I’ve written before about how groceries and food were a major factor in why our budget was constantly out of control. Click here for my tips on surviving the grocery store.
A major breakthrough came a few years ago when I discovered the discount grocery store Aldi. Now I won’t shop anywhere else.
The first time I went I was a little bit off put, if I’m being completely honest. I was so used to stores that put on heirs, spending tons of money making their store and products look extra special and appealing, of course with a price increase that effected my bottom line. So I decided a long time ago that if I ever started blogging, I would write a guide, so that first time shoppers would know what to expect.
First of all, keep an open mind. Aldi is a German owned company, so they don’t have a lot of the pit falls of American owned chains. Their workers rave about their pay and benefits and all say that it’s an amazing company to work for. Many say the had to apply multiple times to be hired. It’s that good.
That being said, they have to save money somewhere, so unlike American chains that dig into employees pay and benefits (::cough:: Walmart ::cough::), Aldi has very little marketing in the actual stores.
The products are in boxes on the shelves, the stores are light with natural light, and there are only a few varieties of each item they carry (who needs 50 kinds of sugary kids cereal anyway?). The labels aren’t fancy and eye grabbing and they don’t play music. Not that anyone listens to it anyway.
Bring your own bags! Aldi saves money by having you bag your own groceries. Check out at Aldi is really something else. Theres usually only one cashier ringing out. She takes your items off the belt, scans them and places them into another cart.
I often hear a lot of people complaining in line about having only one lane open and I try to keep from rolling my eyes out loud. The checking and paying part of the trip goes by lightening fast! I’m usually only in line for a few minutes, and I always have an overflowing cart! After you pay, you have to bag your own, which is the part that takes a while. I don’t mind bagging my own stuff, considering how much I save versus having someone do it for me (and usually smashing my bread).
If you don’t have your own bags already, they have both paper and reusable bags in line for you to purchase, or if you’re only getting few things, you can take an empty box right off the shelf and put your stuff in it.
Bring a quarter. They also save you money by not paying someone to chase your carriage around the parking lot. The carriages are all hooked together at the front of the store, and you unlock one by putting a quarter in it. You get your quarter back after you’ve put your bags in the car and returned your cart to the line.
Veteran Tip: If someone offers you their cart in the parking lot, just give them a quarter, or accept theirs if they offer to take your cart back for you! OR, win a free quarter by returning abandoned carts to the line.
There isn’t a deli counter or a butcher. Which is fine by me anyways. I feel like the cold cuts at the deli are so overpriced. And waiting in the lines are one of the great pains of adulthood. You can still get sliced sandwich meat and cheese in the refrigerated section with the rest of the meat.
Leave your coupons at home. Not that you would even need them, but Aldi mostly has it’s own brands. Theres a list of most of them here. You will see some familiar names, but even coupons for national brands (like Tide and some cereals they carry) aren’t accepted. However, even AFTER a coupon, the Aldi brand is still cheaper and the quality is just as good.
Aldi has changed so much since I started shopping there in about 2009. Some things I would have written when I originally thought of writing my guide are no longer true.
You can’t find much gluten free or organic food. Wrong-o. They have a huge GF line, Live G Free, that was expanded a year or so ago, and the food is delicious. My household was gluten free for about 5 years (until Sam was tested by a pediatrician), and the kids preferred the GF food from Aldi over the name brands at other stores that costed me 2 or 3 times MORE.
There is also a selection of organic veggies, milk, grass fed beef, their food has no certified artificial colors, and last year they banned 8 harmful pesticides from all of their American products.
Their baby products are limited. Once I was a diaper snob. I remember lamenting to Jeff that even though I had a coupon and they were on sale, I didn’t want to buy a certain brand of diapers for Sam because I thought the design was ugly. He replied with something so obvious I’m embarrassed I didn’t think of it in the first place: “Babe. He’s gonna poop in ’em, and we’re going to throw them away.”
That being said, Aldi always had a handful of ok baby supplies, but earlier this year (right around when Ben was born luckily) they introduced their Little Journey line and it’s awesome. The diapers are great. I can get a box of 96 size 3 diapers for about $12. Compare that to the almost $37 (!!!!) some other brands cost for the. Same. Exact. Product.
They also have a few different varieties of formula, wipes, puree food, pick up snacks and cereals, wash and lotion. I’m even starting to see toys, sleep sacks and liquid ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
They only accept cash and debit cards. This was actually true but not anymore; Aldi started accepting credit cards earlier last year.
You won’t be able to get everything on your list. This part is still partially true. Aldi is a great place to get all of your BASIC have-to-have items. That being said, you can still very easily feed your family just shopping at Aldi. They have house wears, personal care, pet supplies etc. But if you’re picky about flavors and needing a bunch of variety, you might still ned up going two places.
Still, they’re adding new items all the time. Every time I go I find something I hadn’t seen before, including this really cool line of international foods, including Chinese, Thai and Indian food.
The food just isn’t good and the produce isn’t fresh. So so wrong. The food is very very good. Like I said before, my kids preferred the Aldi GF food over familiar more expensive brands. About 95% of the food we eat comes from here and it’s always tasty and very good quality. The produce, though the selection may not be as wide as a “normal” supermarket, is just as fresh, if not fresher (I’ve always had problems with bringing spoiled or soft produce home from Walmart in particular).
My latest Aldi find has been their flavored coffees. Do they always have my absolute favorite one? No. But do they always have something good for $2 less per bag than even the cheapest brand I used to buy at a traditional store? Yes.