Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a foodie. I love to cook, I have a penchant for fresh, organic meats and produce, and thanks to watching old Julia Child videos, I know how to make a béchamel sauce from scratch. You might expect me to do most of my shopping at Whole Foods or other high-end grocery stores, but I don’t. I can find (almost) anything I need to cook my favorite made-from-scratch gourmet meals at my local Aldi. Here are a few of my favorite hidden foodie gems that are part of Aldi’s Regular Buys:
I really love goat cheese. (Sadly, my kids don’t. More for me!) I like it on toast, crackers, pita chips, spread on Aldi’s garlic-flavored Naan, or melted into a sauce. Aldi sells Happy Farms Preferred Goat Cheese in three flavors: plain, herbal, and honey. I’ve had all three and prefer the plain so that I can add my own flavors. But the herbal is great if you want to keep things simple on the cooking front, and the honey flavor is perfect for pairing with graham crackers and fresh fruit for a picnic. And the price is lower than I’ve seen anywhere else, even (cough cough) Trader Joe’s.
Panko Bread Crumbs
My kids love fried fish and fried chicken, but I don’t love the grease, calories, or mess. Enter Panko bread crumbs. These Japanese-style bread crumbs are specially created to cook at higher temperatures without burning (which regular bread crumbs are notorious for doing). This means you can use them on chicken or fish but also casseroles, French fries, or oven-fried vegetables. Aldi sells Chef’s Cupboard Panko Bread Crumbs in two varieties: plain or flavored. I get the plain so I can decide later if I want the flavors to be spicy, herbal, or peppery, but the flavored ones are great if you want something closer to a “shake and bake” experience.
When you’re perusing the condiments aisle at Aldi, you might be surprised to find more than just ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Aldi sells a decent variety of Mediterranean-style vegetables, too, including Spanish olives, Specially Selected Kalamata Olives, canned artichokes, sliced pepperoncinis, and an “Artichoke salad” which includes olives and red peppers in an oil base. I love keeping these on hand for
eating out of the jar salads, sandwiches, pizzas, or just as a snack when I’m craving something salty. (They also take that goat-cheese-and-Naan experience to the next level! Yum.)
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Aldi has sold olive oil for years, but the SimplyNature Organic Olive Oil is relatively new. It’s also much more flavorful than the older variety. I find that the flavor matches more expensive types that I’ve tried from other stores, but it’s sold for about a third of the price I was paying elsewhere. Olive oil is a foodie staple for making my own salad dressings, pesto, or just drizzling over toast instead of butter.
Organic Baby Spinach
The difference between “baby” spinach and “mature, hardened, and cynical” spinach is night and day. While “mature” spinach can be tough and stringy and thus not much fun to eat raw, “baby” spinach is excellent either raw or cooked. I put SimplyNature Organic Baby Spinach on sandwiches, pizza, salads (of course), or quickly sauté it to stuff omelets or quiche or as a stand-alone side dish with lots of garlic and salt. I throw a box in the freezer (it’s pre-washed and the leaves stay separate!) over the summer and add handfuls of the frozen leaves to the smoothies I regularly make for the kids (hint: blackberries and/or cocoa powder hide the taste!).
Whole Milk Organic Yogurt
Who knew Aldi had such an extensive organic line? It’s remarkable that they now have milk, eggs, yogurt, coffee, processed foods, and a variety of fruits and vegetables certified “organic.” Their organic/ all-natural offerings have exploded over the last few years, much to a foodie’s delight.
Whole milk yogurt was something I always used to buy at larger grocery stores. I don’t like fat free yogurt, and if you think you do, you probably haven’t tried whole milk yogurt. There’s a huge difference in taste. Plus, fat-free yogurts usually have added sugar to make up for the grainy texture and bland taste that results when you take away that delicious fat. Aldi offers its SimplyNature Whole Milk Organic Yogurt in plain or French Vanilla. The vanilla is ridiculously delicious, I admit — even addictive — but also full of added sugar. I prefer getting the plain variety for smoothies, salad dressings, or blended with oats, chia seeds (also sold at Aldi!), and dried fruit to make “overnight oatmeal.”
Although Aldi is well known for its snacks and convenience food, you can also find an excellent variety of staples to do your own home cooking. And the SimplyNature line offers organic / all-natural staples that are much more affordable than the ones sold at Whole Foods or other “foodie” stores. As Julia Child would say … bon appétit!