If you have an Aldi in your area, I hope you’re shopping at it! Aldi is a genius operation, in my opinion. They have a number of unique qualities that help them keep operating costs low, and they pass those savings on to the customer, so you can get decent food for your family at a much lower price!
Aldi is originally a German company founded by the Albrecht family in 1961. They now have thousands of stores world-wide, with a US headquarters in Illinois. If you like history, there’s more info. and a short, interesting video on their website here.
If you’re new to Aldi, here are a few things to know before you check out the store:
- You’ll need a quarter. When you pull into the Aldi parking lot, you may notice the lack of shopping carts (buggies, for us Southerners) strewn about the parking lot. This is because shoppers must deposit a quarter to get a cart. When you return your cart, your quarter is returned. So if you want to use a buggy, don’t forget your quarter!
- You’ll need your own bags. Another way Aldi can offer lower prices (and also help our environment) is by not bagging groceries in plastic bags. In fact, they don’t bag them in anything! You can purchase brown paper bags for about .05 each, or larger plastic bags for a few cents more. They also usually have reusable bags available to purchase. Another free option that many shoppers take advantage of is using the empty boxes off the shelves to carry their items home. (But that means you’ll need to spend a couple more minutes in the store hunting for enough boxes to fit your groceries.) The easiest option for me is simply to bring my own reusable bags. Regardless of which method you choose, you will bag your own groceries. The cashier will toss them all in your cart, and you take your cart over to a shelf where you can bag everything after you pay. (It sounds like a hassle, but it’s actually pretty fun.)
- Load the conveyor belt strategically. This tip is probably a little dorky, but maybe you’re like me, and care about stuff like this. Because your groceries are all placed back in your cart after they’re scanned, they can get squished. To avoid this, place all your cans and heavy items on the conveyor belt first, so they’ll end up in the bottom of the cart. Have the cashier scan your produce and lighter items last to ensure they end up on the top of the pile.
- Don’t plan to buy name brand. Almost everything at Aldi is store brand. I have only found a few store-brand duds at Aldi: tortilla shells, shredded cheese, and processed frozen burger patties. Everything else store brand that I’ve purchased has been just fine. Ditch the name brands- your wallet will thank you. (Lately, Aldi has had more and more items that are actually name brand, but they are still in the minority, and usually their prices on name brands are about the same as Walmart’s or Kroger’s, so just plan to buy Aldi’s store brand.)
- The layout and general feel of the store is pretty utilitarian. You won’t see eye-catching displays, employees on every corner to assist you, or even aisle directories. No one will offer to carry your groceries to your car. They don’t have a butcher or deli. It’s a pretty DIY experience. But those who don’t mind simplicity, and function over fashion, will save a significant amount of money by foregoing these little things that aren’t really necessary to the whole grocery-buying experience anyways.
- Plan to use or freeze meat or produce right away. One downside to Aldi is that their meat and produce don’t seem to last as long as that purchased from a more pricey grocery store. I haven’t yet researched why this is- it might be because they purchase produce from growers that don’t use as many preservative methods such as wax coatings, which would actually be a good thing.
- Don’t be mad if you have to make another stop. Aldi’s offerings can change from week to week, so just keep in mind that you may not find every item on your list, and you may have to pop in another grocery store to pick up what Aldi didn’t have. And don’t count on something being there forever- just because you bought it last week doesn’t guarantee they’ll have it again. All part of the charm, if you ask me.
- You can get organic and gluten free! Aldi has lots of healthy options- it’s not just shelves full of cheap junk. I regularly buy things like organic raw virgin coconut oil, raw organic nuts, and organic quinoa. I haven’t personally tried any of their GF options, but I’ve heard they’re pretty good.
Learn more about Aldi, and see if there’s one near you right here!
If you need some Aldi inspiration, The Little Frugal House has an awesome post about how she prepped 80 freezer meals in just a couple hours using ingredients from Aldi!
I hope you’ll have the opportunity to try out Aldi shopping soon! In the meantime, be sure to check out this helpful post with 6 Easy Ways to Save Money on Groceries!