Beginner’s Guide to Aldi

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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.photo-1 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.

Misconceptions

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.”

Duh.

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.

Continue reading “Beginner’s Guide to Aldi”

Books I’m Reading

I do this great thing where I see a book I can’t wait to read and then I buy it and never get around to reading it.

No more!

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These are the books I plan to read. Notice, I’ve already bought them and they’ve been sitting on my shelf for a while. Also add to this list the Gospel of Mark, that I ordered today and plan on starting March 2nd.

I’ve already talked about Seamless, this is the only one in progress currently. I’ll keep writing about it as I go along.

Uninvited: I had started this one about the time I had started Seamless and couldn’t get into it. I think you have to be in a certain place for this one and I just wasn’t there at that time. I was’t feeling “less than, left out or lonely,” but I’ve been there in the past. I think I’ll restart it at some point, because I’ve read that other people have gotten something amazing out of this book.

You and Me Forever: I bought this book a LONG time ago. I’m always up for a marriage builder, and I thought “its a skinny one, I’ll get through this super fast!” Nope. I still want to get into it though because, like Uninvited, I’ve heard really good things.

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Where would I be without my main man Dave?

Total Money Makeover: I’m reading this one for continued inspiration to stay on the straight and narrow path of family finance. I got it Black Friday for a ridiculous price and free shipping! The second I got it I ripped it open and read the first chapter and got all mad about credit card companies again. I definitely recommend this one to anyone trying to dig out of debt.

Seamless Weeks 1&2

 

A while ago I started the Seamless Bible Study. It’s my first attempt at a Bible study since I was in Catholic Sunday school as a teenager. Basically it provides a very simple explanation of major stories of the Bible as they happened chronologically. Its a 7 weeks study and has readings to do daily.

I hadn’t made it very far and then I got distracted and didn’t do it for a few weeks. But yesterday I got back on it and finished week 2. I’m trying to complete it before March 2, and then I plan on starting the Gospel of Mark, an online Bible study through Lifeway Women that leads up to Easter.

Week 1
Week 1 was all about the book of Genesis. It covered creation and the fall of man and the flood, the story of Job and the Tower of Babel.  Major stories that I knew, but I feel like I now have a new understanding of, especially the book of Job, and where the saying “the patience of Job” comes from.

Week 2
Then came the Patriarchs, or the story of Abraham and his descendants. I really like the story of Ishmael and Isaac, and how the study hi lighted that Ishmael became the father of Arabic people and Isaac became the father of the Jews. I knew that Islam and Judaism were linked somehow, but now I see where the link is.

Reading this chapter I really reflected on the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22). Read that chapter and ask yourself “How many Behold, here I am” moments have you had this week? This month? This year? And how did you respond? This part really made me stop and reflect. I probably have more moments where I ignore when God is speaking to me, or maybe my ears aren’t trained to hear Him yet. Or maybe I know the right thing to do, or what I want him to do, but I chose to do what I want, what I think is right, smarter or the right choice for me. Can I say that I would walk one of my children up a hill knowing I would use them in a sacrifice? Trusting that God is holding me in his hands? No way. I’m not that strong. How do I tell if it’s God’s voice speaking to me? These are some of the things I’m looking to find and answer for myself through this study and probably more.

Week 3 next week is the Book of Exodus. I can’t wait to dive into it!

Time Management

I really need to learn how to manage my time better.

There are so many things I want to do with my days, but I just seem to get clutter of the brain and I don’t get to do as much as I plan.

I have books I want to start or finish, including the Seamless Bible study, I want to keep my personal resolution to keep my house clean enough for drop in guests, I want to work on this blog more (I have so many ideas!), I have my crochet side business that has kept me pretty busy lately, and then of course this whole wife/ mother thing 😉

I’m thinking maybe writing a schedule out for my week could be helpful. Like Monday could be a crochet day, Tuesday for reading, Wednesday a blog day etc etc…

I also have an update to write on my baby weight loss plan; as of yesterday I’m down 25 lbs! I’m officially wearing my first pair of ‘goal jeans’ around and out of the house and they’re comfortable.

As far as writing goes, because I always get a flood of ideas whenever I start typing, here’s a list of things I’m dying to write about:

  • Baby weight update obv.
  • Books I plan to read
  • Seamless post on the first few chapters
  • Ben’s First Birthday!! And how to stay on budget with a child’s birthday party
  • I also want to start writing “New Home Ec,” a guide to how to do things. Things I think SHOULD have been taught in high school home ec but weren’t, like how to do laundry, how to clean your house, how to plan meals and budget for groceries etc etc… Just real basic basics that I didn’t know when we got married and was suddenly responsible for a household.

No time like the present I guess, today can be a cleaning day (since the house needs it) and tomorrow I guess I’ll do some reading?

Little Things

I’ve been working on this post for a few months trying to collect all of the ideas I incorporate into our daily life that have minimal effort but can save you some money.

It’s not all about big huge sacrifices that can effect you financially. There’s a million little things you can do everyday that don’t seem like much but can add up over the course of a month or a year. Not to mention that starting off with the mindset of reducing your bills and saving money can have way further reaching effects in your finances than the immediately apparent numbers as listed below.

Line Drying Clothes

The Saving Energy website estimates that the average dryer uses 3.3 kWh, and that one kWh costs about 11 cents. So counting that out, line drying a load of laundry saves 36 cents. Seems like nothing, so let’s march it out.

I do four loads of laundry a week. Line drying in the northeast is really only feasible from mid-April to September. So we’ll say 24 weeks.

24 weeks x (36 cents per load x 4 loads per week)= $34.56

Cool right? That’s like a free tank of gas a year. In warm sunny places where it’s hot and sunny year rounds, it’s more like $75.

Turn Down (or Up) the Heat

According to the I Will Teach You to be Rich blog, turning the thermostat down one degree takes 3% off your heating bill. So if you drop even 3-4 degrees, thats approximately $10-20 per month depending on where you live.

Also under this heading is air conditioning, which according to How Stuff Works, consumes 2,000 kWh per year on average, or about $220 using the same 11 cents per kWh.

We have a super old (about 200 years old) house that’s drafty and has high ceilings. We keep our thermostat at 65 in the winter. When we were renting a utilities included apartment… it was more like 72-75. It was an adjustment to cool it off at first, but this is way easier for me than losing the AC. I hate being hot. I’d rather put on a sweater then sweat even a little bit.

Turn Off the Lights

I feel like I spend half my day walking around my house shutting lights off. Its a habit left over from my childhood when my parents (especially my dad) would freak out if a light was left on when you aren’t in the room or if there were too many on in the house at once.

I also hate the yellow glow of incandescent bulbs. I just don’t get why lights have to be on in the daytime when we have perfectly good sunlight for free.

Using the number we’ve been using at 11 cents per kWh, running a 60 watt bulb for five hours a day can cost over $12 per year. Typing that out I just got up and turned out four lights burning in the house. In rooms I’m not even sitting in. FOUR. Two were in the same room. And its 9:30 am on a perfectly bright although overcast day.

So working the math backwards from how much something costs to how much I can save with my efforts (because I’m all about that), if my daily light killing walk throughs can prevent all four of those lights from being on for not as much as 5 hours a day, because that seems like a lot, but lets say one hour per day, I’d save about $10 in one year. For really nothing. Would you use a $10 coupon off your grocery bill? Of course you would. You can play with energy usage math here, at energyusecalculator.com.

$10 is $10 all day.

Get the Last Drop of Detergent

This is another one I remember from growing up. Having poor parents can really pay off later in life lol. My mom used to get so mad at how much detergent was left in the jug that wouldn’t pour out on its own and refused to throw it away. And when you really think about it, look down into the bottle next time you do laundry. There’s no way to get ALL the liquid you paid for, and according to ConsumerReport.org, 7-16% of what you bought can be trapped in the bottle to be thrown out!

So the brand used to calculate this difference was Tide, lets do some math. I get tide at Walmart (one of the few things I still buy there), and a 64 load jug costs $11.97. 7% of that is 83 cents, 16% is $1.92! I typically go through a bottle a month, sometimes more. But lets say that at 1 bottle per month, with the max of 16% lost in the bottle at the tail end, I’d be losing $22.98 a year. That’s two whole jugs of detergent!

Would you grab up a deal for 2 FREE bottles of Tide? Of course you would. How do you get it? Just rinse out your jug when you think its gone. Thats it. Fill it with hot water and you’re good for another 1-2 loads.

Let’s add up all of our (minimal efforts) for an entire year: So if we line dry our clothes for 24 weeks in Massachusetts ($34.56), turn our thermostat down 3 degrees ($10), our off our lights for an hour per day in rooms we’re not even in ($10), and make sure to use up all the detergent trapped int he bottle ($22.98), we’ve saved $77.54.

$77 bucks for doing basically nothing, right back in your pocket. Whats better than that?