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Photo: Zee Krstic.

I traveled to Illinois to check out a newly remodeled Aldi, and sampled the grocer’s healthier items.

Zee Krstic
August 13, 2018

At Cooking Light, I'm definitely the editor who spends the most time perusing the aisles of my local Aldi. The German-based supermarket chain first caught my attention a few years ago thanks to its reputation for being notoriously budget friendly—which is why I was interested to hear that Aldi has launched healthier products, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and USDA-certified organic items. Most of these new items are designed with convenience in mind, placed in new areas made for ready-to-eat items like fresh salads and pre-portioned fruits.

Aldi invited Cooking Light to visit a remodeled store and taste new items at their headquarters in Batavia, Illinois. When I stepped into the new store—a model of what more than 1,800 stores will look like before 2022—I was excited to see how it compared to my normal Aldi shopping experience.

For those who have shopped at Aldi before, you'll be happy to hear that stores are still set up in the familiar "loop" of aisles that shoppers can wander—but the produce section, as well as the frozen section, have been significantly upgraded with more space and a broader selection.

Photo by Zee Krstic.

The famous "Aldi Finds" section is still as delightfully random as ever, and you'll be happy to hear that more fresh "finds" are being added to the grocery aisles than ever before. Scott Patton, the vice president of corporate buying at Aldi, says the sales of grocery items labeled as an “Aldi Find” are often used as a gauge for whether the item should be permanently added or not—so if a limited item runs out, take that as a good sign that you might be able to buy it again soon.

The team at Aldi hosted a luncheon where many of these new better-for-you items were served out of the grocer's test kitchen, using in-season recipes that are shared with shoppers online here. I tasted everything I could get my hands on—and ripped open some of the new items directly off shelves in the store as well.

Do you make frequent trips to Aldi? Read these next:

Aldi's newest batch of ready-to-eat items are delicious, and will be a huge hit for shoppers who love snack time and cooking their way through recipes with pre-made elements. Many of the new fresh items are also a big departure from the cheap boxed goods that I normally associate Aldi with and could be a great reason for you to add this store to your weekly routine, if you haven't already.

Here are the 10 Items that I'm really excited for:

Photo: Zee Krstic.

Organic Produce

Photo: Zee Krstic.

A new store layout makes it easier than ever to identify which items are organic. If you find yourself shopping at a busy time, scan the shelves for a green circular label—it signifies the produce was grown organically.

Ready-To-Eat Salads

Photo: Zee Krstic.
Photo: Zee Krstic.

There are four new salad kits sold under the "Little Salad Bar" brand name. I opted for the chicken Ceasar salad, and immediately fell in love. All of the elements of this classic salad were individually packed within a portable bowl, which makes eating lunch on the go super easy. Each salad costs you only $2.89 (even the Cobb salad, which has bacon and turkey).

Pre-Spiralized Vegetable Noodles

Photo by Zee Krstic.

Aldi's selection of pre-spiralized noodles are limited to zucchini and squash for now, but at $4.29 for three servings, it's the easiest way to enjoy fresh zoodles without the hassle. For anyone who’s trying to save time (or avoid an arm workout), I highly recommend these delicious convenience items.

Fruit Spears

Photo: Zee Krstic.

I absolutely love fresh pineapple, but I’m not a fan of the mess and fuss that comes with cutting a whole pineapple in my kitchen. If you're not a fan of cutting large, heavy fruits—or if you’re a single cook who can't eat the whole fruit alone—Aldi's fruit "spears" are for you. $3.29 gets you an entire pound of pre-sliced, ready-to-eat fruit that you can enjoy anywhere.

Fresh Meat and Seafood

Photo by Zee Krstic.

The newly expanded line of meats, poultry, and seafood at Aldi has way too many items for me to highlight. However, one item that particularly caught my eye was Aldi's salmon. These salmon fillets are seasonal items for now, but Patton explained that many seasonal items have previously transitioned into permanent offerings.

Photo by Zee Krstic.

$7.99 per-pound for Atlantic salmon is one of the lowest prices I've seen on fillets in a while—especially since they’re pre-portioned for ease of use. I enjoyed a full serving of grilled salmon at lunch and found the fish to be flaky, moist, and certainly passable for any home cook who wants to incorporate more of this heart-healthy staple into weeknight meals.

Park Street Deli Hummus Cups

Photo by Zee Krstic.

I won't dance around it—this is my favorite item out of all new products at Aldi, and one that I can't wait to keep stocked in my office fridge. For $2.99, you get six pre-portioned, disposable cups of a classic or roasted red pepper-flavored hummus. I love to snack on hummus, but I find that it’s hard to keep my portions in check. This product is the new answer to my snacking dilemma.

Each cup of the classic hummus has 140 calories and 210mg of sodium, making it a manageable snack for in between lunch and dinner.

Little Salad Bar Guacamole Cups

Photo: Zee Krstic.

These pre-portioned cups of guacamole will make any lunchbox or snacking situation better. Like the hummus, there are two different varieties of guacamole to choose from. The Spicy Guacamole blend, which costs $3.29, contains only 100 calories.

Kombucha

Photo: Zee Krstic.

I sampled one of the first batches of Aldi's new bottled kombucha while in the grocer's official test kitchen—it'll be a while before Aldi launches this product in all stores. But you can get your hands on a well-known national brand for just $2.89 a bottle until then.

Photo: Zee Krstic.

Frozen Vegan and Vegetarian Entrees

Aldi first launched its plant-based line of products, EarthGrown, back in January as an Aldi Find, says Joan Kavanaugh, Aldi's vice president of corporate buying. Before then, Aldi had not experimented with vegan and vegetarian-specific items—so Kavanaugh was surprised when then initial line sold out earlier this year.

Photo by Zee Krstic.

Set to launch in all stores by the end of August, the frozen EarthGrown veggie burgers come in vegan and vegetarian options (one of the burgers contains cheese). There's even one flavor that emulates the faux burger that quickly sold out at Costco earlier this year. Each variety sells between $2.79 and $2.99 for a pack of four.

Photo by Zee Krstic.

EarthGrown's standard vegan burger, blended together with 11 different types of vegetables, contains 130 calories and 280mg of sodium. I had the chance to sample one of the soon-to-come vegan burgers in Aldi's test kitchen. Like most of the other burgers, I was impressed. It didn't have a mushy or unpleasant mouthfeel, which is a common problem for many frozen, plant-based patties.

Photo by Zee Krstic.

There's also a few other plant-based entreés for you to consider, including meatless meatballs.

Aldi Wine

Photo: Zee Krstic.

Kavanaugh impressed me with a presentation on the unchecked growth of Aldi's wine section, which has tripled in size in the last 10 years. If you're looking for a fine wine without breaking the bank, Aldi works directly with wine suppliers to create their own labels that are often sold at price points $10 and under. Plus, consumers have recognized Aldi's blends with more than 300 product awards in the wine category.

Photo: Zee Krstic.

At a wine tasting with Aldi's official sommelier, I came across an incredible sparkling rosé that has hints of strawberry and watermelon and is sold for just $6 a bottle. The Arosa Sparkling Moscato Rosé was a hit for everyone in the room and just one example of how Aldi is becoming more of a destination for wine aficionados.

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