Budget Meals Under $3 Per Person Using Aldi Grocery Store Ingredients

As I write this, the current national unemployment rate is hovering around 11%, and many families have already depleted the funds they received from the CARES Act, which was passed by both houses of Congress in late March. To say that budgets are stretched is an understatement. It also feels woefully inadequate to say I’m constantly focused on those suffering the worst effects of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. It wasn’t very long ago that I was also looking for ways to save a few cents. I got married in 2015, and we decided to wait a year to take our honeymoon. We were still paying for the wedding in summer of 2016 but we desperately wanted to take a trip to tour whisky distilleries in Scotland (my husband, Chris, is a member of the bar industry), so we priced it out and I set a strict grocery budget of $50 a week to feed both of us for a few of months so we could afford to go and enjoy ourselves. While we’re in a better financial position these days, I still look at the deals at grocery store Aldi every week to see where I can save money. 

There are many reasons to love this grocery store: You don’t have to dodge carts in parking lots because shoppers pay a $0.25 deposit, so they have an incentive to return them and the company helps the environment by charging a few cents to buy plastic bags, thus encouraging reuse. But the top reason to love this German supermarket chain is its low prices. 

With Aldi’s inexpensive products, it’s remarkably easy to make affordable meals. After shopping my local Aldi, I developed some easy dinner recipes and that are designed to serve a family of four that are under $3 per serving. The prices and availability of these items may vary depending on which of Houston’s 20 Aldis you frequent, but hopefully these recipes provide some much-needed inspiration and encouragement to eat well while maintaining a budget. For those who love details, here’s a Google spreadsheet where I cost out each meal and have done a cost comparison. 

The Recipes

Cheese Tortellini with Sausage and Italian Salad: Pasta dishes are easy wins for most families, but sometimes you need something other than the standard spaghetti or lasagna. That’s where this cheese tortellini and sausage one-pan-wonder saves the day. For this recipe, you’ll need a package of Priano Three Cheese Tortellini located in the deli section ($4.65); one package of Parkview Polska Kielbasa ($2.59), sausage sliced to your preference; a jar of Reggano Marinara Pasta Sauce ($0.95) and some frozen chopped spinach ($0.65). Feel free to dress this up with some onion and garlic if you have them available. Otherwise, simply sauté the kielbasa to give it some color and toss the rest of the ingredients into the pot and simmer until thoroughly cooked. Serve the pasta alongside a Little Salad Bar Italian Salad Kit (see mom, we eat our vegetables!), and this dinner comes out to $2.75 per person.

Lean ground turkey for just $3.99 at Aldi. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Turkey Chili with Tortilla Chips: Houston isn’t currently experiencing weather cool enough to enjoy a warm bowl of chili, unless you’re like me and can eat chili any time of the year. Plus, with the number of servings you can get out of a good pot of chili, it’s hard to argue against it when you need to stretch a dollar. For this recipe, I’m going to assume everyone has chili powder and cumin at home, because we’re in Texas. This bare-bones stew is a can of Dakota’s Kidney Beans ($0.55), two cans of Happy Harvest Diced Tomatoes ($1.10), and a pound of lean ground turkey ($3.99), which comes out to $1.53 per serving. If you feel like enjoying a fun, dress-your-own-bowl-of-chili night, you could add Friendly Farms Sour Cream ($0.79 for a 16-ounce container), Happy Farms Mexican Shredded Cheese ($3.09 for a 12-ounce package) and a handful of Clancy’s Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips to each bowl. Your cost per serving is just $2.19. As a bonus, you can use the rest of the tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream for a mid-week nacho night. Pile on your favorite beans (I love black beans) and grab some salsa, and they practically make themselves. 

Chicken Fried Rice: Rice is a staple food for over half the world’s population and, in spite of some recent surges in commodities prices for the crop, it has remained a reasonably inexpensive pantry staple. For this recipe, I usually buy a whole chicken for $0.95 per pound, which gives me a mix of light and dark meats (plus, you can save the carcass to make chicken stock). You can roast your chicken, cook it on low in a crock pot for a couple of hours, or save time by using an electric pressure cooker, which only takes about 30 minutes. The average chicken at Aldi weighs about 5 pounds, so, as a bonus, you end up with extra pulled chicken that you can freeze. Earthly Grains Long Grain White Rice is just $1.65 for 3 pounds, which is $0.55 per pound or around $0.11 for a generous 1-cup serving. If you have a large enough container, you can get an even better price per pound by buying the 10-pound bag for just $4.59. That’s $0.46 per pound or just $0.09 per serving. When the chicken is ready, sauté a bag of Season’s Choice Steam Mixed Vegetables ($0.89) from the freezer section, two cups of pulled chicken, a pound of cooked rice along with seasonings and a couple of eggs, and dinner is done. Assuming you have pantry staples such as soy sauce and garlic, the price per serving is about $1.14. With those savings, you can pick up a package of Fusia Asian Inspirations Veggie Mini Egg Rolls for $1.99 and also enjoy an appetizer. 

Chickpea curry with diced tomatoes, cubed potatoes and chickpeas. Made with ingredients from Aldi. Photo and dish by Samantha Morris.

Chickpea Curry: Your family will look forward to meatless Mondays with this easy vegetarian dinner. For this recipe, you’ll need to pick up a 5-pound bag of russet potatoes ($3.19), two 15-ounce cans of Furmano’s Garbanzo Beans ($1.90), a can of Happy Harvest Diced Tomatoes ($0.55) and, if you don’t have curry powder, a jar of Cook House Korma Simmer Sauce ($2.19). Cube a couple of potatoes into bite-size pieces, and boil until a knife will just penetrate them (these will continue cooking with the chickpeas and tomatoes). Combine the beans, tomatoes, boiled potatoes and curry powder or simmer sauce, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and the flavors have married. Serve over a cup of rice, and this dinner comes together for just $1.43 per person. If you forgo the simmer sauce and use your own curry powder, dinner is on the table for an astounding $0.86 per person. 

A package of 12 links of bratwurst at Aldi is just $6.29. Photo by Samantha Morris.

Bratwurst in Beer With Onions: Summer time is grilling season and there’s something deeply satisfying about a perfectly grilled bratwurst. For this recipe you’ll need a 3-pound bag of yellow onions ($2.19), a package of Party Pack Bratwurst with 12 links ($6.29), some L’Oven Fresh Hot Dog Buns ($0.65) and a container of Burman’s Spicy Brown Mustard ($0.89). Slice and cook the onions in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium with a couple of tablespoons of mustard until the onions start to get some color. Add in a bottle of your favorite dark or amber beer, then simmer and reduce to make a delicious, rich condiment for your grilled bratwursts. Even accounting for an average bottle of beer, this dinner comes together for just $2.08 per person when serving two bratwurst with buns. 

Barbeque Chicken Baked Potatoes: Remember those potatoes from the curry and the chicken for the fried rice? Here’s a recipe that uses the remaining ingredients from those recipes. Bake four potatoes in a 400 degree over for 30 to 45 minutes depending upon size. Split your potatoes lengthwise. Then, in a bowl combine the rest of your pulled chicken, a few tablespoons of Burman’s Original BBQ Sauce ($1.05), if you don’t already have barbecue sauce in the refrigerator, and a package of Happy Farms Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese ($3.09) and have dinner on the table for approximately $1.28 per person with minimal effort. Add a Little Salad Bar Sweet Kale Chopped Salad Kit for $2.75 and and dinner still comes to just $1.96 per person. 

These recipes may not be “gourmet”, but these are some of the practical, flavorful meals that have served me well and enabled me to provide nourishment for my nearest and dearest, no matter my financial situation. None of us can predict the future, but I hope that with these, I can be assured that our readers will continue to eat well.

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