Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Lowdown on Aldi - Part 1

Today we begin a new series called “The Lowdown on Aldi.” Over the next few days, I will share with you the history of Aldi, what to expect when shopping there, how they keep their prices so low, and why I love the store.


We’ll begin with a little background on the store. Aldi is a German grocery chain that’s been around since the early 1900’s in Europe, and has expanded to America in just the past few decades. When I lived in Germany several years ago, it was (and continues to be) the primary grocery store where most families shopped. In fact, Aldi is Germany’s leading grocery store chain.

If you’ve never shopped at Aldi before, it’s likely that you either have never heard of it or you have preconceived notions about the store. Often people who have an Aldi in their neighborhood, and who haven’t shopped there, believe that it is cheap, that the food is second hand, that it’s a place for those who can’t afford to shop elsewhere. Although the food is “cheap” there, in that it’s a great value, the rest is definitely not true.

Aldi focuses on providing a limited selection of grocery items, as compared to a regular grocery store. While a regular store may stock 10,000 items, Aldi only stocks about 1/10 of that. You’ll find all your main items there – milk, eggs, bread, meat, produce, dry goods – just not 12 different brands and varieties of each. The overall brand make-up of the store is roughly 90% Aldi’s store brand items and 10% special purchase name brand items which rotate constantly.

Double Guarantee

Aldi offers a double guarantee on all store brand items. If you are not completed satisfied with the quality or taste of an item, Aldi will REPLACE the product and REFUND your money.

What to Expect

When you arrive at Aldi, you’ll first pick up a cart outside the front door. Carts cost $0.25, which is returned to you once you return the cart. Insert a quarter in the slot on the right hand side of the cart to release the lock.

Once inside the store, you’ll notice the bright lights and quiet atmosphere. There is no background music or intercom system, which saves the store energy and money. All locations are designed alike, and each has about 4 aisles. Dairy and meats are along the back of the store. Produce and bakery items are in the center of the store.

To save money and the environment, Aldi encourages patrons to bring reusable shopping bags. If you forget to bring your own bags, plastic bags are available for a small charge, or boxes are often available in the aisles or near checkouts for free.

With the exception of particularly busy hours, there is usually only one checkout open. The checkout process is very fast and efficient. Payments in cash or PIN-based debit card are the only methods accepted, saving Aldi money and saving the customer time as there’s no wait for checks to be written or credit card approvals. The cashier sits at the far end of the checkout. When it’s your turn to check out, the cashier will scan your groceries and load them directly into an empty cart. When you are finished paying, you take the cart full of your groceries and give the cashier your empty cart, which will be used for the next person in line. Across from the checkouts, there is a long counter for packing up your groceries before heading out to the car.

After you finish loading your car, just return your cart to the front of the store and reconnect the chain to the other carts, and your quarter will pop back out. Frequent shoppers just exchange a cart for a quarter in the parking lot, too, as one shopper finishes loading their groceries and a new shopper heads into the store.

In my next post, I’ll share with you how Aldi keeps their prices low, why I love Aldi, and what shopping strategy works best for the Diva family. In the meantime, here’s a few sample prices from my neighborhood location.

Average Aldi Prices
Strawberries (16oz – in season): $0.99
Bananas: $0.45/lb
Baby Carrots (16oz): $0.69
Milk (gallon): $2.69
Sour Cream (16oz): $0.99
Spaghetti Saurce: $0.99
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (3lb): $5.49
Parmesan Cheese (5oz): $1.99
Yogurt (8 oz): $0.43

Do you shop at Aldi? How often to do shop there, and what’s your favorite Aldi product. Leave a comment with your input.


Kristen said...

Thanks for this post. I have an Aldi about 10 minutes from me and I've been wondering if it is worth it to drive there (I live within walking distance of Kroger and Publix). I think that I might try it out. I'm excited to see what your next segment in the Aldi story!

Helen said...

My mom always shopped there when we were young, and I grew up with their mac & cheese and chicken noodle soup and never liked the taste of nat'l brands! My husband has grown on Aldi, seeing the prices and enjoying many products. His favorite is the "Blueberry Cinnamon Toast Crunch" cereal, which is their brand, but not always carried. They have it this week and now call it "Blueberry Crunch" He also enjoys their yogurts. My only complaint is they don't carry 1% milk, which is what we drink. I also don't always find good quality produce (although I read of many bloggers who do) so I generally don't buy it there. But overall, a great experience. Especially now that they accept debit cards and are open on Sunday

Anonymous said...

I love Aldi! Not too sure about the replace and refund policy, however... once I ended up with a bad watermelon and took it back. Did I want to replace it with another watermelon from the same shipment? Um, no, thanks.

That's the only problem I've ever had and I've shopped there for year... like that store a LOT!

I enjoy your blog

CJ said...

I love Aldi brand Cranberry Almond cereal and corn flakes. Always great prices on eggs, milk, cheese, frozen items. I wish they still sold clay cat litter, I used to get that at Aldi for .99 a 10 lb bag.

Jan said...

Enjoying your series. I find Aldi to be really hit or miss and you have to try some stuff to see if you like it. I do like their jar spaghetti sauce for $0.99 but alot of their products are very generic. I do not like their meat or produce and they dairy stuff is iffy. I do not think the prices are that good on frozen items. That being said I do buy staple like canned vegetables and canned soup there.

Suzanne said...

I've been reading about Aldi's and the deals, but we don't have one except 45 miles away. I drove there last week just to check it out and definitely got a lot of food for the money but...still, I can do the same with coupons and sales at Krogers. On the other hand, if it was nearer, I would be there a lot.

Amy said...

I like Aldi but we don't have one very close. Our favorite items are the ranch dressing for $1.19, and taco seasoning (if fact it's my husbands favorite). Also when milk was going up everywhere they still kept theirs low. I just wish I could have a Aldi in my own town. Thanks for the post.