This is the first in a planned series of grocery tours for Vegans!
I am lucky to live in the Richmond, Virginia metro area: the place where grocery store chains love to converge. As old time Richmonders collectively mourn the loss of our beloved Ukrop’s, several chains have moved in to console us and attempt to fill this void. This phenomenon is not lost on the industry, as it’s been written about many times! (Check out this article from Food and Wine, and this one from Richmond Magazine.)
Our variety of stores is both a blessing and a curse, because there are awesome products at every store in the RVA that are must haves! Even different locations of each store carry different products. This forces me to visit one large grocery each week and rotate the smaller, specialty groceries when I have time for an extra shop. Aldi is on that second tier, and is the first I will explore with you in this grocery shopping for vegans series!
Aldi entered the Richmond market in 2015 and has gradually expanded its base as a low cost grocery here. I have many friends who have not yet explored Aldi, so I wanted to share what they have to offer, especially for those who eat vegan. Before you go to Aldi, you need to know the ground rules!
- You need a quarter. One of the ways they cut costs is to keep their carts locked. You need a quarter to unlock your cart, which you get back when you return it to the corral. No, there are no hand baskets!
- You need to bring bags. Don’t worry, though, because you can buy bags if you forget. You can also usually grab an empty box from a storage bin in the store, just like Costco, to carry out your goodies.
- Be prepared to bag your own groceries. They have a very nice area to do so but they basically put all of your purchases in another cart to take to this area. Again, another way to cut costs.
- Most of the merchandise is their own brand, just like Trader Joe’s.
- Merchandise changes frequently. If you find something you love, stock up, because it may not be there on your next visit!
- The store layout is essentially the same in each store. Once you learn it, navigating is easy. They don’t play the rearranging game every so often to make you spend more time in the store! (Trader Joe’s, which is related to Aldi, is notorious for doing this!)
What are some of the must-haves for Vegans at Aldi?
- Not all of their chocolate is vegan, but most of their dark chocolate is. It’s also fair trade! Their Moser Roth brand, which they carry consistently, looks like it’s a big bar from the outside, but it’s actually 5 individually wrapped bars. These are perfectly sized for your lunch box! My favorites are the 70% dark chocolate and the dark chocolate mint.
- Nuts and dried fruit.
- Their prices can’t be beat for the quality of these items. Today I even found raw cashews. I will try to make an “alfredo” sauce with these! And I find that eating dried fruit, besides providing lots of fiber, cures me of any cravings for chewy, sour candy like Skittles for me.
- Prices are usually really great on their produce, and the quality is usually good. The problem is that what is available is very hit or miss. So if you need something specific for a recipe, you’re better off going to a bigger grocery store. However, they usually have avocados, and today they were 79 cents! They also had organic berries today at my location.
- Vegan snacks and dips.
- There are usually several items available, although the products change frequently. Last time, I found Bada Bean Bada Boom snacks (I stocked up!) This visit, they had new cookies made with cashews and coconut which are surprisingly delicious! They also had cauliflower crackers, which actually aren’t as bad as they sound. At less than $2 per box, it was worth the gamble. Organic tortilla chips are a staple at Aldi in some variety. I also found an olive tapenade hummus and a black bean dip in the refrigerated section today that have both passed the taste test with one of my kids!
- Organic canned beans.
- These are consistently available, especially black beans and kidney beans. Always less than $1 per can.
- Vegan meat and milk substitutes.
- Aldi makes “chicken” patties, several varieties of bean/veggie burgers, vegan “meatballs,” and “chicken” tenders in the freezer section. I’ve tried most of these, and they are all decent. Today in the refrigerated section, they also had meatless Italian sausage and hot dogs. Read your labels, though, as the sausages contain egg! I didn’t purchase either. Although I don’t eat meat substitutes on a regular basis, the fact that most of these are frozen make throwing together a quick meal easy when you really need it!
- They also have several varieties of plant based milks, including a few flavors of almond milk, as well as soy and coconut milk, all Aldi brand.
- Aldi usually carries limited flavors of the GT’s brand (my husband is addicted!) They also have a store brand which is quite good, but they also carry other brands from time to time. Always just a bit under $3 each.
So if you’ve never explored Aldi, now you know what to look for! I think of Aldi as an adventure each visit. It’s never my primary shop of the week, but I try to stop in about once a month to stock up on chocolate and nuts, at least! They also have an aisle of non-food items which vary, and can have anything from vinyl records to sweatpants to generic TRX rigs. You never know what you’ll find!
Do you shop at Aldi? If so, what are some of your favorite items?
Next week, I’ll have a race recap of the One City Half Marathon!