If you've never been to Aldi, it might surprise you that it's a great place to shop for Thanksgiving. I understand. Before I started shopping at Aldi, I imagined they sold subpar food; something akin to what you'd find at a supersized convenience store. How wrong I was.
Why Aldi Should Be Your One-Stop Shop for Thanksgiving
Aldi carries a nice selection of produce, dairy, and other kitchen essentials at low prices. They even offer a small line of organics and gluten-free foods. Anyone who wants to save money and is comfortable cooking a classic, from-scratch Thanksgiving meal should consider Aldi for Thanksgiving. In fact, we went to Aldi with $100 bucks to see if we could pull it off. You'll want to see just how well we did. And if you've never been to Aldi before, there are a few key things to know.
The Aldi Thanksgiving Advantage
Since Aldi limits their offerings, cooking a Totally Traditional Menu works best with one or two wildcard items thrown in. This is meant to be a one-stop shop, so we're tackling the whole meal — and then some! Here's how we're breaking it down.
- Basics and Pantry Staples
- The Turkey
- Side Dishes
Basics and Pantry Items
These are the ingredients you'll need in multiple recipes. For the most part, you won't find familiar national brands. as so many products in Aldi are under private labels (similar to Trader Joe's). Here's what to grab.
You'll find these items scattered throughout the store. For the most part, the baking items like the flour and sugar will be near each other. Sometimes you'll have to bend down and do some searching to find everything you need.
- Chicken stock: Look for the organic, free-range, low-sodium chicken broth. It's great for stuffing and gravy, and in any other recipe that calls for chicken stock.
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cooking oil (canola, peanut, and olive oil)
- Pumpkin purée (canned)
- Coffee: We have it on good authority the German Roasted Regular Ground Coffee is the way to go.
All of the dairy items are grouped together in the refrigerator case toward the back of the store. The store is organized so the cold items are the last thing you pick up on the way out, so save room in your cart.
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Heavy cream
Aldi does produce pretty well. You won't find local options, but there is an organic section. As they've recently announced, Aldi is going pesticide-free and fully organic. Here's what to buy.
- Yellow onions
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
- Mushrooms (white or portobello)
From cheese and crackers to frozen shrimp rings, Aldi's got something for everyone when it comes to appetizers — even baked brie.
- Nuts: Look for large containers of mixed nuts at bargain prices.
- Crackers: There's a large selection of crackers. For Thanksgiving, pick up the assorted cracker collection.
- Cheese: You won't find a huge cheese assortment at Aldi, but don't forgo the cheese selection entirely. Be on the lookout for Kerrygold cheese, a tasty cranberry Cheddar, and the classic, if a little kitschy, cheese ball. (Yes, the one coated with chopped nuts.)
- Chips and dips: While Aldi doesn't sell any brand names, they do offer a huge selection of potato chips, tortilla chips, and vegetable chips. Pick up some hummus and veggie dip to go alongside.
- Olives: Basic black and green olives and stuffed olives are available during the holiday season.
- Bake-and-serve appetizers: There isn't a huge pre-made appetizer selection. If you hit it right, you'll find brioche-wrapped brie, meatballs, and other heat-and-serve appetizers.
Turkey and Ham
Turkey, the star of most Thanksgiving tables, is probably the most limited holiday item sold at Aldi. With such a limited turkey offering, you'll want to have a backup plan in place in case Aldi doesn't have the bird you need for Thanksgiving.
- Turkey: The turkey selection is limited to medium and large turkeys. They'll be frozen, so shop early enough to allow the turkey plenty of time to thaw.
- Turkey breast: A turkey breast works great for both small gatherings, when you don't want a full turkey, or large ones, where you need a little extra.
- Spiral ham: Aldi offers a surprisingly large variety of ham. Check out Aldi's brown sugar-glazed spiral ham. They're about a third of the cost of comparable glazed spiral hams.
A Mini Guide to Your Thanksgiving Turkey
What's Thanksgiving without lots of side dishes? By planning your sides around from-scratch recipes, you'll easily find everything you need.
- Stuffing: Aldi sells everything you need to make homemade stuffing. The loaves of Pane Turano, a large, round Italian loaf, are especially nice. There's also dried bread cubes and stuffing mix. And for cornbread stuffing-lovers, you're covered too! Look for pre-made cornbread, cornbread mixes, and, of course, all the ingredients needed to make cornbread from scratch. If you put dried fruit in your stuffing, check out the baking aisle where you can find raisins and other dried fruits.
- Mashed potatoes: Five- and 10-pound bags of potatoes are available all year at Aldi and are often on sale throughout November.
- Sweet potatoes: Small bags of sweet potatoes are nestled in the produce section. They're a little hard to find so if you don't see them, ask a sales clerk.
- Brussels sprouts or green beans: Like all of the produce sold at Aldi, the Brussels sprouts and green beans are bagged; you can't buy them by the pound. The quality is usually great.
Nestled among the loaves of sandwich bread, you'll find some nice French- and Italian-style bread, plus some crusty rolls that will feel right at home in the Thanksgiving bread basket.
- Italian bread, baguette, or crusty rolls
- Canned crescent rolls or biscuits
- Quickbread mixes
Pie and Other Dessert
Don't feel like making dessert from scratch? Give yourself permission to skip it and pick up something from the freezer section.
- Pie: Aldi sells both a traditional pumpkin pie in the bakery section and a "pumpkin supreme" in the freezer section. Other frozen pies, like apple, blueberry, and lemon meringue, are also available. If you're still looking to make your pie, you can pick up a pie crust.
- Cheesecake: What's better than one type of cheesecake? Several types of cheesecake! Check out the cheesecake sampler; it's so popular they even have a gluten-free version.
- Ice cream: In addition to the standards, there are also seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie and apple pie and a limited gelato offering.
- Chocolates: Stock up on an assortment of chocolates. The chocolate-covered dried cranberries and salted caramels are especially good.
Soda and juices are in abundant supply at Aldi. And, depending on your location, you might find a small wine and beer selection tucked into the store.
- Juices: Look for the sparkling pumpkin cider, pomegranate juice, and black cherry juice.
- Wine: The "Winking Owl" line offers very drinkable, very inexpensive (under $3) bottles of whites and reds.
What You Won't Find at Aldi
Aldi isn't a megastore. Here two things you won't find while shopping.
- Classic name brands: Most of the food sold at Aldi's carries a private label. While you'll occasionally see name brands in the aisle, they are few and far between.
- Fresh herbs: If your Thanksgiving menu includes fresh herbs, plan on getting them somewhere else. Aldi rarely sells fresh herbs.