Shopping for Real Food at Aldi: My Top Picks + Printable Shopping Guide

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Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

Note: This series isn’t about endorsing any particular company or brand. My goal is to cover major stores, where most Americans shop, to show people that just making a switch in the products they purchase is a huge first step in adopting a real food lifestyle–this only requires changing what you put in your cart. Once this hurdle is conquered, other options may be explored–farms, co-ops, and local health stores. Small, but practical changes lead to a doable lifestyle! Learn more about shopping for real food under the “Shopping 101″ section on the blog.

Shopping for Real Food at Target

Note: Picture from our Target shopping trip.

Today is the last day in the real food shopping series! Over the last ten weeks we’ve spent almost every Monday visiting a new store in the United States with the goal of finding real food.

When we first started talking about the idea of a shopping series consisting of many conventional stores, I was a bit concerned about the food options available. I thought the weekly posts would be rather short and sweet, consisting of some oats and nuts, but nothing more than that. To my surprise, over the last ten weeks, I’ve found a multitude of real food options even at places I least expected like Walmart and Target.

Today’s store highlight was requested by many readers. When I asked in the weekly newsletter (via email) for store suggestions a huge response came back for one particular store…Aldi.

I’ve never actually stepped foot into an Aldi, but I’ve read many blogposts over the years about this miracle store. Aldi shoppers certainly have a deep love for the store and regularly sing praises about the large selection of great food at low prices. I was eager to finally visit the Aldi in our area and take a look at the options available.

I originally intended to share this Aldi post much earlier in the series, since it was such a requested store. After weeks and weeks of communication back and forth with multiple Aldi representatives, we were never granted permission to take photos within a store. As it turns out, Aldi maintains a very closed-door policy when it comes to media within stores. We have a full respect for the stores we visit, so we were compliant with Aldi’s policy. The pictures in today’s post will look different than the normal store photos you’re used to seeing in this series. Instead, we visited a store and purchased the real food options.

As usual, I’m not affiliated with any food company. I haven’t been paid by any store or brand. The selections highlighted in this post include my top food picks based on the Live Simply definition of real food and my visit to Aldi. While everyone defines “real” in various ways, here’s the Live Simply definition:

Defining Real Food

Practical Shopping Tips

1. Be Prepared

Shopping at Aldi is like visiting another planet, seriously!

First, most of us just grab a shopping cart and walk into a store. At Aldi you must “rent” a shopping cart. It’s only $.25 and you get your money back when you return the cart to its original location near the entrance, but this can be quite the surprise for someone who never carries cash in her purse. Good thing I found some change in my car.

Aldi doesn’t provide bags or boxes (at least my store didn’t offer any boxes). A shopper should be prepared with reusable bags or boxes. Aldi sells paper and plastic bags at checkout for $.10, hence the bag in the photo above :).

Aldi doesn’t actually bag your groceries, even if you bring bags. Maybe this is unique to the store near me. The cashier who checked me out placed the bags I purchased inside the cart with my products. I had to bag my groceries once I got to  my car. This means you’ll need to spend a few extra minutes during your shopping trip bagging groceries.

2. Scout the Store:

Finding real food at Aldi isn’t easy. Yes, real food options can be found, but you really need to read labels and inspect products. I highly recommend visiting a store without kids or time limits. Walk down each aisle and scan the shelves, taking note of the real food options available.

Since the real options are often “buried” in the processed food, a scouting trip with your real food guidelines in mind is the best way to get a feel for how and what to shop for at Aldi. If you don’t have time to visit a store you can take a look at the Aldi website where you’ll find a list of products offered. You can also use the website to make a shopping list. Note: Aldi doesn’t list the ingredients in products on the website, so take precaution to read the ingredient lists in the store.

3. Shop Simply Nature:

Simply Nature is the in-house organic brand at Aldi. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices, clean ingredient list, and large selection of many products in this line. Aldi highlights the products found in the Simply Nature line on Aldi.com.

4. Pay Attention to Sales and Price Signs:

Aldi offers special seasonal items. These items are clearly marked on the price signs hanging above the food item. These items are only available for a limited time and will soon be replaced with new seasonal items.

Aldi’s produce is incredibly inexpensive. You can find the weekly produce sales in the weekly sales flyer. If you live near an Aldi this flyer is probably delivered to your home. If not, you can use the Aldi website to find the weekly sales flyer for the store near you.

Aldi also sells non-food items, such as: bedding, gardening supplies, lamps, food storage, and more. These items can be found in the weekly sales flyer. Last week I noticed Aldi highlighted a juicer for $59.

5. Shop the “Buy Organic” List:

Aldi offers organic produce; however, the selection is very limited. If you plan to shop for produce at Aldi, I recommend shopping according to the “Buy Organic” list (based on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen). This list includes the top fruits and veggies to prioritize when making the decision to purchase organic produce.

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

Shopping for Real Food at ALDI: My Top Picks

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

1. Produce:

Aldi offers both organic and conventional produce options.  The organic selection at the Aldi I visited was very limited. If organic produce is a priority, shopping from the Buy Organic list (see above) is the best option. If organic produce isn’t a priority, a customer could find enough produce at Aldi to feed a family without the need to visit another store.

2. Frozen Produce:

Aldi offers a selection of frozen produce. Purchase fruits and veggies with clean ingredient lists (just the fruit or veggie listed) versus packages containing special sauces or “smoothie blends.”

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

3. Meat: 

The meat selection at the Aldi I visited was limited. After glancing at the small meat section I didn’t think finding pastured or grass-fed meat was a reasonable expectation, but I was wrong. Aldi sells grass-fed ground beef. This beef isn’t from one particular farm, rather multiple countries: Australia, Uruguay, and the United States.

Aldi also sells Nature Raised Farms whole chickens, along with breasts and thighs. This chicken is 100% vegetarian fed, which is red flag for me since that phrase usually means the hens spend zero time outside eating bugs. Chickens aren’t vegetarians! This is a common label on chicken packages in conventional stores, and unless you have a good source for pastured chickens, the vegetarian status can be a hard one to get away from. This doesn’t just apply to Aldi.

I didn’t see any wild-caught seafood at the store I visited.

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

4. Dairy:

My recommendation for purchasing dairy from Aldi is to read the labels! The best dairy options I found were: block cheese, organic cheese slices, imported parmesan cheese blocks, and salted butter (this isn’t organic, but it’s the best butter option I could find). Just because one product has a clean ingredient list doesn’t mean a similar product under the same name will be just as clean. Reading labels is crucial in the dairy department. According to blogger friends, some stores offer a larger organic dairy department, including organic raw milk cheese.

This was the first store in this series that doesn’t sell grass-fed or organic butter.

Aldi sells low-fat organic yogurt in tubs. Both yogurt selections I looked at contained concerning ingredients, one of which was aspartame.

This department may vary with stores and regions. This observation is based off my shopping experience at the Aldi in my area.

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

5. Drinks: 

If you need to purchase milk from Aldi I recommend purchasing nuts (a great product to buy from Aldi!) to make homemade nut milk. The milk selection is either ultra-pasteurized or filled with carrageenan (dairy-free alternatives).

While most of the time my kids drink water, Aldi sells juice boxes (and large containers) that contain real juice. These come in handy for classroom parties or events where juice is requested. Of course, these are a treat and, in my opinion, should be treated as treats–used for special occasions.

A real food drink option at Aldi is the sparkling water. Sparkling water can be expensive, but Aldi offers a very affordable price! When I need something fizzy (other than kombucha), this is my go-to drink. Aldi also sells coffee, even a fair-trade option.

PS: Sour cream isn’t a drink. It just needed a good photo spot ;). This sour cream only contains two ingredients. 

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

6. Dry Goods:

Yes, you’ll find junk food at Aldi, but real food options abound throughout the store. I was impressed with the real food pantry selections. Again, it’s important to read the labels!

The selection of dry goods I found at Aldi includes: organic tomatoes (canned), virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, dried herbs, organic sugar, rice, dry beans, canned beans, pure maple syrup, gluten-free pasta, raw nuts (my favorite find) and dried fruit (the dried fruit contains added sugar), rolled oats, steel cut oats, salsa, organic applesauce, jam, pure vanilla extract, unsweetened cocoa powder, flax and chia seeds, organic honey, 100% pumpkin puree, and active dry yeast. I’ve listed my favorite items in the printable shopping guide.

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

7. Beauty and Health Products: 

Aldi doesn’t have a large selection of DIY ingredients. I only found vinegar and baking soda.

The bottle pictured on the right was my favorite DIY find. It’s not an ingredient, but the bottle caught my eye! While the ingredients aren’t horrible and the soda could be enjoyed as a treat, my goal is to use the bottle for making kombucha or storing liquid DIY projects. At only $2, this bottle was quite the find!

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

8. Treats and Convenience Foods:

Finally, let’s talk about the “better” processed food options. Here are a few options I found for treats/convenience foods at Aldi: Squeeze fruit pouches, Fit & Active Fruit Strips, Simply Nature Lightly Salted popcorn (Non-GMO), Simply Nature Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (Non-GMO), salsa, and Go Raw Trail Mix.

My Aldi Shopping Guide

Thank you so much for joining me for this shopping series! Click on the image below to download and print your shopping guide.

Learn how to save money and buy healthy food at Aldi! Pictures and a free printable shopping guide!

More Real Food You May Like:

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Shopping for Real Food at Costco: My Top Picks

Shopping for real food at Trader Joe's

Shopping for Real Food at Trader Joe’s: My Top Picks

Shopping for Real Food at Target

Shopping for Real Food at Target: My Top Picks

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23 Comments

  • Hello Kristin, I too had not been to an Aldi’s before moving to Texas late last year. On our one and only visit the local store, my husband and I experienced the same things you did. Being that their policies are so unique, we found it frustrating and alienating that they don’t have their policies posted. Considering how difficult they make shopping for consumers, and how uninviting the stores are, we expected better prices, especially for off-brands (of which there are many), and a larger inventory. Plus, we were completely disappointed with their produce. We purchased a handful of test items and have never returned. I recently read that Aldi’s intends to compete with Trader Joe’s in some categories. While I am highly skeptical, I sure would appreciate a TJ competitor that offers much larger parking lots. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into this in-depth series. Cheers, Ardith

    P.S. Congratulations on your beautiful new kitchen.

    • Thank you so much, Ardith! I’m loving the new kitchen :).

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the shopping series! Thank you for sharing your experience with Aldi–sounds very similar to my first visit.

  • Our local Aldi sometimes does a week of sales where more organic products are available–when I asked about making them available full-time, the employee I spoke with told me that when they do those sales, it’s kind of a test-run to see if the organic products will sell in that store. We used to only get the grass-fed ground beef during special sales, but now it’s available all the time, so they do stock the products that they see selling. It also varies somewhat by region–my SIL in Illinois can get curry powder at her Aldi, for example, but it’s not stocked in ours (in FL).

    The box thing must differ from store to store–ours always has boxes available to grab if you forget your bags. And it has a huge bagging shelf along one wall so you can stop and bag your groceries so you don’t have to do it by your car. Another practical thing to be aware of is that Aldi doesn’t take credit cards or checks (at least, ours doesn’t)–cash, debit, and EBT, that’s it. No coupons either.

    What I end up doing is going to Aldi first to get the cheaper staples there as well as any sale or seasonal items unique to that store, then stopping at Publix on the way home to fill in the gaps (milk, for example).

    • Hey Helena,

      Thank you for sharing! I heard Aldi was testing their organic line, possibly thinking about expanding the Simply Nature line if there was enough interest. That would be amazing if this happens! I wondered if the grass-fed beef was a limited time selection–it’s good to hear that Aldi sells it year round.

      Ah yes, the payment threw me off. I tried to pay with my Mastercard Debit and process it as credit, but it was denied–which kinda concerned me at first. The cashier explained that I had to process it as a debit. and this is one way they keep their costs down. Thank you for brining this up–it’s really good for people to be aware of this before shopping.

      Great tips!

  • Hey there! Great series. Thanks for all your efforts. There are a few different Aldi stores in my area and their stock does vary some. Some of the quirks have been easy to get used to for or family especially since they help keep the prices low. At least they are comparably low where we are. Also, staff at every Aldi in our area is wonderful. Once I had rushed and had all my kids with me and left a packed full bag of groceries on the packing shelf. Weird but was two days before I realized it. I called and they said they had held it but that morning finally restocked it all. They asked me to come back and in good faith welcomed me to grab what I remembered was in the bag and take it home. I had no receipt, they just extended grace. Something like that will win me over for sure!

    • Hey Tami,

      Thank you! I really enjoyed visiting all the stores. I was so encouraged by availability of real food options.

      Thank you for sharing your experience! The employees at the store I visited were so friendly and helpful, too! I’m so happy to you hear they are such a customer-friendly store.

  • Thank you, Kristin! Amazingly thorough.
    Here in the UK, Aldi is up and coming. It has gained top spot in the national customer ratings for best supermarket and best supermarket for meat for the last two years, so that prompted me to give it a go. For UK readers, do try the meat section – we don’t have such a problem with finding pasture-raised meats as you evidently do in the US, as that’s the normal method for us, but there is a whole UK meat section if you’re concerned about miles travelled, and whether the meat is free range, organic, etc, is clearly marked. We have had some bargains there, for example a Christmas goose for £20, bred and raised within 50 miles.

    • Hey Angela, I had no idea Aldi had ventured across the Atlantic. That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing.

      That’s interesting about the meat. The American food industry is so overrun by big food companies (not that big is bad) with poor animal ethics. This makes finding good meat in stores a very difficult task! Thankfully, I’ve noticed a trend as consumers start to demand better food, companies are starting to stock a small supply of better meat. I hope the US food industry will soon catch up with the UK and European countries!

  • Wanted to thank you, again, for this series. I am surprised by this Aldi’s report. I used to shop there, but stopped when I went to gluten and dairy free eating. This post has me thinking its time to try it again.
    Thank you for all the time and effort you put into this series. I’ve saved every shopping list you’ve shared. So very helpful.

    • Hey Dorothy, I was pleasantly surprised by the food items, particularly the dry goods, found at my local Aldi. It’s definitely a resource to check out, again. I’m so glad the series has been helpful!!

  • Great series and I am sad it’s come to the end. Aldi is another nearby option and I was hoping you would give it a real food review. Funny thing, here where I live we have a store at the opposite spectrum, they don’t take cash only credit debit or gift cards. I guess you have to carve out a niche market where you can when competitors are exploding on every corner. Whole Foods Market has done a wonderful thing for consumers raising the bar for which everyone else is now reaching for and this is good thing indeed.

  • I grew up on Aldi but they certainly weren’t real food back then. We go most weeks for special items. My kids especially love the no sugar added applesauce cups that come in various flavored through the year. We also just discovered their La Croix and love it!

    Just a heads up that not everything Simply Nature line is organic but they are definitely cleaner.

  • Hello Kristin. I just found your blog today while looking for natural beauty products. I kept reading a lot of your different posts and I had a comment about the seafood choices at Aldi. I understand that your goal is to eat clean, but I’m also big into sustainable seafood. I utilize the Seafood Watch app that is maintained by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are farm raised options, but some times these are the best options for the species. I just wanted to clue you in to this resource. Aldi is one of the best and easiest to shop for sustainable seafood among local grocery stores.

    • Hey Anna Pierce, Thank you for sharing! The Seafood Watch app is a great tip–thank you for sharing! Our Aldi didn’t offer much in the seafood “department” so I’m glad to hear this is different at other Aldi stores across the country!

  • Kristen, I am just in awe of your site! The information is incredibly helpful and all the graphics are just stunning! I’m starting my trek through these real food finds and I love that you included Aldi. It was an absolute staple growing up and I have really enjoyed shopping there as a young wife with a husband still in school. We love the prices and it’s so great to know that there is REAL FOOD! I usually do not buy meat at Aldi (mostly because my parents never did) so I didn’t even think to look for a grass-fed option. Can’t wait to check it out and use the download!

    • Thank you so much, Rachel! It’s so great to hear that Live Simply has been so helpful so far. I was really impressed with Aldi, and the grass-fed beef option is a major plus for Aldi shoppers. I’ve heard they also sell a good almond milk option now!

  • Kristin, I can attest to the no photographs rule. I completely forgot you mentioned that & of course, I got busted. Ready for this? The policeman on duty asked why I taking pictures – of course I explained my budgeting but was horrified! He laughed & mentioned the corporate espionage thing, that there was a local store sending people over. He was so sweet about it but I felt terrible. So, there you have it – no cameras in Aldi!

    • Wow, that’s crazy, Carolyn! We tried for weeks and weeks to get permission from corporate, but we never got much of a response other than “no cameras!”. I was a bit surprised since there are so many posts online with “illegal” (I’m guessing ;)) photos from Aldi. I’m glad everything worked out!

  • They do take credit cards now!! I have been shopping there for over 20 years and when we moved to Central Texas there wasn’t any near by. Then a few years ago they opened one about 40 miles from me and now last year the opened one 12 miles. YEAH

  • Hello Kristin,
    I love your blog. Thank you for sharing your story and experience.
    I was quite surprised at your Aldi post. I live on the west coast of Scotland and even though we have an Aldi, it is nothing like yours. I don’t actually shop there anymore as I don’t like their produce or their meat. Although most of the goods are Scottish, I am yet to see any organic ones. Their meat or eggs aren’t marked “free range” (which they are at Lidl, Lidl also has an organic week every so often). Maybe it’s just due to the size of the store (not the biggest, it’s only a small town). Very interesting post anyhow. Thank you.

  • Hi, I just discovered your website. Aldi has been a favorite store from my days in Europe. I was pretty impressed when I found one near me. I love their sweet potatoes chips, has only 3 ingredients potatoes, oil and salt!!! Win win

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