I recently read that the TSA is increasingly cracking down on travelers' snack foods, ordering additional inspections of, like, suspicious-looking goldfish crackers or requesting that we place our KIND bars in the plastic bins beside our shoes, belts, and oversized bracelets. I snarled at that article the day before I flew to Europe, so part of my packing process included a few minutes of unpacking, as I shook all of the snacks out of my usual carry-on bag.
After two or three minutes, I had an empty bag and a miniature Aldi scattered across my coffee table. That's right — an Aldi.
See, I'm a pro-level snacker, and I don't think that anyone does snack foods better than Aldi — not even Trader Joe's. (THAT'S RIGHT, FIGHT ME.) I've long been obsessed with its selection and its price points, and both of the locations in my city dedicate a significant number of floor space to cookies, crackers, and chips. (Those are three of the four major food groups; the other is cheese, which Aldi also does well.) Basically, if Aldi were a person, I would've proposed to it and forced it to share a Facebook account with me.
If you aren't reading this with your mouth full of Clancy's Kettle Chips, here's why you should get on that with the quickness.
1. Seriously, the prices are amazing.
Although not everything at Aldi is an impeccable value — sometimes you can do better with its name-brand goods at other grocery stores — its in-house brands aren't going to put you over your food budget. So you want the Gouda and the Emmentaler cheese bites? Throw them both into your cart. That's why you paid a quarter for it.
2. The in-house brands are so good.
I hesitate to call them knockoffs, because you're buying granola bars, not a Canal Street "Prada" bag, so let's say that Aldi does ... cover versions of popular snacks. Many of them are just as good as what you're more familiar with, and some are even better. The best of the best are its three versions of Girl Scout cookies, which are perfect replicas of Thin Mints, Caramel deLites/Samoas, and Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs. They're so perfect and you won't have to wait all year until an 8-year-old in a vest offers to sell you cookies out of her mom's SUV.
Beyond the "cover products," Aldi also offers plenty of fun snacks. Fun and unique snacks that you'd expect from a store like Trader Joe's but probably not from a store like Aldi. (It's time to change your expectations!) Here's an example of what I'm talking about: The $5 Aldi Find You'd Think Came from Trader Joe's.
3. There's a little bit of everything.
Yes, its chips and cookies and crackers shine, but there is also good stuff in the refrigerated section — like chickpea salad, chicken salad singles, and high-protein snack packs with cured meats and cheeses. (Those have become a road trip essential, even if my "road trip" is a five-minute drive to the post office.) I also like the assorted small single-serving or 100-calorie packs for traveling, taking to the movie theater, or keeping my niece occupied when she's in my car and is tired of answering my questions about how that kid on "Paw Patrol" ended up with NINE DOGS.
4. The chocolate section is unparalleled.
If you have a mouthful of sweet teeth, then you'll be all about the chocolate section, which includes everything from full-sized chocolate bars and peanut butter cups to chocolate-covered sea salt caramel almonds and dark chocolate blueberry açai bites. Some chocoholics swear by Aldi, and have said that it stocks such good stuff because of its German heritage.
5. You can still find organic and gluten-free options.
The LiveGFree line is — you guessed it — gluten-free, and its SimplyNature products are a combination of non-GMO, USDA organic, and gluten-free. (Also, the award for "Product I Can Inhale Like a Dyson Vacuum Cleaner" goes to the SimplyNature exotic blend vegetable chips.)
6. The Pueblo Lindo brand is pure fire.
I know I mentioned its in-house brands already, but I couldn't be more obsessed with their chili and lime taquitos (yeah, like Takis) and the premium mango ice cream bars. You definitely need the latter to cool your entire mouth down after the former, and I LIKE IT THAT WAY.
For the record, I did take a baggie of snacks through that airport checkpoint the next day. I didn't have any issues, but I was fully prepared to stash an entire package of Emmentaler cheese bites in my undergarments. Your move, TSA.
What do you think? Do you prefer Aldi or Trader Joe's when it comes to snack foods? Or a different store? Tell us in the comments below!