This is How Cheap I Am: All My Weekday Meals from Aldi for $35

July 15, 2015

I’m not a true food blogger, nor am I a finance blogger or a homemaker. But I am super cheap and I like to eat delicious things. I also love to cook. The idea for this post has been rumbling around in my brain for a while, and after my constant, borderline-obsessive raving about Aldi, I figured I should explain myself. And I’ll try not to make it too lame.

No really, despite the Tetris game I play with my shopping cart each Monday evening as I grocery shop, I’ve probably told every one of my close friends and co-workers about the glories of Aldi, and I may have lectured them that if they aren’t shopping at Aldi, they’re missing out. Solid quality, cheap prices… I could be their spokesperson. (Hey Aldi, what’s up? Forget all those Pinterest moms, I’m the young, cool face you’re looking for!)

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals
My attempt at a beautiful, picturesque spread of groceries like in the real food blogs…

So last week, in order to bring this blog post to fruition, I picked up this pile of ingredients from Aldi totaling about $35, and (in addition to those items disclosed below) I used them to make dinners for Monday through Thursday nights. And for lunch on those days, I had leftovers of said dinners – well, that Monday I had other leftovers, but you get it. (Um, a half-sandwich for lunch at Whole Foods is $5.)

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

To be honest, my receipt for about 4 days’ worth of meals (which includes dinners for two, breakfasts for two, my lunches, and the occasional lunch for Charlie) usually totals anywhere between $27 and $40. I’m not even sure if that’s impressive anymore now I’ve been shopping at Aldi so long.

Anyway, if you care at all, this is how I do it:

Aldi is Incredibly Cheap

I could not do this shopping anywhere else… even Food Lion. If you don’t already know, Aldi is a German-based discount supermarket, and it’s owned by the same company as Trader Joe’s so you know it’s legit. You have to put in a quarter to get a shopping cart (don’t worry, you get it back when you return the cart, Mr. Cheapskate), and if you need grocery bags, you gotta bring your own or pay a few cents for their grocery bags at the counter. These cost-saving measures, as well as the non-brand name foods, the fact that they don’t accept credit cards, and supposedly even the layout of the grocery store lend to Aldi’s super cheap prices. And I LOVE it!

Make a List and Check it Twice

Like Santa. So preferably on Sunday, I do my usual meal-planning routine. Check Pinterest for inspiration, make a shopping list, and cross-check that list with everything in the pantry and refrigerator, throwing out things that have obviously gone bad in the process. Also, I don’t count Friday in this planning because it sometimes it’s #paydayfriday and I go out to lunch with some friends from work… and dinner on Friday is always up in the air, because clearly it needs to be fancier than the everyday faire (it’s practically the freakin’ weekend).

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals
What my shopping lists look like. Yes, I did buy that cumin.

To even consider doing this post, I also had to get my mind right and not forget (or get too lazy) to snap pictures of the food I made each night. No, I did not take enough photos to create a step-by-step guide or make the meals look perfect (I’m still not the Pioneer Woman or anything), but I wanted the post to include a list of meals, the source of each dinner’s recipe, and some decent pics. You are welcome.

Other Cheap Moves

A note about breakfast:  Every weekday I have one piece of toast and a fried egg, courtesy of Charlie. I top the toast with the egg and top the egg with cheddar and/or avocado (whatever we have on hand) then douse it with Valentina hot sauce (a liter for $1.99 at Aldi, yes a liter – that is a shit ton of hot sauce, I know, but it lasts a very long time, even considering the fact that I keep it permanently on the table beside our couch as if it were part of the decor). OR to change it up, I eat the toast separately with peanut butter and jelly (it is delicious; seriously try it and change your breakfast life). Basically for the two of us, breakfast each week consists of a dozen eggs and loaf of bread. About $3.80 at Aldi. Cheap!

Sundays: The receipt from last week shows a couple cans of off-brand ravioli and spaghetti-o’s which are not included below in the list of dinners… I just had a craving and thought they’d make great Sunday food. They did. Sometimes I’ll also buy a case of the Aldi off-brand ramen noodles, just because I. love. that. shit. This saves on the hungover tendency to order takeout for every single meal on Sunday. I do not always abide by this tip.

Plan your Menu Around Things You Already Have

If a recipe requires me to buy five or more things that I don’t already have in my apartment, I’m not making it. Unless it’s Friday because Friday is fancy. Five things is not a hard and fast rule; sometimes I get annoyed and won’t make a recipe if I have to buy even three extra things, unless it looks fantastic of course. I also try to pick recipes that have a couple of grocery items in common. This seems like obvious advice, therefore…

So, um, full disclosure, there are several other things that my meals for last week included which I already had in my pantry. I don’t consider this cheating. I consider myself smart:

5 lb bag of jasmine rice, fish sauce, Panang curry paste (I have a solid Asian pantry stocked up), Aldi mini tri-color bell peppers and flour tortillas from last week’s meals, a little leftover heavy whipping cream, half a jar of pesto, mayonnaise, pasta, flour, and butter (those last four are staples everyone should have), a can of coconut milk (I heard rumors that Aldi has this now, hooray!), and basil from my balcony. Don’t even ask me about oil, salt, and pepper.

So it’s gonna be a total of $35 ishhhh. Hey, don’t hate the player.

Without further ado, my menu…

Monday – Homemade Macaroni & Cheese and a Bag of Caesar Salad

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Yes, I made a roux and everything. No, I didn’t plan to do a meatless Monday (like Marcus Samuelsson suggests) but it happens. Cutting down on buying meats really cuts costs too, obvi. And we all know how much Charlie likes that bagged salad – I let him make that. We both had macaroni for lunch the next day.

Here’s the Homemade Mac Recipe for your reference. It made quite a bit.

Tuesday – Slow Cooker Chicken Enchiladas

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

I love these enchiladas – they are super easy. I like using the Crockpot (this one is perfect and super cheap!) at least once a week because then you can come home feeling relaxed and all like “oh I guess I can go to the gym since I don’t have to cook anything.” We also had a ton of the enchilada filling leftover, which is great for a low carb lunch or to serve over rice, and it makes great hash to serve with eggs on the weekend. No really.

Wednesday – Panang Thai Curry

Panang Thai Curry - Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals
Make sure you get yourself a good wok. I actually found mine at Aldi! I know, I’m nuts.
Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Easy one. I’ve gotta have some kind of Asian meal at least once a week. And I’m still using that recipe for curry from our cooking class in Thailand.

Thursday – Caprese Panini, Add Bacon

This idea originated from the brains of me and Charlie. Fancy bread, mayo, pesto, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, and bacon. I cooked mine in the pan with butter. Charlie just toasted his. We each assembled our own, because some people prefer more mayo.

I also sustained a severe bacon grease burn in this process due to being an idiot and trying to outsmart the bacon.

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals
Yeah, totally almost forgot the bacon

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals
Charlie’s toasted version (not as cool)

Cheap Weekday Aldi Meals

Bonus Cheap(er) Friday Tip

So usually we’d go out to dinner on Friday nights. That typically entails a definite $50-$80 spent if we don’t get too crazy.

However, recently, in an attempt to be cheap, we’ve just been cooking fancier meals… provided Charlie sends me $20 to $25 via Venmo and I do the non-Aldi, specialty item grocery store shopping after work on Friday. That’s our deal. (And it sounds fair to me.)

For instance, this Friday we had some seared tuna, blistered shishito peppers (Trader Joe’s!), and an assortment of meats and cheeses with crackers… with some good beers and wine. Last Friday, we made Korean short rib tacos, and before that, pork bolognese with fresh pasta. All dank.

Yes, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a TON to spend on groceries for one night… but when’s the last time you ate (and drank wine and beers) at a restaurant for $25 total? Right.

FYI – This post contains a few affiliate links.
What am I saving money for? Stay tuned for that…

And if you’re interested in more of my weekday Aldi meals, check out this post!

Does Anyone, ANYONE, love Aldi as much as me?

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  • Reply Hannah Dawson July 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

    I’m totally making those enchiladas ASAP. I don’t do recipes with more than 5 ingredients either. Too complicated and I don’t want to have to clean that up. I’ve been to Aldi maybe 4 times in my life. Clearly, I need to go more often.

    • Reply Rachel July 15, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      It will change your world. I used to think my mom was ridiculous for going to the one in Kinston, but it is totally legit. Also, fun fact, best (and cheapest) brie I’ve ever purchased.

  • Reply Melissa Cahoon July 16, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    Reason #26 it’s about time to move back south: your weekly grocery bill is less than half of mine. Thanks, Whole Foods & Safeway & city inflation. Loved the post!

    • Reply Rachel July 16, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      My office is right next to a Whole Foods so I WILL go there for specialty items… but shopping there for everything would probably kill me. OH PS I’M COMING TO DC THIS WEEKEND!

  • Reply Jayne Mebane July 17, 2015 at 1:35 am

    And just like that we’re responsible grown up food planners! I was a little envious of the $35/week meal plan…but still felling pretty good about my $100/week budget for 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches and 5 dinners for 2 (all real food/organic…in case you ever need a guest post for some organic enthusiast readers ;). Of course, that doesn’t include alcohol. My two best tips are investing in a food saver (Amazon Prime for life) because with two of us we never need more than one chicken breast to split or half a pound of ground meat for a meal…yes, I was a little less than satisfied to receive this as a surprise (main) Christmas gift, but it’s used ALL the time (!!!) and this cheesy magnetic notepad that I fill out every Sunday- . The notepad serves three purposes: 1) William does not have to ask me constantly what is for breakfast/lunch/dinner (win), 2) reminds me if I need to pull something out of the freezer for the next meal and 3) I toss the page in a folder at the end of the week and now if I’m super hungover on Sunday I have a solid arsenal of go to meals to throw on the upcoming weeks plan. On that note, hope to see you in the kitchen soon my friend…preferably on Hammock Lane!!

    • Reply Rachel July 17, 2015 at 1:43 am

      Great tips. Food saver huh? Never thought of that. The notebook idea is great though, because unless it’s a reallllly stand-out meal, Charlie and I usually forget about what our favorites were and I’m back to the Pinterest drawing board.

    • Reply Courtney S July 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm

      I’ve been wanting to try the Aldi on wake forest rd for a while but always end up at the ghetto food lion or kroger instead. Now you’ve given me inspiration to try!! Jayne — which food saver do you have (prime for sure)?? I need to break down and get one since I tend to buy all my stuff in bulk at Costco and it doesn’t freeze as well in original packaging.

      • Reply Rachel July 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm

        That’s the one I go to! Definitely check it out – not fancy but so so cheap. About to head there today actually…

  • Reply D. Mayberry September 21, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Wow! A quick google search on weekday meals led me here. Happily, I am recently moved back to NC and have easy access to Aldi. Yes – I love them. I did NOT love them at first. The first time I went shopping there the particular recipe I was making required some brand names which, of course, Aldi did not have. Since I was short on time, I found myself irritated and avoided Aldi for over a year. Eventually I made my way back. It should be noted here that I am a huge fan of Trader Joe’s… who has the same parent company as Aldi. Even so, they are most definitely NOT the same store! (Trader Joe’s is superior in my opinion but since Aldi is 3 miles from home and TJ’s is 60 miles … guess who wins.) Knowing they had the same parent company, I started trying their off-brand items. I have NEVER been disappointed. I’m especially pleased with their cheese… great prices AND small portions (a benefit over Costco). Recently I tried their chicken – same story – great prices, great product. They offer a fantastic organic marinara that I keep on hand. In addition they have a small amount of non-grocery items… I scored an extra large drying rack for clothes for $20 just the other day. (Online shopping offers the same for $29-$59). BTW… I am planning on following your menu – precisely – the meals look fantastic and for $35?! Fantastic!

    • Reply Rachel September 22, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Ahh thanks so much! Glad that you found me! I LOVE Trader Joe’s, and we do have both in Raleigh, but it is always more crowded and slightly more expensive than Aldi. The brie at Aldi is the best I’ve had from a grocery store. And for less than $3, why would you not buy it? I’ll get on that marinara – thanks for the tip! Hope you enjoy the meal-planning!

  • Reply Tabitha Nelson October 4, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Oh my gosh Rachel, I LOVED reading this post. I think I found you on Pinterest! 😀 I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to shop at Aldi, you would think I was also a spokesperson! I get so much of my stuff from there and I couldn’t agree with you more about how cheap it is! I think I’ve only come across 4-5 things that I wouldn’t buy again, but that’s nothing compared to the payoff you get. I enjoyed reading and I’m excited to check out the rest of your website 😀

    • Reply Rachel October 6, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Tabitha! I’m such a fan that I tell people about it all the time! And I was so excited to see Aldi in Europe (obviously that’s where they’re based) and another super cheap partner of theirs, Lidl. I’m about to check out your site as well!

  • Reply Dawn February 8, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I LOVED this post. I’m fairly new to Aldi shopping, so I’ve been on Pinterest all day looking for tips and meal plans. Yours is my favorite so far 🙂

    • Reply Rachel February 8, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      Thanks Dawn! Glad I could be helpful. Aldi is my fave, and I just wanted to give people an idea of how I meal plan super affordably!

  • Reply What I Get At Aldi – Growing Up Silverstein February 27, 2017 at 4:16 pm

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  • Reply Sam March 27, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    You are gonna want to make toast with peanut butter for your raviolis…. Seriously yum…

  • Reply TC May 6, 2017 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you so much! I love Aldi and began searching for a way to eat cheap this week and still eat good.. you nailed it! Fellow NC girl here who loves Aldi and loves your ideas!

    • Reply Rachel May 10, 2017 at 3:47 am

      Thanks TC! People talk so much trash about Aldi, but I love the ones in Raleigh and Kinston. You really can’t beat them for price, and the quality is fab. Glad I could help on the recipe front. I do love pinterest for helping me menu plan!

  • Reply Barry McNinch July 10, 2017 at 12:01 am

    I love your post, but what I loved the most is at the end when I learned that you were a fellow North Carolinian! I loved Aldi when I was in college and in my early career days in Raleigh. When I moved to DC I learned that they were not a thing here until recently! I loved reading your recipes!

    • Reply Rachel July 24, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Oh no they don’t have them in DC! I love them, and I was so pumped when I saw them all over Europe since I’ve been traveling (still super cheap there too). I used to go to the one on Falls of the Neuse Road religiously after work every Monday. Can’t beat it. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply Berit C. July 24, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    Thank you so much. This blog was SO helpful. Kids are home from college and eating everything! Haha! This will help me keep the cost down. Thanks again!

    • Reply Rachel August 20, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Haha thanks for reading! They’re definitely nothing fancy – just some super easy weekday (cheap) recipes! Glad I could help!

  • Reply KELLY January 3, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    NEW YORKER here… I am just getting on the Aldi bangwagon. They are super, super sad looking here. I go to the one in Danbury CT. I cannot get over how good the prices are. The produce is very hit or miss though..VERY. The yogurts are great. ..the english muffins, the wraps, the cereals, the peanut butter. They NEVER have skim milk. Serious bummer.

    • Reply Rachel January 10, 2018 at 11:22 am

      Haha, yeah I get made fun of a lot for going to Aldi at home – slowly but surely people are coming around to my side though. I hear ya on the produce. You never know what they’ll have or if it will be ripe. I just went to an Aldi here in England, and MAN, it puts ours to shame. It’s the best one I’ve ever seen. So much booze, household items, vitamins, great meat selection… ah, so good. And still cheap.

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