The following is a post sponsored by ALDI. For our sponsored post policy, click here.
As you guys know, I was excited to check out the ALDI Test Kitchen in Chicago and learn all the secret ways ALDI keeps its prices low. But after spending two days with ALDI (and some other awesome bloggers!), I am even more smitten with the store. Smitten, I say!
The event started off with my favorite type of event: taste-testing!
Totally blind, we tasted ALDI brand yogurt, guac, chips and cheese against mainstream brands, and the results were really surprising. In most cases, we liked the ALDI brand better than the name brand. And even in the instance that we liked the name brand more, we still thought the ALDI brand was delicious and totally worth buying (especially considering the prices were sooo much more affordable). Liz from ALDI took us through the taste test.
During the taste test, we also got to try some healthy ALDI offerings — like vegetable chips (SO FREAKIN’ GOOD), mixed greens, roasted nuts and even a recipe.
Totally blown away by the taste test, we played a version of this game. Can you guess how much the ALDI goodies in this cart cost?
Yep, probably not as much as you thought — especially when you see the full list of what’s in there. My number was totally off. Salmon, lots of organic produce and USDA Choice strip steak, oh my!
After that we got to hear Registered Dietician Sylvia Klinger speak about “hero” foods. It was great to hear her thoughts on foods we should be eating just about every day — kale, mushrooms, lemons, eggs, avocados, blueberries. All stuff I regularly eat and that we regularly feature on FBE. Woot! She also made us this black bean salsa that was delicious. Who knew a can of black beans pureed with some lime juice, tomatoes and onion could be so tasty?
Next on the agenda was a smoothie competition. You know how I like those. And this one was awesome. We had a slew of ingredients to choose from, and we even had our own sous chef there at the ready to help us chop!
I put just about everything super-foodie in mine and tried for a slightly different smoothie flavor. There were so many ingredients to choose from that experimentation was calling my name! I went with avocado, sweet potato, kale, lime zest, a little banana, peanut butter, almond milk, ice and water. It tasted … okay. Not great. Henceforth, I did not win this competition. I may try my smoothie idea again at home though … I think I’m on to something with lime zest, but I’m not exactly sure what!
After our smoothies, we got to hear Food Stylist Janice Stahl speak. She was GREAT. Full of all kinds of fun, affordable and non-intimidating ideas, she inspired all of us to entertain more! A few of my fave tips from her was to use simple things like chocolate chips or dried beans as decoration and to re-purpose shot glasses as serving dishes for desserts and appetizers. Brilliant!
Then, it was dinnertime. We ate all ALDI products made from all ALDI recipes. The tilapia I made the other day was there, too. Delish! And I can’t say enough about how many good veggies there were. And the desserts. Oh, the desserts! Get all the recipes here. And the wine? Not too shabby at all! I especially liked the cab.
The next day, the ALDI fun continued with a grocery-store tour!
It was here that we really learned all the secrets as to why ALDI is so affordable. While products are pretty standard across ALDIs around the country, there is a little bit of variance (this Chicago store had dried chilis and 35-cent corn tortillas!), and they do try to feature local organic produce when they can. Some ALDIs have wine (mine needs to get that … stat!), and although they never really run sales (prices are already as low as they can go!), they do sometimes have special buys. One special buy that really made my ears perk up? Grass-fed beef! They offer it just a few times a year in stores, and the next time it’ll be available is March 26. You heard it here first! (Also, special buys are sometimes how they test products. Meaning, that if we all go out and buy all the grass-fed beef on the 26th, it may just become a regular thing!)
ALDI does about a million things to keep prices low, but the No. 1 thing is simple efficiency. Everything they do and offer has thought behind it and is done in a way that keeps prices down. From the deposit-a-quarter-for-a-cart (no employees needed to chase carts in the parking lot!), to no music in the stores, to having pretty much only their own products for sale (no marketing costs worked in!), to placing like five UPC codes on each package so the checkers can ring people up faster, to no permanent shelves, they have this whole low-cost thing down to a SCIENCE. And it’s clearly working.
But, what I was most impressed with wasn’t just that prices were low. It was how high-quality everything was! In the past, ALDI hasn’t always had the best rep for having the freshest produce or healthiest options, but with their new lines, organic produce and focus on quality, ALDI is doing amazing things. If you haven’t gone to one yet, try it! I guarantee once you do, you’ll keep going back … and back … and back!
Also, a personal shout out to all of the fab and amazing bloggers and women at this event. You might recognize a few — Sarah from SarahFit, Meghann from Meals and Miles, Shannyn from Frugal Beautiful, Jen from Peanut Butter Runner, Wendy from Daily Dose from Del Signore, Lorraine from Run Wifey Run, Roni from Roni’s Weigh, Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point and Rebekah from BexLife — they rock!
What’s your favorite ALDI buy? —Jenn