By Kevin Williams
We talk a lot about the sprawling chain grocery stores, your Kroger, Hannafords, Publixses, Food Lions, etc. But there are other offbeat chains that have loyal followings.
Save-A-Lot, for instance, I just can't get into it. I've run into one out of desperation a time or two, but otherwise they just don't have brand-names and it's generally just not the most pleasant shopping experience. So, cue the next one: Aldi. Aldi is on my mind today because one of our good friends went there yesterday and was singing its praises.
A lot of people I know have told me at various times that I need to check out Aldi. One of our friends went to Aldi yesterday and was singing its praises so I'm once again thinking about that store. Our local Aldi, several years ago, moved from its dumpy digs into a larger, stand-alone, eco-friendly building. By the way, if we’re going to tie in the Amish to this discussion, the discount grocery store chain, not surprisingly, has a strong fan base among the Amish. Not uncommon to see buggies parked outside an Aldi in Three Rivers, Michigan and Wooster, Ohio.
Aldi has a cult following for sure. Perhaps I’m just stuck in the past with them, I know they’ve changed a lot over the years in upgrading their produce procurement and even stocking organics.
I did run in there a few months ago because one of our readers here told me they had some out of season “cuties” those delicious little oranges that make such good snacks. I did find some, but they weren’t the most flavorful. That wasn’t Aldi’s fault, it was that they were out of season. I found plenty of apples, but none of the fruits I like the snack on: melons, pineapple. The stores are a fraction of the size of a giant Kroger, so there’s no possible way they can stock as wide a variety. Although our friend Jessica points out that is partly the point: “You buy a lot less because there aren’t 100 types of chips to pick from like at Kroger.”
Can’t argue with that.
I guess I still am colored by memories of our dumpy Aldi. I still think you have to put a deposit in for a cart, which is kind of a hassle, but I know you get it back at the end. And they don't bag the groceries, right? I mean, I don't really care about that,but what do you do? Do you bring a box? Do you just throw it all in your cart and then put the stuff in your car? I don't know much about the bag situation at Aldi. I'm perfectly fine with no bags or baggers, but what do you do it in its place? I guess a grocery store is a place I want to go mindlessly and if I have too many questions going in, I'm not going to go.
Interestingly, Aldi also owns Trader Joe’s, a store that also is fraction of the size of a sprawling Kroger yet I also seem to find more of what I am looking for there than at Aldi. I don’t know if I am just being a food snob or what. On the other end of the spectrum is Whole Foods, a place where I'd happily shop each week if I were in a different tax bracket. So, anyone else have any Aldi thoughts? Good shopping experience for you? Bad? If I keep hearing good things about that place I'm sure I'll be persuaded to try it again....
By the way, an article has been running on the newswires the past few days reporting that Aldi is trying to make a play for customers of Whole Foods. Interesting.
I ignored Aldi for years because I'd thought it was just crappy food but I was wrong. Live in the greater NYC area and love it--although I'm told the Midwest stores are different, and not in a good way. I buy wild-caught salmon, organic cereals, dairy and eggs, free-trade coffee, natural cheese, good hummus and pesto, 100 percent grass-fed beef, things I couldn't afford otherwise. Carry my own bags anyway for "green" reasons and spending a few minutes bagging myself is worth it to me for the 50-60 percent savings.
Pat, thanks for sharing, sounds like you and I held similar views of Aldi, I will have to give them another shot!
I love Aldi stores. I shop there regularly. The organic milk is $2.95 and delicious. Try finding a 1/2 gal of org. milk in your local stores. $4.95 here. I couldn't begin to tell you all of the reasons I love Aldi stores. We have the same items in our stores in Ohio that the above lady mentioned and the prices are so wonderful. You can bring your own bags or buy them there. You are spending too much money if Aldis isn' t part of your shopping. Also, my hubby is from Maine and his late aunt looked out her back door and enjoyed seeing Mt. Katadin. Near Bangor they have over 40" of snow with more expected.
Also, try their mayo. As good as Hellman's and under $2.00.
Yea, that $2.95 organic milk is incredible, and mayo under $2.....we do need to start shopping there...
My husband and I shop at our local Aldi stores (Coldwater, MI and Angola, IN) for all of our staples. It is true that they don't have the huge varieties the "one stop big stores" have, but ours have great produce and dairy products. We bring our own reusable bags and bag our own items. We love the deposit on the carts as it prompts patrons to return their cart to the designated area and not leave them in the parking lot to crash into vehicles. We find their generic canned goods to be of good quality and we save LOTS of money! These Aldi stores have lots of Amish customers. We often see them coming in 15 passenger vans pulling a cargo trailer. It appears they shop for several families and stock up on supplies for several families. We love Aldi!!!!
i LOVE Aldi's !! ive been a "bag Lady " since the 80's so i have no problem with bagging my own etc. LOTS of great bargains and quality is good. Tortilla chips for 99 cents ! saltines 79 cents... you save a lot of money especially on cereal if you have children.
We get TP, paper towels, canned fruits, veggies, fresh produce, milk,eggs,oj, cheese and bread. Have had a chuck roast and ham from there too. Really great savings! We started out trying a few things each visit to see what our likes and dislikes were. We have the "green bags" too that we use all the time. What we can't get there, we finish up at our local grocery.
Kathy, good strategy, I suppose and that would work for us, the Aldi's is right next to the larger Kroger, so I suppose we could do an Aldi-Kroger combo trip and not be out a whole ton of time...
I have mixed feelings on Aldi and yes I am guilty of calling it Aldi's and actually had never thought it was not that. I was also surprised to hear they owned Trader Joe's. I do know they are based overseas and I blog with several ladies in the UK that tell of their Aldi having a broader selection of merchandise and I am always jealous to hear of their yarn bargains. I have never seen yarn offered here although they do now carry some household items, occasionally a lot of clothing, garden and grill items on a seasonable basis.
As far as groceries, it is probably better for families as their meats, produce, and some other items are often pre-packaged in large amounts. I live alone so a five pound package of chicken drumsticks or a gigantic bunch of bananas is daunting. I think the quality is suitable and I am particularly thinking the cereals and crackers, and snacks are equal to any and much more reasonable. The prices vary and often if it is not a featured item I am not sure they are better than chain supermarket prices. Their dairy items are well priced. I just bought a full gallon of milk there for $1.59 which is less than a half gallon price at other stores. Eggs were 59 cents per dozen for large size. Aldi carries seasonal specialty items so if you you find something you liked it may well not be there the next trip.
On the down side the checkout lines are often very long with often only one or two operating. It is difficult to find assistance out on the floor area. The bare minimum staffing contributes to the lower pricing I am sure so do be expecting a carry out boy. I take my own reusable bags but plastic bags are available for a few pennies and they encourage you to feel free to use any boxes they have emptied. The selection is limited so cake mixes will be the basic yellow, white, or chocolate. Jello is orange or strawberry so do not expect exotic choices or items that are not for everyday usage. Overall , I still give them a favorable review.
I think perhaps you have way more shopping choices than rural areas and you could be a little spoiled with selections. My nearest town is almost twelve miles and there are two grocery stores. One is a Save-a-lot which is also a pack your own grocery with no carry out help and the other is what I would term a local area chain store for a few surrounding towns from their headquarters only. For me to go to a Kroger or Walmart it means a trip of a little over thirty miles one way. We do have an Amish Salvage grocery a few miles away if you don't mind damaged and outdated items. If I shop carefully and read the expiration dates I find some great prices there as well. It is quite hit or miss as to what they have on hand as well. I think it is fair to say that grocery shopping away from cities is an adventure.
I think you make good points about shopping in rural vs. urban areas. And I agree with you that the bare minimum staffing at Aldi's, just gives it an "empty" feel sometimes, the "bare bones" of it...but I'm not really complaining, just observing....FOrgive me if you have told me and I've forgotten, what is your closest biggest city? Cambridge, Ohio?
Cambridge to the west and Barnesville, St. Clairsville and Wheeling WV to the east. All a drive to get anything much more than bread and milk at a tiny store for locals.
I have shopped at Save-A-Lot stores and have found a lot of their products are better than brand name products. They are very reasonable priced too.
My son shops Aldis. Shops Trader Joes also. I didn't know Trader Joes owns Aldis until he told me last year.
Wish we had one here in Eaton.
Enjoy your columns
I shop at our Aldi store in Somerset, PA and love it. I save a lot of money and can get so much more there than Walmart. There are some things I don't buy there, but they have a good selection and have Fit and Active low calorie items.
I love Aldis.. I buy my milk, eggs, heavy cream, cheese, vegetables, but you have to look at the veggies before you buy them.. Their hand-made pizza is very good.. Bought a corned beef and it was all fatty told them on Facebook and they told me to take my ticket and the price tag on the meat package to get my money back.. Got their chicken too and hamburger meat.. good.. Love their breads and German foods they sell.. l check the ads for my 3 stores I go to if it's cheaper elsewhere I go there to where it's cheaper..
We just started tithing and I am a stay at home mom so we do the majority of our shopping at Aldi and we go elsewhere for what we can't find there. Most things are really good although their ice cream is nasty!
I bring my own bags with me when the weather's bad.
We love Trader Joe's, too especially as my oldest cannot have food dyes.
Linda from KY
I like to shop at Aldi sometimes, but it's not my go-to grocery store. There are some things that I have to shop at Kroger for that Aldi simply doesn't have. However, I love to take advantage of Aldi's weekly special buys. Their frozen veggies, fries, pizzas, etc, are quite good. Their produce is so much better and fresher than it used to be.They have a lot more gluten-free and organic offerings, as well, if that's of interest to you. One of my absolute favorite things there are dark chocolate covered salted caramels. Oh my goodness, they are wonderful! I also like to buy their bulk nuts there because they are much cheaper than what I'll pay for at Kroger or other grocery stores.
The bag situation is this: Bring your own. You can either bring the plastic bags that you save from other grocery stores or you can bring the cloth reusable bags. If you don't bring your own bags they have paper bags for 5 cents each and plastic bags for 10 cents each. I believe they also have the reusable bags for sale, too, but I can't remember how much they cost. I even have an insulated bag that I use for frozen and refrigerated foods.
Aldi is the best. Go there at least once a week. Love the store. Good food good prices.
I too am a cult follower of "Aldi's"! I was just there yesterday! I perked up when I saw your reference to Aldi's! Im close to Kansas City. (Practically in Rosanna's backyard! I buy my meat from her!) My kids get tired of hearing me say. Guess where I got this? They know the answer! ALDI"S!! I have said Aldi's forever! They are of the thinking that it is substandard food. We really like it! Kevin! Remember Bugles? The little corny flavored snack chips! They had them there. Im on my second bag! There is a fun blast from the past! They are some of our highly processed foods but boy are they good! They are a fun treat. I too used to shop there in the 80s when I had a family. I really think that they have come up quite a few notches in their quality. Now I have revisted them and just love the place! Some of their home good are awesome! I got a large enamel cast iron dutch oven there for like 30.00. Have you seen the price of Le Creuset? I love it!
Well, everyone is selling me on Aldi....I'me excited to hear about Bugles, they can be tough to find sometimes. We love them dipped in cream cheese. Petty cool to hear about you buying meat from Rosanna, I'll have to tell her (when she returns from Africa, where she is right now)
I live in a town with two Aldi stores. One is small and so is a hassle to shop in; I always feel like there's someone behind me breathing down my neck as I'm trying to see what's on the shelves. The other, newer store is bigger and so it feels easier to shop in
As others have said, the dairy prices are excellent. I've gotten good country-style ribs too. And for my daughter, it wouldn't be Christmas without some Aldi foil-wrapped chocolates in her stocking! German chocolate (Aldi is from Germany I believe) tends to be good. My husband loves white chocolate-coconut clusters, so I buy the plain white chocolate bars from Aldi, melt them and add coconut. He's fussy about white chocolate, and the kind from Aldi makes the grade with him!