Reader Q&A: Shopping at Aldi

aldi sign 300x300 Reader Q&A: Shopping at Aldi

Today’s reader question comes from Dodi. She’s interested in learning more about the money savings at Aldi.

I’m curious to know if you ever shop at Aldi, and if you have tips for shopping there. How do you think it compares to couponing at a regular store?

I’m not an exclusive Aldi shopper, but I do shop there with regularity and can offer a few suggestions. I’d love for any of my Aldi-shopping readers to chime in in the comments section, too!

Advantages to Shopping at Aldi

As a general rule, I have found that the baseline (non-sale, non-coupon) prices at Aldi are as much as 50% lower than at your typical local or chain grocery stores. Aldi even beats most store brands. For example, I consistently find that Aldi’s pasta and dried beans are less expensive than Great Value, the Walmart store brand. Of course, a price book is helpful is making a full comparison.

Aldi also offers a full guarantee on all their products. If your tomatoes are a little mealy (which has happened to me once or twice – see Disadvantages), you can return them for a full refund.

There are a surprising number of items with a hechsher at Aldi, so always check – especially on things you wouldn’t expect, like snack foods. There is even one kind of cookies that’s pas yisroel!

We happen to have an Aldi right around the corner from us so it’s definitely convenient. You can use the Aldi Store Locator to see if you have a store near you.

Disadvantages to Shopping at Aldi

Aldi offers a rather stripped down shopping experience – it’s one of the ways they save on overhead in order to pass those savings on to you. I actually don’t mind it, but I know a lot of people balk the first time they go to Aldi.

You have to “rent” your cart for $.25 (like in Israel) – your quarter gets returned to you when you bring your cart back to the corral at the front of the store. You must bring your own bags – or pay for theirs (like in Europe), which definitely encourages me to remember my bags!

You must pay with cash or a debit card – no credit cards accepted at Aldi. Again, I’m good with this, since that’s how we budget our groceries anyway, but a lot of people are in shock the first time they get up to the check-out.

Aesthetically, the store set-up is more warehouse than neighborhood market. And not a Costco warehouse. That said, all of the Aldi stores that I have shopped at are clean and well-lit and have aisles wide enough for two carts to comfortably pass. Think of it as a Motel 6 vs. a Hyatt.

Finally, Aldi doesn’t accept coupons – the price is the price. Of course, if you aren’t into couponing, or you are purchasing items that don’t typically have coupons (milk, produce, etc.), this may actually be an advantage.

What I Buy at Aldi

I shop at Aldi for inexpensive produce, milk, eggs, yogurts, cream cheese, dried beans, pasta, and nuts.

They always have at least three or four produce loss leaders in their weekly ad – and these deals are definitely stock-up worthy. For example, this week our store ad featured:

  • 2-lb bag of Cuties – $1.49
  • 3-lb bag of onions – $.99
  • 3-lb bag of Navel oranges – $.99
  • avocados – $.39 each (a bit smaller than the ones I normally buy)
  • baby carrots – $.49/lb
  • pineapple – $.99
  • 4-pack of pears – $.99
  • 5-lb bag of potatoes – $.99

I have learned that some produce is better at Aldi than others. I don’t often buy tomatoes at Aldi anymore, as they have been lower quality than the ones I get elsewhere. Cabbage, cucumbers, cuties and carrots, however, are much hardier foods – and tend to be just fine at Aldi.

The price of milk varies regionally, but I have found that Aldi is far cheaper than any other store, including Costco. We pay just $1.99/gallon – and the milk is RBST-free. [Update: The price of milk has really gone up. As of May 2013, we are now paying just under $3/gallon.] One drawback is that Aldi doesn’t carry 1% (at least by me).

Other dairy is also less expensive. Cream cheese, for example, regularly goes on sale for $.89, which usually beats sale + coupon at other stores. Unfortunately, none of these great deals help my friends who keep cholov yisroel.

It’s taken me a while to figure out what I can buy at Aldi (i.e. what’s hechshered) and what’s a better deal. But now that I have my regular list, shopping at Aldi definitely offers huge savings in our overall food budget.

Do you shop at Aldi? Do you have any tips for Dodi? Please share in the comments section!

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. One thing to add to their guarantee — they not only give you your money back (no questions asked) on any item, but they ALSO give you a replacement item for free! (so, you’d get the money back on the mealy tomatoes, and a new bag of tomatoes free)
    I’m guessing that most of the heckshered items are the same ones you’d find at Trader Joe’s, but differently-packaged, since they are owned by the same umbrella company.
    Love Aldi!

  2. My husband shops at Aldi’s with frequency. We get a lot of the same products that you wrote that you buy there. We recently stocked up on sweet potatoes for 0.33$/lb. We buy fruit (oranges, grapes, pineapples), veggies (yummy small cukes, green beans, and potatoes) and milk. What I like about Aldi’s is they have these little ‘finds’ mixed in. I bought a lock box/small safe for my kids for ~$30. This was so my kids could secure their baby sitting money.

    • I have a love-hate relationship with that middle section – it can really throw off my budget. But I have seen some awesome deals, including on La Crueset knock-off stuff.

  3. In Oak Park the milk at aldi is consistently less than any other store by at least a dime & is CRC. Haven’t found much other food with a good cert but sometimes we get lucky. Also I find that their cleaning supplies, TP, etc. aren’t the best deal. At least the store is close.

  4. We go to aldi’s a lot during the summer. We can walk (it’s down the street) and they have lots of summer fruits cheap. One suggestion is find out what days the trucks come in and don’t go at the end of any day. We have gone a few hours before shabbos and the selection is icky.

    • I totally agree about the pre-Shabbat run. Either icky stuff is left – or nothing is left. Do you know when the one by us gets their deliveries?

      • When I got in again I will ask and let you know. They have carrots 49 cents this week and nice weather, so great time for a walk. ;)

  5. Jessi Levy says:

    I used to always coupon our oatmeal, I just found that their oatmeal has a good ole OU and at $1.99 for 42oz, thats savings! I wish someone, or maybe I should, make a list of what has a heckshur on it at Aldi. I’m alsways looking.
    I agree, if you don’t have a coupon, Aldi is the way. Boxes of Cereal for less than $2. They also have good prices on nuts and raisins.

  6. We just had Aldi’s move into our city and I’m slightly addicted :) I buy all of our milk there (our price is also $1.99 per gallon, which is unheard of around here – it’s at least $3.09 at any other store in town.) I love their fruit, veggies and egg prices as well, and go there at least every 7-10 days to stock up.

    But here’s my absolute favorite thing about Aldi’s (I know you’ll understand because you have little ones too!) Last week, my four year old HAD to use the restroom at Aldi’s, and I was a little fearful of what I might find. But they had the most beautiful, tidy, big. clean bathroom I’ve ever seen at any grocery store ever (seriously, it was incredible!), and when I mentioned to the cashier how impressed I was (you know how those things excite us moms!), she said it was a company wide policy that the restrooms are cleaned several times throughout the day. I know it’s crazy, but now that I’ve gotten used to shopping there, I really do love it (and that clean bathroom makes all the difference!)

    • I totally appreciate the clean bathroom story! It’s not such a big deal with my boys, but with a potty trained 2-year DD, yeah – clean is a very good thing! :-)

      Do you have 1% milk by you? I wonder if this is something I should request of Aldi just doens’t carry it.

  7. I don’t have an Aldi so close to where I live but whenever I am near one I go in. I am always surprised by how much I can buy for how little money.
    I found the prices on baking supplies to be very good also. A couple of things didn’t have hechshers so I keep bookmarked on my phone the page from the star-k that gives a very short list of products that don’t need to be hechshered in the US (included baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder – not hot cocoa mix, sugar, and a bunch of others).

    • That’s a great idea to keep that bookmarked, Michelle. I’m always calling my husband – Wait? Rice doesn’t need a hecsher right?

  8. I agree in large part with the comments noted in the article. However, with respect to hechsherim one has to regularly check. Case in point: I used to buy fat-free blueberry and vanilla yogurts. After bringing my purchase home a few weeks ago I glanced at the packaging only to discover that the OU-D was replaced by a K. Same holds true with cereals. One has to be vigilant. As to the fruits and veggies: the quality is literally all over the place. Tomatoes are sometimes frozen, so they may spoil after a couple of days.
    The last point is purely personal: Aldi is a German-owned company, selling many products manufactured in Germany. For me that remains a problem.

    • I find that I have to check *everything* for changes in hechsherim – not just at Aldi.

      I had no idea that they’d freeze the tomatoes. So weird. But I guess that would explain why they get bad so quickly.

  9. We have a standard list of things that we buy at Aldi weekly (eggs, milk, butter, yogurt, butter, oil, sugar). As someone else suggested, I would also suggest boning up on items that don’t need a hechsher at all.

    As to it being a owned German company, yes, it is. But almost all of the items they sell are produced right here in the Midwest.

  10. I get tortillas and basic produce at Aldi. They have good prices on potatoes, citrus, bananas, and pineapple. I tried some cookies and crackers but I won’t do that again — they smelled terrible!

  11. Thanks for the great post, Mara! And thanks to everyone else for chiming in with tips & advice. I think I’m becoming an Aldi regular.

  12. I actually just got home from Aldi. We regularly get the following from there: cooking spray, frozen veggies, milk, eggs, raisins, and crackers. They have crackers like Wheat Thins and Triscuits that are healthy and have a hecture. I sometimes buy cookies or cinnamon rolls there as a treat. Yogurt is cheap, too, but they don’t have a large one without chemicals like the Trader Joe’s kind we like.

    • I love those fake Triscuits, Rachael! Their yogurts are cheap, but all the hechshered ones (at least by me) have HFCS. It’s such a bummer :(

  13. I LOVE ALDI! I do my basic weekly shop there and then supplement with stuff from other stores. A quick summary of what I’ve found to be kosher:
    (this is in the Chicago area, and it definitely is different region by region)
    Milk – it’s 2.49 here, the price of living in a big city :)
    Low fat yogurt .39 (these are what drew me in, because now I can indulge my kids with yogurt whenever they want)
    Cream Cheese
    Sour Cream
    Whipped Cream
    Butter
    Eggs
    Cookies (they have soft chewy ok parve ones!)
    Fruit Strips
    Veggie Chips
    Oil
    “Pam” Spray
    Pickles
    Mustard
    BBQ sauce/steak sauce
    Lemon juice
    Granola Bars (not all of them are kosher)
    Oats
    TUNA! (.57 a can for chunk light, 1.09 for albacore)
    Pasta (regular and their healthy brand- fit and active)
    Apple Juice/Cranberry juice (many are not kosher)
    Romaine Hearts (1.99 for a 3 pack)
    Ice Cream (we did not like the sundae shoppe brand, but their premium brand is quite good with a lot of flavors to choose from = 2.49)
    And all their produce

    Just always remember to keep checking labels!

    Like I said: BIG aldi fan. I don’t have time to coupon shop effectively so this is my best bet to keeping costs down.

    • Thanks for that run-down, Michal. That’s a great starting point for many wondering about what’s kosher. I think as a base store, you really can’t go wrong with Aldi! Good strategy.

  14. Pamm Peterson says:

    If you see something you want grab it. It might not be there the next time you shop.

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