Lately, campus has been buzzing with excitement about the new Publix coming to Williamsburg. As an older student with a car and a reduced meal plan, I rely on grocery stores to supplement my diet with healthy and cheap options. But the more I hear about new grocery stores, the more I’m sure I will hold true to my favorite: Aldi.
While it is a decent couple of miles from campus, the singular-dollar-sign and 4.6-star Google rating is absolutely worth it. Every time I go, I am amazed again by how efficient this place can be — crowded, but still efficient. I start my rounds on the left side of the reasonably sized store and make a full trip around the outer circle. As soon as I walk in the door, I am greeted by a respectable selection of $2 wines (cabernet, pinot, Moscato and rose — for starters). Even if you don’t like drinking wine, at two whole dollars, it’s a great way to start experimenting with cooking wine. My roommate makes some excellent portobello mushroom burgers that simmer in a red wine sauce and are topped with caramelized onions. For the price, everyone can be that savvy with wine in the kitchen.
Next is the bread. Now in most grocery stores, I brace myself for the amount of money I will be spending on sandwiches. At Aldi, I pay less than $1 for my regular honey wheat, but if you want to get fancy for $2, be my guest. My roommate likes the ciabatta buns that are about in that two-to-three dollar price range.
I’m a big fan of fresh produce, which is usually difficult to afford on a college student budget. But if you’ve been keeping up with this article so far, I bet you could guess produce is not hard to buy at Aldi. My roommate once found 49-cent avocados. With the 89-cent green onions and $1 garlic and tomatoes, can you afford to not make guacamole? One of my favorite splurge items is just past the produce in the cheese section: $2 goat cheese, which you can get flavored with honey, herbs or just plain. While I appreciate Trader Joe’s and its extensive cheese selection, I challenge you to show me a goat cheese from its stores for a $1.99.
Finally, I get to the meat aisle, which — quite honestly — I don’t always recommend. You have to be careful about the meats you buy overall, and Aldi’s chicken is much fattier than I prefer. That said, try its salmon or the tilapia, which you can get pre-seasoned with herbs and fresh-sealed ready for use. I prefer my Aldi herb tilapia sautéed in olive oil, with lemon slices cooked alongside it in the pan. I cook some white rice (which is also super cheap because it’s rice … from Aldi) with lemon zest and serve it with the final product. Dinner in 30 minutes for around $8. The power of Aldi might just turn you into the undergrad Rachael Ray if you play your cards right. Or maybe it will just bless you with the wonders of cheap Moscato. Who knows?
I welcome the Publix to Thrilliamsburg, but I will always stand by the grocery store that has been nice to my wallet for years. I hope to see more college students in the aisles of my favorite grocery store preparing their own $10 feasts.
Email Kiana Espinoza at [email protected]