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!