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This post is sponsored by Aldi.

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I’m currently in Chicago!  I’m on a tour of Aldi’s USA headquarters with a group of other bloggers, and it’s been so much fun.  And there’s SO MUCH FOOD.  So much delicious food.

 

And so  many friends!  Look who I found – Meghann from Meals and Miles.  Meghann and I go way back to the Orlando days. Even though we’re a thousand miles apart now, we still talk every week.  But I haven’t seen her in years.

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(I got those black jeans for $25 on LOFT – such a steal!  They’re not that low anymore, but they’re still 30% off.)

 

And my friend Jen from Peanut Butter Runner is here, too!  She lives in Charlotte as well so it’s fun to spend time with her in Chicago.

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Jen’s standing with Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful.  I love coming to blog events because I find so many great new blogs to read.  Shannyn’s blog is about living a fun, healthy life debt-free. 

 

The tour of Aldi has actually been one of the best corporate tours that I’ve been on, simply because we’ve done so much and it’s been so varied and interesting.  I’ll sum up what I’ve learned about budget grocery shopping in another post, but for this post, I thought I’d just talk about what we did at the Test Kitchen.

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First up was a side-by-side comparison of Aldi’s in-store products to national brands.  Like Trader Joe’s, Aldi has in-store brands to save money on costs.  In the Test Kitchens, Aldi chefs do blind testing to compare the products to the popular national brands, and then they tweak their recipes to get it as close as possible (for 40 – 60% less for many products!).

 

Up first:  Greek yogurt.

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I didn’t like the flavor or consistency of the first yogurt in comparison to the second.  I was *sure* that Yogurt A was Aldi’s in-store brand and Yogurt B was Chobani’s…  In fact, all the bloggers thought that!  But guess what?  Yogurt B was Aldi.  And it was priced nearly 50% lower. 

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We also compared Havarti cheese… 

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I couldn’t tell a big difference between the cheeses (which says something!), but the bloggers leaned towards liking the cheese that turns out to be Aldi, not the $5 brand. 

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(You may recognize Roni from Roni’s Weigh, Sarah from SarahFit, and Bex from BexLife.)

 

We also compared chips and crackers – that’s where the national brands beat out Aldi.  Most bloggers preferred Tositios to Aldi chips – and so did I.  But at $0.99 cents, you can’t really beat the price of the Aldi chips for a big party!

 

Up next, we were confronted with this Aldi grocery cart.  We were instructed to guess the cost of everything in the cart.  Want to take a gander?  There’s two bottles of wine, a sirlon steak, and salmon in there.

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There was a $100 gift card on the line, so I took this contest very seriously.  And guess what?!  I WON!  Guess all my Aldi shopping has been paying off.  :)

 

I guessed $83.50.  Here’s the real total:

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Everyone else low-balled it.  Wahoo!

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We listened to both a registered dietitian and food stylish (cool job!) speak – and I’ll recap them later – and then we headed back into the test kitchens to make custom smoothies.

 

We entered a room with a HUGE spread of fruits, veggies, nuts, nut butters, yogurt, milk, and a team of chefs who were prepared to help us slice and blend our creations.

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There were gift cards on the line for the most delicious OR the most nutritious smoothie.  We took our recipe-making very seriously!

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Our smoothies were judged by the two guest speakers.  I ended up creating an Aldi nutella, orange, and vanilla yogurt smoothie, which won for the delicious category!  I was on a lucky roll yesterday.

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And last, but certainly not least, we sat down to a delicious dinner.  I really enjoyed the dinner because while we ate, we talked about the lost art of dinner parties and how people don’t host as much anymore – mainly because of the cost.  We were eating SUCH delicious food that was made with really simple, low-cost Aldi ingredients… I feel inspired to throw a dinner party now!

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I wish I had plated my food a bit better – I had just heard from a food stylist, for goodness sake! – because that plate does NOT do the following recipes justice.

 

For me, the stand-out recipes were the following two delicious vegetarian side dishes. {Recipes and photos re-published with permission – you should definitely check out Aldi’s recipe page because there are a ton of great, simple dishes.}

 

Sunsational Salad

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(Ingredients for 6 servings)

 

  1. 1 lime, juiced and zested
  2. 2 tablespoons Carlini Pure Olive Oil
  3. 1 ½ teaspoons Baker’s Corner Granulated Sugar
  4. ¼ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper
  5. ¼ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt
  6. 2 peaches, pitted and sliced
  7. 2 small cucumbers, seeded and sliced
  8. 1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed
  9. ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  10. 2 cups Little Salad Bar Spring Mix
  11. 4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  12. 2.5 ounces Specially Selected Feta Cheese Crumbles

 

Directions: In a small bowl, whisk lime juice, olive oil, sugar, pepper and salt until dressing holds together. In a large bowl, toss peaches, cucumbers, corn kernels and onion with dressing. Arrange over spring mix. Garnish with lime zest, basil leaves and feta cheese.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Pistachio Pesto

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(Ingredients for 6-8 servings)

 

Sweet Potatoes:

  1. 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
  2. 1 tablespoon Carlini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  3. Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt, to taste
  4. Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  5. ½ teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Chili Powder
  6. Zest of 1 lime, divided

Cilantro Pesto:

  1. 1 teaspoon Stonemill Essentials Minced Garlic
  2. 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
  3. ¼ cup Reggano Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  4. 1 ¼ cups Southern GrovePistachios, shells removed, divided
  5. 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  6. ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons CarliniExtra Virgin Olive Oil
  7. Stonemill Essentials Iodized Salt, to taste
  8. Stonemill Essentials Ground Black Pepper, to taste

 

Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet. Toss with oil, seasonings and half of the lime zest. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and caramelized. Meanwhile, prepare pesto: In a food processor, combine garlic, cilantro, parmesan, 1 cup pistachios, lime juice and olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Roughly chop remaining ¼ cup pistachios. Toss warm potatoes with pesto. To serve, sprinkle potatoes with remaining pistachios and lime zest.

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So – that was my day in the Aldi Test Kitchen!  A total blast.  And like I said – SO MUCH good food.

 

Question of the Day:  What national brand food do you truly prefer the taste of?  Are there any in-store brands that you like?  I really like Trader Joe’s hummus in comparison to Sabra hummus.  And I liked Aldi’s super dark chocolate – way better than a plain candy bar!

 

This post was sponsored by Aldi.  As always, all opinions are my own.

{ 30 comments }

 

Leave a Comment

  • Dennis March 7, 2014, 9:47 am

    What’s the makeup of the Greek Yogurt? Is it just milk and cultures or does it use other agents to thicken? And do they make a plain variety that’s full fat? I love the Fage whole milk yogurt but it is expensive and hard to find.

    Reply
    • Claire March 7, 2014, 4:21 pm

      Don’t know about the US but in Australia Aldi does a 1kg tub of full fat plain Greek yog. It is Lyttos house brand and only ingredients are milk, milk solids, cream (from milk) and live yoghurt cultures. It’s thick and delicious. I mix in fresh berries, almonds, raw oats, ground flaxseed and chopped dates for my breakfast, so yum. So much better than sweetened and flavoured low fat greek yoghurt, which is far from real food if you check the ingredient list. Full fat dairy all the way, especially if you want to avoid overly processed food.

      Reply
  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun March 7, 2014, 9:52 am

    Wow the smoothie you created sounds delicious! This looks like such a fun time – I hope you all have a blast!

    Reply
  • Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} March 7, 2014, 9:59 am

    I love the Greek Yogurt from Aldi, it goes so quick at our store that I literally have to be there when the store opens on Monday morning! It looks like you had a really great time. I am so glad Aldi is getting some recognition, I LOVE Aldi and have been shopping there for years!

    Reply
  • Elle March 7, 2014, 10:16 am

    Aldi’s Simply Natural string cheese is the best string cheese by far!

    Reply
  • Racheal @ Running with Racheal March 7, 2014, 10:34 am

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Aldi! My whole family thinks they have the best cottage cheese and I also enjoy their super dark chocolate almost every night!

    Reply
  • Lee March 7, 2014, 11:12 am

    Isn’t Aldi somehow related to Trader Joe’s? Like they are owned by brothers or something? There’s an Aldi fairly close to my house but I’ve never been there (mostly just because it’s in the opposite direction from everything else). I should try it.

    I’m opposite of you on the hummus – I think that Sabra is way better than TJ’s.

    Reply
  • Sara March 7, 2014, 12:16 pm

    I wish there was an Aldi in Richmond, VA. Sounds awesome! But I love TJ’s, so it’s all good. I love TJ’s hummus! It’s really the only one I truly love. The others are “Meh.”

    Reply
  • Holly G. March 7, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Giant’s “Simply Enjoy” brand of cocoa almonds are DELICIOUS! With a short, familiar ingredient list, too.

    Reply
  • abi@AbsofSteel March 7, 2014, 12:45 pm

    There’s a bunch of trader joe’s versions of food that I like way better than the originals. Like their version of cheetos, their version of oreos (i’m a traitor, I know) and much more.

    Reply
  • Rachel March 7, 2014, 12:54 pm

    Aldi hummus is my favorite. It comes with 4 different flavors and 1/2 the price (for more) than Krogers hummus. Can’t beat that

    Reply
  • Lauren March 7, 2014, 12:56 pm

    Ah, so fun you are in Chi-town! Hopefully it warmed up a bit for you. Not sure how long you girls are there, but let me know if you need any recommendations for good foodie spots. :)

    Have fun!

    Reply
  • Jenna March 7, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Hi Caitlin, I’m wondering if you’ve heard about any of the news stories surrounding ALDI being caught using horse meat in some of their prepared food products. It seems strange timing to me that they are using so many bloggers now to promote their stores just after this terribly bad press has come out. I just don’t think I can trust their quality standards. I wish I could thought because they’re so affordable! Did they mention this at your meeting at all? Also any idea where they stand on GMO products?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Courtney March 8, 2014, 5:38 pm

      That was over a year ago, so maybe you are thinking of IKEA? Aldi had an issue with a supplier like this time last year, but they weren’t the only chain effected and none of those products were sold in the US.

      Reply
  • Joy March 7, 2014, 1:45 pm

    What a great opportunity!

    My absolute favorite hummus in the world is Trader Joe’s original hummus (big tub, with the red writing). It’s better than any hummus I’ve ever had. And Trader Joe’s makes my favorite dark chocolate as well (organic dark chocolate truffle). I wish there was an Aldi’s near me to try (Westchester, NY).

    Reply
  • Ashley March 7, 2014, 2:02 pm

    Boo! Hearing about this (& reading other reader comments raving about Aldi) make me want to check it out….but there are none in my area! Any plans for expansion west-ward? (I live in Tucson, AZ by the way)

    Reply
  • Anne Weber-Falk March 7, 2014, 2:12 pm

    We’ve shopped at Aldi for a few years now. I find the variety gets better and better. My only beefs are they carry some items only seasonally and many items are over packaged. I do most of my basic shopping from Aldi. We really do save a lot of money and the food is good and fresh.

    Reply
  • Shannyn @frugalbeautiful.com March 7, 2014, 3:26 pm

    It was great to meet you! Also, dang you blog fast! I haven’t even plugged my camera in yet! Have a safe trip home! :)

    Reply
  • Laura @ SneakersandSpatulas March 7, 2014, 4:21 pm

    Cheerios! No store brand can compare to my beloved Cheerios!!

    Reply
  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs March 7, 2014, 4:28 pm

    Sounds like such a cool & fun experience! And your smoothie combo does sound delicious :)

    Reply
  • Molly March 7, 2014, 4:33 pm

    You spelled dietitian correctly. I now think that you are a genius.

    Reply
  • Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats March 7, 2014, 4:35 pm

    Great post! We do 90% of our grocery shopping at Aldi’s. I think it often gets a bad rap, just wish people knew how great it is! Awesome that you got to go there, I would have loved that:)

    Reply
  • Alina March 7, 2014, 5:51 pm

    Not sure if the US has President’s Choice products (or which stores carry them) but I LOVE their Blue Menu line! All the stuff is better for you in some way specifically (ex: low fat, low sodium) but usually good on all the rest, cost effective because it’s an in-store brand, and they make really good prepared foods (because you can’t do everything from scratch ALL of the time).

    Reply
  • Ashley M. [at] (never)homemaker March 7, 2014, 8:36 pm

    Love me some Aldi! I can’t BELIEVE how great the Greek yogurt is, and I live near where Chobani is manufactured, so I feel like I should have some allegiance, but no. Hahah

    Reply
  • micpurdy March 7, 2014, 8:55 pm

    I just had to giggle when I read this because my family and I absolutely prefer aldis chips over national brands! I will go out of my way to buy them. Each to their own.

    Reply
  • Rebecca March 8, 2014, 10:08 am

    I tried some hummus a couple weeks ago, and I can’t remember the brand!! Athenos maybe? I had a pepper flavor, and it was kind of bland, even for a Midwesterner who hates spice LOL. It was good, but it wasn’t amazing. I haven’t really had any other brands of hummus to know which I prefer.

    There are certain things we won’t buy the generic/store brands of, because my mom doesn’t think they taste as good. Certain things we’ll buy the off brand (pudding, partly ’cause it’s cheaper), but other things we can’t stand. Lol.

    Reply
  • leslie March 8, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Congrats on the two gift cards! So cool.

    I’ve only found one item where I cab strongly tell a difference between national and store brands: cheerios. I like the national brand better.

    Reply
  • Luv What You Do March 8, 2014, 7:48 pm

    I can’t believe you guys were in Geneva!? I work in the town next door! Looks like a cool opportunity!

    Reply
  • Katie March 8, 2014, 11:27 pm

    I’m not very brand loyal at all but one brand name item I love is Organic Valley milk. I think it tastes so much better than all other organic milks. However, it’s way more expensive than the milk I get from a nearby farm and/or the Wegman’s brand milk so those are the two kinds I usually end up with- my 20 month old is adding to the milk budget these days. :)

    Reply
  • Stephanie @ Whole Health Dork March 9, 2014, 9:18 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience! Looks like a fun time, talking about food and hanging out with fellow bloggers. And the recipes look great–can’t wait to try the sweet potatoes!

    Reply