Aldi 101

 
 
I was going to title this post “Aldi for Dummies” but didn’t want to risk insulting you or committing trademark infringement. I respect the “Dummies” series immensely.

 

I admit, it took me a while to hop on the Aldi bandwagon. I’m happy to report that I have since chugged the cool-aid (“Mix-Aid” is the Aldi brand) and I’m a dedicated convert. I easily save hundreds of dollars every month for our most basic groceries (compared to our local grocery chain) and have rarely been disappointed in a product.
Let’s go over some Aldi basics, shall we?
1. If you’re going to buy more than 3 or 4 items, please just “buy” a cart. Buy is in quotation marks because you deposit a quarter to release a cart, do your shopping and you get your quarter back when you return the cart. The idea is that Aldi doesn’t have to pay a person to collect carts in the parking lot and reduces the risk of theft or damage to carts, thus making your groceries cheaper. I’ve been behind a lot of shoppers who fill one or many totes with groceries, unload them onto the belt then try to load their bags again in the cashier’s cart after checkout. This is a hassle for the cashier who is timed and for customers who are spoiled by the fast cashiers.

 

2. You will likely have one choice of an item in one size. Just be warned, even the family size at Aldi is usually cheaper than the standard size at your local grocery. If you don’t mind the waste or can be creative and use the excess for another meal, have at it.
3. There is no fresh deli, meat counter or bakery but Aldi does carry pre-packaged deli meats, meat and poultry and baked goods. They also carry frozen seafood products.
4. The produce is typically not organic but is high quality and inexpensive compared to any local grocery store. Aside from grapefruit, pineapple, avocado and a few other items, produce is typically not loose or individually packaged. For example, peppers come in a package of 2, zuchini and cucumbers packaged in 3.
5. Aldi does not accept credit cards. Come to think of it, that may be one reason that I was reluctant to try it way back when we used credit cards for everyday purchases then paid off the balance. Aldi does accept debit cards and your state’s grocery assistance program cards.
6. Aldi likely has an alternative for nearly everything you buy. Any of their products are worth a try because they have a great guarantee. They will replace the item AND return your purchase price. I’ve only returned 1 or 2 things (don’t buy frozen chicken patties) but didn’t care for a replacement. I’m guessing I could have asked for another thing of similar value.
7. Based on unit price, I really think Aldi is comparable to a warehouse type store without the need to buy in bulk.

8. Items are stacked and displayed in the boxes in which they are transported, giving a relatively small grocery store a warehouse feel but you get used to this. Actually, I appreciate not being overloaded with brands and colors and product placement. The store is clean and organized.
9. Be warned, the impulse purchases are in the first aisle as you come in the door. (snacks, cookies, baking supplies, bagged lunch convenience foods and some limited-time promotions). It is very tempting to throw a bunch of these in the cart before your cart gets filled because they are considerably cheaper than the local grocery chain. For example, a 10.5 oz. bag of potato chips costs $1.39. These items can quickly turn a $25 shopping essentials trip into a $40-$50 trip.
10. One of my favorite things about shopping at Aldi is how quickly I can get through the store. There are only a few aisles, with fewer choices than a typical grocery store. Once you get to know the layout (which is pretty similar from store-to-store but not always), it takes even less time. Also the cashiers are timed and trained very well. They are fast and pleasant. Even a bigger weekly shop takes less than 30 minutes from beginning to end.

11. Aldi does not accept coupons.

Now that you have the basics, I hope you try Aldi. I have no relationship to the store, whatsoever, it’s just a great way to save money on groceries-especially if you are inept at coupon-shopping like me.
Are you an Aldi shopper? Have any Aldi recipes? Have you ever taken the time to do a full comparison trip? More on Aldi to come. I really want to encourage you to try it.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Aldi 101

  1. Kelly Chiodi

    You know, when people start talking about Aldi’s I mentally put my fingers in my ears and LA LA LA to myself. So many people are crazy about Aldi’s but, my big hang up is that I don’t want anoootttthhhheeerr store to visit each shopping day.
    I typically do Costco (the bulk) and Target (housewares), with an occasional and short trip to “the local grocery store” for produce that Costco may not have had.

    I’m trying to do better with the grocery money. Just made the jump to cash only (as opposed to paying off the AMEX each month and getting the cash rewards), so perhaps I’m ready to hear it.

    I don’t buy a lot of boxed food, so I’ve often wondered how useful it would be and I’m a bit fussy about produce being from the US and in-season.

    So, maybe you can sell me on giving it a try. Do you have any thoughts on these particular criteria?

  2. Beth

    Kelly, shopping another store is another reason I avoided Aldi. I guess when I was near one everyday to pick Hannah up, I checked it out. I also had no idea how overpriced “you know what” store is.
    The thing that bugs me about the produce is that it’s individually wrapped and packaged. Not very environmentally conscious. Again, the savings outweigh that drawback and the quality of the produce is always high. I get the feeling that our local “you know what” store gets every other store’s backwash produce. You know the discards from the Market District. I checked the origin. At the moment, we have carrots, iceberg and romaine hearts, green peppers, cucumbers, apples and clementines in the fridge.Everything is from the US except the cukes.
    I have not been disappointed with Aldi meat/poultry selection but we usually buy ground beef at “you know where” because Mark likes to mix chuck and round for burgers and I heard they claim they will not sell meat with pink slime. I’ve never asked anyone at Aldi about that. But the quality seems good. The chicken is from Tyson farms-good name but it’s gigantic-no way are those chickens humanely raised.
    I don’t buy a whole lot of boxed foods either. I also would rather buy 1 lb of butter at a time (usually $1.39-$1.69) than 4. I’ve rarely bought produce at costco because of the bulk. I just don’t have the room. I guess there you get the same problem with packaging. I have gotten to the point that I’ll change my whole dinner plan to avoid running down to “you know where” to buy one ingredient because I know what it costs at Aldi. I will do a price comparison sooner than later….promise.

  3. Kelly Chiodi

    Thanks, Beth. I’ll give it a try. Maybe before I head into Costco to see what produce I can get. It is right next door, for goodness sake. I’ve avoided things like apples at Costco where the packaging is absolutely ridiculous, IMO. I only buy those things in a simple bag or box.
    If I could avoid that local place, I’d be a happy girl, so it’s worth a shot.
    I’ll let you know what I find. So glad to hear about the source of your veg… thanks for checking.

  4. Beth

    Well, hope it works for you. Don’t forget, we get a reprieve from all that packaging as we head into garden/farmer’s market season.

    I don’t go to the farmer’s market too often. I discovered anti-trust violations and it ticked me off. I noticed that the farmers who attend both the one up the hill from me and deeper in the south hills had different prices for the same produce in the same week. I asked one farmer about it and he said they have to charge the same for say tomatoes as everyone else. Made me mad. Also, I’m not sure tomatoes from NC at a farm market early in spring is “local”. I still go a couple times a year, though. Can’t wait for the garden.

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