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My top 7 ALDI food buys.

Although ALDI hasn't always been at the top of my list for shopping, each visit over the last few months seems to have revealed an extension of their health food offerings and so it's been added to my rotation of places to shop. (The good value side of things can quickly be erased by purchases from the aisles of randomness - you may be immune to their temptations). There are a few products that I am not keen on such as nuts (don't always seem fresh) and some of their green/spirulina powders just because I prefer to know more about sources/quality control than is offered. Nonetheless, that still leaves plenty to choose from.


1. Fresh vegetables and fruit. As well as a limited organic range (usually mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, onions and potatoes) there is usually good quality seasonal produce. At the moment, my favourites are cavolo nero kale which is great for kale crisps or in a big hearty scotch broth and persimmons which I just chop into chunks and sprinkle with lime juice. I do recommend checking packaged things carefully but that's not a bad habit to get into.


2. Extra virgin olive and coconut oils. Choosing the right fats can help to contribute to a healthy diet and having both of these in the cupboard will cover a lot of your bases (I would also add avocado oil from Costco - great for homemade mayonnaise). In the past, cooking with extra virgin olive oil was discouraged but research has found it to be a great option so there's no need to restrict it to dressings. As well as cooking with coconut oil because I love the flavour - especially in curries, I also use it for oil pulling to support oral health.


3. Seeds. More specifically, chia and linseeds (sometimes called flaxseeds). With their great protein, mineral and soluble fibre content, chia seeds soaked overnight either on their own or with oats make a great base for breakfast. Ground flaxseeds are really versatile and can be used for both sweet and savoury dishes; as well as sprinkling them on yoghurt and fruit, they can be added to a crumble mix, as a topping for a savoury bake, or even as a crispy coating for fish.


4. Organic porridge oats. There's always a jar of overnight oats with chia seeds in our fridge so these were a great find, especially as they are 100% packaged in paper.


5. Quinoa. I know that quinoa is a bit of a health food cliche but there's a reason why lots of health bloggers/clean eating fans love it. For starters, it's easy to cook, has a significant protein content, and useful amounts of some key minerals (just one cup of cooked quinoa will give nearly a third of your daily magnesium requirement). I use it as an alternative to rice or couscous. A 300g bag in ALDI costs £1.29 at the moment - the same quantity is £2 in Sainsburys...


6. Pulse/grain pouches. I absolutely believe that cooking from scratch is ideal and that food in plastic packaging is not; however the convenience and price of these products means that I always have a few in the cupboard. They give you the base for a quick-to-assemble buddha bowl, or a head start in a recipe calling for cooked lentils which really help when you're struggling for time.


7. Frozen food. As well as the usual frozen vegetables and berries I noticed that ALDI have added butternut squash chunks to their frozen range. This is great as I usually feel a whisker away from an A & E visit when tackling anything pumpkin-related with a knife. There are also a couple of useful convenience packs; lentils in tahini sauce and Thai Style vegetables - both of which just need to be tossed in a hot pan/wok for a few minutes. They're not something that I'd have regularly as the sauces contain a few ingredients that I prefer to keep to a minimum, but as an emergency back up, they're undoubtedly handy.


Finally - a store cupboard/freezer recipe that you can throw together in 10 minutes for those occasions when you've walked in the door starving, the contents of the fridge look sad and you just want to sit down and relax.


Ingredients

- 1 pouch ALDI wheatberries, quinoa and mung beans.

- 1 pack frozen Thai Style Vegetables

- 2 handfuls frozen North Atlantic Prawns


Method.

1. Heat a large pan/wok to medium/high heat.

2. Defrost the prawns thoroughly under cold running water.

3. Add the vegetables to the wok, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

4. Heat the contents of the pouch as per packet instructions.

5. Drain the prawns well and add to the vegetables to heat through thoroughly.

6. Combine both elements, eat, enjoy and pat yourself on the back for not ordering takeaway.




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