6 Products To Buy And 7 To Avoid When Shopping At Aldi

Aldi is an international grocery chain widely known for its affordability and unique shopping experience. The chain has over 10,000 stores across the world that stock both brand-name and Aldi-exclusive products. The grocery store has everything from produce to frozen meals and even boasts an impressive wine and beer selection.

Aldi is broadly known for its affordability. According to their website, the chain attributes business practices like limiting the number of employees they hire to collect shopping carts, eliminating packing and single-use plastic bags, and selling an abundance of Aldi exclusive brands to limit national competitor brands' marketing and distribution costs. When walking the aisles of Aldi, shoppers will surely pick up on the grocery chain's quirks, like produce still living in distribution pallets or how they are expected to bag their own groceries. But, Aldi has a large customer base who know the intricacies of their favorite store.

Because Aldi sells so many exclusive products and cuts back on nationally recognized brands, there are some lessons to learn about what to buy and avoid. We tested each of these products ourselves to determine if Aldi shoppers should buy them based on quality, affordability, value, and comparison to name-brand competitors. To gather this information, we took several trips to Aldi and researched online forums dedicated to the grocery chain. After doing so, we found six must-have items and seven that are best purchased elsewhere.

Avoid: Onions and bulk produce

One quirk about Aldi is how they display and sell produce. Some items like onions, bell peppers, and potatoes — among others — are sold in bunches. Shoppers will not be able to purchase a single onion or pepper if that's all they need for a recipe. Instead, they will be forced to buy a bag of several.

Aldi practices this packing policy as another effort to cut costs. When produce is sold in bags together or large cartons, it eliminates the need for the company to buy scales for customers to weigh their own selection of produce. It is also fairly common for Aldi locations to use distribution pallets for produce instead of purpose-built shelves.

This is frustrating for shoppers who are buying groceries for only one or two people. Not all of Aldi's produce is sold this way, but with the products that are, it may be a good practice to buy them at a farmers market or other grocery store.

Buy: Frozen Fruit

Frozen fruit is a household essential for many. It tastes amazing when blended into smoothies, topped on yogurt or ice cream, baked into desserts, or even cooked into preserves. Frozen fruit can also last up to 12 months when properly stored, compared to the days or weeks that fresh fruit stays fresh. Despite the convenience and shelf life of frozen fruit, it can be expensive.

National grocery chain Kroger sells frozen strawberries in a 48-ounce bag for $9.99 at most locations. The strawberries have organic labeling or specialty flavors. On the other hand, Aldi sells frozen strawberries of the same quality and flavor at $3.65 for a 24-ounce bag; buying two bags equal to 48 oz. would cost $7.30. The $2.69 price difference can add up throughout the year, especially if frozen fruit has a permanent spot in your freezer.

Additionally, Aldi offers a wide selection of fruit blends like strawberry and pineapple, mango, blueberry, and more. Each bag is filled to the brim with products, unlike some competitors who offer what seems to be half-full bags of frozen products. Frozen fruit is something that Aldi gets right every time.

Avoid: Aldi Season's Choice Frozen Broccoli and cauliflower

Frozen broccoli and cauliflower are often more affordable than fresh produce. It lasts longer in the freezer and works as well as fresher products. Not all frozen broccoli and cauliflower products are made the same, however.

Aldi's packages of broccoli and cauliflower are advertised as "Season's Choice Steamable Broccoli Florets" with imagery of broccoli stems and florets. They are conveniently packaged and super affordable. But, the bag often contains way more broccoli stems than florets.

When steamed, roasted, or mixed into other recipes, the frozen broccoli and cauliflower become mushy and texturally unappealing. It never delivers a crisp and fresh-tasting product, probably because it carries lots of moisture from the freezing process. However, some other brands and grocery stores carry alternatives that maintain their texture and flavor throughout the freezing process. But, the frozen broccoli and cauliflower at Aldi are nothing to write home about. Shoppers are better off buying fresh broccoli from the produce section.

Buy: Cheese

Some grocery stores offer a special cheese counter or an aisle of endless dairy products from multiple brands. One would expect that since Aldi is smaller and offers fewer products than its competitors, the cheese selection is subpar. Think again — Aldi offers an impressive selection of affordable go-to's like shredded cheese, blocks, sliced, and spreads and also offers a wide array of specialty cheeses that are perfect for a charcuterie board or appetizer.

Aldi's cheese aisle is mostly made up of Friendly Farms products, typically only found at the chain, and are comparatively very affordable. Shredded cheeses like the extra sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and pepper jack are delicious and melt nicely when used in cooking. The blocks of cheese at Aldi are also delicious; the white cheddar and Swiss cheeses are perfect snack ingredients that are good to have on hand.

Aldi offers a wide variety of specialty cheeses that are much more affordable than those that competitors sell under deli counters. The Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese Log is incredible as a spread on a sandwich or baked into a rich pasta dish, and at $1.89, it is a steal for its high-end flavor. The Brie Cheese Round is another Aldi cheese that never fails to impress, especially at the $4.29 price point for an 8-ounce wheel.

Avoid: Meat

Aldi has many amazing products, but meat is not their specialty. First, the grocery chain does not have deli counters. That means all Aldi's meat is prepacked in plastic wrap and displayed in a cooler. And, this meat section can be a challenge for shoppers to find what they're looking for. Specialty items like cuts of steak, sausages, chicken wings, and fresh seafood are particularly hard to find. The chain mainly carries the most popular cuts and sizes of chicken, pork, beef, deli meats, and salmon (wrapped in plastic of course) so customers can expect the bare necessities in Aldi's meat section.

Another problem with the meat at Aldi is the taste. In fact, one Redditor complained that the chicken breasts were "woody," while another claimed that Aldi's chicken breasts suffer from "white stripe syndrome," which is when muscle grows too fast for the blood supply, and so it dies, leaving a white stripe of fat and connective tissue. The salmon is decent, but no less expensive than other grocery stores that may not store the fish in plastic.

However, some locations will source certain meats from local farms, which may be a priority for some customers. The chain does a good job labeling meats like chicken to indicate what practices went into producing the meat. But, if high-quality meat is something shoppers prioritize, purchasing from a butcher or supermarket with an in-store meat counter is worth the extra trip. 

Buy: Berries

Fresh berries remain a luxury for many grocery shoppers. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are especially expensive considering how little product is sold at national grocery chains. Because the growing season for these goodies is so short and they are typically imported a great distance, the price seems outrageous most of the year for a product that will spoil within a matter of days.

But, when shopping at Aldi, checking out its berry selection is a must. A 6-ounce pack of red raspberries at Aldi is $2.65. However, prices vary depending on location and deals, a 6-ounce package of raspberries at Kroger is typically around the $3.00 mark, and $2.77 at Walmart. Saving that extra few cents can be a game-changer for many grocery shoppers on a product that has few servings and limited freshness. Aldi also avoids markdowns or coupons, so a consistent price on fresh berries can be expected depending on seasonality and location.

However, Aldi's fresh produce can be a bit of a guessing game in quality, so it's up to the shopper to inspect cartons of berries to ensure freshness. Most of the time Aldi's berry selection is up to par with other more expensive grocery stores' selections.

Avoid: Peanut butter

Everyone has specific peanut butter preferences; crunchy, creamy, sugar-free, or natural. And, a lot of people are brand loyal to popular peanut butter products. Aldi cuts costs by eliminating brand-name alternatives to certain products, choosing to sell Aldi-exclusive versions instead, and peanut butter is one of these. So, shoppers will not find popular brands like Jif or Skippy in the aisles of Aldi. However, the grocery chain typically offers creamy, crunchy, and natural varieties of their own peanut butter.

The taste of Aldi's peanut butter can leave a gritty or sugary mouthfeel, and the creamy peanut butter has a somewhat sandy texture. Alternative nut butter is usually more expensive, but the almond butter and sunflower butter are about the same quality as brand-name options.

The price tag of Aldi peanut butter is quite a bit lower than competitors. An 18-ounce. jar of creamy peanut butter at Aldi is $2.05, while a 16-ounce jar of Jif at Walmart is $3.28. Shoppers may want to search elsewhere for the peanut butter brand they are loyal to, but can at least expect a lower price on this pantry staple at Aldi.

Buy: Bread

Bread is a household staple for most grocery shoppers. Aldi, thankfully, offers a wide array of quality and affordable bread. The grocery chain does not have in-store bakeries but ships high-quality options to each location. Shoppers who are dedicated to brand-name bread won't be able to find their usuals, but the Aldi-brand alternatives are equally delicious.

Aldi's bread has amazing flavor and quality, and the grocery chain sells dozens of varieties so shoppers can find what they need. The sandwich bread selection includes healthy whole-grain or multiseed sliced bread, a sourdough sandwich loaf, a sliced brioche loaf, white bread, marbled cinnamon, and Keto-friendly options. Long story short: Aldi's bread aisle is a sandwich lover's paradise.

And, the bready offerings don't end there. Aldi has Naan bread, baguettes, Hawaiian rolls, bagels, tortillas, English muffins, and croissants all taste bakery-fresh. The grocery chain also sells sweet bakery items like muffins, sweet breads, and cookies that will satisfy any sweet tooth on a budget.

Avoid: Sodas and seltzers

Soda and seltzers at Aldi are generally something safe to purchase elsewhere. The Aldi versions of cola, sparkling water, and other sodas are less expensive but come with a lackluster flavor. Aldi's Cola is $4.39 for a 12-pack but will not taste like a perfect imitation of Coca-Cola.

Aldi does sell some brand-name options like Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Diet Coke, but the selection ends there. The price for a 12-pack of these branded products is usually around the $7 mark, which isn't a discount from other grocery chains like Walmart. Additionally, Aldi does not offer coupons or deals on these nationally recognized soda brands. Other grocery stores will sometimes include deals with membership cards or seasonal discounts. If shoppers are looking to save money buying their favorite soda flavors, their best bet is buying these products from other grocery chains that carry all the varieties they desire and offer certain discounts on eligible products.

Buy: Dips and hummus

Though Aldi is known for its no-frills philosophy, one specialty category it excels in is dips, spreads, and hummus. Many grocery stores will offer the standard brand-name hummuses near the fresh vegetables or a few different spreads in the deli aisle. However, Aldi dedicates an entire section of the cheese aisle to delicious specialty spreads. Perfect for snacks, appetizers, or even meal ingredients, Aldi shoppers should always make their way over to the spreads section for seasonal and standard flavors.

Many of the Aldi spreads, dips, and hummuses have fan followings. One popular dip is the Aldi Dill Dip, a creamy sour cream dip with tons of fresh dill flavor that pairs perfectly with salty crackers or vegetables. The Crab Rangoon Dip is a rich cream cheese dip with crab meat, scallions, and garlic flavors that many enjoy with wonton strips or chips. The Street Corn Dip is the perfect easy party favor or snack; corn, mayo, sour cream, and warm spicy seasonings make this dip amazing with corn chips.

Aldi also has a great selection for those hummus lovers. Some of its flavors include original, roasted pine nut, sundried tomato, olive, Mediterranean, and even dessert hummuses like chocolate.

Avoid: Aldi generic chips

When looking for a salty snack at Aldi, it is best to buy brand-name. The Aldi imitations of popular chips like Lay's, Doritos, Pringles, and Fritos leave a lot to be desired. "Love and hate on their chips, good flavor and texture but also sooo salty and oily. The Clancy's Cheeto puffs had so much excess oil in the bag, you could literally squish liquid out of the chips," claimed one Redditor.

They are more affordable — a 10-ounce bag of Clancy's Orginal Potato Chips costs $2.45, with Kroger charging $3.99 for an 8-ounce bag of Lays Classic — but the crunchiness, flavor, and saltiness are not quite up to par. Depending on location, some stores will offer brand-name options, but typically only sell their Aldi-exclusive chips. Fans of certain chips will find more success shopping at supermarkets that may offer discounts on these products than settling for Aldi imitations that will never be up to par. 

Buy: Wine

It may come as a surprise that a budget grocery store like Aldi has a fantastic wine selection. But, don't knock it until you try it! Aldi is praised for its varied wine selection that won't break the bank. Aldi offers reds, whites, rosé, and seasonal blends. The grocery chain stocks a decent selection of regionally and nationally distributed wines of all types. According to Aldi, the company carries favorites like the Bear Bros. Rose and Broken Clouds pinot noir, which won Wine Enthusiast's 2017  Product of the Year award.

Aldi has its own wine brand, Winking Owl. Winking Owl merlot, cabernet, sangria, Moscato, chardonnay, and pinot grigio are all $3.85 for a 750 mL bottle. While some wine enthusiasts may be hesitant about such affordable wine, the more casual drinker will appreciate the bargain. The bottles source the grapes from California and usually have a small pairing list for shoppers to enjoy. The Winking Owl wines also come in boxes for $13.29.

Avoid: Aldi-brand jarred sauces

Jarred pasta sauces are a great ingredient to have on hand for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. Aldi's pasta sauces, however, are worth skipping. The alfredo sauce is bland and flavorless. It also has a gloppy texture that resembles more of a cheese dipping sauce than something to be served on pasta. It comes in three flavors: original, four cheese, and roasted garlic. Aldi sells each is $2.35, so if the low price is worth it, shoppers might want to dilute the sauce with pasta water and sprinkle in some extra seasoning when cooking with it.

Aldi's Reggano marinara sauce comes in four varieties: original, traditional, mushroom, and garlic, each sold for $1.75. These sauces are lackluster and slightly flavorless, but affordable nonetheless. Aldi also sells Specially Selected pasta sauces like marinara, vodka, and giardiniera for $4.29. These pasta sauces are much more flavorful and richer, so those wanting to spend more for a better product may want to check these out. Aldi's pesto is a little more oily than other brands sold at grocery competitors, but it does the trick and is an affordable product.

Recommended