A dietitian’s top 10 prepackaged food picks: ALDI
Editor's Note: We've launched a new series in which dietitian Katie Cavuto will be scouring local grocery stores for their healthiest prepackaged food options. First, she took a trip to Trader Joe's and then Giant Food Stores. Today, she shares what landed in her cart at ALDI. Don't forget to reference her healthy grocery shopping cheat sheet here.
When it comes to purchasing "staple" food products, which grocery store is your go-to? I tend to do the bulk of my shopping at larger stores, but I save a good deal of money on household staples by swinging through ALDI once or twice a month.
I was first introduced to this chain of stores by a client and I was blown away by the quality of products and, of course, their prices. Below, are my top 10 go-to purchases at ALDI (plus five more because the deals are seriously that good). But first, I'll share a few interesting tidbits you should know about the store:
All ALDI branded products, which make up nearly 90 percent of those in store, are free of artificial ingredients like synthetic colors and flavors as well as partially hydrogenated oils, and added MSG.
You won't find a bunch of fancy displays or a ton of employees stocking the shelves here, but they do keep the place very well organized and easy to navigate. This helps cut costs for them, which cuts costs for you.
Bring your own bags! They will charge you 10 cents per bag if you don't bring your own. This way they aren't wasting a bunch of plastic (or money), and it makes your trip in line at the cashier more efficient.
They typically carry only commonly purchased items. Most grocery stores carry about 30,000 items per store; ALDI carries approximately 1,400, depending on the store. This saves you time (and money) because you're not sifting through 10 brands to find the best price.
Bring a quarter. They require that you pay a quarter to 'rent' a cart however your quarter is returned when the cart is. (Usually someone just passes along their cart or quarter when they're finished.)
SimplyNature Freeze Dried Fruit: Freeze dried fruits are one of my 5-year-old son's favorite snacks and they can be pricey (especially considering he can eat a whole bag in one sitting). These freeze dried apples are crunchy, rich in fiber and nutrients, plus we all love the natural sweetness that they embody. They also offer freeze dried strawberries and peaches.
Ingredients: Freeze Dried Apple, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Salt
SimplyNature Organic Coconut Oil: This is a mind-blowing steal! This unrefined, cold pressed virgin coconut oil would cost at least $11.99 at Whole Foods. While I actually don't cook with coconut oil too much (I prefer extra virgin olive oil), I love to use coconut oil as a make-up remover and moisturizer and even in my own shower scrubs. If coconut oil is a staple in your home, stock up here.
Ingredients: Organic Coconut Oil
SimplyNature Organic Quinoa: I always say that our organic dollars should be spent on items that we consume the most. For me, quinoa is definitely a staple so you can imagine my excitement when I found organic quinoa for this low price. Whole Foods offers their "365" store brand at $5.69 per 16oz and Trader Joes at $4.99 per package – that is at least a $2 per pound savings. Needless to say, I buy several bags every trip.
Ingredients: Organic Quinoa
Happy Farms Spirals String Cheese: String cheese is a great addition to a packed lunch. After ALDI recently announced that they have removed all artificial ingredients from their products, I felt really good about this product, and its unbeatable price point.
Ingredients: Pasteurized part skim milk, cream and skim milk, cheese cultures, salt, annatto color, enzymes.
SimplyNature Organic Creamy Peanut Butter: This is another one of my "organic staples" because we use it so much in my house. We love spreading peanut butter on apples or our favorite gluten-free bread for a yummy snack. ALDI's peanut butter is really tasty, and at least $1 less than other leading brands.
Price: $3.89/16oz Jar
Ingredients: Organic peanuts, sea salt.
Specially Selected Pure Maple Syrup: ALDI carries the real deal — 100% Pure Maple Syrup — not the brown colored sugar water that so many of us are familiar with from our childhoods. Maple syrup is lower on the Glycemic Index, but higher in antioxidants and other micronutrients, when compared to regular cane sugar. It's also far less processed than most sweeteners. It can be used in nearly all recipes as its sweetness goes a long way, making this purchase well worth its price!
Ingredients: Pure Maple Syrup
Southern Grove Whole Almonds Unsalted Raw: Almonds are a great snack or addition to any meal as they're loaded with protein, healthy fats and fiber. But let's face it, they're expensive! Finding these raw, unsalted almonds at ALDI was such a relief as I am used to paying anywhere from $8-10 per 12oz package. I love adding them to salads or even pulsing them in the food processor and crusting a nice piece of salmon with them.
Ingredients: Whole Raw Almonds
Sea Queen Wild Caught Pink Salmon Fillets: This is impressive in my opinion. This salmon is wild caught in the USA and is about 1/3 of the price it would be if you bought it fresh at another grocery store. The best thing about buying frozen fish is that there really isn't a hurry to use it, which I love because my schedule is always changing and I can rely on a quick thaw and heat of the single serve fillets.
Ingredients: Pink Salmon
liveGfree Gluten Free Organic Brown Rice & Quinoa Fusilli: This gluten free organic pasta is half of the price of its competitor at Whole Foods! The ingredients are simple and straightforward, which I always appreciate in packaged foods.
Price: $2.89/ 16oz
Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice, Organic Quinoa
100% Grass Fed Organic Ground Beef: Another impressive find at ALDI. While I am not a proponent of lunchmeats and other processed meat products, I do appreciate this organic grass-fed ground beef and find this price at ALDI to be the best one yet.
Ingredients: Grass Fed Organic Beef
SimplyNature Organic Thick & Chunky Medium Salsa: Finding organic salsa for less than $2 a jar is a major win! I love having a jar of salsa around as it's a great addition to many simple dishes like broiled fish or quick ground turkey tacos on a weeknight. This salsa has simple, recognizable and organic ingredients which makes it a must have in my book.
Price: $1.89/16oz jar
Ingredients: Organic tomatoes, organic tomato puree, organic onions, organic green peppers, organic sugar, organic jalapeno peppers, salt, organic garlic, organic white vinegar, organic cilantro, organic cumin, organic chipotle powder, organic black pepper
SimplyNature Organic Wildflower Honey: Honey can be used in so many different ways. It is a wonderful sweetener in recipes, can be used medicinally for soothing sore throats and even in your daily beauty routine as it is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. If you're planning on incorporating honey into your everyday, I would highly suggest opting for an organic variety. Lucky for you, ALDI carries this 12oz bottle of Organic Honey for nearly $2 less than the Whole Foods store brand.
Ingredients: Organic Wildflower Honey
Friendly Farms Organic Whole Milk: The average gallon of Organic Milk costs about $3.89 which makes ALDI's offering the best deal there is when compared to Wegman's, Whole Foods, Giant and Trader Joe's. This milk is produced without antibiotics, pesticides or added hormones.
Ingredients: Organic Whole Milk
SimplyNature Organic Green Lentils: Lentils are one of those foods that are always great to have around the house. They can be used in place of traditional black beans or added to soups and stews to make for a hearty dish. Typically, you can find lentils at stores like Whole Foods and Giant for anywhere from $3-$6 dollars a pound.
Ingredients: Organic Green Lentils
SimplyNature Organic White or Brown Rice: Rice is one those comforting foods that can be eaten any time of day. I like to cook a large batch of grains in the beginning of the week and use it over the next couple days as an easy addition to our meals. I was happy to find this Organic Rice at ALDI for about $1 less than what I had previously been spending and with the added bonus of being able to purchase either white or brown rice at the same price.
Ingredients: Organic White/Brown Rice
Disclaimer: I worked with ALDI to confirm factual price information and general availability of products. However, the products chosen and any opinions here are my own, as I only recommended products I personally purchase.
Katie Cavuto MS, RD, Chef is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and wellness advocate. Katie is the dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies and Flyers and the Nutrition Advisor for Unite For Her, an organization that supports newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. She appears in regular nutrition and cooking segments on local and national TV. Her writing and recipes have been showcased nationally in Eating Well Magazine, Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine, O, the Oprah Magazine, Parents Magazine and more. For more of Katie's recipes and wellness tips visit her blog. Her first book, Whole Cooking and Nutrition is available now!