You may remember my recent posts about my latest foray into coupon shopping rapture. I mentioned my usual store, Aldi. Well, I felt that Aldi deserved a post unto itself, and so here it is.
Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Aldi. I am not paid to review or write about the store in any way shape or form. I just like what the store has done for my family’s food budget. That’s all. Nothing else.
Well, I am not ashamed to admit that my family income is on the low end of the spectrum. Combine that with tough economic times, I find that I have to pinch even more pennies, and make that dollar stretch! I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart, and used coupons, but still needed to pinch more. I had always heard of Aldi, even before we moved to Ohio, so as soon as we got here, that was one of the first stores I visited. I must say, I was a bit nervous to shop there. I had some pre-conceptions of what it would be like, having shopped at similar stores in the past.
I was, and still am, pleasantly surprised. Let me just say that I shop Aldi mostly for my staples, and some produce. I am not brand loyal, and I only buy organic produce when it’s cost effective. I grew up on generics, so off-brands don’t bother me. What I’m trying to say is, Aldi is not for the picky. I have a family of 5 to feed, and it serves my needs. With that said, here are just a few things I’ve noticed from shopping at Aldi.
1. Off-brand is just another term for ‘store-brand’. When it comes to your pantry staples, it’s really no worse, and it’s sometimes actually better than advertised brand-names. The naming and packaging is just window dressing and advertising. Let’s take for instance, one of my other favorite stores, Trader Joe’s. Just like Aldi, TJs has it’s own store brand. Most (if not all the brands for sale in TJs are not advertised, because they are marketed exclusively by them. Same goes with Aldi. But for some reason, upscale shoppers flock to TJs while they wouldn’t be caught dead in Aldi. Why? The difference is in product positioning and brand image. TJs is marketed to the upscale and hipster communities, while Aldi is marketed to the budget conscious. What’s even more interesting, I have found identical products in both stores, with one difference: packaging and size. On day 1, I bought an 4oz bar of a particular brand of chocolate with hazelnuts from TJs for $1.99. A few days later, I purchased an 8oz bar of the exact same type of chocolate for the same $1.99. The only difference was the the packaging. So, I got twice the amount I got from TJs for the same price at Aldi!
2. Aldi is way more efficient and eco-friendly than most stores. There are 3 reasons I say this.
1. The cart rental system. When you go to shop Aldi, you don’t automatically get a free cart. The cart works on a deposit system, where you deposit a quarter onto the do-hicky attached to the cart. upon completing your shopping, you get your quarter back, IF you return your cart to the front of the store. Guess what? 100% of the carts get put back, because everyone wants their money back, even if it’s just a quarter! No parking lots littered with carts and no cars dinged by carts either!
2. No free grocery bags. You either bring your own or buy one. It’s a good time to use all those reusable bags you’ve been stashing. You are also welcome to ‘bag’ your goods in one of their empty boxes, IF you can find one. Most of the time I forget my bags at home or in the car, so guess who’s schlepping her unbagged groceries around in the trunk of the car, hehehe….
3. Simple and efficient store layout. I’m usually in and out in about 30 minutes. I would still just be making my way through the produce department in your friendly neighborhood supercenter in that time.
Did I mention that Aldi is very very budget friendly? If I haven’t, let me give some prices. 1 6 pack of bagels (same varieties you would find in another grocery store) $1.69,versus $2.50… 1 loaf of whole grain white bread: $1.19, versus about $2… 1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese (same exact brand as the other stores) $2.50, versus $3.99…and on and on… I don’t think I’ve spent more than $50 in one trip.
I mentioned that I mostly get my staples from here. I don’t get everything from there because they don’t have everything. Sometimes it can be hit or miss, especially when it comes to the ‘special buys’. They also don’t have a fresh poultry/meat department. And they don’t sell tofu or soymilk. All in all, I am eternally grateful that Aldi exists, because I suffer sticker shock when I go to other stores, and this helps me keep my food budget manageable.
So, go on, give it a try! Shop at Aldi, or a similar store in your neck of the woods. Don’t be scurred….
Edited on 5/20/2010 to add: My local Aldi stores now carry soymilk at $2.29/half gallon, yay!!!!!!!! They read my mind!
Edited on 8/10/2010 to add: I found out recently that Aldi is owned by the same company that owns Trader Joe’s. No wonder a lot of the products are similar if not the same. Also Aldi does now carry fresh meat and ground turkey. Still waiting for the Tofu…