7 Meats To Buy At Aldi And 7 To Avoid

types of raw meat on platter
types of raw meat on platter - Bit245/Getty Images

At first glance, Aldi seems like nothing more than your average budget grocery store. But over the years more and more people — myself included — have come to realize that Aldi is a hidden gem for numerous high-quality products.

No category reflects this better than its selection of meats. While Aldi does carry some cheaper, lower-quality types of meat that you should avoid, it also has a surprising amount of options on par with what you would find at stores like Whole Foods Market and Sprouts, but for a fraction of the price. From grass-fed beef to wild-caught seafood, you don't have to choose between sacrificing nutritional value to stay on budget and eating well.

Since I live less than a mile away from Aldi, it has been my go-to store for my weekly shopping trip for more than five years now. And as someone who has spent almost a decade working in the field of natural health, I understand the importance of buying high quality meats. But without an endless budget, Aldi has been a game-changer for my wallet. Over the years, I've learned firsthand which meats are worth your money and which ones you are better off skipping.

Read more: 14 Popular Chain Grocery Stores For Meat, Ranked Worst To Best

Buy: Grass-Fed Ground Beef

ground beef on butcher paper
ground beef on butcher paper - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Ground beef is extremely versatile and can be used to make burgers, tacos, pasta, and used to bulk up a variety of meals to stretch the amount of servings — and your dollar — even further. While many people opt for conventional ground beef over grass-fed to keep within budget, you thankfully don't have to make that choice at Aldi. Which is great news, considering grass-fed beef has also been shown to be higher in certain nutrients than regular beef.

When it comes to grass-fed ground beef at Aldi, you have two choices: 85% lean and 15% fat or 93% lean and 7% fat, depending on your preferred fat content. Overall, both options are cheaper than grass-fed ground beef at other grocery stores, but it's important to note that by choosing the 85% lean option you'll get an even lower price — if you can stomach the extra fat. But more fat equals more flavor, so you'll be saving money on a better tasting pound of beef. What's most surprising, though, is that both options are not much different in price than Aldi's regular ground beef.

Avoid: Chicken Breasts

two raw chicken breasts
two raw chicken breasts - /Getty Images

Although Aldi's regular chicken breasts are a fantastic price per pound, especially if you pick up a family size package, it is not the best when it comes to taste or quality. It might be okay enough to feed a crowd in a pinch if masked with other ingredients in certain dishes (like in chicken enchiladas or buffalo chicken dip), it is not ideal for serving on its own as a main course. Not only is it chewy, it isn't as moist as higher quality chicken breasts no matter how you cook it.

It's also hard to ignore the problems with conventionally raised chicken products, even if you are willing to overlook what it obviously lacks in taste. Researchers are continuing to question the effects of antibiotic use on chicken and what that could potentially mean for our health over the long haul. Some of Aldi's chicken breasts state clearly that they come from chickens raised without antibiotics, whereas other packages don't mention whether or not they are used, further adding to the confusion as to what you're buying. But if you aren't too concerned about that aspect, there are other benefits to choosing more naturally raised chicken products, including higher levels of important nutrients like healthy omega fatty acids.

Buy: Organic Whole Chicken

whole cooked roasted chicken
whole cooked roasted chicken - Milanfoto/Getty Images

If you want to make the most out of your dollar, Aldi's organic whole chicken is a winner for its flavor, quality, and versatility. By using all parts of the bird from start to finish, you'll be able to get multiple meals out of one purchase. Not only can you roast your chicken for dinner to serve with a side, there will be plenty of leftovers to make an additional meal or two (or even three, depending on how many people are in your household).

Then, once all is said and done, and the meat has been eaten, you can use the bones to make homemade, gut-friendly, and nutrient dense bone broth for sipping or to use as the base for soups. Multiple doctors and researchers all tout on the importance of a healthy gut for overall well-being and how bone broth can potentially aid in keeping your gut healthy.

Avoid: Hot Dogs

hot dog topped with mustard
hot dog topped with mustard - Haris Calkic/Getty Images

As far as meat options go, hot dogs are one of the cheapest — especially at Aldi, where the most inexpensive option is approximately $1 per package of eight — but they come at the price of what's inside. While research is still learning more about processed meat and its impact on our health, the correlation between the regular intake of processed meats and health problems like cancer and heart disease is still there. Many brands have stepped up in creating hot dogs that are more natural without nitrates and other questionable ingredients, but, unfortunately, Aldi falls short in the hot dog category, as its selection is rather limited to conventional brands that are a mixture of mechanically separated chicken and pork.

Depending on what Aldi location you go to, it occasionally has organic uncured beef hot dogs, but the availability is hit or miss. You also don't have a ton of versatility with the types of meals you can make with hot dogs, putting this far down on the list of meats to buy at Aldi.

Buy: Frozen Wild-Caught Tuna Steaks

raw tuna steaks on cutting board
raw tuna steaks on cutting board - Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

Seafood is notoriously one of the pricier protein options. And if you opt for wild-caught, you can usually expect to pay top dollar. However, Aldi's tuna steaks come in at a shockingly reasonable price — likely due to the fact that they come frozen, which cuts down on shipping costs, allowing those savings to be transferred to the consumer. Each package contains approximately three to four tuna steaks that are perfect for a single meal for two people or multiple meals for an individual, giving you some of the best value for this quality of seafood. It also defrosts quickly, so you can keep it on-hand as a last-minute healthy protein option.

Most importantly, it meets all of the qualifications a high quality tuna steak should have. Unlike the overpowering fishy taste that can be synonymous with cheap tuna, Aldi's tuna steaks taste light and fresh. It also has a deep pink to red color without any brown spots or discoloration, which is a sure sign that your tuna hasn't been handled properly.

Avoid: Pork Chops

cooked pork chops in skillet
cooked pork chops in skillet - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Although some people debate whether or not pork is a healthy protein option, in the grand scheme of meat consumption, pork is actually a great choice. It's high in nutrients like B vitamins and iron and can even be beneficial for muscle health. The choices that Aldi has for pork chops, however, aren't ideal.

Aldi offers many different types of cuts for pork chops, but none are super flavorful, and they can tend to be dry, making it chewy and difficult to cut through. Beyond that very important aspect, it can also be confusing to determine the level of quality by the label alone. It says that it is a product of the USA, but for those who really want to know what they are eating, it's hard to know what you are actually getting. The label doesn't state anything about it being all-natural or free from things like preservatives, antibiotics, added hormones, or other factors.

Buy: Grass-Fed Steak

rare sliced steak on plate
rare sliced steak on plate - Mironov Vladimir/Shutterstock

Out of all the meat choices at Aldi, this has to be one of my favorites. Since the grass-fed steak comes in a pack of two, you can feed two people for the same price as one grass-fed steak at other grocery stores. So instead of dropping money on a dinner out (which usually entails spending a pretty penny on more than just your entrée), you can have a date night in without feeling like you are compromising a good meal to fit your budget. Aldi sometimes has a few different options for cuts, but the New York strip is what's regularly kept in stock.

Aldi's steaks are also 100% grass-fed and grass-finished, which is important to note, since not every grass-fed product is also grass-finished. The reality is, some producers still end up feeding grass-fed cows artificial diets of grain and soy toward the end of their life to try to fatten them up and give their end product a boost. That's why it's essential to understand what certain terms mean on your labels if you care to that level about what you are buying. Aldi ensures that its grass-fed beef is truly grass-fed from start to finish.

Avoid: Sausage

fresh sausages on butcher paper
fresh sausages on butcher paper - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Coming in a number of varieties including Italian sausage, Bratwurst, and Maple breakfast links, Aldi's sausage might look wholesome at first glance, but what's really inside each one remains questionable. Labeled as a "premium cut of pork," it's a mystery as to what that statement actually means. You can deduce, however, by the lack of mention otherwise, is that the pork Aldi uses is from conventionally raised animals. These pigs are typically given antibiotics and are fed low-quality diets, which ultimately results in fewer nutrients and less flavor when it comes time for consumption.

Not only are the sausages on the bland side compared to fresh sausages from other grocery stores, there are a plethora of fillers and other ingredients inside that generate more questions than answers. For example, it states right on the label that the sausage contains BHA and Propyl Gallate which are two synthetic antioxidant chemicals used to preserve and protect flavor.

Buy: Organic Chicken Breasts

grilled sliced chicken breast
grilled sliced chicken breast - Riccio da favola/Shutterstock

Aldi's organic chicken breasts are comparable in price to most other grocery stores per pound but are still slightly cheaper. Unlike its lower-quality counterparts, these chicken breasts have a great taste and texture (not chewy or stringy), making it a great choice to serve as a main dish. Taking it a step further in quality from its Never Any! All-Natural Chicken Breasts, Aldi's organic chicken breasts come from free range chickens that have outdoor access and are raised humanely. Most packages even have a farm code on the back of the package allowing you to look up exactly where your chicken came from. Now that's farm to table.

Throw the chicken breasts in a crockpot to cook, shred, and use throughout the week as the protein of choice in your recipes. Any sort of meat that can be easily added to different recipes can be a game-changer for your budget since it is adaptable to a wider range of dishes.

Avoid: Bacon

crispy fried bacon on plate
crispy fried bacon on plate - Vitalii Rud/Getty Images

Every variety of Aldi bacon leaves much to be desired. Whether you buy its Never Any! All-natural bacon or its regular bacon that claims to be "thick cut," each one is so thin it makes you wonder if you are eating bacon flavored paper rather than actual bacon. In fact, just getting it out of the package and separated onto your skillet without it falling apart is a challenge.

If that's not reason enough to buy your bacon somewhere else, make sure to consider the nutritional value. Bacon, no matter what kind you get, is still highly processed, even if you choose to splurge on the Never Any! All-natural bacon that is free from preservatives like nitrates and sulfates. And for those watching their cholesterol, bacon is one of the more cholesterol and sodium heavy protein choices with very little healthy fats or grams of protein per serving to make up for it.

Buy: Frozen Wild-Caught Pink Salmon

salmon filet topped with salt and pepper
salmon filet topped with salt and pepper - Alvarez/Getty Images

The frozen aisle is typically not the first place you'd think to look for seafood, but at Aldi it is a must-stop. Offering yet another well-priced seafood option, its frozen wild-caught salmon filets are not to be missed. It is a common myth that fresh seafood is always better quality than frozen, but in reality, frozen seafood can sometimes be even better since it is frozen right away at peak freshness -- especially if it is vacuum sealed like each one of the salmon filets in the package. Another benefit of this is that you can use as much or as little of the package as you'd like, which can save you money over time and help to avoid food waste.

But how does it stack up in terms of flavor? Without any of the strong fishy taste or pungent smell, Aldi's salmon filets hold its own among the best of them. And if you are looking for the most nutritional value for your money, salmon is known to be high in healthy omega-fats necessary for optimal brain and hormone health.

Avoid: Deli Meat

sliced turkey lunchmeat in bag
sliced turkey lunchmeat in bag - The Image Party/Shutterstock

You can tell pretty quickly after your first bite that all of Aldi's deli meat is prepackaged and not sliced fresh on-site. Prepackaged deli meat already has the tendency to be on the thin side, and Aldi's varieties are no exception. If you are someone who has trouble with texture, I'd steer clear, since a lot of its deli meat has a slimy texture that results from sitting inside a plastic package with water for an extended period of time.

Between its average taste and being highly processed, there's little about Aldi's deli meat that is beneficial other than the fact that it is a convenient, portable protein choice. Every once in a while, Aldi has organic deli meat in stock, but the choices are rather limited, and they usually get bought out not too long after hitting the shelves. This is one meat I'd consider buying somewhere else that has more selection and consistent availability.

Buy: Never Any! All-Natural Chicken Thighs

herb seasoned cooked chicken thighs
herb seasoned cooked chicken thighs - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Aldi's Never Any! chicken thighs are comparably priced for the same cut and amount of meat at other grocery stores, but still come in slightly cheaper. Unlike some chicken thighs that still have the bone inside, Aldi's are deboned, so you get even more meat for your money per pound. Each thigh is not overly fatty, either, so you don't have to spend unneeded time and effort prepping your chicken and trimming away fat before cooking.

Instead, they have just the right flavor ratio of fat to protein (in my opinion). Because of the fact that chicken thighs naturally have more fat than other cuts like chicken breasts, chicken thighs are naturally more flavorful and moist so you can enjoy them alone or in other dishes, stretching your dollar even more with their endless versatility. Even though Aldi's chicken thighs are not free range like its organic counterparts, it's still antibiotic free and free from added hormones.

Avoid: All-Natural Frozen Ground Turkey

portioned raw ground turkey
portioned raw ground turkey - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Turkey is known for being super dry. That's why brining and basting is such a vital process to any Thanksgiving turkey preparation. But it's not just a whole turkey that you have to worry about cooking correctly. All forms of turkey, including ground turkey, tend to be on the dry side. Aldi has a few forms of ground turkey but its frozen ground turkey is one that unfortunately deserves its spot on the list of meats to avoid buying.

Although it gets a few bonus points for being "all-natural," it's not enough to justify it being a must-have item from Aldi. Sure, the price tag is lower than its fresh counterparts, but it's not worth the savings and convenience when all you have to look forward to is meat that lacks flavor and moisture regardless of how you cook it. Especially when Aldi's all-natural fresh ground turkey is less than $2 more for a few more ounces that are a lot more flavorful.

Methodology

happy man in grocery store buying meat
happy man in grocery store buying meat - Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

There are so many factors that go into a person's decision about what meats to buy and consume. Each one is highly individual, but when determining what meats are the best to buy from Aldi, I considered the biggest overarching factors that would affect the majority of people's decision — quality and taste, nutritional value, price, and in-store availability. Since not all Aldi locations carry the same products and some meat selections aren't always available or only brought in at certain times of the year, it was important that I chose to include meats that are typically in stock at most Aldi stores. Ultimately, it all came down to what type of meat gave you the best taste and most amount of nutrients for the least amount of money in comparison to your average grocery store.

In the end, the meats on the avoid list ranked lowest when it came to quality, nutritional value (or lack thereof), and taste. Price was not as much of a consideration for the meats you should avoid, as the other factors since Aldi already boasts low prices and, sadly, lower quality meats tend to reflect the lowest of prices.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.