Last updated on May 21, 2023 by Liza Hawkins
I have no problem admitting ignorance and coming clean when I realize I’ve been living under a rock.
This happened years ago when I learned that you can make easy microwave popcorn out of kernels and a paper bag and then shared that knowledge over on my Facebook Page. Everyone was like, “How did you NOT know that?”
Or the year before the popcorn incident, when I realized the wooden device you use to pull a pizza out of the hot oven is a pizza peel instead of what I’d been calling it (a thingy).
Or back in 2007, when I was at work and realized “paradigm” is actually not pronounced … okay, never mind.
In this same vein, in 2015 I realized everyone (but me!) shops at ALDI. Ridiculous.
And so that day, I packed up my reusable grocery bags and a quarter, and I made my way to the local ALDI Food Market, which was only about 10 minutes away.
It was a complete and total success. I spent half the money AND half the time that I usually would for a grocery store run. BLOWN. AWAY.
My friends were all, “I told you so!”
And I was like, “I knoooooowwwwww.” Sigh.
Which brings me to a point. If it weren’t for posts like this that helped open my eyes, along with friends continuously telling me, “GO TO ALDI!!!” I never would’ve.
ALDI isn’t your typical grocery store experience, so you need a little prepping before just deciding to head out all willie-nillie for your weekly haul. I’m not a fan of surprises at the store (or during check-out), so here’s your heads-up!
What to know before going to ALDI
1. Bring a quarter.
Everyone told me this. Know why? You need a quarter to unlock a shopping cart and actually use it in the store. I usually have one in my purse all the time, but savvy Aldi shoppers keep a special “ALDI quarter” hidden away in the car.
Once you’re done shopping, you get your quarter back as soon as you re-lock the cart back in its place. Apparently, this keeps extra costs down since employees don’t need to spend time wrangling carts from the parking lot.
2. Expect store brand.
But know that it mysteriously looks like name brand packaging. Cereal, frozen pizza, ketchup … it all looks oddly familiar until you realize the character on the package is a panda instead of a penguin.
We’re not typically name brand food-buyers anyway, so that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. AND, many store brand items, at ALDI and others, are actually the same product as a name brand item. You’re just paying for the fancy logo. Food for thought, people.
3. Organic food.
I saw SO many different options for organic packaged food, and there’s a large amount of organic produce and even some meats, too. This surprised me! Affordable organic food? I’ll take it.
4. Produce variety.
Not only was the produce very affordable (e.g., $0.99 for a huge bundle of green onions) and good looking, there was a large variety to pick from. It’s not necessarily local, nor is it always seasonal for your location, but that’s okay. You can go to farmers’ markets for that, or use what you grow on your own property.
ALDI had everything from eggplant to fresh brussels sprouts. Mangoes to kiwi fruit. They’re locations are not usually very big and the fruit and veggie aisle took up an eighth of it, easy.
5. No frills.
There are no frills at ALDI.
Most of the items are displayed in or on the cardboard flats they arrived in, and not necessarily in a sensible order throughout the store aisles. It took me a little while to get used to this, and I definitely missed things along the way at first.
In the end with those first visits, I was able to find everything on my list (except random items like deodorant, which they usually do carry but sometimes are out of) without any problems.
6. Bag your own groceries.
The checkout person will ring you up, and then promptly put your products back into a new cart un-bagged.
There’s a bagging station adjacent to the registers where you can fill your own reusable grocery bags, extra boxes they sometimes have laying around, or you can buy paper or plastic bags at checkout instead.
7. No credit cards or checks — at some locations.
It used to be cash or debit cards only at ALDI, which was another reason they were able to save us money.
Then in 2017, they started rolling out credit card payment options, including my local store, but you’ll want to check with yours before going in armed with only a credit card as a payment option. I’d imagine by 2023, which is when I last updated this, credit cards are an option everywhere.
8. Lots of chocolate. And cheese.
If you’re a chocoholic, especially of the German variety, then ALDI is for you. Also cheese … so much imported cheese!
I didn’t buy any during my first visit (except for semi-sweet morsels), but I did notice rows and rows of unique chocolate bars, many of which are not domestic.
One of my latest favorites from their cheese section is a brie/bleu cheese mix — it is exquisite!
9. ALDI and Trader Joe’s are related.
It’s true. Trader Joe has a brother. He’s even better. I can’t make this stuff up.
10. Half the cost; half the time.
I spent $117 today on a full set of groceries (a mix of organic things and not, and including meat) for my family of four. The same amount of groceries at one of the other stores I frequent (there are several) would have easily cost $200 or more.
Also? I was in and out in an HOUR, and that included bagging my own groceries. Granted, the weather wasn’t great … but going to the grocery store on at Saturday morning at 10 a.m. is usually a death sentence.
My first Saturday visit? A breeze.