Back-to-school is right around the corner, if you’re not back already! Back to routines, full schedules, nightly activities, and homework. Back to packing lunches 5 days a week!!! Are you dreading it or looking forward to it?
Come August I’m excited and ready to pack lunches and snacks for the kids. Last year I started the year by sneaking little love notes in their lunch boxes. I also cut my daughters sandwiches into hearts, fluted circles and animal shapes with large cookie cutters. But, let’s get real here, that only lasted about 1-2 months. Really, what we need are realistic items that are easy to pack, that our kids will eat, and that are not expensive. Right!?
First day of school vs. last day of school. Can I get an AMEN!?
Aldi for the Win
If you know me then you know I love shopping at Aldi (see my 22 Aldi Must Haves post). I save a ton of money, it’s not overwhelming to shop there (for example, if you need onion powder, there is ONE onion powder), and it’s a compact store so you can get in and out quickly.
Even if you do not buy all your groceries at Aldi I would definitely recommend trying it at least once to buy school snacks and lunch packs. You will see how much money you can save and how your kids love the new variety.
Few things to remember before you go:
- Take a quarter to get a cart. All the carts are tethered together. You get a cart by putting a quarter in to release it from the other carts. When you return the cart you get the quarter back.
- Bring your own bags and be prepared to bag your own groceries. When I go shopping at Aldi I just grab the empty boxes from the shelves and box my groceries. Using boxes instead of bags actually makes putting the groceries away faster because I can see everything without digging thru bags. If I really think ahead I will box my groceries up by category: freezer, fridge, pantry, house supplies.
- For a long time Aldi did not take credit cards. They changed that policy last year. Which is wonderful because I gotta get my Southwest Airline Points!
- If you find an item that you love marked “seasonal”, buy a lot because they won’t have it for long. (example- parchment paper during the holidays)
Great Brands at Aldi
You won’t find a lot of traditional commercial brands at Aldi. They carry their own branded items. However, a lot of their copycat items are packaged almost identical to the popular brand, especially cereal and snacks. Which is nice when you have picky kids that are suckers for popular brand marketing.
Here are just a few of the Aldi store brands that you will find:
Specialty Select: Considered Aldi’s “gourmet” items. If you see this label you can trust it includes quality ingredients. We love their Specialty Select lunch meat- see below.
Simply Nature: When you see this brand you get simple, honest ingredients without artificial colors, flavors or unnecessary enhancers. Not all Simply Nature items are organic. Look for the organic label to find the Simply Nature organic options.
Never Any! : You will find this label in the meat section at Aldi. They are products with no added hormones, antibiotics or animal by products.
Fit and Active: This label is great for people watching the scale. It is the line designed to be better for you- lower sugar, more whole grain, less fat.
Live G Free: Gluten Free! If you are looking for or need gluten free items, Aldi is a great place for you. Their Live G Free line is affordable and delicious. We are not gluten free at our house but we still buy a lot of their G Free products.
School Snacks & Lunch Packs
If you haven’t been to Aldi or went and didn’t know what to buy here is a list of items I like to have for packing snacks and lunches all year long.
I hope this list helps make your shopping trip a little easier!
Don’t get me started on how much cereal costs in a traditional grocery store! It is outrageous! A single box can cost up to $5 and my family can blow through that box in 2 days. At Aldi they have a great selection of cereals that are EXACTLY like the name brands, the packaging even looks the same. Except at Aldi you will pay around $1.39-$1.99 per box! Amazing. Sometimes I will send dry cereal as a school snack for the kids.
These are a few of the comparable brands they carry that we like: Honey Nut Cheerios, Multi Grain Cheerios, Regular Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Frosted Mini Wheat (regular, strawberry and blueberry), Fruit Loops, and any of their granola!
A lot or most of Aldi’s products are not made with artificial food coloring (yellow no.6 , red no.5). Another great reason to buy their cereals. You will notice their version of Lucky Charms are not quite as bright as the name brand… it’s because the marshmallows are colored with turmeric, beets, and paprika. Thank you, Aldi, thank you!
FRUIT & GRAIN BAR
These are a copycat version of a Nutri-Grain Bar… except Aldi’s version doesn’t have Red#40, it’s extra coloring comes from annatto extract. They are available in a few flavors: Strawberry, Blueberry and Apple Cinnamon. My daughter likes these as a school snack or as a quick on-the-go breakfast. At $1.39/box it’s a great deal.
CRUNCHY OAT & HONEY BAR
Another perfect copycat item available at Aldi for $1.39 per box. This is an easy item to pop in a backpack for an afternoon snack. It is available in Oat & Honey or Peanut Butter.
TRAIL MIX GRANOLA BAR
This Trail Mix Granola Bar is just one option in a large selection of chewy granola bars. Another one of our favorites is the dark chocolate pretzel granola bar. Yum! Again, only $1.39 per box and notice it says no high fructose corn syrup right on the box. Win.
I’m sure you have either purchased or have seen these yummy little pretzels in the grocery store. I think the popular brand are called Pretzel Thins and are over $3. My son loves these and can run thru a bag very quickly! At $1.99 per bag, not a big deal! My Aldi also carries them in “everything” flavor.
This is a great nut free, gluten free, organic snack to pack for school. It is safe for nut free rooms and can usually be shared with kids that have dietary restrictions. I find it similar to Skinny Pop, which is delicious but pricey! This version at Aldi is only $1.49 per bag (A big, full bag!). Every once in awhile they will also have a white cheddar flavor. Do yourself a favor and BUY IT if they have it. It is SOOO good.
I like to send fruit strips in the kids lunch packs as a sweet item. They are similar to a fruit leather or a healthier version of a fruit roll up.
I don’t think “cheese dipper” is the official name of this little snack but it is what my son says when he wants one. It is not one of our healthier options but Kyle loves them and so it’s a great treat option for afternoon snacks.
They are cheap cheap cheap- $1.09 per 5 pack.
Do your kids love Nutella? So do mine!!! Like obsessed.
Aldi has a great copycat Nutella. My kids love to eat this chocolatey spread on graham crackers… called graham-tellas at our house. It also goes great on waffles or as a sub in for Hershey’s chocolate on a s’more.
Sometimes packaged lunch meat really grosses me out! If it is cut super thin and gets slimey- forget it!
I was so excited when I found this packaged lunch meat at Aldi. The Specialty Select brand means it is higher quality. It is as close to freshly sliced deli meat that I have found in a package. It doesn’t look like meat that has been pieced and pressed together. For $2.99 per 8oz package I think it’s a great deal! There are 2 options available at my Aldi: Black Forest Ham & Oven Roasted Turkey.
HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE BAR
I have talked about these delicious little chocolate bars in my other Aldi post. They are about as big as my pointer finger and under 100 calories per bar. It is a great little sweet treat to pack in kids lunches.
PRINGLES & GOLDFISH
There are not a lot of national brands at Aldi but two that you will find are Pringles and Goldfish. These are two staple snacks at our house! The Pringles are consistently $1.29 and come in original, sour cream, or cheddar. The Goldfish are always priced at $1.89.
This is my son’s lunch request almost every day… PB&J, or from my daughter just PB. These are GREAT items to buy at Aldi. This enormous 40 oz peanut butter is only $2.69, I would compare it to Jif or Skippy! If you like a no sugar peanut butter or cashew or almond butter they have those options too.
I am pretty picky about the bread I buy. I like a whole wheat or whole grain sandwich bread that will stay soft until we make it thru the bag, which is about a week. This bread fits the bill for us and at $1.49 per loaf it is a staple on my grocery list.
I definitely do not send juice boxes for lunch every day. But, once in awhile it’s nice to change it up from water or milk. Aldi carries this 8 pack of juice boxes for $1.79. They are comparable to the Juicy Juice brand and are available in Fruit Punch flavor too.
MAC N CHEESE
To change things up from the standard PB&J or turkey sandwich I will send mac n cheese in a thermos. Aldi carries a great organic mac n cheese or deluxe shells n cheese. They also have a boxed version that is similar to Annie’s organic mac n cheese.
APPLE SAUCE POUCH
Sending fresh fruit is ideal however when I am in a hurry, out of fruit, or it is January and fresh fruit is a million dollars these squeeze pouches are a great sub! They are only $1.89 for a 4 pack and come in a lot of flavors: apple cinnamon, apple peach, unsweetened apple, apple multi-fruit, apple banana. They are labeled with Simply Nature so you are guaranteed high quality, natural ingredients. Love.
YOGURT MOO TUBES
This is the easiest way to send yogurt to school with your kids! They are a copycat version of Go-Gurts and come in a variety of flavors. You can even freeze them for a popsicle-like treat or freeze them and they will thaw in their lunch box by lunch time. At Aldi these run $1.79 per 8 pack.
MINI CRACKER SANDWICHES
My kids LOVE these little cracker sandwiches. I love these little cracker sandwiches because they are easy to pack and they are filling for my kids. They are available in peanut butter or cheese.
CUCUMBERS & CARROTS (PRODUCE)
One thing I really love at Aldi is their produce sections. They go thru so much produce that everything stays fresh. They also tend to stock their produce seasonally which ensures you are getting quality food at a low price because it is sold when it is in season. Of course they keep stock on the staples: carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuces, onions, apples. But items like cantaloupe and sweet corn are summer items!
My kids love baby carrots ($0.99) and baby cucumbers ($1.99) dipped in ranch!
As long as you are able to take nuts to school these are great grab-n-go snack packs. They come in a variety of flavors ( peanut/raisin/M&M OR chocolate/cashew/almond/peanut butter chips/cranberries OR peanuts/cranberries/almonds) and run $4.49 per 8 pack. If you do not like all the individual packaging the trail mixes are also available in bulk sized bags.
GLUTEN FREE PRETZELS
I have talked about these before! We are not Gluten Free at our house but we choose to buy these instead of regular pretzels. They have a crunch and buttery flavor that regular pretzels do not have. These can be pricey at a traditional grocery store, at Aldi they are $1.89 per bag.
THIN MINTS, CARAMEL DELIGHTS, PEANUT BUTTER PATTIES
Hold the phone!!!!! I am not joking you!!!! You can get Girl Scout copycat cookies at Aldi and they are legit! They carry Thin Mints, Caramel Delights, and Peanut Butter Patties that are exactly like the GS version. For only $1.39 per box it makes a perfect sweet treat in a lunch box
These Veggie Straws make a great snack or lunch item. My daughter prefers these over regular potato chips, which is great because they are a little better for you than traditional chips! At Aldi these run around $1.39 per bag.
RICE CRISPY TREATS
My kids love these- I love these! Actually, I don’t know many people that don’t love a good ole’ rice crispy treat. This is definitely not a staple in my pantry- more of a surprise treat for the kids lunches once in awhile.
They are exactly like the Kellogg version. These Aldi treats run $1.79 per 8 count box.
Yet another product that I am outraged by the price of in a traditional grocery store. If you do not buy chips on sale they can cost almost $5 per bag!
Aldi carries a HUGE variety of chips with a rotation of “special buys” and “seasonal” options thru the year. ((Side Note: if you ever see the truffle kettle chips around the holidays buy like 100 bags… they are crazy delicious, gourmet, and are a perfect addition to a cheese & olive board! Not to mention they are only like $1.99/bag.)) Their chips range from $1.09-$1.99 per bag.. that’s more my speed. We really like all the kettle cooked chips, the regular and crinkle cut chips, tortilla chips (especially the hint of lime ones in the summer), cheetos (especially the jalapeno cheetos when they are available), bbq chips, and the baked chips in regular and bbq.