21 Best and Worst Things to Buy at Aldi
The German supermarket chain is known for low prices, but not every item on Aldi's shelves is a bargain. See our list of the best and worst buys.
Aldi is rapidly expanding in the U.S. Already, the no-frills German supermarket chain has nearly 2,000 stores in 36 states offering super-low prices on brand-name knockoffs, European foods and one-off deals. Indeed, 90% of Aldi's products are exclusive store brands, and many mimic the packaging and taste of national brands. We found several great items at Aldi that deserve a spot on your grocery list based on quality or value -- or both.
But after checking in with shopping experts, as well doing comparison-shopping (and taste-testing) on our own at stores in Virginia, we found that some deals at Aldi aren't worth it. First, brand-name knockoffs don't always taste as good as the real deal. Second, Aldi doesn't accept manufacturers' coupons or offer a loyalty program. That means you can find certain brand-name products at other retailers at comparable prices to Aldi's knockoffs once you factor in sales, coupons and loyalty perks. Take a look at what to buy -- and what to avoid -- at Aldi. Oh, and don't forget to bring a quarter; you'll need it to "rent" a shopping cart (you get a quarter back when you're finished).
What to Buy at Aldi: Seasonal Items
Aldi rotates seasonal items in and out depending on the time of year. In mid-summer, it's still all about, well, summer (but beware of back-to-school season creeping into that aisle as summer peaks). Aldi spotlights seasonal deals under its "ALDIFinds" banner and aisle. For example, recently you could have nabbed a Nerf pet toy assortment for $12.99; a pop-up sun shelter for $16,99; a Range Master kettle charcoal grill for $59.99; oversize beach towels for $9.99; an AdventureRidge 42-can rolling cooler for $29.99; or Bikemaster adult or kid bike helmets for $16.99.
As you can see, it's mostly off brands in this aisle, too, but occasionally you'll find the name brand, like Nerf.
What to Buy at Aldi: Baking Products
Under Aldi's proprietary Baker's Corner store brand, Aldi was selling a five-pound bag of all-purpose flour for $1.15, a four-pound bag of granulated sugar for $1.85 and a two-pound bag of brown sugar for $1.29.
We headed over to a nearby Walmart for a price comparison. Walmart was selling its store brand Great Value all-purpose flour in comparable five-pound bags for three cents more than Aldi at $1.18. Four-pound bags of Great Value granulated sugar was $1.86, a penny more than Aldi. And two-pound bags of Great Value were $1.54, 25 cents more expensive than Aldi.
"Flour, sugar, oils are all great quality and priced very well," says Tracie Fobes, a money-saving expert who founded PennyPinchinMom.com and is also on TracieFobes.com. "The only time when the regular store may be a better deal [than Aldi] is around holidays when they often have rock-bottom prices on baking products."
What to Buy at Aldi: Bread
You can snag a 20-ounce loaf of Aldi's L'oven Fresh white bread for just 65 cents (a 20-cent decrease from 2019, the last time we checked). That same size loaf of bread at Walmart under the Great Value brand sells for 67 cents, a 22-cent price drop from two years ago, but still two cents more than Aldi.
In keeping with the season, we compared eight-packs of hamburger rolls, too. Aldi's L'oven Fresh were 79 cents; Walmart's Great Value were 88 cents.
What to Buy at Aldi: Cheese
You'll find national brands of cheese at Aldi alongside store-brand cheeses. A 12-ounce, 24-slice package of Kraft American white cheese was selling at Aldi for $3.97. Walmart had the same Kraft cheese but was charging $3.67 for a 16 slice package.
"Aldi offers a wide variety of quality cheese products and prices that can blow away your local grocery store," says Fobes. "In one example, we found Baby Bel cheese for $3 at Aldi, and it was more than $7 at our local grocery store for the exact same product."
In addition, other bargain-hunters recommend Aldi's cream cheeses and shredded cheeses.
What to Buy at Aldi: European Sweets
Aldi wears its German roots proudly. Look no further than the strudel in the freezer case for proof. You'll find German and other European chocolates on store shelves, too. Shopping experts say specialty chocolates, in general, are among the best things to buy at Aldi because they are "smooth and creamy at a much lower cost than most other stores."
This isn't the time of year for that, though. Around the holidays, you'll find huge lineups of German chocolates and other holiday specials at Aldi, including Winternacht solid and hollow chocolates, chocolate Santa figurines, Merci European chocolate, Witor's pralines, Choceur chocolate coins, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Rolo candies, Winternacht marzipan logs and Duca Reserva panettone. Note that Aldi also bolsters its chocolates around the Easter holiday.
We did manage to find some summertime chocolates, however, including Choceur brand Austrian dark chocolate made for Aldi, selling for $1.39 for 5.29 ounces. Schogetten German candies were also in stock, selling for $1.59 for 3.5 ounces.
What to Buy at Aldi: Ketchup
Yep, ketchup. Aldi's signature Burman's tomato ketchup was selling for 99 cents for a 38-ounce bottle, 20 cents less expensive than our last check. Walmart was selling a 32-ounce bottle of its own Great Value ketchup for 92 cents, 40 cents less than two years ago.
But if you're sticking with Aldi and paying 7 cents more than the Walmart brand, there's a payoff: Not only is Aldi's store-brand ketchup significantly cheaper than national brands, it "tastes as good as, if not better than, the big-name bottles," says Fobes.
What to Buy at Aldi: Milk
Milk prices have shot up in our Aldi price comparisons compared to two years ago. Recently, Aldi was selling a gallon of its Friendly Farms brand whole milk for $2.99, up from $2.48 two years ago. Still, that price was slightly less than the $3.12 that Walmart was charging for a gallon of its Great Value brand whole milk.
Note that these prices are for conventional milk. Organic milk costs more. As for taste? We couldn't detect any difference between the milk brands.
What to Buy at Aldi: Pure Maple Syrup
Aldi was selling a 12.5-ounce jar of 100% pure maple syrup for $5.55 under its Specially Selected store brand. That's not cheap, though less expensive than 2019.
So why did Aldi's syrup make our list? Quality. The lone ingredient listed for Specially Selected 100% Pure Maple Syrup: pure maple syrup. There's no added sugar or color. By contrast, the main ingredients for Aunt Jemima are corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum and caramel color -- and it's made using genetic engineering, according to the label. Fans like the taste and the smaller bottle size. Unless you're Buddy the Elf, you probably don't consume a lot.
What to Buy at Aldi: Spices
Aldi sells its line of Stonemill spices for 95 cents per container (down from 99 cents in 2019), including a 2.7-ounce container of garlic powder and a 2.12-ounce container of paprika. That's a significant savings over national brands, experts say, noting, however, there's a limited variety of spices at Aldi.
By comparison, similar size containers of Walmart's store brand spices are 98 cents.
What to Buy at Aldi: Wine
"They have an amazing assortment of wines that taste absolutely wonderful -- and you'll love the prices," Fobes says of Aldi. "I am a big fan of the Winking Owl moscato -- one of my favorites."
Winking Owl is Aldi's answer to the "Two Buck Chuck" wines produced by Charles Shaw that originally sold at Trader Joe's for just $2 a bottle. Today, Aldi's store-brand Winking Owl varieties, including chardonnay, pinot grigio, shiraz, zinfandel, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, sell for $2.95. And they're not bad. You can watch one of the many reviews of Winking Owl wines on YouTube if you don't believe us.
Walmart now has its own line of private label wines called Winemakers Selection and selling for about $5 to $12.99 per bottle.
What to Buy at Aldi: German Beer
You'd expect a German grocer to carry European-brewed beers. Aldi doesn't disappoint.
The beer selection, like most of the products carried by Aldi, isn't deep: A few well-selected brands in six-packs. But for the most part, Aldi shines in this department. Its six-packs of Brecken Bock Beer go for $6.99, not bad for an imported beer. Brewed in Belgium, this bock scores a 4 on a scale of 5 as rated by Beer Advocate.
Also on tap in select Aldi stores right now is Brens, a lager selling for $6.49 a six pack. And for seven bucks, pick up six-packs of Wernesgruner Pilsner, a German lager imported to the U.S. just for Aldi. This pilsner, from a brewery founded in 1436, is tagged a "buy it" by the Chicago Tribune, which called it "full bodied, with a pleasant muscular bite and crisp bitter edge" and noted it was preferable to Heineken or Stella. It's also less expensive.
The Trib's beer guru also liked Aldi's Kinroo Blue ($6.49), another exclusive aimed at Blue Moon fans. It's a Belgium wit "boasting fairly rich and silky texture, with orange peel notes that lurch into orange sherbet overtones."
And if domestic and other imported beers are more your jam, Aldi had a wide variety of cases on sale this summer. A 30-pack of Busch Light was going for $16.95 (it was $16.98 at Walmart). A 24-pack of Bud Light was selling for $15.95 ($16.98 at Walmart). Aldi was selling a 24-pack of Michelob Ultra for $20.95 ($20.98 at Walmart). And a 12-pack of Corona was selling for $14.95 at Aldi ($14.98 at Walmart).
What to Buy at Aldi: German Foods
Aldi doesn't just excel at knockoffs of U.S. grocery products. Aldi also carves a niche with imported German products you won't find at your American supermarket chains. We previously noted the German chocolates, beer and bread (marketed under Aldi's proprietary Deutsche Kuche label). Don't overlook the flavored spaetzles, German-style pickles, apple strudel and unique snacks that waver off the dreary chips and pretzels route. As with the chocolates, you see much more of this on Aldi's shelves during the winter months.
The fun part of finding these products is the discovery. Unlike most U.S. groceries, Aldi doesn't relegate its German imports to one section of one aisle. You'll find them scattered throughout the store, from the bakery to the freezer cases.
What to Buy at Aldi: Deli Items
You won't find a full-service deli in Aldi stores, which are self-serve. But you will find Aldi's Park Street Deli line of packaged, refrigerated products. Dig into cranberry-apple chicken salad ($3.99 for a pound) and assorted dips and salsas ($2.25-$3.29, various sizes).
Getting raves from CookingLight was Park Street Deli hummus cups ($1.79 for 10 ounces).
What to Avoid at Aldi: Cereal
If you're looking at straight-up everyday prices on cereal, Aldi's private-label Millville cereal is hard to beat. Millville's Raisin Bran, a knockoff of Kellogg's Raisin Bran, sells for $1.85 for a 18.7-ounce box. Comparatively, Aldi happened to be selling General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios (the real deal), and it was $3.49 for a 15.4-ounce box. That's a huge price difference.
Walmart sells a comparable box of General Mills' Honey Nut Cheerios for $3.64 for an 18.8-ounce box. But $3.64 is the everyday price. Most grocers run frequent sales on cereal. Plus, cereal manufacturers are generous with their percent-off and dollar-amount-off coupons. Check coupon websites or sign up with manufacturers on social media.
"You can often find better deals on name-brand cereals at your local store when combining coupons and sales," says Fobes.
What to Avoid at Aldi: Soda
Of course Aldi wants to corner the market on soda. It's a huge, profitable sector of the supermarket business, and Aldi is skilled at mimicking brand lines and labels.
Aldi even carries a wide lineup of Coca-Cola products at prices about par with supermarkets, including Walmart. But proceed with caution in this area of the store: the knockoffs aren't great tasting. And if you're leaning toward the brand-name Coke products, you'll likely do better, especially in the warmer months, at conventional supermarkets. Soda is heavily discounted and manufacturer coupons are typically flush in the summer.
What to Avoid at Aldi: Deodorant
Buying deodorant at Aldi didn't pass our sniff test. Selection was thin, and, going against the grain of the Aldi model, there were only national brands available (Old Spice and Secret, for example). And you can often score a better price on those national brands at a drugstore by combining manufacturers' coupons with loyalty deals (think: CVS's ExtraCare program or Walgreens' myWalgreens program, both free to join). I often get unexpected $3 and $4 coupons when I put in my myWalgreens number, and CVS is always generous with the discounts.
What to Avoid at Aldi: Paper Products
Say no to store-brand napkins and paper towels from Aldi, experts say. Paper products from Aldi's Boulder line can feel flimsier than national brands, and sales and coupons can make national brands including Bounty competitive in price. Even without a sale, we found comparable rolls of paper towels selling for the same price at Target and Aldi.
"Paper products are not always less expensive [at Aldi]," agrees Fobes. "You may find a better deal and quality at the big-box stores."
What to Avoid at Aldi: Shampoo
Don't get yourself in a lather over buying shampoo at Aldi. Like deodorant, selection is limited to a few national brands (Pantene, for example). You could do better with sales and coupons at your local drugstore.
Alternatively, pick up shampoo in bulk for less at big-box retailers including Target and Walmart, or at a warehouse club such as Costco or BJ's. Big bottles of name brands including Pantene or Head & Shoulders can be found for $10 or less.
Mixed Reviews: Meats
Our savings experts are on the fence about buying meats at Aldi. Meats on promotion are good deals, but Aldi's overall prices on meat are higher than some competitors. Unlike Trader Joe's, which never puts items on sale, Aldi does offer weekly specials on select products.
Says Fobes, "Aldi is great when you need chicken and it is not on sale at your local store," she says. "However, time it properly and you will find better deals at your grocery store."
We did a price comparison. At Aldi, 93% lean ground beef was selling for $4.99 a pound. At Walmart, 93% lean ground beef was $3.94 a pound, more than $1 a pound less. Chicken breasts were selling for $2.89 a pound at Aldi. Chicken breasts at Walmart were selling for $1.78 a pound, again more than $1 a pound less than Aldi.
Mixed Reviews: Produce
When it comes to produce, we'll admit that Aldi has made progress. Not long ago, fruits and vegetables were sold unrefrigerated straight from the boxes they were shipped in. That's still true in some older stores, but in new and newly remodeled stores produce that benefits from cool storage, including leafy greens, is now sold from refrigerated cases -- and from boxes delivered from growers.
However, some Aldi shoppers still avoid buying produce. Our recent experiences support their reluctance. On one visit to Aldi we saw overripe eggplant in the shipping box from the grower. Loose Roma tomatoes were bruised and soft.
Prices were a bit lower on some Aldi produce. A Chiquita pineapple was selling for $1.49. The same product at Walmart was $1.72. Cantaloupe at Aldi were $2.48 each. They were $2.49 each at Walmart.
"While [produce] is priced lower than regular stores, sometimes it is already ripe or going past ripe at the time of purchase," says Fobes. "Carefully look over each produce item before you buy, and then consume it soon so it does not go bad."
Mixed Reviews: Salty Snacks
Some Aldi cheerleaders really dig the salty snacks sold under Aldi's various store brands, with packaging that is stunningly similar to those of national brands, right down to color schemes and typefaces. Chips fans hail the Clancy's kettle chips, dead ringers for the Cape Cod potato chips stocked in supermarkets. The price is right, too. An 8-ounce bag -- the size has shrunk by half an ounce in the last two years -- of Clancy's chips sells for $1.29, versus $2.68 for an 8-ounce bag of Lay's Kettle-Cooked chips at Walmart.
Intrigued, we took the bait and picked up a bag of Aldi's nacho cheese flavored tortilla chips (targeting Doritos fans), which was selling for 1.12 cents for an 11-ounce bag. We compared it to a slightly over-9-ounce bag of Doritos nacho cheese chips, selling for $2.72 at Wal-Mart. The verdict in our personal taste test: Aldi mimicked the packaging, but not the product. The nacho-nothing chips weren't worth the $1.60 savings to us. Hey, when the chips are down, you gotta pony up.