The Ultimate Guide to Buying Healthy Food at ALDI
Someone asked me this question a couple days ago:
I think this is a GREAT question.
As many of you know, shopping at ALDI was one of the major steps in my healthy living journey. That was not because ALDI is necessarily such a healthy place to shop, but it was because I stopped using coupons to get all sorts of packaged foods for free and started focusing on whole foods instead.
I am still on my journey. It is a life-long process to always be learning and putting into practice what you've learned, all while keeping a realistic balance depending on your present circumstances.
With that said, I know that everything I buy at ALDI isn't necessarily 100% ideal. But it is better than what we ate before. If you're at the beginning of your healthy living journey, I believe it will be a big step in the right direction to start with some of these things. If you're further down the road than I am, than ignore everything I say and keep up the good work!
I've divided this list into things I normally buy, things I splurge on (health-wise), and things I never buy.
Things I normally buy at ALDI:
1. Plain rice cakes – I'm sure they're nutritionally void, but there's nothing bad in them either, and since we're gluten-free right now they help fill up our bellies in an emergency.
2. Natural peanut butter – I've priced out natural peanut butter in bulk many times, and buying it by the jar at ALDI still comes out way cheaper. It does have a couple added ingredients like molasses, but I'm okay with that for now for the savings and convenience.
3. Organic salsa – homemade salsa from local produce is ideal in my book, but since that was unrealistic last summer due to my chronic fatigue, I'm glad to have an “okay” option that's affordable. Maybe this will be the year to can a bunch!
4. Spices – I have not yet done the research on how important organic spices are, and spices are WAY cheaper at ALDI, so I'm using them for now.
5. Dried beans – Again, I haven't yet researched how important organic is, and these are WAY cheaper than anywhere else.
6. White rice – Do your own research on everything, but my conclusion on rice is that organic is no better than conventional under most circumstances. I'm definitely going for the savings here. (I also buy brown rice and use both types, but they don't sell brown at ALDI.)
7. Organic pasta sauce – Same story as the salsa.
8. Fresh Produce – I start by buying whatever produce I can get locally as that is definitely the most healthy option. If you are forced to trump savings over health, or if you can't find what you need locally, then stick with the “clean 15“, with the exception of corn. Please don't eat non-organic corn, as it's genetically modified. (Time would fail me to give all the reasons you should stay away from GMOs. Please just trust me and don't do it. Or go do some research. That would be even better.) ALDI's prices on produce can't be beat, and even if you're not yet doing the local/organic thing, eating produce is waaaay better than eating processed foods, so go for it! (Update March 2017: ALDI now sells many types of organic produce too.)
9. Frozen Vegetables – these are really good quality, and frozen vegetables are pretty much as healthy (if not more so) than conventional fresh produce from the store because they are flash frozen at the peak of freshness (i.e. nutrient density).
10. Organic apple juice – this is not a “regular”, but it is a fun treat once in a while.
11 .Paper goods – You're not going to find them much cheaper than you will at ALDI.
12. Toilet paper – So far my favorite brand of toilet paper comes from ALDI!
13. Baking soda and vinegar – for cleaning. I think I can get bigger bottles at Walmart for a cheaper price per ounce, though.
14. Some gluten free foods – ALDI does carry a gluten free line of foods now; however, most of it is highly processed and is therefore not what I would call healthy. For an occasional treat, it is nice to grab a box of pre-made cookies or bars. I also buy their spaghetti and pasta noodles regularly since the only ingredients are brown rice and water. They're cheap, and they cook up beautifully!
15. Bread – if you're not gluten free, ALDI has a line of sprouted grain bread that contains very few ingredients. (You'll need to keep it in the fridge because it goes bad quickly. That just means it's not full of chemical preservatives – yay!)
16. Plain yogurt – ALDI now carries organic plain yogurt.
Things I occasionally buy from ALDI:
1. Nitrate/nitrite-free ham – This is not ideal at all, but my husband likes to have lunch-meat on hand for those “Whoops, we didn't have any leftovers for you to take for lunch” days. If he's going to eat it, I'd rather it be free of preservatives.
2. Hormone-free cheese – Again, not ideal, but definitely better and cheaper than many of the alternatives.
3. Cream cheese – It's easy to make my own from raw milk, but every once in a while I get lazy and grab a block.
4. Butter – Same story as above.
5. Organic cheese sticks – NOT budget-friendly and not the greatest compared to raw dairy, but a fun treat for the kids when we're out that's much better than cookies or candy.
6. Nuts – Definitely cheaper than anywhere else, although I am currently in the process of researching the best options for nuts health-wise and am not quite sure where I stand on that issue yet.
7. Oats – a great option if you can't afford organic.
8. Almond milk – definitely a splurge. Don't look at the ingredient label.
9. Olive oil – This one's tricky. It's hard to know exactly what you're getting when you see a label marked “olive oil”. Do some research and you'll see what I mean. But I still grab a bottle sometimes.
10. Sugar – ALDI now sells raw cane sugar, which I don't use often, but if we're going to use sugar it's what I use.
11. Coconut Oil – I'm glad they have it if I'm in a pinch, though I can typically get a better price per ounce elsewhere.
12. Organic ketchup – It's nice to have an affordable organic option.
Things I never buy at ALDI:
1. Raisins – grapes are on the dirty dozen list, so I always buy organic raisins, which ALDI doesn't sell. If you can't afford organic, again, whole foods are still way better than processed!
2. Canned goods – I try to never buy canned goods since I don't want to contaminate myself or my family with BPA. (Here's a trick, though. If you need canned tomatoes, use salsa in jars. Most things with tomatoes in it are also going to have peppers and onions. This way you can purchase in glass jars, plus save yourself the work of cutting up the peppers and onions.)
3. Packaged/processed foods – self-explanatory
4. Baking powder – I only buy Rumford aluminum-free non-GMO baking powder, which ALDI does not sell.
5. Imported fish – If it comes from China, don't buy it! I've seen people saying they've found wild-caught Alaskan salmon at ALDI, but every package I've ever looked at says it was imported from China. Don't be deceived by labels. Read every word. (If you really find wild-caught Alaskan salmon, go for it!)
6. Meat and eggs – I can't bring myself to feed my family meat or eggs that comes from animals fed GMO grains their whole life. This one is tough, because grass-fed/pastured meat and eggs costs a fortune! I'm not even sure what to tell you, other than to make the sacrifice if at all possible. Otherwise, “give thanks and eat”, and really mean it when you ask God to nourish your body with the food He's provided. He knows. (Side note: ALDI does carry grass-fed beef now; though it is not always available. If you can find it, get it! I did the research on it, and came to the conclusion that while I would prefer locally raised beef, the grass-fed beef from ALDI is still a great option!)
7. Non-organic “dirty dozen” produce – Any produce I can get locally is the best option. Besides that, there are plenty of other produce options from the “clean 15” or I can pick up organic at another grocery store.
Shopping at ALDI has been one of the BEST ways for me to lower the grocery budget on healthy food. I also HIGHLY recommend my friend Tiffany's Grocery Budget Bootcamp if you're trying to eat healthier on a tight budget. Most of the people taking the course are finding that they are eating healthier AND lowering their grocery bill at the same time!
Enrollment is currently closed because Tiffany teaches each course live, so make sure you sign up for the waiting list so you can be the first to know when it opens back up!