I have no problem admitting ignorance and coming clean when I realize I’ve been living under a rock. This happened last year 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’s like, “How did you NOT know that?”).
Or the year before, when I realized the wooden device you use to pull a pizza out of the hot oven is a pizza peel instead of a thingy. DUH.
Or a few years earlier, when I realized “paradigm” is actually not pronounced…okay, never mind.
In the same vein, I realized recently that everyone but me shops at Aldi. Ridiculous. And so today, I packed up my reusable grocery bags and a quarter, and I made my way to the local ALDI Food Market, 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 are all, “I told you so!”
And I’m 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 head’s 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.
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.
(You get my drift.)
We’re not 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 ($0.99 for a huge bundle of green onions) and good looking, there was a large variety from which to pick.
It’s not necessarily local, nor is it always seasonal for Maryland, but that’s okay. I can go to farmers’ markets for that, or use what we grow on the property.
Aldi had everything from eggplant to Brussels sprouts. Mangoes to kiwi fruit. It’s not a big store, and the fruit and veggie isle 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 in which they arrived, and not necessarily in a sensible order throughout the store isles. It’ll take me a while to get used to this, as I’m sure I missed some things along the way.
But, I was able to find everything on my list today (except deodorant, which they usually do carry) 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 ($0.06 each) or plastic ($0.10 each) bags 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.
8. LOTS OF CHOCOLATE.
If you’re a chocoholic, especially of the German variety, then Aldi is for you.
I didn’t buy any today (except for semi-sweet morsels), but I did notice rows and rows of unique chocolate bars, many of which are not domestic.
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, today the weather isn’t great, but going to the grocery store on at Saturday morning at 10 a.m. is usually a death sentence. Today? A breeze.