Reviewed by Louise Totton
With the nights rapidly drawing in, my husband and I commencing our annual ‘discussions’ about how much to use the central heating and an extra 10 minutes being added to length of time it takes the kids to be ready to leave the house in the mornings (soggy gloves, lost scarves and missing hats now added to the daily school bag hunt), I have dug out the slow cooker and casserole pots, ready to put warm and hearty meals in my family’s tummies.
This is time of year is notoriously expensive. Not only do we have increased heating costs, new winter coats to purchase and Christmas gifts to buy, food shopping seems to become more expensive once it gets colder again. We seem to eat more meat, want bigger, heartier meals (I definitely weigh more in winter than summer), and I start to stock the cupboard up with festive goodies in readiness for Christmas so we aren’t faced with a huge extra bill on out pre-Christmas shop.
We have been eating so well whilst we’ve been taking part in the Aldi £70 challenge, and I had absolutely no doubt that Aldi would come up trumps again. I have found that just like the other main supermarkets, Aldi very much has busy and quieter times in store. I like to take my time a little when I’m shopping, so I tend to go and do our main shop on an evening. The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, it gives me the opportunity to look properly at the deals and adjust my shopping list and meal plans accordingly. When I’m trying to stretch my budget and get the very best out of my trolley, having the extra time to looks for the leanest joint of meat or freshest bag of salad can make a pretty reasonable difference. Popping out at 7.30pm once a week, leaving my husband to do the bedtime routine with the kids, is also a massive bonus.
This week, my shopping trolley contained a joint of gammon, a whole chicken, a pack of 12 fresh meatballs, sausages, a large shoulder joint of pork, chicken thighs, minced turkey, sweet potatoes, capsicum peppers, onions, kale, carrots, mushrooms, packed lunch ingredients, crisps, snacks and plenty of fruit as well as standard pantry items including cereal bread, eggs and tinned basics.
We tend to eat pretty repetitively at breakfast time in our house, eating a combination of cereals, fruit and toast during the week, and eggs or porridge at the weekend. We have, however, made a very popular (and quick) breakfast discovery at Aldi this month. The Bon Appettit French Chocolate Brioche Rolls at 99p for 8 have very quickly become firm favourites with my two girls. Warmed in the oven for a few minutes then served buttered with bananas or strawberries, the make a lovely warm and different breakfast and are perfectly quick to throw together before school. For non-chocolate fans, Aldi also sell a version without chocolate chips.
For lunch, my eldest daughter eats at school, and has a hot school dinner. My three year old takes a packed lunch to nursery, and using Aldi’s Super 6, we find we can always put her a really decent packed lunch together at a very reasonable cost. She has been tiring of sandwiches somewhat recently, and we were delighted to see that recently, Aldi have recently added Dip It! Cheese breadsticks and crackers to their range. These are perfect for my daughters packed lunch, and make a change from her having sandwiches. They’re about half of the cost of the main branded alternative, and are just as good. We already buy the cheese triangles in the same range, and again we’re really happy with this product.
We have found in comparison to the main supermarkets, one area that Aldi really shines is the refrigerated section. We regularly buy the wafer thin chicken and smoked ham, as well as cheese and continental meats. All of them are a fraction of the cost of other shops, and the cheese in particular really is superb. As part of our shop this week, as well as buying our standard block of cheddar and cheese spread I also picked up some other cheeses to pop in our cellar fridge ready for Christmas, along with some pate and salami.
Because I was planning some very hearty meals for the evenings, and I find I am prone to gain weight in the winter anyway, I’ve been having salads for my lunch. A bag of salad leaves seems to last 3-4 days from Aldi, which I think is very reasonable. I’ve been having this with ham, pickles, boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes. I have thoroughly enjoyed my lunches this week, and can at least feel virtuous and light for part of the day, and my meals have been healthy, low fat and very tasty.
For our main meals this week, we really have eaten very well this week. As I was planning on trying to use my slow cooker for a good portion of the week, I decided to kick it off by attempting to ‘roast’ a chicken in my slow cooker. I had read about slow cooked chickens on various slow cooker forums, so decided to give it a go. I simply popped the chicken in the slow-cooker at 11am, and left it to cook. Ninety minutes before it was due to be ready, I chopped potatoes, carrots and parsnips, seasoned them and popped them into a hot oven with a light drizzle of oil. This, along with a frozen tub of microwave steam vegetables made an incredibly quick and tasty roast dinner. The chicken didn’t have the crispy skin that it would have if done in the oven, but we don’t eat the skin anyway and I think it’s healthier not to eat it. The meat was moist, tender and just fell off the bone. It was absolutely delicious, and much quicker than a traditional roast.
This week, our slow cooker also produced a delicious campfire stew (made with an unsmoked gammon joint, peppers, paprika and passata). Whilst hearty, filling and delicious, the recipe is also zero syns on the Slimming World plan and was enjoyed by all members of the family. I particularly like this recipe because everything is added to the slow cooker raw, with no need to prepare or brown any ingredients on the hob first, it is literally 10 minutes of work for a decent, warm and cheap meal, ready after work.
We have also eaten a delicious mince turkey, kale and mushroom curry, a mushroom and capsicum chilli, a sweet potato, chickpea and pea curry, sausage, mash and gravy, and a really yummy meatball and mozzarella bake. The veg curry was a little spicy for the children, so whilst my husband and I ate that, the children had a chicken and broccoli stir fry.
The meat and veg that we buy from Aldi are always a superb standard, and stay fresh for most of the week. As part of my shop this week, I bought a large joint of pork for less than £5. I have frozen this ready for Christmas, so I have another Christmas expense already paid for as part of my weekly shop. Aldi also have an excellent range of Christmas sweets and chocolates in store, and I will be popping some of these in my shop over the next few weeks ready for the holidays. There is also a lovely range of gifts in store that would make superb stocking fillers for the family.
I have had another really great experience shopping at Aldi again. For just under £70, I have fed my family very well for a week. I have also bought some cheese and meat ready to put aside for Christmas and have discovered two fantastic new products that have already become favourites in our household.
Thanks so much Aldi.
Why not visit your local Aldi this week and see if you can feed your family for £70 without comprimising on quality. To find your nearest Aldi store visit www.aldi.co.uk.