10 Things You Need to Know About ALDI

If you are new to ALDI, or perhaps wandered in once before but thought it was "weird", I want you to know that you can have a phenomenal money-saving experience there. Before you go for the first time -- or the next time -- here are 10 little-known things you must know first.

Long-time readers of this blog already know that I’m a huge fan of shopping at ALDI for my family’s weekly groceries. ALDI is where we get most of our produce, dairy, eggs, granola bars (which is entire food group for my daughter!) and cereal.

If you are new to ALDI, or perhaps wandered in once before but thought it was “weird”, I want to introduce you to the phenomenal money-saving experience that is ALDI. Before you go for the first time — or the next time — here are 10 things you need to know about Aldi.

Aldi Grocery Carts#1. Bring a quarter

To get a cart from the corral, you have to put in a quarter, which gets returned to you when you bring the cart back from the parking lot. By having customers return their own carts, ALDI saves on staff salaries — savings that get passed onto you in the form of cheaper groceries.

Tip: If you don’t happen to have quarter on you, just walk into the store and head directly to the cashiers – they will always happily give you one to use in your cart.

#2. Come with cash or a debit card 

WOW! After a decades-long policy of no credit cards, Aldi has changed their policy and will now accept all credit cards, at all of their stores.

Here’s another ALDI cost-saving measure: Rather than pay the fees charged to retailers by credit card companies, ALDI requires payment in either cash or debit card. No credit cards, personal or bank checks allowed.

Tip: If you elect to use your debit card, be prepared that you will need to run it as a debit transaction, which means you will need to know your PIN.

Bags for Sale at ALDI#3. Bring your own grocery bags

ALDI does not provide (free) bags, so be sure to bring your reusable grocery bags. If you happen to forget your bags, you can purchase a paper bag or plastic bag ($.10) at checkout.

You are also responsible for bagging your own groceries. The cashier will scan the items and place them straight back into your cart. This DIY approach is another cost-saving measure, which, like the quarter for the carts, gets passed on to the consumer as bigger savings at the store.

Tip: There is a big counter just past the cashier stations designated for packing your groceries. 

#4. Don’t bring your coupons

Because ALDI does not accept them! ALDI makes up for it, though, by setting their prices as much as 50% less than at your local or chain grocery store. Cereal, for example, is no more than $2 per box (and some varieties are just $1.50). You’ll pay at least twice that for a box of General Mills cereal.

For those of you suffering from coupon burnout — or for those who never got into couponing to begin with — not having to “mess” with coupons, but still getting rock bottom prices, is welcome news.

Tip: To make sure you’re getting the best prices when shopping at ALDI (or anywhere!), it’s essential that you keep a price book.

ALDI Fresh Produce#5. Save more than “just” money

ALDI offers a no frills shopping experience. You won’t find coffee bars, elaborate end-cap displays, or deli service counters like at your neighborhood supermarket. Another thing you won’t find is the 30,000 items typical grocery stores stock across their 30+ aisles.

Instead, you will find a highly efficient, streamlined set-up, with just 1,400 items across just 4-6 aisles.

As someone who suffers from acute decision fatigue, I find this aspect of shopping at ALDI to be a real breath of fresh air. Fewer choices (10 kinds of cereal vs 150!), coupled with ALDI’s more compact footprint, mean I can get in and out of the store in less than 20 minutes.

Tip: For kosher consumers, ALDI’s pared down model also means it probably won’t be your one-stop shop. At a minimum, you will need another source for your kosher meat and cheese. I’m used to at least two or three weekly stops anyway, so now I just make the 20 minutes at ALDI one of them!

#6. Acquaint yourself with ALDI’s store-brand products

The vast majority of items sold at ALDI are store brand vs. name (i.e. national) brand. This doesn’t mean that ALDI products are cheap knock-offs. In fact, ALDI works with national manufacturers to run their own line of the same product concurrently being packaged under the labels you know and love. The granola bars we buy, for example, taste just like Quaker; their frosted cereal is spot on for Frosted Flakes.

And thanks to ALDI’s Double Guarantee, you don’t have to be worried about trying out a new product: If for any reason you are unsatisfied, ALDI will refund your money and give you a replacement for free!

You will occasionally find name-brand products at ALDI, too. Some of these are a great buy, but others less so. Be sure to rely on your price book to compare. For example, my ALDI has been carrying 12-packs of Coca-Cola recently, but at the astronomical price of $4.59. Definitely not a good deal. Last week, however, Coke 12-packs were a “Special Buy” at just $2.99, which is a stock-up price.

Tip: A huge number of the ALDI store-brand products have kosher certification. Check out my Kosher ALDI Database for more information and an updated list of the hundreds of kosher products at ALDI.

#7. Ask for help from some of the most helpful employees

ALDI is well-known for being an outstanding employer. You may wonder what this has to do with you, the consumer, but in my opinion, any company that treats its employees right is treating its customers right. ALDI pays well above the national minimum wage and offers employees working at least 25 hours per week health insurance benefits.

Tip: All ALDI employees are “cross trained” in all areas of store operations so any employee, anywhere in the store, can help you with any question. This policy means ALDI employees are more empowered — and more helpful.

Aldi Toys#8. Look for great buys on more than just food

I shop at ALDI for the great grocery deals, but I can’t deny that I love their Special and Seasonal Deals, as well. My Passover cabinet came from them – for just $27.99!

I’ve also purchased great deals on kitchen tools and gadgets and even found deals on shoes and clothing for my kiddos. My daughter’s knock-off Keds were just $5.99 in May — and then I grabbed a second pair when they went to 50% off clearance in June.

Name brand toy deals (like Marvel and MegaBloks) are plentiful in December; every summer, ALDI stocks pool toys, goggles and beach towels.

Tip: You can get also get great prices on paper goods and cleaning supplies at ALDI; they are far less than Target or Costco.

Organic at ALDI#9. Fill up on gluten-free & organic offerings 

If you or a family member are gluten-free, you’re in luck at ALDI. Over the last two years, the store has steadily built up its selection of gluten-free items — from cereal and crackers to pasta and desserts. Many do have reliable kosher certification. Likewise, ALDI has significantly expanded its organic offerings — both in the produce section and in their packaged goods. They even carry organic milk and several varieties of (kosher) organic yogurt.

Tip: Look for the SimplyNature brand for ALDI’s organic line. All SimpleNature items are free of artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates/nitrites and trans fatty acids.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 9.15.06 PM#10. Follow the sale cycles — and find out when your store re-stocks

Once a week, ALDI offers their weekly “steals” — various produce items at insanely low prices. Some of my favorites include $.99 pineapples, $.39 avocados and $.25 ears of corn. When I first started shopping at ALDI five or six years ago, I found the produce to be hit or miss; but lately the quality has significantly improved. In fact, I now prefer ALDI’s apples, clementines, melons and peppers to those sold at Costco!

If you happen to venture into ALDI and are disappointed to find the produce section picked-over, find a store employee to ask when they typically restock. For my ALDI, that’s mid-morning, so I usually shop in the early afternoon. Your store may differ; take the time to ask.

Tip: Aldi does not have extended hours. Most stores open at 9 am and close at 8 pm. Sundays are typically open 11 am – 7 pm.

Find an ALDI store near you using their Store Locator.

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Are you a fan of shopping at ALDI? I’d love to hear your tips & tricks!

Comments

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Comments

  1. i shop at aldis weekly for a few yrs already so I’ve had to return an item here & there & I read on ur thread abt their return policy but never had anyone offer the said Double Guarantee. I would just get my refund.

  2. yeah I know that they have the double guarantee in place I just found that they never actually carry it out. for example I always buy walnuts there. it’s happened twice or so that they were stale & had that “smell” so I brought it back, i’d get my money back but not another bag of walnuts for free. I could have spoken up but I’m just not that type. I just feel like if they have such a policy they should stick to it no need to ask them otherwise I love their products. they have awesome hot peppers for 1/2 the reg price btw.

    • Mara Strom says:

      I totally agree that they should be trained to automatically say “Would you like to replace this? It’s free!” The time the cashier said that to me of course it’s b/c I bought something without realizing that the hecsher on it had changed (gone away). I stammered a lot to explain that!

      • lol, yup had same story w/their maple syrup but thankfully (in that case) no one volunteered a free replacement.

  3. they have a four flavor sectional of Hummus that we love, great cheap fruit bars and now their crinkle cut fries have an O-U. We love Aldis.

  4. FYI – the Aldis’ in my area get a truck in every morning, so in order to ensure the produce is not picked over, one needs to go early in the day. That has made ALL the difference in buying produce at Aldi. Between that and the GF stuff, we are huge fans!

  5. We love Aldi and shop there almost exclusively. The produce is excellent in quality and price. We try to shop in the mornings to ensure they are stocked as our store does tend to run out of items. Think we could use another store in the area so they could keep up with denmand.

  6. I am concerned about their meats..are they USDA inspected. Heard a story that horse meat was being used.
    I have aways loved Aldis but hearing these things does have me concerned. Any clarification would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

    • Mara Strom says:

      Jude – I keep kosher, so can’t purchase their meats – and had actually never heard about this. I did some Googling for you and found this on Snopes. Hope it helps! http://www.snopes.com/food/tainted/aldi.asp

    • OK, I’ve just read all the comments, pay a quarter to use a cart, bring own bag or pay 10 cents, bag your own groceries, just 1400 items, 2 cashiers, 45 minute wait in check-out line, meat can be a mystery, can’t use coupons, veggies and fruits not always fresh, no checks or credit cards, and I assume I must take my own groceries to my car, and rude workers. We have a new Aldi store that will open soon. Of course I will “check it out”, but I am all but certain Publix will still be my favorite store and also Harris Teeter. I always buy on sale and bogo’s are my thing as is coupons. No, I don’t use 10 coupons and spend hours clipping them. I only use coupons for items I regularly use or to try a new item I am interested in. Aldi will have strong competition here, a new Walmart food market opens soon also and is close by the Aldi. There’s also 2 new Harris Teeters, Food Lion and 2 Publixs, Bi-Lo, and Piggly Wiggly. I don’t think this store will stay open long in this area.

      • Let us know what you think about Aldi’s once you “check it out” …
        You’re definitely going to be impressed and we want to hear you say it..errrr see you type it…haha

      • I, too, am a Publix girl. I rarely even shop Winn-Dixie. I do price shop organic veggies at Whole Foods (which, by the way, is cheaper than Publix for most organic veggies unless Publix is having a sale). I won’t shop at Wal-Mart for political reasons and I don’t shop Target because it’s too far away from me. I did recently notice an Aldi pretty close to me and I’ve been meaning to give it a try. My aunt found the place recently and is always talking it up. My biggest trouble is that I really don’t eat much in the way of processed food, prefer to eat organic if I can afford it, and cook most everything from scratch (even bread). So, I’ll let you know what I think. I will do Costco on occasion especially for nonperishables, but I’m single so have a hard time buying in too much bulk, though I am on a budget and will when it’s a huge savings if I can figure out a way to put it away.

  7. Our new Aldi in Minnesota takes credit cards.

  8. We have an Aldi opening soon in our area, is there a selection of non-dairy or vegan options that they carry?

  9. Charnie Feldman says:

    An Aldi’s opened near my office, so I sometimes stop in on my way to my car. Our family’s favorite item is the pareve strawberry ices bar (the Belmont bars), about 90 calories a bar, no fat and quite refreshing. At one time they carried microwave popcorn that had a hechsher, but the brand no longer has one (the OU says it depends on the factory where it’s made). I’ve also found cans of cranberry sauce for 99 cents that for use in a recipe was just as good as Ocean Spray. But it’s a strange store and I have to spend a lot of time looking for hechshers on things like spices (usually don’t have them). Their produce has been one extreme or the other, either excellent or rots within a day or so.

    • Charnie Feldman says:

      Footnote to kosher consumers – since Mara’s kosher at Aldi’s list is a compilation, please do not consider it reliable in terms of kashrut. A lot of food items that most rabbis feel need supervision are listed (pudding, honey, nuts, beans etc). While a product in and of itself may be kosher, unless we know how it is processed and what else is run on the same machinery, it can’t be considered reliable.

      • Mara Strom says:

        The database is always subject to change because they may get different manufacturers for certain products. Their cereal, for example, has increasingly been without a hechsher (which is such a bummer!). I try to update the database, but I definitely rely on readers to let me know that things have changed! And yes, you are 100% right, I am not in any way paskening … I’m just reporting that at one point in time, there was a reliable hechsher on that item!

    • Mara Strom says:

      Wow, I’m kind of jealous of your cranberry sauce! That’s a great find!

  10. mitty herrick says:

    We shopped Aldus in Wisconsin and MN. We are now (phoenix) and miss it… any chance they will be in AZ

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