When I hear people complaining that it costs so much to eat good food, I like to remind them that they can either invest in wellness now or spend on sickness later.
Our food system is screwed up. I get that. What our ancestors grew up on is now labeled “organic” and gotten at a premium. Big Food has led us so far astray from natural practices that it has become much more labor intensive to produce food in its most pure state. And that cost of doing business eventually trickles down to us.
But eating well doesn’t mean you have to break your budget. While Whole Foods has earned the moniker “Whole Paycheck” because of its lofty prices, I still believe you can do reasonably well there if you’re smart about your choices. Of course, I’m willing to sacrifice other luxuries in favor of spending on good food. But if you’re really trying to keep a tight budget, Aldi has some great options that will be kind to your pocketbook while treating your body well, also.
There was a time when Aldi wasn’t even on my radar. When Aldi first landed in our area, I remember checking it out and not being all that impressed. The draw was obviously its lower prices. Some people crave an exotic shopping experience. And Whole Foods certainly delivers that. But I don’t mind Aldi’s no-frills approach. If you give me good food at a fair price, it doesn’t bother me that your idea of a display is to cut the shipping boxes open and stack them up. What did turn me off was the food presented in those boxes. It was a struggle to find a healthy item. It seemed that everything was heavily processed, cheaply produced food with no regard to nutritional value.
How times have changed. Like any grocery store, high-end ones included, Aldi still carries its fair share of questionable nutrition. But they have definitely upped their game when it comes to offering healthy, organic options as well.
Here are 10 great items from Aldi that will fit even the tightest budgets. Each can be had for under $5. (More or less.)
Simply Nature Organic Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. It has a ton of uses, both inside and outside of the kitchen.
It is a stable saturated fat, which makes it great for cooking. It will not oxidize easily like industrial seed oils (canola, soy, corn, vegetable, etc.) which means less free radicals in your body and less damage to your cells and tissues. Coconut oil remains stable even at relatively high cooking temperatures.
Simply Nature Organic Free Range Chicken Broth
You can’t beat homemade broths and stocks. But if you’re not into making your own broth at home, or if you just can’t seem to find the time, this broth is a good option in a pinch. Bone broths are full of healthy minerals and collagen to help you maintain strong bones, joints, and connective tissue.
Pour this into a sauce pan, add some leftover meat, steamed veggies, scallions, and some seasoning. Heat it up, and you have instant soup! Or you can simply sip it from a mug to supplement your collagen.
Australian Grass Fed Cheddar
If you’re okay with dairy, this cheese is a good option. Grass fed dairy is a better choice than conventional due to a more optimal fat content. Cows raised on grains produce milk that has a much higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3. Too much omega-6 tends to incite an inflammatory response in your body.
In general, the harder the cheese, the longer it has been aged. Aged cheeses undergo a longer fermentation process and are typically less offensive to your gut. So if you like cheese but find that dairy can be troublesome, opt for harder varieties of cheese.
Simply Nature Organic Cage Free Eggs
All foods exist on a spectrum from the optimal choice to the least desirable. Locally raised, pastured, organic eggs would be at the best end of the continuum, with conventional feedlot eggs at the other end. But given a choice between a conventional egg and a candy bar, I’ll still take the egg.
There is controversy as to what labeling like “free range” and “cage free” actually means, but for the price, theses eggs are a good choice. As of now “organic” still means free of pesticides, so at least you know you are getting a cleaner product than conventional eggs.
Kerrygold Grass Fed Butter
Just like the grass fed cheese above, this butter has all the healthy benefits of properly proportioned fatty acids. Still afraid of fat? It turns out that the studies that have vilified fat for decades were based on shoddy research. The truth is that excessive consumption of carbs and sugars have been shown to play a much larger role in the development of heart disease and obesity than saturated fat.
Fat is essential for healthy brain function, cell walls, nerve linings, and more. It is also a great source of energy and is much more satiating than carbs, meaning you can go longer without getting hungry.
Like coconut oil, grass fed butter is a good option to use for sauteing. If you are not that into eating veggies, adding a little butter and seasoning can really boost the flavor profile.
Why green bananas? Green bananas are a great source of resistant starch. Resistant starch makes its way to the colon largely undigested, where it then undergoes fermentation and produces a plethora of healthful gut bacteria.
For some reason, Aldi always tends to have a lot of green bananas on hand. Asking some people to eat a green banana is like suggesting they eat a live sea slug. It’s just not going to happen. That’s okay. I happen to like green bananas, but if they aren’t your thing, there are other options out there. Another very simple way to get resistant starch is to eat cooked and cooled rice or potatoes. When these foods are cooked and then cooled in the refrigerator, the molecular make-up changes to produce resistant starch. The resistant properties remain even when reheated.
By the way, bananas are a fruit that is okay to buy conventional. While they are not on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 (least pesticide laden produce), neither are they on their Dirty Dozen. Plus the peel offers a line of defense from agricultural chemicals.
Are you on the avocado bandwagon yet? People are making avocado everything nowadays. And I’m fine with it. Avocado toast, avocado smoothies, avocado dips. Chocolate avocado pudding is one of my favorite sweet indulgences.
Avocados are a great source of healthy fat and they are extremely versatile. Of course, if you’re trying to lose body fat, you don’t want to be taking in copious amount of fat through your diet. But if you’re going to eat fat, you might as well enjoy some avocado.
It’s not uncommon to pay over a dollar a piece for avocados, but Aldi frequently has them on sale for much less. Avocados are also okay to buy conventional since they have a thick skin to protect them. They ranked #1 on the EWG’s 2018 Clean 15 list.
Simply Nature Organic Spices
Unlike bananas, avocados, and many other fruits and veggies, herbs and spices don’t have skins or peels to protect them. This is especially true of herbs because they are made from a plant’s leaves, while spices can be derived from the roots, seeds, or bark. In either case, if it fits within your budget, it’s a good idea to opt for the organic version of herbs and spices.
While Aldi doesn’t have a wide variety of spices, the ones they do carry are pretty universal to the average kitchen. Spices are an overlooked key to creating variety in your diet. There are only so many sources of protein out there, but by flavoring them with different herbs and spices, you can create an infinite menu of unique taste profiles.
Simply Nature Organic Spring Mix
I am a big salad lover. I usually chop whatever fresh veggies I have on hand and top them with some leftover meat from the night before, or add a couple hard boiled eggs for protein. Some walnuts or sunflower seeds add some crunchy texture. But it all starts with a bed of greens.
This is a great mix of fresh organic greens. These not only work well for salads, but are also good to throw into a green smoothie. If you buy spring mix or baby greens, you’ve probably figured out that they spoil faster than hardier types of lettuce. To help prevent this, try transferring these to a salad keeper, or add a couple paper towels to the container to help absorb some of the condensation that tends to develop.
Simply Nature 100% Grass Fed Organic Ground Beef
Okay, so this one bruises the $5 budget just a bit, but it’s worth it, especially if you don’t eat red meat that often. An occasional splurge won’t break the bank.
As you might know, my preferred source for local grass fed beef is Burns Angus Farm. But if you don’t go local, 100% grass fed organic is the next best option.
In my opinion, meat is best cooked on the bone, and best sourced from a local farmer or butcher. But the reality is that most of us just tend to opt for whatever is easiest. There’s no arguing with the versatility of packaged ground meat or the simplicity of its preparation.
When I introduce people to a paleo or primal type diet, most are surprised at how much food they are allowed to eat. But because the food is so much more nutrient dense than they are used to, they don’t feel the need to eat as much as they anticipate. You can blow through a box of crackers or cereal and still be left wanting for more. But if you eat a heaping plate of veggies with some protein and healthy fat, chances are pretty good that your appetite will be satisfied. So although you might tend to pay a little more for better food, in the end it’s probably a wash anyway. And when you can find good food at a great price, all the better.
So grab your canvas bags and a quarter for a cart. It’s time to go shopping.
Be Your Best,