If anyone ever decides mustard is unhealthy, our family is in trouble.
We go through about a bottle a month, which is pretty remarkable for a condiment that sits in most people’s refrigerators until children marry off and take it with them as a paperweight.
Mustard is one of those foods that’s hard to mess up – unlike ketchup, it doesn’t have a sweetener. It needs no fat, so that can’t go wrong. And rarely if ever do you see MSG in it. We consume it with abandon!
It’s nice to be able to get some basics for cheap (you’ve seen my food budget this year, so you know I have been increasing spending in many areas, by choice).
A lot of people think that you can’t find real food at discount stores like Aldi and Save-a-Lot, but I disagree.
If “real food” means to you “only organic, grassfed, pastured, etc.” then
no – you’re not going to find that at Aldi. Updated 2015 – Aldi has added quite a bit of organic produce, grassfed organic beef, some organic cans and boxed foods and a gluten-free line. Impressive!!!
But if real food can simply mean FOOD – with one ingredient, things that grow in the ground – then you can find plenty of basic staples at Save-a-Lot if you like.
The What Does a Real Foodie Buy At…? series is generously sponsored by Plan to Eat, where you can use the Grocery Store Menu to organize your shopping by grocery store and even set defaults for certain items to go on the list where it’s least expensive.
UPDATE 2016: This is a far more comprehensive and updated post – 25 Reasons a Real Real Foodie Should Shop at ALDI. Head over there!
Here’s what I still buy at Aldi and Save-a-Lot
- black pepper
- brown rice (some stores have it)
- jasmine rice
- frozen peas
- dried beans and lentils
- salsa (sometimes, although bummed about the white sugar)
- sour cream (Aldi brand, surprisingly, has no random fillers like most brands)
- produce: bananas, avocados (always a great deal), pineapples, sometimes other fruits (but watch the quality closely), cauliflower, broccoli, baby carrots, peppers, onions, sometimes cucumbers, sweet potatoes, organic apples, organic bananas, asparagus in season, pea pods, zucchini, potatoes, and more.
Is their produce organic? No. But I don’t always buy organic;I just can’t stomach the cost or always even find it. I can’t be scared of every vegetable…
- vinegar (for cleaning)
- baking soda
- plastic zippered bags (which I use infrequently but still need to have on hand)
- canned salmon (Aldi has Alaskan salmon – as long as it’s wild caught, for something like salmon patties, I’m not going to be too picky! I think Save-a-Lot’s brand is caught somewhere sketchy…)
- Update 2015:
- gluten-free crackers, testing out the GF pasta
- organic frozen fruit
- cheese and shredded cheese
- organic spaghetti sauce (no sugars at all!)
- some fun root veggie chips (indulgence!)
- It is SO worth stopping in an Aldi if you have one nearby! They’re adding new products constantly and definitely leaning toward healthy eating.
I used to always buy canned tomatoes at Aldi or Save-a-Lot, and I would never tell you not to. Yes, there’s BPA in the cans. Yes, that’s no good. But is it a reason to stress out and spend more than your budget will allow on tomatoes?
And anyone who makes you feel horribly about buying tomatoes, for goodness sake, should be ashamed of themselves.
They’re least expensive at Aldi, and I still have some “backups” in my cupboard from there. I’m not going to throw them out just because of the can linings.
Now can you do better than that on a budget? Possibly, yes.
Best case scenario for canned tomatoes on the cheap is, certainly, to can your own. But if that’s simply not something you can do, then you shouldn’t feel like you have to avoid tomatoes just because you can’t afford them in fancy glass jars. Second best is to try Costco, where they sell BPA free cans of organic tomato products. (Here’s what else I buy at Costco.)
But if Aldi or Save-a-Lot or a sale at your local big box store is your best option, then you say your meal prayers, enjoy your from-scratch cooking, and focus on the fact that you’re getting great lycopene and other nutrients from those tomatoes.
With that in mind, and remembering that many budgets aren’t able to stretch like mine has recently, here’s what I used to buy when budget took more priority than organics:
- canned beans
- pasta and sauce
- lemon juice
- canned fruit
- cheese – know your price point! A good sale is often better than Aldi’s shredded cheese price…
- (sometimes) nuts and dried fruit – you really need to know price point on these, because often Aldi’s nuts are in 8 oz. packages and more expensive than many other options.
On Animal Products
Do I buy meat, eggs, milk or cheese at Aldi?
I do try hard to source my animal products from sources that raise their animals on the foods God intended them to eat.
If conventional was all I could afford or find, I’d cut down on the amount I ate and potentially buy them in their whole sources at Aldi. You gotta eat something…
Here’s a post I wrote when I first started blogging about Healthy Meals at Aldi and Save-a-Lot – a good reminder of from whence I came and some grace for you wherever you are on your journey!
Your turn! What do you buy at the deep discount grocery stores?
Check out the rest of the What Does a Real Foodie Buy At…? series.