The Save A Lot Products That Are Better Than The Competitor, Even Aldi

While you may know and love Aldi, there's another discount grocery chain operating along similar lines - smaller selection, mostly house brands, BYO bags – that may be flying below your radar. That's got to change stat if you're lucky enough to live in one of the areas served by Save A LotWhile they may not have all of the fancy European imports offered by their German-born counterpart, what they do offer is something even better. Each Save A Lot is locally owned and operated, and individual store managers can stock products appealing to their specific communities.

Another thing we love about Save A Lot is that rather than giving its house brands hard to pronounce (and harder to spell) names like Deutsche Küche or Choceur, they name them after real people who have worked for the company like McDaniels' coffee (David McD was a former VP of grocery purchasing) and Hargis House chili (namesake of label artist Mary Hargis). Speaking of house brands, these (along with the store's low, low prices) are the real reason you need to be shopping at Save A Lot. Many of their offerings are just as tasty – some, dare we say, a bit better? – than those offered by major grocers as well as other budget chains. We spoke with Chef Holly Faivre, Save A Lot's quality assurance analyst and registered dietician nutritionist, for more info about the Save A Lot products we can't live without.

Crown Creamery premium ice cream

While Save A Lot's main ice cream brand is called World's Fair (a nod to their St. Louis roots), they also offer a line of premium ice cream sold in pints called Crown Creamery. It comes in several yummy-sounding flavors: Dough Dreams, Cookie Fudge, Choco Fudge, Choco Banana, and Very Berry Cheesecake, but our absolute favorite is Cherry Chunk. This, as you might guess, could be seen as a knockoff of Ben and Jerry's perennially popular Cherry Garcia and may also be compared to Aldi's Belmont-branded Thank You Cherry Much!.

While Cherry Chunk can't really compete in the punny name department, it more than keeps up when it comes to taste. The chocolate chunks are both large and numerous, and the ice cream is also jam-packed with what both Faivre and our tastebuds assure us are "real dark cherry pieces." Warning: while these ice cream pints may be "less than half the price of the national brand," they're unfortunately every bit as fattening (and addictive).

J. Higgs chips

The J. Higgs line of chips and salty snacks was named after Joe Higgs, Save A lot's first chief financial officer. If that's him pictured on the label, he looks like a pretty down-to-earth, likable guy, not some stuffy corporate type. But then, that's pretty much Save A Lot in a nutshell: anything but stuffy.

Of all of the 35 different snacks in the J Higgs line, our favorites are the potato chips and most specifically the Buffalo Wing flavored ones. For one thing, they are rippled, and thus strong enough to stand up to a nice dip (Faivre suggests the Coburn Farms French onion dip, but blue cheese dressing would be in the true Buffalo spirit). What we really like, though, is that unlike certain other supposedly Buffalo sauce-flavored chips, these aren't just another variant on barbecue. They're nicely spicy with a hint of the butter found in every true Buffalo sauce (the original recipe called for nothing more than butter and Frank's Red Hot Sauce), and they're really, really hard to stop eating. Luckily for the willpower-challenged, Save A Lot does offer their Buffalo Wing chips in individual-sized pouches as well as larger bags.

Sunny's snack pies

These are your basic hand pies as made famous by Hostess, although at Save-A-Lot prices, they're even cheaper than Little Debbie's. If your preference is for filling over crust, in our opinion, the Sunny's pies are even better than their pricier competitors. Have you ever bitten into one of those other pies, only to find that your first bite is all crust and air and that it's not 'til you get to bite number two that you get any filling at all? Well, that won't happen with these Sunny's pies. Far from being "all hat and no cattle" – or rather, "all crust and no filling" – these are among the only snack pies we've ever tried (and there have been way more than a few) where the filling comes all the way out to the edge of the crust. While the crust may be softer and less crunchy than with some other pies, that's not a problem, as it doesn't get in the way of the filling and also allows them to be warmed in the microwave (Faivre's recommendation).

There's only one teensy problem with the Sunny's snack pies (besides their not being calorie-free) – they only come in three flavors: apple, cherry, and chocolate. They're all quite yummy, but with pies this good, would a few more flavors be too much to ask? (If you're reading this, Save A Lot test kitchen, we're officially requesting blackberry, raspberry, pineapple, coconut, and/or strawberry rhubarb.)

Chicken paws

The cutely-named chicken "paws" may, at first glance, actually seem kind of horrific. What on earth would anybody want with a bunch of chicken feet? Well, chicken paws can be used to make "phoenix claws," a tasty snack only found in the most authentic of Chinese restaurants, and they are also a staple ingredient for Mexican soups (as per this recipe from Mexgrocer). While they're certainly not the kind of thing an Aldi would ever carry, much less a Trader Joe's (despite that chain's penchant for the pseudo-exotic), chicken feet are available at Save A Lots that cater to a largely Hispanic clientele.

Even if you're more of a traditional eater and not so inclined to nibble on any part of an animal that made regular contact with the ground, you may still be interested in chicken feet for making bone broth since they've got a bunch of good, healthy cartilage. If you have a canine companion, they'll surely enjoy these as well. Faivre calls them a "pet delicacy," and Pet Helpful notes that they are loaded with natural glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and are one of the cheapest, safest, and most enjoyable arthritis treatments for senior doggies.