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.
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:
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.
Shopping for Real Food at ALDI: My Top Picks
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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