Why I Love Aldi, or: How to Save $100s Each Month on Groceries

I’ve been an Aldi-exclusive shopper since grad school. There’s nothing like being broke AF to teach you about bargain shopping.

My mom shopped at Aldi for much of my childhood, so some of the more intimidating aspects (bringing a quarter, few name brands, bringing your own bags) weren’t an issue. BUT, I still remember going to Aldi for the first time on my own while I was in college. I forgot a quarter AND my reusable totes. So I just left and went to Walmart. Don’t be me!!!!

In case you are an Aldi novice, let me explain: Aldi is an incredible discount grocery store. They cut corners in ways that don’t matter to save you money on the things that DO MATTER. There are no shelves, just stacked pallets. The carts are all locked up, and you use a quarter to get one. You get your quarter back when you return it, which means they don’t have to pay cart wranglers. (If you put your cart back but leave the quarter so someone else can use it, you’re a Quarter Angel ™!) Bags aren’t provided, and groceries aren’t bagged. You bag your own stuff on the countertops beyond the checkout. Most people bring reusable totes, but you can buy paper and plastic bags for like $.05 each.

And here’s the real shit. I took two weeks of Aldi grocery hauls and price compared those items at my local grocery store. Week One, the total at Aldi was $104.60. At the Hy-Vee near my house, the same groceries would have cost $169.92. Week Two: $97.24 vs $162.02.

You may have an impression that Aldi is full of gross discount food. Since all of the food is store brand, it’s not as good as the name brands you can get at Target, Hy-Vee, or Price Chopper. This is so wrong! With every passing month, the food gets better and the selection gets more expansive. Just like any store brand, there are things I wouldn’t buy. Off-brand Oreos are just NOT WORTH IT. But the Aldi-brand caramel coconut cookies taste literally IDENTICAL to Girl Scout Samoas. They are a go-to potluck item for me when I don’t have time to make anything. Other Aldi misses: the Cheerios taste like the Trader Joe’s Cheerios, which means that they’re less crunchy and kind of dry…? I also don’t love the big jars of Casa Mamita salsa that are by the tortilla chips. The refrigerated salsa is GREAT, though, especially the varieties that come around summertime.

Another thing to note about Aldi and the way that I shop there: Since I buy mainly whole ingredients (veggies, meats, beans, grains), and not a ton of prepared foods, those are the things I know best at Aldi. Canned beans are canned beans, so you best believe I’m going to buy the cheaper, off-brand ones.

I’ve learned to make my menus based around what is available at my local Aldi. I live in a smaller suburb, so my Aldi doesn’t have as much variety as Aldis in bigger areas. My friend lives in a bigger, higher-income suburb and her Aldi IS BOMB! If my Aldi is a 7, hers is an 11.

NUTS ARE SO INEXPENSIVE HERE!

Aldi carries the same products year-round in 85% of the store. But other than the regular products, there is a center aisle with SPECIALS that are seasonal and discounted. This can include kitchenwares, patio furniture, all sorts of random stuff. Before you knock it, a shelf in our living room that we receive a TON of compliments on is from Aldi. Two fave seasonal items that I literally hold my breath waiting for: HORSERADISH FRIDGE PICKLES and various refrigerated salsas.

There are also tons of seasonal cheeses that you KNOW I bring to any holiday potluck.

Shopping at Aldi is a learning curve, and you will likely need to pick up a few things at another store. My Aldi doesn’t carry cashew milk or nutritional yeast, so I often swing by Hy-Vee on the way home and grab those couple items.

But once you’re familiar with your local Aldi and what they carry consistently, you will save SO MUCH MONEY. Seriously. When I was doing the price comparison at Hy-Vee, my eyes were bugging out of my head. I literally couldn’t believe how expensive some of the stuff was. A three-pound bag of apples at Aldi is $2.69. The same weight of apples at Hy-Vee? $5.94!!

Aldi introduced a TON of natural and health food products in the past year, like this cultured apple cider vinegar.

A few notes on price comparison: I chose the store brand at Hy-Vee when it was available. I made sure that I was matching organic to organic and conventional to conventional. I couldn’t find two items at Hy-Vee, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and said they sold the product for the same price as Aldi. In the spreadsheet linked here, cells marked in yellow account for that adjustment. If a price at Aldi varied between weeks, I used the higher price in the comparison. All comparisons are based on weight. Things like cereal and crackers came in a same or very similarly sized box, but there was a HUGE difference for things like nuts. In this case, you would have to buy two bags of almonds at Hy-Vee to come home with the same weight. This is reflected in the spreadsheet.

WEEK ONE  BREAKDOWN

For that week, I purchased food for our regular breakfast, lunches, and dinners, plus a brunch with three girlfriends and a meal for friends with a new baby. You can view my whole receipt here

Price comparison standouts: Three multicolored bell peppers for $1.89 would have been $4.88 at Hy-Vee. Strawberries were also $1.89 and would have been $3.99 at Hy-Vee. Mother’s Day cards are what really saved my bacon, though. You know the beautiful cards at grocery stores with the cutouts and the sparkles, the ones that are like $6? Cards just like that were $0.99 at Aldi.

WEEK TWO BREAKDOWN

This was a week that went totally haywire, but when I went shopping, I planned on two meals for company and our regular breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The receipt is here.

Big savers this week: Basmati rice ($2.99 at Aldi) was $7.88 (!!!!!!) at Hy-Vee. One pound of asparagus was $2.69 but would have been $4.99 at Hy-Vee.

A note on produce at Aldi: if you get the bag of onions home and notice that the two in the center are totally moldy, bring them back. Aldi replaces the item AND gives you your money back.

ALDI MUST-BUYS

I love these items, in the order that they appear at my Aldi: Outlander red wine, Savoritz 6 Cracker Assortment, tortilla chips strip-style, almonds, whole coffee beans, ground flax seeds, La Croix 12-packs, corn tortillas, the CHEESE selection, the supremely spicy hummus, and the basmati white rice.

Aldi also has DELICIOUS refrigerated pizzas that I’ll sometimes get when G is out of town, and I just saw on Saturday that they have Halo Top-style protein ice cream now. I haven’t tried it, but I’m telling you they carry it to show: Aldi is ALWAYS introducing new, trendy products, and they also keep up with the awesome stand-bys that keep us Wallaces fed.

$3.99 for a 12-pack!

Do you shop at Aldi? What fave products am I missing? If you’re not an Aldi shopper, what would you still like to know? 

Midweek Links // 3

Hi friends! Welcome to a Wednesday that feels like a Tuesday in a week that feels like it will never end. Dramatic, I know. Post-vacation blues have got me bad.

Speaking of vacation, on our trip I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟) and Adnan’s Story, which surprised me with how good it is! If you didn’t listen to “Serial,” this won’t make sense to you, but: the book is by Rabia, Adnan’s best friend’s sister who you may remember from the podcast. She’s a lawyer and advocate for Adnan, and she brought his case to Sarah Koenig. Rabia goes into the details of the case and brings up a lot of stuff that “Serial” left out. She’s a great writer, so this book is worth your time, especially if you fell under the “Serial” spell as hard as I did in 2014.

If you’re looking for a dishy crime read where the bad guys are lawyers and the victim is a PTA mom and the case is truly bonkers, read this from the L.A. Times.

I can’t wait for a little chill to pop up so I can make this carrot and sweet potato soup with Thai flavors from KC blogger Cookie + Kate.

I loved this profile of Elizabeth Smart. While we all remember her for her kidnapping and rescue, she’s now an advocate for changing the way we talk to children about sex and purity. Fascinating to read her perspective as both a survivor and a Mormon.

Now that we’re home, the reality of our engagement is sinking in: We have to plan a whole wedding. As much as I love planning, I do feel like I’m in over my head with this one. This article from A Practical Wedding helped a little:

“In the end, we come back to where we started: people are the most important thing (which very much includes the two of you). Your people, however many there are, care much more about seeing you happily married than they do about personally liking the color of your bridesmaid dresses. If aesthetics are your thing, go ahead and throw yourself in headfirst. But if they’re not? Remember that it’s pretty hard to go wrong with candles on white tablecloths—because everyone looks amazing in soft light.”

I instantly ordered both Practical Wedding planning books. Fingers crossed!

If you have wedding planning resources that you used and loved, please, please, please share.

See you Friday for a new meal plan ✌

Midweek Links // 2

Happy almost long weekend! How are you relaxing? What are you eating? I need to know!

My favorite Labor Day eats and reads are linked below.

First things first, check out the Fall style story I wrote for KC’s Ink Magazine.

This article decoding Britney Spears’ history through her hair styles is essential.

I froze a bunch of leftover watermelon for these 3-ingredient watermelon margs. 🍹🍉🍹🍉🍹🍉

I’ve been blowing through episodes of this true crime podcast. The hosts describe interesting, real-life cases. Perfect for a Law & Order fangirl like me (Detective Elliot Stabler is my boyfriend, and I am only kind of joking).

I finished Heft, by Liz Moore, this week. I loved it. I’m not sure I would have picked it up based on plot summary alone (Brooklyn man doesn’t leave his house for a decade because of his morbid obesity and the accompanying depression), but Kristen of Dine & Dish recommended it via Snapchat. I am so thankful to her. Heft is one of those novels where the characters get deep inside your heart. I’ll be thinking about it for a while.

Speaking of Snapchat, follow Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking (username: whatsgabycookin). She’s a fun person to follow in general if you like yummy, California-style food, but my favorite thing she does is her Friday “Snapisodes.” She makes a step-by-step recipe and encourages her followers to make it over the weekend. So fun. Last Friday, she made a stone fruit and tomato panzanella, and I did too! 🍑🍅 Except I swapped the burrata in her recipe for avocado and left out the croutons because I didn’t want them, ha. The recipe, as I made it, couldn’t be simpler: slice a bunch of stone fruit, add some halved cherry tomatoes and chunks of avocado. Tear basil over the top. Photograph for Instagram. Dress with balsamic vinaigrette. DEVOUR.

Good luck making it to Friday! You can do it. xoxo

Midweek Links // 1

A weekly roundup of what I’m reading, coveting, and listening to. 

The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert: I didn’t love Eat Pray Love, which is the book Gilbert is most famous for, but The Signature of All Things was seriously one of the most engrossing novels I have ever read. I read 90% of it on the drive home from Breckenridge earlier this month, and I could not put it down. It’s about a nineteenth century woman botanist, which sounds boring, but it’s NOT. The plot is expansive and detailed, but never feels confusing. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Joy the Baker made poundcake, grilled it, and served it with strawberries on top. YES, PLEASE.

The Girls, by Emma Cline: A fictionalized account of life as a Manson girl. I’m obsessed with true crime, so this was a win for me.

The most recent episode of the Radiolab podcast, Playing God, is incredible. It’s about strategies for rationing healthcare in times of crisis: how do you choose who gets oxygen? Who is airlifted out first? When do you stop administering care? There are interviews with clinicians who have made these decisions and clips from a town hall discussion where regular people discuss this moral tangle. Thought-provoking and sad and very, very interesting.

Present Over Perfect, by Shaua Niequist: I absolutely love this author. She is so raw and honest.  This book is a collection of essays about prioritizing slow living and family connection over the go, go, go of career hustle. Many of her strategies for coping are faith-based, but her writing style is so open and inclusive that it’s easy to make those passages fit with whatever your beliefs are or aren’t. A great book to reflect on and relax with before bed.

Tracy from Shutterbean posted about her ladies craft night, and I want to do this soon! Cocktails, snacks, and adult coloring books?! Who’s in?

What are you guys reading? I’m always looking for recs. 

About Me

P1000159Hi, I’m Caitlin, a writer, reader, eater, and planner. Welcome to The Fruitful Blog, where I share my writing about food, resources for planning and organization, reading lists, and more.

Perfection is never the goal for me, but making daily decisions with intention always is. Through planning and positivity, I do my best to make each day fruitful. And if the day is a flop, that’s ok — I start from scratch every morning.

The Fruitful Blog is a place where I can share my writing, my ideas for intentional living, my favorite lipstick shades, and more. If you’re interested in living each day to its fullest, you’ll feel right at home here.

I’m a twenty-something writer and editor living in the Kansas City area with my husband, Grant. When I’m not at my 9-to-5, I’m cooking, reading, watching trash T.V. (go Real Housewives!), and trolling KC for free drinks.

I love making cakes, salads, and lists. My biggest annoyances? Wasted time, sweet cocktails, and the weeks when my favorite show is a rerun.

P1000101

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know what you’d like to see on the site.

Email me at caitlin at thefruitfulblog.com. Follow me on Instagram and Pinterest.