Anyone who has shopped at ALDI probably remembers their first time and how awkward an experience it was. If you managed to fill your cart with groceries (assuming you got a cart), you may have found yourself leaving it in the checkout lane and simply walking out. You might have felt like you just walked into an exclusive club where no one checked your membership card.
We had similar thoughts when we first shopped there. After the first time, my wife and I said to each other “well we tried it” and didn’t have plans on going back accept maybe occasionally. Something changed though. As we went back to our old shopping habits, we realized how much extra we were paying for the same stuff at ALDI. Why would we pay a dollar more for a gallon of milk, or frozen pizza, or spices, or almost anything else for that matter.
So we gave it another shot. After about two months of transitioning, we slowly started to feel more comfortable with it. After about a years worth of shopping there, it’s now our first choice before we go anywhere else.
ALDI Shopping Tips
Bring a quarter. In order to use a shopping cart, you’ll need to put a quarter into one of the contraptions on the cart to unlock it from the rest of the shopping carts. Don’t worry, you’ll get the quarter back when you return the cart. You may be thinking “seriously?!?!?”, but think about it. How much do retail stores have to pay for a shopping cart? If we estimate somewhere between $100-200, then by ensuring that it gets returned means they don’t have to pass that expense along to the customers each time one mysteriously disappears. Plus, you can rest assured that you won’t be parking next to a cart corral or that a cart won’t get loose and run into your car. If you’re one of those people who likes to leave a cart anywhere in the parking lot, ALDI isn’t for you.
Bring some bags or be prepared to buy some. Call it environmentally friendly, or another way to pass some savings on to the consumer, either way, you’ll need to bring your own bags or buy some at checkout. They do sell a variety of bags from paper to heavy plastic to insulated for frozen items. If you prefer, you can just grab an empty box from a shelf as you’re shopping and put your items in there when you check out. Oh, I forgot to mention, you’ll be bagging or boxing your own groceries.
Leave the checkbook and credit cards at home. ALDI only accepts cash and debit cards. It’s faster for them and they avoid the fees credit card companies charge. If you don’t remember your debit card pin number, you might want to call your bank before you head out for your shopping trip.
When you’re checking out, if there is an empty cart nearby, put it into place next to the cashier when you’re done. This saves the cashier from having to get up and move it into place and allows them to start scanning the next person immediately.
If you like to shop late at night, you’ll need to go someplace else. ALDI is only open during the most profitable hours, which means when most people would be out grocery shopping. If you like to shop at midnight, ALDI isn’t for you.
Produce can be good or bad. Many times their produce is pretty good and they have quite a selection, but you’ll want to check it out before you get it. You can always ask an employee when they get their produce shipments and they’ll be happy to tell you. That way you’ll know the best day to come in and get it at its freshest.
Things You’ll Notice
No music to calm the shopping nerves. If you hear music while shopping, you might want to get checked out by your doctor. I’ve never noticed any music being played over a speaker system. Music costs money.
To-the-point receipts. Don’t you hate those huge receipts or the six feet of coupons that print out at other stores? Well, you won’t need to worry about it because everything on an ALDI receipt is printed very compactly. It uses less paper that way.
Barcodes everywhere. There are large barcodes on items or barcodes on multiple sides of an item. This helps speed up the checkout process.
ALDI carries more than just food. You might find kids swimming pools, walkers, or a variety of other items. If they get a good deal on something, you might just find it in the store. It’s kind of like a grab bag of goodies and you never know what you’ll find.
Friendlier shoppers. The shoppers at ALDI generally seem to be a little bit more friendly than at other places. It’s not unusual to walk up to the checkout with only a couple items in hand, and have the people in front of you let you go ahead of them. This is a purely subjective observation.
Shopping at ALDI is generally faster and easier than going to a larger store. For one, there aren’t as many choices (who needs 3 brands of flour to choose from) and the aisles are arranged in a way that you can quickly move between them and get what you need.
You will find some, but not many name brands. One local ALDI even has a sign hanging up saying that their store brands are made by the major manufacturers. Does that mean all of the products will taste the same as the brand name products? Not in all cases. However, we have found in some cases that the ALDI store brand product is better than the brand name products. One example is the American cheese slices. They are meltier on grilled cheese sandwiches than any other cheese slice we’ve used. Cereal on the other hand is hit or miss. Some of them are good (like their Cinnamon Life cereal equivalent) and others definitely taste different. This may bother some people, but after a while, you tend to find out what is good to you and what isn’t. They do offer a Double Guarantee so if you don’t like a product, you can always take advantage of it.
We decided to give ALDI a try and I think it’s worth it for most people to try as well. You don’t have much if anything to lose, but a lot of potential savings. Hopefully these tips will help you feel like a pro the first time you go. We don’t buy everything at ALDI, but we do the majority of our grocery shopping there and we think it’s worth it.
Potential Savings: This is hard to quantify, but as a point of reference, we budget $430 every 4 weeks on groceries for a family of 4, 2 adults and 2 younger children who sometimes eat like adults. Most months, we stay under this budgeted amount without any trouble. Shopping at ALDI has given us some extra room in our budget to be able to purchase other grocery items (shampoo, face wash, meat items, etc.) at other places without killing the budget.
Featured Image By Bidgee (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons