My favorite grocery store is Aldi.* People tend to either be lovers and die-hard fans, or haters–they’ve either never walked in because they think it’s a ‘low income / low quality’ store, or they walked in and left confused or frustrated. For me, Aldi is my go-to food source. I buy 90% of my groceries there. That said, the chain has a quirky set-up that can take some getting used to. The food is most definitely lower cost, but not lower quality. In fact, they carry a lot of organic options. If you’re already a fan of Trader Joe’s, Aldi is owned by the same parent company, and you may notice a lot of similarities on the shelves. I do think Aldi needs a ‘How to Shop Here’ pamphlet when you first walk in, because it’s set up differently from most grocery stores in the U.S. This article is designed to help you know what to expect when you go and give you tips for a better shopping experience.
What to expect
- You rent your shopping carts with a quarter. Why is this awesome and not annoying? It keeps shopping cart from rolling into the side of my car and denting it, because people always want their quarters back. It also means they aren’t paying someone to round up those carts, so they can help keep costs lower. Forgot your quarter? Normally when this has happened to me, I either ask at the cash register if I can use one of the carts from the bagging area, or just put my food in the shopping bags as I go.
- Bring your own bags. Aldi doesn’t give out free plastic bags, but I view this as another positive. Reusable bags are better for the environment, and it forces me to remember to use mine. I just leave mine in my car and grab them on the way in. Forgot yours? They have super cheap (10 cent) bags at check-out.
- You’ll have fewer brand names to choose from, but will still find organic and gluten-free options. Aldi tends to offer one brand of an item, at a much lower price. I’ve still found their food to be high quality with lots of variety. Some of my favorite things to buy at Aldi are wine, gourmet cheese, organic milk, frozen seafood, basic baking goods, sparkling water, and grains (jasmine rice, quinoa, couscous etc). Additionally, just as with any grocery store, some locations will have better and bigger selections than others.
- Some items are seasonal specialties. Some items appear briefly, only to vanish for months– such as frozen lobster tails in the fall and winter ($12-$13 for 2 tails!), apple cider, $3 bags of honeycrisp apples, jumbo sea scallops, ahi tuna, king crab legs, and whole lobster. I stock up on these items when I find them. They also have seasonal non-food items, like plants and herbs in the spring, or serving dishes and gift items in the holiday season.
- You’ll bag your own groceries. There’s a bagging counter after the registers, and you bag up your own food. This saves them money (no need to hire a bagger), and helps keep food costs low.
- You’ll save a lot of money, and still get high quality food. This, to me, is key. This is why I go back, week after week.
Tips to make your shopping trip better
- They offer a ‘double back’ guarantee. If you aren’t happy with a purchase, they’ll let you replace it AND give you your money back. I’ve actually taken advantage of this when I bought some ravioli that I just didn’t like at all. They let me switch it out for different food worth the same amount AND refunded my money. It was amazing.
- Put your food on the checkout belt in order from heaviest to lightest / most fragile. This will speed things up, and ensure your eggs don’t get crushed.
- Ask for help. If you can’t find something, or it looks like they’ve run out of it, there’s a good chance it just hasn’t been restocked yet. One time I needed tomatoes on the vine, but there were none on the shelf. Their employee went in the back, and brought me several bags of the tomatoes I needed! Also, since the stores tend to be on the small side, it’s usually easy to find help.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve tried an Aldi, or if you’ve never been, give it a shot! You may find that you love it.
Note: Aldi didn’t pay me a dime to write this. They also didn’t pay me any more or less than a dime. In fact, they haven’t paid me anything, and I repeatedly give them money for food. I just really like them!
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