Kelly the Culinarian: How to Shop at ALDI

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Shop at ALDI

Kelly the Culinarian: How to Shop at ALDI and Favorite ALDI Products
So a bunch of the big bloggers out there were recently invited into some kind of ALDI outreach program.

This isn't one of those posts. I'm just an avid ALDI shopper living 20 minutes from the headquarters who's been going there since before it was cool. In fact, Katie asked me how one shop's at ALDI. I've been shopping there long enough that I never considered it's a different experience going into an ALDI as compared to a WalMart, Target or Jewel.

ALDI used to have a bit of a reputation, which I understand. Growing up, the only ALDI in our area was in a very not glamorous part of town. But we went anyways because the prices were impossible to beat and the quality was clearly established. It's mostly private-label items, but this place is owned by the same people as Trader Joe's, which is also mostly private-label merchandise. People, it's the same manufacturers with different labels. I challenge you to taste the difference between Cheerios, Healthy Os and Trader Joe's Os.
ALDI does require a bit of planning. You must bring a quarter, your own shopping bags and either a debit card or cash (credit cards and checks are not accepted). Why do you need a quarter, you ask? Because the carts are all chained together right outside the entrance. You use a quarter as a deposit to unchain them. This means rebel carts aren't out there damaging your car (if you have a car fancy enough to care. I don't.) and no one has to be paid to collect carts in the parking lot.

And why the bags? ALDI was also green before it was cool. ALDI has bags, but you have to pay for them. It ain't easy being green, people. If you forget your bags and absolutely can't stomach pay a nickle for a bag, there are cardboard boxes near the check out where you can stack up your purchases for the ride home. 
What I like about ALDI is that there are only two or three basic layouts for the store and they generally do not change. What this means is that I can go to any ALDI in the suburbs and know where to find the bananas, almond milk and frozen chicken.

Generally speaking, the chips and candy are first, followed by cereals and baking supplies. The refrigerated case is at the back of the store, with the freezers running along the further wall from the door. The bread is by the freezers, and fresh produce, paper products, canned goods and special buys are in the middle. The short freezer cases are special buys as well - holiday hams and Super Bowl wings and such. 

Some ALDI carry beer and wine, and some carry hard liquor. This includes off brands and brands you'd recognize like 312.  What I like about this established layout is that there is a flow to the store - often times, I don't even make a list because I can walk the whole store in 20 minutes and pass anything I might need to jog my memory.

Also, there are only a few choices for each product category. My biggest time suck in grocery shopping is standing in front of an entire aisle of salad dressing. Peppercorn Ranch? Bacon cheddar Ranch? Low-fat Ranch? Low-sodium Ranch? Just give me Ranch, thankyouverymuch. The typical grocery store carried 30,000 items, and ALDI carried just 1,400. That's typically enough for me to get 80 percent of what I need.

Most of ALDI's products are displayed in the boxes they're shipped in. This saves time in merchandising. The boxes are also colored to match the product so everything looks neat.

ALDI does have sales flyers, which I tend to receive in the mail during the week from my newspaper carrier. You can also access the weekly specials online. These are usually seasonal for the holidays, or around a specific ethnic cuisine theme. It can include food products as well as electronics, toys and household goods. Watch for hand-written signs, which generally mean an item is on clearance. 

Once you've selected all your goodies, you'll pay with your cash or debit card. You can get cash back on the card. Then, you bag your own groceries. Again, this saves money because they're not paying a teenager to do this for you. Your paid-for groceries are deposited back into your cart by the cashier and you can take them over to a low counter near the check out to do your own bagging. It's not inconvenient at all, promise.
 One final note about why you should definitely give ALDI a try. If you don't believe me that the food is no different than what you'd get at the supermarket, just try it. If you hate it, go back and you will get your money back and a new item, just in case there was something wrong with what you had. It's the ALDI double guarantee. I've only twice bought items at ALDI that were rancid and they were replaced and refunded without any question.

Now, on to my favorite ALDI foods!
Sweet potato chips, Irish cream liquor, oatmeal, knock off Nutella, pita chips and sugar-free jam
ALDI also occasionally has flavored Irish cream liquors, like caramel, white chocolate and strawberry.

Chocolate bars, knock off Kashi, all forms of spices, doggie treats, chocolate chips, almond and organic milk
The doggie treats are Napoleon approve - the sausage sticks fit perfectly into a Kong as well. And for reference, every ingredient needed for my famous chocolate chip cookie recipe originates from ALDI. My ALDI recently started carrying unsweetened almond milk, too, which is awesome. My only gripe about ALDI in general is that the packaging for the cumin and the cinnamon is quite similar, making for some surprising bowls of oatmeal in the past.

Tortillas, pasta sauce, chicken broth, artisan bread and water flavor
I tend to go with the chunky marinara pasta sauce that doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup. This is what I use for our Flatout Bread pizzas.

Frozen steamable vegetables, frozen raw and cooked chicken, frozen strawberries, tea and produce
This is the tea I use for my homemade kombucha. The frozen berries are for my green monster smoothies and the frozen veggies are a Weight Watchers-friendly staple.

Do you have any other questions about shopping at ALDI? E-mail me!


Amanda said...

I shop at Aldi sometimes. I should go more often. My parents went there before it was cool too. The only problem we had back in the day was that there weren't as many "healthy" or "low fat" items. They've really done much better with that lately! :)

Pete B said...

Love their "Specialty" coffee and sauerkraut in the jar!

Losing Lindy said...

remember that time I had melted chocolate chips and they got hard? They were from Aldi..I tried numerous bags..I have tried lunch mean and found shards of bone...I bought boneless/skinless chicken breasts and the ribs were all attached.

So I only buy milk, yogurt tubes, and produce there. I have the worst luck ever, everyone else loves it there.

Joanne said...

From what I've heard, ALDI products are really Trader Joe's products but repackaged. ANd a lot of Trader Joe's products are just brand name products...repackaged. LOL. I wish we had an ALDI's in NYC!

Unknown said...

Thank you! This makes me want to jump on the bandwagon, for sure!

Zenaida Arroyo said...

Great post! Make sure you send this to Aldi's headquarters because they should have invited YOU instead of those bloggers that just recently "discovered" it. Oh and your post is so much better.

KellytheCulinarian said...

I sure hope so, I actually shop there! I'm an unpaid spokeswoman at this point.

Erin said...

If there was an Aldi near me I would definitely try it out! I'm lazy, though, and need to be able to buy everything on my list at one place. Which is also why I don't shop at Trader Joe's...

~*~Kaya K~*~ said...

Their soymilk is half the price of Silk, doesn't separate in your coffee and tastes way better. I like the Reggiano Traditional pasta sauce. 89c, and I slice it up with my also slices and some if there excellent produce. For some reason, there bandanas last almost a full week longer than chiquita. The granola cereals are excellent. Bread is great. They have an amazing German chocolate selection. I always buy their generic Ritz crackers. Tortilla chips are cheap and great and they have sweet potato chips for $2! Try the tortillas, buy all of your canned beans and vegetables there (cheaper even then Goya!), and don't ever skip the special edition frozen yogurts! I'm a vegetarian, and when I did eat meat I didn't like the frozen products, but their gourmet cheeses and hummus are as good as anything in a chain store. But since chickpeas are 65c a can, I've been making 2# for $1 recently. Olive oil is great, balsamic is great, and they have 50c 4-packs of TP. I have to buy more of them, but it still saves me cash in the overall. For the price of a 12-pack of good, long lasting TP, I get 72 rolls of the cheap, which feels fine to use, and lasts longer than 12 good rolls.

Don't be afraid to try them!

~*~Kaya K~*~ said...

Fail autocorrect.
* spice it up with my Aldi spices and some of their excellent produce...
*their bananas, not bandanas. Lol

Also, the cardboard for the extra TP rolls goes to making toys for my rabbit, fire starter, and recycling into projects or the recycling bin. :)