Five of the Best Products to Buy at Aldi’s
Among the many reasons to shop at Aldi are the brands and products that you can’t find anywhere else. (Another is the budget-friendly prices.) Over the last few months, as I found myself with more time on my hands, I decided that rather than just shopping for familiar items that I buy time and again, I would explore the whole store, examining every item in the hopes of finding some treasures — and I did.
However, it’s not just the products and prices that make Aldi worth visiting. The history and overall experience also make it a good option for grocery shopping. Aldi, short for Albrecht-Diskont, is a family-owned chain of grocery stores, headquartered in Germany. The company began when Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother opened a store in suburban Essen in 1913. The brothers launched the chain in 1946. In 1960, they split the company into Aldi Nord, which operates Trader Joe’s, and Aldi Süd, which owns the Aldi stores that began appearing in the United States in 1976. Today, it manages 1900 stores here, 20 of which are in the Houston area.
When you pull into the parking lot of an Aldi store, you will notice that there are no stray shopping carts. They’re lined up in perfect columns close to the store entry, all without a parking lot attendant in site. That’s because if you need to use one, you slip a quarter deposit in a lock on top of the cart, which is refunded when you return the cart. When you enter the store, you may notice that the cashiers are sitting down, putting less strain on their backs. The cashiers also tend to be fast. They’re ringing up the next customer, using an efficient point-of-sale system, while the previous customer is bagging their own groceries. The cashiers don’t bag, so they can focus on checking out customers. In addition, almost everyone brings their own bags since Aldi’s charges for bags to reduce plastic waste in the environment. (Flimsy, single-use plastic bags are already banned or being phased out in several states.) For those still minimizing in-store visits due to COVID-19, Aldi’s does offer curbside pickup.
Here are five of my favorite products from Aldi’s that you will always find in my pantry or fridge.
Deutsche Küche Bratwurst, 16 oz./$4.49: Found in distinctive packages featuring a blue and white lozenge pattern inspired by the Bavarian flag, these authentic, imported brats come in four varieties: Bavarian, Beer, Oktoberfest and Cheese. Each package contains four long, uncured pork sausages that don’t contain any fillers or by-products. Don’t let the pale beige color fool you into thinking that these lack flavor — they absolutely do not. After pan-frying, broiling or grilling, the outer casings take on a dark brown color. Serve the brats with some fried potatoes and good mustard.
Fremont Fish Market Salmon Burgers, 11.2 oz./$4.99: These frozen patties, four to a box, are made from wild-caught, certified-sustainable salmon and contain no unnecessary fillers. These come in teriyaki and chipotle flavors and are best when cooked on the grill, baked or pan-fried. Since each patty is slightly under 3 ounces, I found it takes two to make a substantial sammie. These go especially well on Aldi’s brioche buns with some coleslaw. Since the patties are thin, these cook in just minutes. The teriyaki version has a distinct, balanced sweetness, while the chipotle version has only a mild sensation of heat. Neither flavor masks the salmon but merely enhances it.
Pane Turano Italian Bread, 24oz./$3.49: When I’m not baking my own bread, one of my standbys is this large, round, pre-sliced, rustic loaf, which I keep in the freezer for emergencies. In 1954, Mariano Turano brought his recipe for authentic Italian bread from Calabria to Chicago. There, in 1962, he opened his first bakery. His family has been baking it ever since. It makes great toast, bruschetta and panini. For panini, I brush the outside with olive oil, stuff it with sliced Italian meats or grilled veggies and Mozzarella and maybe even a little pesto. Then, I toast it on my old George Foreman grill.
Specially Selected Fair Trade Coffee, 17.5oz,/$4.99: This fair-trade, ground coffee is vacuum-packed, which ensures freshness. The beans come from South America and East Africa and are roasted and ground in Germany. The medium roast and grind makes for an excellent, full-bodied cup of joe at a price that is hard to beat. I have used it in both a drip coffee maker and a pour-over filter, and I always get a thick, almost creamy consistency with no bitterness.
Specially Selected Mussels, 14-16oz./ $2.49: If you had asked me whether or not I would ever try fully-cooked, frozen mussels, you would have been met with a glance that needed no words. That was before my wife persuaded me to try Aldi’s. They come in three versions: Natural Juices, Tomato-Garlic Sauce and Garlic Butter. All three taste excellent and deserve a permanent place in your freezer. The mussels are imported from Chile, where they are responsibly sourced and farmed. Incredibly, they are ready in 5 minutes in the microwave and taste as good as if they were made from scratch. The price gives you an even better reason to try them and — don’t forget — you’re going to want a good baguette to sop up the juices.