The easiest way to save money on groceries is by choosing where you shop. Aldi is a discount grocery store where they skip the fancy displays and you bag your own groceries to save more. When I began budgeting Aldi helped keep our grocery budget from getting too high. My original grocery budget was only $300 a month (which included household items, pet food, and toiletries). Shopping at Aldi is a cheap and easy way to cook on a budget.
Couponing Only Goes So Far
Coupons are a fantastic way to save on groceries but they can’t be your only strategy when you’re on a tight budget. The rules and types of coupons are changing constantly and vary by geographic location. It used to be easy to use coupons to gain an edge and stock up on various non-perishable items. I used to clip a ton of coupons every week towards fantastic deals, but now I’m finding it harder to find coupons I can actually use.
Think Outside the Big Box Stores
My first defense against an out-of-control grocery budget is choosing where I shop. The more often you shop the more you’ll notice some stores just plain have better prices. I always start my big monthly grocery trips by going to Aldi and knocking out as much of my shopping list as possible.
The food at Aldi is the same thing you’d buy anywhere else just with a different label. Try every product Aldi has at least once, you may find their brands taste better than name brands! I personally prefer Aldi’s version of sloppy joe mix to the name-brand mixes.
Ideas for Your First Aldi Trip
To get you started I’m going to share a few of my favorite Aldi meals I like to make and what ingredients to buy to create them yourself.
Spaghetti & Texas Toast
Servings: 6-8 servings plus you’ll have extra sauce for additional meals (you can freeze it), cooking large batches also saves time later in the month
Cost: $29.14 (this seems expensive but I probably get about 18 servings of nice hearty sauce)
Cost Per Serving: About $1.62/serving of sauce (18 servings)
- Texas toast
- 3-4 jars of pasta sauce (I like to mix and match different flavors)
- 1 can of crushed tomatoes
- green pepper
- red pepper
- orange pepper
- yellow pepper
- yellow squash
- green squash (zucchini)
- red onion
- minced garlic (comes in a small jar – I prefer the one that’s not in olive oil)
- canned mushrooms
- 1 small tube of ground beef (frozen section) 80% lean
- ⅓ bag of pepperoni diced into small pieces (optional)
- pasta (spaghetti noodles or elbow macaroni)
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Dice and cook up the veggies (I toss them all into a frying pan with a little water and cook them until the water is gone)
- Cook the ground beef and drain off the grease (once it turns brown it’s good to go)
- Toss everything (but the Texas toast and pasta of course) into a crockpot for 8 hours
- Heat up the Texas toast and pasta according to the directions
- serve sauce over your cooked pasta and enjoy!
I like to freeze extra sauce into quart size Ziplocs laid flat in the freezer (they hold about 3-4 cups of sauce) and you’ll need to thaw 1 or 2 bags depending on how many servings you want to make at a later date (1 bag of sauce is good for about 4 servings of pasta). If you have good quality bags the sauce will be fine in the freezer up to 6 weeks (maybe longer, but it never lasts that long in my house).
Spaghetti sauce is pretty versatile so don’t limit yourself to just plain spaghetti with your extra sauce. You can also use it for:
- Goulash (cook a box of elbow macaroni, add sauce, refrigerate overnight to allow the pasta to soak up the sauce, reheat by the bowl)
- Baked ziti (cook box of ziti, toss into glass baking dish with sauce & shredded mozzarella and bake until melted)
- Chili (just add a can of drained kidney beans, chili powder, and cumin), I like to serve mine with tortilla chips nacho style with shredded cheese on top
- Lasagna (boil lasagna noodles a couple of mins shy of directions, layer into the pan with the sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta cheese (I use cottage cheese instead), and bake until melted)
Tacos with Nachos
Taco Tuesday is a big deal in my house, everyone loves taco night! Aldi has everything you need to have your own taco night on the cheap. Again, this is a meal that really comes out to two different evenings of meals with leftovers (or perhaps TWO Taco Tuesdays in a row)!
Servings: 10-12 depending on how much meat you use per taco (again, you’re batch cooking so this saves some work later in the month)
Cost Per Serving: $2.20-$2.39 per serving depending on how much meat you use
- 2 tubes of ground beef 80% lean
- 1 can of black beans (drained & rinsed) – the bags of black beans are cheaper but I find they take a super long time to soften up
- 2 packets of taco seasoning
- 1 bag of shredded taco cheese
- sour cream
- queso (cheesy goodness in a jar to make epic nachos)
- tortilla chips
- burrito wraps
- and/or taco shells
- and/or tostadas (they look like a stack of giant round tortilla chips, more on this below)
We typically have a taco night and then tacos for lunch the next day and there’s STILL a lot of meat and toppings left. I freeze the extra taco meat and cheese in the freezer. Adding the black beans is like getting almost a pound of meat for free, they’re good for you and do not change the flavor.
Ideas for the leftover taco meat:
- Burrito bowls – cook up some plain rice, add the taco meat, red pepper, chicken stock, cooking onion, a can of tomatoes with chiles, and a can of corn. This is super filling and tasty – credit goes to my wife for figuring this one out.
- Taco salad – grab the excess lettuce, skip the taco shells and make a big taco salad
- Beef quesadillas – Take soft taco shells (burrito size) and put meat and cheese on half and fry it in a pan – add whatever toppings you like most
- Level expert: homemade Crunchwrap Supremes – Remember earlier when I mentioned grabbing a pack of tostadas? This is where they come into play.
- Grab two burrito wraps and cut one of them into quarters
- On the uncut wrap place a thin layer of queso
- Place one tostada (for the crunch)
- Layer on taco meat
- Add shredded taco cheese
- Optional: layer of lettuce and/or tomato
- More cheese if you used lettuce/tomato
- Place one of the quarter of the burrito wrap on top and curl the sides in
- Grill in a pan with the folded sides down to seal it and then flip once you see it’s nicely cooked on that side
- Add sour cream on top if desired
These are just two examples of some of the things you can find to cook at home from Aldi’s. These same meals would easily cost at least double with name-brand ingredients from your local grocery store. I find I’m most creative when I’m limited in choices because I come up with new ways to repurpose ingredients.
An average restaurant meal costs $10-20. Cooking meals at home can cut that expense down to $3/portion or less. You can feed your whole family for less than half the cost of a restaurant meal if you cook at home.
Check out my meal planning guide for more ideas to cut your expenses. Combining shopping at Aldi’s with meal planning is a powerful way to cut down on costs.