I Went to Aldi for the First Time and It Wasn’t What I Was Expecting

updated Oct 23, 2019
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For the last few years, I’ve been reading about Aldi on plenty of food sites, including Kitchn. From what I’ve read, people love the affordable grocery store for its snacks, frozen goods, prepared foods, chocolate, ready-to-heat pizza, and wine. But as a Trader Joe’s devotee, I felt like my budget-friendly grocery needs were already met. So I hadn’t stepped foot into an Aldi until about a month ago. I know, I know — late to the game. 

It happened spontaneously, while I was running errands with my mom. We were out and needed groceries, so I suggested we stop in and see what all the fuss was about. If nothing else, I was excited to get my hands on some of their famous $8 rosé.

Credit: Allison Russo

A Sweet Start

When we first walked in, we were both drawn to the bakery section. I was impressed with the amount of bread (savory and sweet!) and the picture-perfect pastries. We snagged some chocolate-dipped macaroons, chocolate chip brioche, and almond biscotti before walking through the lackluster produce section. 

I was hoping to find some great, inexpensive produce. Trader Joe’s can be hit or miss, and a great produce department at Aldi could convince me to switch! Unfortunately, I was greeted with wilted lettuce, overripe strawberries, and bruised tomatoes. (However, I will be checking again, because maybe they’re less hit or miss than TJ’s?) Nevertheless, I continued shopping, skipping ahead to the frozen section.

Here, the frozen desserts caught my eye (duh). In addition to pints of copycat Halo Top, the shelves were stocked with frozen cakes and pies fit for a dinner party. Chocolate and strawberry cream cakes, apple walnut cake, and even a German “bienenstich” almond cake — all for $6.99 each, a small price to pay for a centerpiece-worthy dessert. With the holidays coming up, I’ll definitely have one of these in my freezer for entertaining emergencies. 

Credit: Allison Russo

Charcuterie Dreams

Once my sweet tooth was satisfied, I made my way to the refrigerated section — more specifically, the cheese case. I was delighted to find well-priced wedges of Parmesan, rounds of Brie, and logs of goat cheese. Everything I picked out was between $1.99 and $3.79, so I was extremely excited. 

Other than cheese, I spotted sleeves of salami and prosciutto for $3.99, and some savory cheese board accessories (assorted olives and marinated feta salad) for just $2.99. I quickly realized that I could get everything I need for a party-sized charcuterie board for around $20 — they have a handful of cracker varieties to choose from, too. 

I like to have wine with my cheese, but at this point, hadn’t seen wine of ANY kind (aside from a sparkling cider false alarm). While checking out, I asked the cashier about it, and she confirmed my fears that the store didn’t have a license to sell beer and wine. Although I live in one of America’s coolest suburbs, Massachusetts has some funky liquor laws that prevent a lot of grocery stores from selling alcohol … so this wasn’t super surprising. No under-$10 Aldi rosé for me.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

My Controversial Take

When thinking about day-to-day budget-focused grocery shopping needs, I am still loyal to my beloved Trader Joe’s. While I’d like to do a deep-dive price comparison between TJ’s and Aldi (stay tuned, I will be doing a post on that shortly!), I didn’t see a HUGE difference at surface level. I did, however, notice that certain staples were either not in stock or never in stock. But. But! There were so many great finds for a party! Which leads me to this takeaway: Aldi is the place to go if you’re entertaining. Get the frozen apps, the charcuterie essentials, the desserts, the wine (if your store has it), the fancy nuts, and all the nibbles.

Seriously, the next time I have friends over for a Bachelor viewing party, I’ll definitely swing by to pick up the makings for an Instagram-worthy cheese board.

What do you think? Do you do your regular grocery shopping at Aldi or just the special trips?