this delightful discounter several 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.
1. 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 $5.99, two dollars cheaper than my local Walmart’s price.
At Aldi, organic Chiquita bananas sell for about the same price as non-organic bananas at other stores. I picked up a bunch for $0.64 per pound.
2. 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 are by Aldi’s private label Simply Nature. A 14-ounce bag of organic, non-GMO cashews costs $8.09, and a 12-ounce bag of organic, non-GMO granola cereal is priced at $2.65.
Considering the past few years, who isn’t looking for 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 $5 and $10 a bottle.
If there’s a dinner party in your future, pick up a bottle of Corte Bella Dark Red semi-sweet wine 2020 for $5.99 or William Wright Chardonnay 2021 for $6.99.
Want to go cheaper? Try Aldi’s private label Winking Owl. A bottle of Winking Owl Moscato will set you back a mere $3.45.
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.”
Check out Emporium Selection, another Aldi brand. I picked up an 8-ounce package of Habenero Jack for $1.99 and a 6-ounce wedge of Gouda for $3.59. Both were fresh and wonderful.
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 Fair Trade-certified dark roast ground coffee costs $3.95. That’s a good deal considering that a 12-ounce bag of Lavazza coffee currently sells for more than twice that amount on Amazon.
Going organic? Simply Nature offers a 12-ounce bag of organic, Fair Trade, non-GMO whole bean coffee for $6.19. Seriously, if the caffeine doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the savings will.
6. Olive oil
For a below-average cook, I go through a surprising amount of olive oil. Thankfully, Aldi’s got my back. A 16.9-ounce bottle of Carlini brand olive oil sells for only $3.49, and the extra-virgin variety is $5.09.
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 Aldi brands. From truffles to classic milk chocolate bars, Choceur has all the hallmarks of a master chocolatier.
Pick up a massive 200-gram (about 7 ounces) Choceur dark chocolate and hazelnut bar for $2.49 or an 11-ounce box of milk chocolate-covered almonds for $3.99.
8. Canned soup
On a scale of 1 to 10, my culinary skills are a solid 4. No surprise then that 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 $2.89, a price that’s on par with a much smaller (18.5-ounce) can of Progresso soup.
9. Jasmine rice
I use jasmine rice as a base for stir-fries, but it’s also great as a side dish. (Just steam and mix in a little cilantro and lime juice.)
Sold under Aldi’s Specially Selected brand, a 5-pound bag of imported jasmine rice costs $5.59. That’s significantly less than comparable products on Amazon.
10. Ice cream
Let’s wrap things up with dessert. A 48-ounce carton of Sea Salt Caramel ice cream by Aldi’s Sundae Shoppe brand sells for $3.19. That’s the lowest price I’ve seen for any brand in any store. How sweet it is!