I’m actually a SuperFan of something.
From a gal who watched every Spartan home basketball game in person during her 4 years at Michigan State but spent most of the time crowd watching and asking, “What happened?” and who now could care less about them; a gal who has no brand loyalty or fashion sense of any kind; one who would leave her mother’s favorite JIF peanut butter and Aim toothpaste for the inexpensive store brand in a hot second…this is big news.
I’ve written recently about how I’m making an intentional, dedicated effort this year to cut our food budget, and one of the steps I took was to go back to ALDI after some years without shopping there often. I did some price comparisons and some aisle by aisle inspection of everything they had, and, well…
I’m now a weekly ALDI shopper.
I’ve mentioned happy things about my shopping trips there on social media, and it’s always met with mixed reactions, from skepticism to fandom:
- “You shop at ALDI? I didn’t think there would be anything there for you…”
- “I love ALDI!!!!!”
I guess ALDI must have caught wind of my new interest, because they invited me to participate in a blogger visit to their corporate office and Test Kitchen, and let’s just say they did an incredible job.
I’m totally an ALDI SuperFan now.
And it must run in the family, because I joked with my mother-in-law that they had a picture of her on their wall with “Best Michigan Customer Ever” beneath it. She could practically play a recorded voice of herself answering the question, “This is good, where did you get it?”
The answer? Always “ALDI.”
I think she was pretty jealous that I got to go to ALDI and she had to stay home with my kids! But I brought some goodies back to share, don’t worry.
Can You Buy My Opinion?
I often add a little personality to my required disclosures at the bottom of sponsored posts and giveaways with something like this:
This post is sponsored by [company name] and I received products at no charge for my review, but my opinions are my own. Wild horses couldn’t drag anything dishonest or inflated out of me, and I wouldn’t let money change my stubborn mind.
So rest assured that while ALDI did sponsor this post, my high regard for their products and mission is 100% genuine.
I’m here to dispel the doubt and scatter the skeptics today –
Yes, Real Foodie, You CAN Shop at ALDI!
Let me count the reasons why:
1. Affordable Basics
Real foodies make a LOT from scratch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t shop anywhere but farms. I can only get meat, milk and produce direct from farmers, and for most of the year in Michigan, produce isn’t really a fresh option. I still need plenty of supplies to make all my homemade stuff, and ALDI delivers with the best prices on most staples like dry and canned beans, tomatoes, and applesauce; white and brown rice; spices, mustard, sour cream, pickles, and more.
Plus, real foodies can’t make everything they eat from scratch. We did a blind side-by-side taste test at the ALDI Test Kitchen, and the ALDI tortilla chips were definitely better than the national brand – Tostito’s. The cost savings is intense, with Tostito’s averaging well over $3 a bag and ALDI chips at only $1.19. They’re not organic, but they DO carry organic tortilla chips (blue ones!). I’m sold!
2. High Turnover = Fresh Foods
One of the ways ALDI streamlines their whole system to keep consumer prices down is by only carrying items that have a high turnover rate. They simply will never stock something that a person would only buy once a year. It takes too much shelf space. Every single item in their store sells well in high volumes.
This means they are constantly moving items out which is good for business and the bottom line (which is passed on to you with lower prices) but the added bonus is that all their products, produce included, should be really fresh. It’s never sitting there forever waiting to be taken to the reduced produce rack.
ALDI has the best prices in my area on mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, bananas, green onion, radishes, celery, cilantro, avocados, and most fruits, especially when they’re in season. Those are the items I buy regularly at ALDI and can’t live without in my real food kitchen!
3. No Synthetic Colors
This one is really rare and so exciting!
The “ALDI Fresh Commitment” means that all ALDI-exclusive brands (which is by far most of their store’s stock) will have NO synthetic colors at all. What a joy for parents of kids who are sensitive to artificial food dyes!!! I noticed the shift in my store inspection last spring when I read the pickle jar – you should have seen my eyebrows hit the ceiling when I realized I had discovered the first shelf-stable jar of pickles without yellow no. 5 that wasn’t a deluxe, high-end expensive brand.
Score for families!!
4. No Added MSGs
Part two of the new commitment is to kick MSGs to the curb, another huge win for children.
MSG sneaks into all sorts of things, even those marketed for kids like fish crackers, and it’s really really common in anything that’s supposed to be spicy and flavorful, like ranch dressing, seasoned chips, and spiced nuts.
There are still ingredients that may react like MSG in one’s body, so you should be familiar with the list, but there’s more good news about how to avoid those further down this post.
5. No Trans Fats
The last feature of the ALDI Fresh Commitment is no partially hydrogenated oils. The federal government is banning those all together, but they’re much more slow moving on their requirements. ALDI is ahead of the game and is doing their best to replace those ingredients with better, whole food options.
6. Organic Produce
ALDI carries select organic produce, like greens, bananas, carrots, grape tomatoes, apples and more (varies slightly by location). It can’t replace your health food store or organic farmer for variety, but that’s exactly the point: ALDI only carries products that have a high turnover so it’s always fresher – and less expensive.
7. SimplyNature Brand
This ALDI exclusive brand is mostly organic but almost more importantly, it comes with a guarantee NOT to include 125 processed ingredients.
The list includes tons of those “I can’t pronounce them and don’t know what they are” preservatives, thickeners and flavor enhancers, including some that I definitely recognize and rejoice in avoiding:
- Most (all?) artificial sweeteners including Nutrasweet (aspartame) and Sucralose, two that seem to be everywhere
- Potassium benzote and potassium sorbate, another pair I see everywhere
- Shortening and margarine
- TBHQ and BHA/BHT, preservatives that are really hard to avoid
- Irradiated foods
- Bromated flour and Brominated vegetable oil, sure marks of food processing
- Vanillin, synthetic vanilla flavoring that many react to
- And get ready to rejoice: High fructose corn syrup
- More here.
This is where the good news about MSG comes back, because some of the 125 banned ingredients are those that react like MSG, such as autolyzed yeast extract.
About the only item I can think of that I really really want to see more of on that list is soy. Soybean oil in particular and processed products made from soy. BUT it’s 125 steps in the right direction, and I applaud them! This is a commitment I rarely see anywhere else.
8. Soy Free Potential
When I asked readers what they wanted to see at ALDI, the number one response was no soy.
ALDI doesn’t have an entire soy-free line, but the great news is that on their SimplyNature and liveGfree product lines, allergens are very clearly marked on the package:
LOTS of the liveGfree products also are soy free!
9. Gluten-Free Options Galore
This is where ALDI is really setting themselves apart from other “discount” grocery stores. They introduced some gluten-free products as “Special Buys” which are limited time only, and the customer response was so overwhelming that they made those products permanent items and have been adding more and more over the past few years.
The liveGfree line now has over 30 different products with lots of flavor variations, and a great many of them are also lactose-free and soy-free. The ingredients are refreshingly simple in my opinion. They are also very good at clearly marking their naturally gluten-free products outside of liveGfree, like broth, rice cakes, chips, etc.
10. Non-GMO Project Certified Products
Genetically modified foods are a big conversation in our current culture, with labeling laws coming up for votes in many states. GMO foods do not have to be labeled in most states, but ALDI is proud to have quite a few products certified by the non-GMO Project and more in the process of being certified.
Those are clearly labeled, and also, ALDI is amazing at responding to customer requests (it’s how they know they’ll have products with high turnover!) so the more people who comment on Facebook and send messages to their customer service requesting non-GMO foods and labeling, the more likely we are to see it happen, just like the gluten-free foods.
11. Fair Trade Coffee
I didn’t expect to see fair trade coffee at a small store with low prices, but there it was.
12. Sustainable Chocolate
It gets better.
I’m not a coffee person actually, but I am a huuuuuuge chocolate person. I hadn’t even looked at ALDI chocolates in the past, to be honest, because I didn’t quite have the right impression of their quality in my head. Turns out that many of their chocolates are UTZ Certified, which means they “are supporting sustainable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly cocoa farming.”
They are also supporting my blog writing, since I copied that from the bar that has been sitting by my desk all week, ahem.
13. 85% Dark Chocolate
This may seem like I’m repeating myself, but believe me – this one deserves its own topic.
It’s all well and good to have well-sourced chocolate, but if it doesn’t have a great mouthfeel and taste, forget it.
I’ve tried a lot of brands of fancy dark chocolate over the past few years, expensive stuff mostly. In fact, to support our church’s building fund, I am giving up buying dark chocolate for myself for 3 years and giving the money to the church (although I may have used my free Vitacost referral credit on bars of chocolate!!!).
Can I just tell you how thrilled I am that ALDI gave me some chocolate while I was there – 85% dark, that’s the really, really, good stuff and can be so bitter that it’s not even enjoyable – and it’s probably the creamiest, best 85% dark I’ve had???
I am just disappointed I only got one bar! I think I know what I’ll ask for from my mother-in-law for Christmas, and she’ll know right where to buy it.
(I’m sorry to say it’s not soy-free chocolate – but keep asking and maybe they’ll get some!!)
14. Simple Ingredients
I’m an obsessive label reader, and I know clean ingredients when I see them. I have been pleasantly surprised time and again to find simple, whole food ingredients on many ALDI brand products:
- Friendly Farms is the only brand of sour cream I’ll buy other than Daisy (which is pricey) – it doesn’t have random corn-based fillers like all the others.
- Their pesto has olive oil instead of vegetable oil and looks pretty much like what I make homemade.
- Their gluten-free cereals were a very nice surprise – lightly sweetened with natural sweeteners, no preservatives, and simple whole grains. My kids get cereal every Friday, and I love spending under $3/box instead of over $5 for health food store cereal!
15. Fancy Meats and Cheeses
At the ALDI Test Kitchen I got to taste a whole bunch of their Specially Selected private label – the sleek, attractive black packaging that I usually pass by because they’re not my staples.
So I’m totally bringing meat and cheese appetizer trays for every social function from now on!
So easy, so delicious, and with their simple ingredients and low prices for high-class foods, I’m smitten. I got to try blueberry goat cheese, fig spread, brie and plum jelly, fancy olives, prosciutto and other meats, and so much more.
Way. Beyond. Expectations.
If you haven’t been to ALDI lately and you’re a cheese fan, I challenge you to try them. In the blind taste test, the ALDI havarti kicked butt over the national brand, which was way too salty – and almost double the price.
16. Gluten-Free Beer
I hear their hard apple cider is not only less expensive than most, but delicious. On my list for the next trip!
17. Hormone Free Milk
18. Grass-fed Ground Beef
No compromise here – ALDI organic, grass-fed ground beef is only $6.99/pound, and it cooks up awesome. We used it in our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse (and quite a few other ALDI products have cameos in the videos, including the sour cream, blocks of cheese, and rice).
I was taking photos for this post and was told that I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the store (oops!!!), and I was so thankful the store manager didn’t make me delete the ones I had already taken since shopping with two kids is hard enough already…I hadn’t gotten to the meat section yet, so this photo is TOTAL contraband that I snuck when I wasn’t supposed to!!!
(And then of course on the official ALDI store tour I could take pictures of anything I wanted, duh. I was trying to be well prepared!)
19. Better Greek Yogurt
One of the side-by-side taste tests was strawberry Greek yogurt vs. Chobani brand. I was sure the ALDI brand would end up being the one that was less thick, sickeningly sweet and a bit gritty with starch – but I was very pleasantly surprised to be wrong!
(Of course I prefer to make a gallon of my easy homemade yogurt every week at home, but sometimes it’s nice to grab a carton at the store. ALDI recently added organic yogurt!)
20. Sustainable Salmon
I buy all my frozen and canned salmon at ALDI, because it’s all wild Alaskan and far better prices than anywhere else. I think some of their salmon is Atlantic/farmed, and I haven’t really checked other seafood because we don’t buy it, but it’s their policy to stock sustainable seafood – another breath of fresh air that I definitely don’t see everywhere!!
21. Conservation Focus
Many real foodies care about their earth deeply, and I’m impressed and humbled that ALDI commits to recycling 100% of their cardboard boxes. Plus the smaller, energy-saving stores and recycled bags and cartons capture the very essence of conservation.
They don’t even offer icky plastic grocery bags as the free default, which both saves the earth and your nickel! (You can buy paper or plastic bags there if you don’t bring your own, but they are very thick and good for reusing too.)
22. Canned Pumpkin…
…for my healthy pumpkin pie recipe this time of year. I actually prefer to roast my own pumpkins, but if you can’t do that in your area, it’s awesome to know you can get the canned pumpkin for less when you need it! The baking section is pretty robust and they’re adding more spices (at 99c a bottle usually!) all the time. Yay!
23. Generous Employee Policies
You might expect a discount company to cut corners on employee benefits and wages (I’m looking at you, store with a W!), but ALDI is the opposite. Their employees enjoy ergonomically correct chairs at checkout and full benefits and 401(k) at only 25 hours a week. If you know a single mom who needs a job, tell them to find an ALDI!
24. Lower Prices and an Efficiency Mindset
Real food (all food!) is expensive enough and only getting worse these days. There’s no need to spend more money when you don’t have to.
ALDI has truly focused on streamlining everything about the company, from shelf-ready packaging to barcodes on all four sides of each product (have you seen how FAST you can check out there??? A total bonus for busy moms juggling cranky children!!!), from setting up the warehouse in the same layout as the stores so everything is delivered in aisle-ready order to including two flavors in one box to save shelf space.
Their prices are low, but it’s not because their quality is compromised. In fact, the opposite is true:
25. Commitment to Being the Best
The ALDI Test Kitchen does extensive blind taste tests on every product at least twice a year. Their goal is to be the same or better than the national brands, and based on my experience, they are very, very successful at that goal. (The only product I felt that missed was their orange juice, which I don’t really buy anyway because it’s a non-essential.)
Yes…a Real Foodie Really Can Shop at ALDI
Real foodies have trouble finding coupons and rarely can get a deal on food, but ALDI makes it possible to buy well-sourced, delicious food at actual discount prices.
**Insert sigh of relief here**
I shopped at ALDI for quite a while before I got to visit them, and in fact the cast of six children for the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse was fueled off-camera by a plethora of ALDI products, from the SimplyNature veggie chips, nut bars, squeeze fruit pouches and trail mix to the liveGfree crackers and bread. My eCourse budget thanks ALDI for helping the bottom line, and my kids thank ALDI for all that fun food for four days of filming!!!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by ALDI and I did receive a trip to their corporate headquarters. But I think you know what I’m going to say about wild horses and stuff…and even chocolate and wine can’t buy my opinion (although admittedly it might come close).