Store-brand products from Aldi: Mostly hits, a few misses. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

The January opening of the newest Washington area Aldi, in Beltsville, Md., provided just the impetus I needed to check out the grocery store for the first time. Casual inquiries among friends about Aldi prompted much curiosity and an impressive array of perceptions.

I spent about a month in the kitchen with Aldi store brands, none of which I was familiar with because those labels are exclusive to the grocery chain. Items in the “thumbs up” category cost significantly less than the national name brands I was used to buying. I found the Aldi products delivered consistent results.

Items in the “meh” category failed to live up to name-brand standards, for the reasons given below.

Thumbs up: Whole cashews, dried fruit, vegetable oil, organic honey, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, baking soda, canned crushed tomatoes, milk, eggs, cream wafer rolls (the last akin to Piroulines).

Meh: Unsalted butter (did not taste fresh), dried beans (mixed results), fresh whole chicken (hardly ever smaller than 5 pounds, too big for my household).

Thumbs down: Instant brown rice (short, broken pieces; didn’t cook to tenderness), frozen corn (flavorless, not very moist; it seemed old or previously defrosted/frozen).

— B.S.B.

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