The One Product Chefs Never Buy At Aldi - And What They Buy Instead

In recent years, Aldi has significantly expanded its number of locations in the US, making it an accessible grocery store for the first time in many states. But American shoppers may be put off by the unconventional nature of Aldi. Paying a quarter for a cart (you get the quarter back when you return the cart), bringing your own bags, and loading your groceries into them is not what we've become culturally used to. It stands in stark contrast to, say, Trader Joe's notoriously chatty and speed-bagging workers. 

But one thing Aldi has that cannot be denied is rock-bottom prices, as well as a variety of interesting products. Unprecedented grocery inflation is causing shoppers to give new attention to the German-based supermarket. The important component when shopping at Aldi is knowing what to look for, and what to skip. Here's what professional chefs and culinary experts pick up on their Aldi trips. 

Don't go for off-brand snack dupes

Favorite name brand snack items are often the first thing to go when you're trying to save money at the grocery store. So when you're cruising the aisles at Aldi, you may get the palm-sweating urge to snag a bag of off-label Cheetos or a compelling dupe of a beloved breakfast cereal. But professional chef Emma Terhaar told The Takeout to resist that impulse because you're likely to notice the difference and miss the kind you're accustomed to.

Instead, think of those name brand snacks as luxury items, and wait for them to go on sale at other major retailers. According to Instacart, most stores release weekly sales on Wednesday, so that is the best day to shop for getting your snacks on the cheap. That being said, Aldi does occasionally have the name brand snacks, you just have to look often, act fast, and accept that they won't be on quite as steep of a discount as you may be hoping for. 

Spend some time in the cheese aisle

One of the great travesties of American grocery shopping is that any cheese beyond the pre-shredded, bagged stuff is seen as an absolute luxury, and the prices reflect it. A single glance at the cheesemonger counter at any grocery store's major chain will likely fill you with dread. This is one of the places where the store absolutely excels. You can expect a variety of cheeses at shockingly low prices. Here are a few of the specialty cheeses to look for at Aldi. 

Chef and mother of two Tori Hazelett told Insider that she cannot get enough of Aldi's Happy Farms cheese brand, particularly the sliced American cheese for both its taste and low cost. Additionally, Hazelett says all the offerings she's had from the grocer have been noteworthy. The culinary judge Meredith Ochs tried Aldi's Champagne cheddar cheese and thought it was wonderful, noting that they could really taste the fizzy champagne in the cheese and that it would make a decadent pairing with the humble potato chip (via Insider). 

Don't be a wine snob at Aldi

Ever since Trader Joe's Charles Shaw wine, affectionately known as Two Buck Chuck, became a respectable, highly drinkable wine label, there's been somewhat of a renaissance of ultra-cheap wine. According to NPR, when the mastermind and producer of Two Buck Chuck Fred Franzia was asked how he could sell wine for less than a bottle of water, he replied, "They're overcharging for the water — don't you get it?" And so there was a cultural paradigm change — to hell with overpriced labels and wanna-be sommeliers, let's have a drink and not lose our wallets. 

And Aldi shares this same attitude in the wine aisle. Good wine does not need to come at a markup, and price doesn't reflect a wine's taste. But, as Emma Terhaar acknowledges, the store's inventory is ever-changing, so if you find something you love, don't count on seeing it on the shelves again. Tori Hazelett has found that the $5 Burlwood Extra Dry Sparkling Wine is something to cherish — cheap enough to splash into a mimosa, but good enough to drink on its own, too. 

Embrace the chain's German roots

Aldi started out in Germany, and you can still see traces of that even in the chain's U.S. stores. So do as the Deutsch do and dig into some Bavarian food fare. Aldi has an entire label devoted to German eats – Deutsche Küche, or German Cuisine. 

Multiple chefs said that the mustards at Aldi are not to be missed. Professional chef Emma Terhaar opts for the Bavarian Sweet Mustard, which is well-balanced in tang and spice. Catering company owner and hot sauce maker Samantha Davis-Allonce shared a similar sentiment with Kitchn, noting that Aldi's mustards have the right, punchy spice you'd expect from German mustards. To round out that delicious mustard, Davis-Allonce also loves Aldi's microwavable Bavarian-style pretzels and the German-style dill pickles. So anytime you're in doubt in the Aldi aisle, reach for Deutsche Küche — it's probably a must-try.