Growing up my mom went to numerous stores to buy groceries each week. She would pour over the sale flyers and make her list and one day each week she spent most of the day shopping. One of her stops as I got older was Aldi. I remember lots of generic foods and not really enjoying going there. They have come so far in the past few years! If you haven’t been there lately, give it another try. All the cool moms shop there. 🙂 I run into someone I know nearly every week. If you are against saving money, don’t go in there. Stick with the high price grocery stores. I know some people “feel” good going to the Organic stores. I enjoy going there too but only on an occasional basis. Each week or every other week as I’ve recently started trying out shopping twice a month, you will find me there starting our shopping. I head to Meijer next for the items Aldi doesn’t carry. I wanted to share some tips for those who have never shopped Aldi as there are some things to know.
1. BRING A QUARTER
Aldi saves money by having a cart return system. Put a quarter in and get a cart. I promise you will get it back when you return your cart. This saves Aldi money as there aren’t carts they have to pay someone to retrieve in the parking lot. Less cluttered lots mean more parking spots and less dings to your car from rolling carts. The parking lot is small too so even on a rainy day, you won’t have far to go.
2. BRING YOUR OWN BAGS
Bring lots of reusable bags, the sturdier the better. This is great as you don’t have 25 grocery bags to deal with every week. You can wash these occasionally. 🙂 I just keep them in my car at all times so I always have them with me. I suggest about 8-10 bags, at least 1-2 of those insulated bags.
3. HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO BROWSE
Aldi is small. But they do carry a lot of great items in that small space. I have my regular items I get every visit. But the fun thing is they always have seasonal items and new things to try. They also are greatly expanding their gluten-free line and organic items. You will find name brand items there as well as their own line. Did you know they are a brother company to Trader Joes? It’s funny how the name of the store can conjure up feelings. People often think of Aldi as cheap, generic food whereas they think of Trader Joe’s being upscale, cool, and trendy. Trust me, if you truly enjoy getting good food at a cheaper price, Aldi is your place.
So what do I buy there? I buy nuts, snacks for the kids such as pretzels and popcorn, crackers, pure maple syrup, applesauce, canned fruit, beans, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, milk, almond milk, salads, ground beef (they carry grass fed organic), cheese, cheesesticks, specialty cheese, spices and herbs, cooking spray, coconut oil, frozen and fresh chicken breasts, deli turkey, ziplocs, trash bags, dryer sheets, broth, frozen fruit among other items. They carry chia seeds, flax seeds, and many other healthy items. Aldi is making great strides to avoid food dyes and other additives.
4. BRING CASH OR A DEBIT CARD
I’ve heard rumors of this changing but for now I believe it’s cash/debit only. It used to be cash only so it’s nice they take a debit card these days. You can get cash back as well using your debit card.
5. YOU BAG YOUR OWN GROCERIES
When you check out at Aldi, you place your groceries on the conveyor and as they scan the products (there are numerous bar codes on every item which makes it super fast), then they place them back in your cart. Even with a few people in line, the process is very quick.
The cashiers are paid over $11/hour, more than the average grocery store pays. What does this mean to you? They are friendly, helpful, and they stick around. You get to know them pretty quickly. I always enjoy chatting with them while I’m in line.
After you have paid with cash or debit card, you take your cart over to the bagging area. If you happen to forget your bags, they do have some you can purchase for a few cents each. There are also boxes throughout the store you can grab to put your groceries in. Have your bags handy and you get to sort and bag your own items. I actually like this. You choose where your cold items go and can sort according to where they go in your fridge or pantry.
Once you’ve put your groceries in you car, return your cart for your quarter. I always have quarters in my cup holder in the Jeep so I’m never out. One of the fun things is, most of the time people want your cart and will give you a quarter without you having to go return it. I’ve often had people bring me a cart and refuse to take my quarter. It’s just a nice way to see people at their best. People often let you go ahead of them in line. Forgot your bags? Often someone will hand you one of theirs to take. I’ve honestly never experienced the friendliness at any other store like I have at Aldi.
6. YOU SAVE MONEY
My total for the groceries you see pictured was $130.71. I challenge you in 45 minutes to be able to get the same items at any other store for less money. Unless you are an extreme couponer or go to several stores to get all the great deals, chances are it would be a challenge. I used to have a huge binder full of coupons from the paper and printed off the internet. The time I spent cutting and sorting and pulling them out and haggling with the cashier was costly. I also found a large majority of coupons were for not so healthy items. I still use paper towel, toilet paper, laundry/dish detergent, shaving cream, and other household item coupons, but most food coupons I was not using. I do love at Meijer when I score coupons printed off at checkout for produce, dairy, and bread items but those are rare.
Aldi does not accept coupons (other than ones in their flyer or in the newspaper occasionally). Some say they will not shop at a store where they can’t use coupons. But I know grocery prices well and since the stores have stopped doubling coupons, I know I save money without using coupons. I don’t miss sorting all those coupons honestly.
Today, I noticed some markdowns on nuts and other items. Another score was the greek yogurt quarts were 50% off for 3 days. I’m hoping they offer more deals like this in the future. I’ve noticed the past few visits they were out of whole almonds (unsalted, baking aisle type). This week they had a 12oz bag of organic almonds for $7.99. I think I can do better at Meijer so I passed on them. I think the key is knowing your prices and also paying attention to the labels. Know what you are looking for and what you are avoiding.
One more tip…shop early. If you go early in the day, the store is very quiet and you can get in and out quickly. Go in the late afternoon or evening and it will be far busier. Same with weekends.
Give Aldi a try if you haven’t been there lately. I recommend it to my friends all the time and I think the trend is catching on. Maybe I’ll see you there one day soon?
If you are an Aldi regular, share any tips I may have forgotten and please share what your favorite items include.