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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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!