Grocery

How to Make $100 Go Really, Really Far at Aldi

January 26, 2017

I am somewhat flabbergasted how I have not yet been approached by Aldi to be put on their payroll. I’ve been their biggest evangelist since this German import started their slow colonization of American shopping centers, extolling their virtues across the internet, and have found myself in more than one Facebook argument with insufferable snobs who think they’re “too good” for Aldi.

If you like a supermarket that coddles you with smoked turkey samples and inoffensive soft rock, Aldi is not for you. Aldi is for people like me who do not mess around—we want our groceries good, fast, and cheap. Who better to give this to us than the Germans? Do you think Angela Merkel has the time to be standing around trying to figure out the differences between 26 types of mustard? Aldi knows she’s got the free world to run, and gives her one type of mustard so she can get in, out, and back to kicking ass. There is no time for silly shenanigans in the canned vegetable aisle when there is important work to be done.

What can make things potentially dangerous is feeling that, because things are so cheap, you need all the things. That will probably happen on your first visit, and I’m not going to stop you, because that initial rush of walking out with an overflowing cart of groceries for less than $200 is positively wondrous. Subsequent visits, though, should be planned—not just for budget, but to prevent you from dropping your entire paycheck on candy. That is not a joke. Below is how I typically spend $100 at Aldi, candy first.

First things first.

Candy: $5

Though it's commonly assumed that one's willpower will break down at checkout, leading to impulse buys, the opposite is true at Aldi. Take their European chocolates, which make their home in a large display several feet from the entrance. What makes them so enticing? Europeans do not see the need screw around with chocolate, so even their shittiest brands are head and shoulders better than American candy bars. Once you’ve stopped squealing like a literal kid in a candy store, you’ll impulsively throw one of each bar into the cart, telling yourself that you’ll come to your senses later on and put them back. Alas, their tiny, slender bodies disappear from view as you steadily fill your cart with more items, and you only remember you have amassed this bounty of candy once it’s time to checkout. Then you’ll have a confluence of high pressure moments: You have to decide if you want to bring it all back and be that person who holds up the line, but if you do decide to go this route, you quickly need to decide the chocolates you love the most, but then everyone online will think you’re not in control of your emotions and the cashier is looking at you wondering what you’re doing and fine I’ll buy $90 worth of candy and I totally meant to do this the entire time so nothing to see here.

Snacks and Crackers: $10

Every little nip and tuck made to trim the overhead of Aldi is worth it solely for the fact that I can get store brand Triscuits for two bucks, which means you can have five 9PM second dinners (I call them “winners”) of crackers, cheese, and red wine. It’s classy!

Breakfast: $5:

Aldi has cheap steel cut oats for healthful, delicious overnight oats to wake up to, as well as plenty of dried fruits and nuts. I, however, always forget to do this the night before, which is why I buy two boxes of cornflakes.

Condiments: $5

Always leave a bit in your budget to replenish these as needed, as they are truly the spice of life. And keep yourself to that five bucks, because I, too, understand the excitement over getting a bottle of mustard for 39 cents (Editor's Note: This was on sale, but still), and how easy it is to get carried away.

This mustard costs a lot more than 39 cents.

Eggs & Dairy: $20

I have eggs for dinner several times a week, because I am far too tired to be cooking anything else on a Tuesday night. Plus eggs are a far cheaper source of protein than meat, meaning I have more money to put toward my cheese habit. Treat yourself to at least one of the fancy cheeses they carry there, because you’re worth it (and because you have a lot of fake Triscuits that need to be eaten).

Pantry Goods: $20

This is a pretty broad category, but because Aldi only carries an abbreviated list of products in the hundreds, (as opposed to the thousands at a traditional supermarket), it's easier to streamline your shopping list and keep your costs way down. You should already have a basic pantry inventory list at home (right?) so you can make sure to always have something to make on the fly: beans, pasta, flour, and canned tomatoes are some of my standbys. Every time you go to Aldi you should be picking stuff up to keep that replenished, and know a few basic pantry recipes (like pasta fagioli) to keep yourself from starving when you’ve run out of cheese and Triscuits.

Meat: $10

Aldi doesn’t have the best prices on their meat, but their Never Any! Line is a great value for the quality: no hormones, no antibiotics, no animal byproducts. My personal preference is whatever is on sale, because I'm terrible at making decisions. Also, more money for candy.

Produce: $15

I’m not always thrilled with their produce—I normally try to buy stuff at the local veggie market—but they’re great for staple vegetables like potatoes and onions. They also have avocados for crazy cheap, but good luck actually getting your hands on them. Avocados have become the most competitive item in grocery shopping right now; a case of perfectly ripe ones is the edible equivalent of a big screen tv on Black Friday.

Frozen Foods: $10

Aldi has take a cue from it’s cousin company Trader Joe’s and upped their frozen food game significantly. This is has become a major pitfall for me in the past—I was normally able to waltz out the door on budget, but now they’re tempting me with things like artisan pigs in a blanket. Try to be strong and stick to important things, like frozen pizza.

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59 Comments

james77 August 17, 2017
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Josh June 4, 2017
I feel crazy for posting this after the below comments, but I .... don't like Aldi anymore. Their produce is unbearably bad, despite the cheap prices. I bought butternut squash for .79/each over the holiday and it was tasteless, underripe and chewy, even after seasoning and a good bake in the oven. Their canned goods aren't great quality and I'm shocked, tbh, to see people praising a dozen eggs for under $1. That's, like, deeply unethical to me. Industrial egg production is an abhorrent abomination, even if your budget "restricts" you to these purchases (don't buy the chocolate, spend $2 more on eggs you can feel better about). The quality just isn't there and frankly, going to Aldi to get some pantry goods, then trekking back to another place (or two or three) for the rest of what I need is time-consuming. I get why people on a budget go to aldi, but man, this is disappointing for Food52. (I also think Trader Joe's is spotty at best, at least in produce/meat/fresh bread quality)....
 
Renie June 4, 2017
Aldi's in Germany is unbelievable. Wish they had more of the German specialty cheeses and smoked meats here in the US. Still, I love to shop there, especially around the holidays. Always surprise my grandson with chocolate novelties you can't get anywhere else. But, the word is getting out. Lately they are often out of my favorite chocolates.
 
Marcie G. May 31, 2017
We just got our store in New Smyrna Beach Florida a few months ago, love it! Been trying all the different condiments, Mayo with lime is fabulous, and really happy with the salad dressings, and the like. Just taking time to try things and keep a list of what works and what doesn't. Absolutely love their frozen pizza, just add a little more shredded Italian cheese, both much cheaper than Publix. We are saving almost 40% over Publix....really happy they came to our town!
 
Mick March 10, 2017
Just came from the new Aldi's in Mt. Dora FL. OMG - half the cost of a week's groceries at Publix. Delighted to find a sparking clean store, nice produce, corned beef for St. Patrick's Day, & wonderful frozen selections. Nevermind rock bottom prices on canned & boxed foods. I'm a convert!!
 
Brenda S. March 8, 2017
I have only recently re-discovered this gem in my area [aka 'fancy-pants land']. The produce selection is generally pretty good - at least one of the berry selections is around $2, and you do have to check carefully, just like the regular grocery store. I love the baby spinach - TEN oz. bags for $1.49/$1.69, almond milk for around $2, large eggs (that are really jumbo eggs) about $1/doz., and they take credit and debit cards. You have to read the labels and you can't always get everything on your list, but anyone who is trying to feed a family well on a budget can do it here. Oh, and I limit myself to ONE candy choice per visit :)
 
lnross March 8, 2017
My Aldi's in Fort Lauderdale Florida and Severna Park Maryland both take credit cards...not just cash! So odd that they only take cash at some stores.
 
cookinalong March 8, 2017
I'm an Aldi's groupie as well, but it's worth mentioning that they do not take credit cards! Cash is king! The first time I went, I loaded up my cart with all the thrifty goodies, then had to leave the store empty handed because I only had about $5 in cash with me. I get why they do it. It helps keep prices down, but so many people use plastic, it's worth noting to avoid disappointment. I'm not sure if they take debit cards, but I doubt it.
 
Bruce H. March 8, 2017
My Aldi's in Philly takes debit cards.
 
RubyDu March 8, 2017
They used to not take credit cards, but now they do. :)
 
Rosie's D. March 8, 2017
Fire roasted canned tomatoes are the best I've eaten. Hard to find on the shelves because the "fire-roasted" print is teeny tiny. Also, their frozen whole green beans are a marvel. Sauté in a large skillet in veggie oil, toss in some homemade Italian breadcrumbs (or doctor panko with good grated Italian cheese, minced garlic and chopped parsley.) Then leave them alone. Don't stir, tilt, or even look at the pan until you smell the whole mess, then gently turn the beans and WAIT again. I promise these will not make it to your table.
 
Rosana S. March 8, 2017
Love Aldi's and cannot believe how low their costs are compared to other supermarkets. We are seniors living on the West Coast of Florida and I am thrilled at the amount of money I save at Aldi's. We have probably cut our grocery bill in half. We are in and out in no time. What do I absolutely adore - their cheeses, their chocolates and the eggs that are by far the cheapest anywhere. Produce is iffy. Usually the romaine lettuce is old and brown, but onions, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower - most often fairly fresh. Almond milk costs half of supermarket price.
 
Cyprille March 4, 2017
You should see the British and German Aldi stores. Amazing! Their parmiggiano is as good as any sold in more upmarket stores and a fraction of the price. Brioche buns and sliced brioche is half the price and just as good. And all their meat is hormone free because we don't add that shit to our food.
 
Komala A. February 19, 2017
...how many times in grad school did the funded ones marvel at my homemade meals from mostly Aldi's while they wasted their money on takeout and found themselves broke in the middle of the month? And then to come begging to me? Amazing how knowing to fend for yourself is indeed "a good thing." B^)
 
Irene B. February 17, 2017
The best turkey bacon of the ones I've tried.- tastes like pork bacon without all the grease. Excellent individually wrapped slices of prosciutto that doesn't dry out. Really good hummus. Buttery spread is very good and cheap. Eggs are iffy because of the very thin shells and cartons. I bought a quesadilla maker for $15. Bread is not as good as at TJ's.
 
kelly February 17, 2017
sadly - the closest Aldi's is 3 hours south of us. but it's no surprise, since there is exactly 1 whole foods and 1 TJ's in my state. ah, the joys of rural living...
 
Melinda R. February 17, 2017
BUTTER!!! Aldi's has the best butter for baking (at least for me). The fresh produce is always great at my Aldi's, unlike yours. And the dark chocolates!!!!
 
EM P. February 16, 2017
It drives me crazy to watch YouTubes about shopping at Aldis. My neatest store is Broadway & 230 St in the Bronx. I've been told the Manhattan store on the Upper East Side is so much better. I've never seem eggs at less than 79 cents while they pop up on YouTube for 23, 25, 27 etc! Most things list in the circular for 10463 zip code are never available. It took me months to get them to move the produce counter so I could get past in my wheelchair. I must have spoke to every manager but it took a practically screaming phone call to Chicago with me read off the width of the aisle measurements in absolute violation od federal (ADA), State (New York) & local (New York City) laws as the Aldi person claimed they were in compliance with federal, state & local las. Al present there is a pole less than 2 feet from the freezer case! Berries are so often moldy that I no longer buy them there! And the bags, I wish they would sell cloth bags like TJ sell because the plastic ones they sell for 11 cents suck as the handles tear off,! It seems the canned goods have sugar & the yogurt has corn starch or tapioca powder. I do like the pepper & salt mills.
 
Trish February 16, 2017
Spices, chocolate, chips, cheeses,! What's not to love about Aldo! My 30 yr old daughter and I both shop there weekly...always fine some sweet nugget to try in our Aldi store! We're in Tennessee and have only had our Aldi a year or so and very happy to say the least!!
 
Stephanie B. February 16, 2017
Their almond milk is by far cheaper than Walmart, Publix or even Winn-Dixie
 
Linda B. February 16, 2017
I was a student in the Chicago area in 1982-1983, living in an apartment with three other women. Aldi's was always on the shopping route. If we couldn't get something there, we had to go to the regular grocery store. When I found an Aldi's here in NJ about 15 years ago, I was amazed that the semi sweet chocolate chips that we used to buy, were still .99! They've gone up since, but Aldi's still a great place to shop.
 
Bruce H. February 16, 2017
Their naan, especially the garlic naan, is better than what is sold at my local Whole Foods. Olive oil a good buy. At Christmas time their stollen is delicious and a lot cheaper than the bakery where I used to buy it. Jars of German sauerkraut have a good flavor and texture, along with the jarred red cabbage. At holiday time sometimes you can find trays of baklava that is not bad for the price. I can't get past the candy section either and usually throw two bars of something in the bag I carry. The licorice is also pretty good and fresh generally, both the red and black. And the German packaged cookies are always interesting. They go well with the Beaumont coffee which I buy in the large cans and is a good morning coffee. There is always something different and new on the shelves but sadly when you find something you really like it might soon get sold out and is never seen again.
 
Mick March 10, 2017
I wish they had mocha/chocolate coffee. Vanilla and hazelnut is gross, so back to the overpriced store I go for coffee sadly.