Shopping at “America’s Best Grocery Store”, ALDI

Recently I was asked to be a part of a campaign with ALDI Food Market. If you are unfamiliar with the global brand, they are  the nation’s leading low-price grocery store. They take a simple, cost-effective approach to grocery shopping that ultimately saves the customer money, plus their self-checkout machines are amazing, they have the best touch screen cash register for small business, that are very easy to use. By only stocking 1400 of the fasting moving grocery items, they can lease out smaller spaces saving on rent. They also only accept only cash, pin-based debit and EBT cards which cuts back on credit card fees. They only have 3-5 employees working at a store at any time and are only open during select shopping hours that are most popular (think 9am-9pm M-S and 10am-7pm on Sunday). This kind of sounds disastrous but people love this place. On average, ALDI shoppers save over 50% on their grocery bill! Slate Magazine even called them the best grocery store in America, comparing them to Trader Joe’s as their better brother.

If you buy a product and don’t like it, thanks to their “double double guarantee” you can return it and get back your money, too. Some even sell beer and wine. Recently named Retailer of The Year by Private Label, I visited the ALDI just 5 miles north up the road from me in Medford, MA. You can find a store near you at ALDI.us. There are approximately 1300 stores in 32 states in the US, most on the eastern half.

Having never stepped foot in one, I didn’t know what to expect. I read that ALDI and Trader Joe’s are actually owned separately by German brothers! After a disagreement in the 1960’s about the price of cigarettes at a grocery store in Germany, the two went separate ways, one starting TJ’s and the other ALDI. ALDI prices note are cheaper but you can sense the similarities among the private labeling.

When you first approach the door, you will notice that in order to shop with a shopping cart, you need to insert a quarter to get your cart. When you return it at the end of your experience, you get the quarter back. This practice reduces costs to the store.

The first shocker stepping into ALDI is the bare bones shelving where cardboard boxes are used in lieu of shelving. It’s a little odd at first, I admit, but reduces the labor costs of stocking the shelves and you get your items for less. Ninety percent of the items are sold under ALDI’s own private label however they have begun to stock a few name brands due to consumer demand. Private label means items are made at the same manufacturer but with different branding. Trust me, if it looks like your favorite product’s packaging, chances are it was made at the same place with the same ingredients. I spotted two cereals that looked identical to Kashi GoLean and Kashi Crunch for at least $1-2 cheaper than I’m used to seeing it.

They also carry a Fit & Active line, helping make it affordable to eat well. I will caution that like at any grocery store, you still need to read the label. Some items are organic, clean and properly labeled but some are a little misleading. There are plenty of smart options but just make sure you look at the ingredients and nutrition information. Luckily, some of the basic nutrition facts are printed on the front of their boxes.

The day that I went, the meat selection looked like a new shipment was due to be delivered pretty soon so I stuck to staples. I did grab a bag of medium easy peel frozen shrimp for $8.99 which came with 4 servings. I also grabbed a bunch of grapefruits for .29 cents each.

Other steals I grabbed (I threw out the receipt so italic prices are from memory… )

  • Cashews $6.99
  • Pistachios $4.99
  • Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette $1.99
  • Organic Honey $2.99
  • Red and Yellow Peppers under $1.99
  • Onions $3.69
  • Broccoli under $1.99
  • Tomato Sauce $1.69
  • Garlic 3-pack under $1.00
  • Sweet Potatoes $1.69
  • Broccoli Crowns under $2.50
  • Canned Albacore Tuna in Water $1.29
  • Taco Seasoning $0.29

And a few other house hold items like toilet paper and aluminum foil that I needed or that roomie put in my cart like cheese and crackers. They also have special buys each week where prices are reduced even more!

The total was around $42. I used an ALDI gift card that was given to me in consideration for this post. My favorite steals were the bag of sweet potatoes, grapefruits and cans of tuna. That huge bag of spuds was under $3! The tuna tasted great with my lunch the following day and was 79 cents cheaper per can than at Trader Joe’s. By switching to ALDI, I saved 5 dollars just on these three staples I typically buy (ALDI total $8.74, typical supermarket $13). They did a study comparing ALDI price and regular grocery stores and found that people could save at least 50% on their total bill as I mentioned above.

I am always concerned about where my protein comes from so I did a little research on the fish sold at ALDI and found that they only buy and shelve sustainable seafood and opt out of any GMO kinds. For details about their stance, you can read more here.  I made a stir fry this week using the shrimp which tasted great with the broccoli crowns, my amazing ginger sauce and kelp noodles which I ordered online.

I was totally impressed by the deals I found at ALDI. Switching where I buy my staples will be definite saver. I’m excited to go back and check out more of the items. There was a lot to take in. The check out process was quick and easy. The gal helping me was kind. I bagged my own items and brought my own reusable ALDI grocery bag, since they do not have paper or plastic. If you show up without one, you’ll need to buy a new one.

Have you shopped at an ALDI in the US or Europe yet? What did you think? Any favorite buys I should grab next time?

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