Checking Out ALDI

The last few weeks I have challenged myself to eat everything in my house.
I was trying to clear out my pantry and freezer of random items, so that meant random frozen mystery soup? Heat it up! Unidentified packet of spice mix? Throw it on the soup! Often it lead to delicious meals like this, so yeah, it kind of worked out.

I took this weekend to do the opposite, stock the house up! Hooray. I love grocery shopping (and washing dishes, I realize this makes me a freak). So I stopped into all my favorite stores for supplies.

Saigon Market, a local ethnic market, I bought brown rice (3lbs for $4!) brown rice noodles, curry paste, coconut milk, coconut powder (whoa, looking forward to trying it), water chestnuts, red chili flakes, dill, oregano, chicken bouillon cubes and a huge piece of fresh ginger. All for the lovely price of $19.65!

I hit Kroger and Fresh Thyme for the usual staples of fresh and frozen produce, meat, beans, pasta, coffee and cheese. My local Kroger gets ALOT of competition, so their sale and Kroger specific items are usually priced really well. Fresh Thyme has amazing deals on fresh produce and meats – and they have an awesome bulk section.

After all this, I finally tried ALDI. There are two ALDI near me and friends RAVE about it. It’s the best place for “staples” I’d heard over and over again. So after a work meeting on Saturday (gross) I popped over to the location in Newport, KY. I was familiar with the ALDI model (you pay a returnable quarter for a carriage, you bring your own bags, products are stocked in their original packaging, all to keep pricing low). Fun fact: ALDI is also owned by the same German company as Trader Joe’s – which I love, so I was assured the quality was good. ALDI will also go full organic/banning pesticides in the next year, so that was intriguing to me as well.

I didn’t need a ton of stuff, but I can always browse and find a few things, so I headed over confident I would love it. I walked in and was….underwhelmed. Immediately, I didn’t like the lighting and set-up. Again, I KNOW that’s part of their model, but I love to grocery shop and this did not give me the happy grocery vibes (which can be found anywhere – see 700 sq ft cramped and disorganized  ethnic markets I love so much).

I headed down the first aisle, chock full of cookies, chips, cereal, nuts, crackers and fruit snacks. I don’t really buy those “middle aisle” things so I kept moving. The produce section had some good deals:  bananas were .29c/lb,  a bag of onions was $2.00 and pint of mushrooms were .69c all good prices! My Kroger runs about the same on some of their items so I wasn’t really blown away.

Next! I headed down the pasta, rice, sauce, personal care aisle. I couldn’t find lasagna sheets (I may have missed them), and I didn’t see many (if any) whole wheat/brown rice options – though there were several organic white flour options.They didn’t have wild rice, but I found a prepack long rain and wild rice mix for .99c at the checkout. In personal care, which was a small section of toothpastes, TP, paper towels, face washes etc. I didn’t find any shaving cream, which I needed.  I picked up some toilet paper and headed to the frozen and dairy aisles.

They boast ALOT of frozen prepared foods, chicken dishes, Asian dishes, even frozen lobster tails (what?). I’ve heard they have great frozen produce, but honestly I didn’t look. Over to dairy. A half gallon of milk was .99c and a dozen of eggs was .69c. Neither was organic, but EXCELLENT prices!  They did have things like almond milk and Greek yogurt, but after searching the yogurt section, I couldn’t find plain. Just plain, no flavor. Hmmm.  The cheese section was small selection but great prices on what they had, 4oz goat cheese logs were $1.99 each (often these are $3.99 or more at other stores) and I picked up a container of Parmesan cheese for $.199 (usually $3.99 or more elsewhere).

At checkout, there was no line, even on a Saturday afternoon and the cashier was very kind. I had my own bag so it was a quick checkout process (you bring your own bag or purchase their reusable ones). All in all I spent $12.91 on 1 jar of Alfredo sauce, 15oz of ricotta cheese, 16oz shredded cheddar, 5oz of Parmesan cheese, 4-pack toilet paper, 1 pint of mushrooms and rice mix.

So how was their stuff? I didn’t like their ricotta, it looked watery, and having poisoned myself with bad ricotta,  I tossed it before adding it to my recipe.
The rice mix was white rice with about 10 grains of wild rice mixed in. The mushrooms, TP and cheeses all performing as expected.

The verdict? Not for me.  I recognize I’m a particular shopper, I like brown rice products, and a wider selection of produce.  I don’t really buy “middle aisle” products like cereal cookies, crackers and chips so I wouldn’t make a special trip for ALDI. However, I could see if I had a family with kids in school and needed snacks, frozen meals and easy basics, it could be a godsend.

FullSizeRender (5).jpgTell me, have you tried ALDI? Do you love it? Hate it? Should I give it another try? 

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