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Shopping (And Saving) At ALDI

Several weeks ago I shared what a week of food shopping at Trader Joe’s looks like for me and received some good feedback and thoughtful discussion. I want to keep that going in the next two posts and share my experience shopping at a different budget store. I grew up in a small town in Georgia. Our grocery store choices were extremely limited so my family always did all of our shopping at the same store with supplementation of bulk items from Sam’s Club which was an hour away in another town. I have lived in bigger cities since graduating from college and I have been fortunate to have many more options when it comes to food shopping.

I am not loyal to any particular store here in Charlotte and generally split my shopping between Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter with extras from the farmers market. I consider Trader Joe’s to be the most budget conscious option and Whole Foods the least with Harris Teeter falling somewhere in the middle. That said, each store has its own unique benefits and drawbacks. For example, Whole Foods beats Harris Teeter and Trader Joe’s on the pricing of organic chicken. Trader Joe’s beats Whole Foods and Harris Teeter on pricing of organic fruits and veggies by a ton. Harris Teeter runs the best sales on in season produce and seafood and carries all the household items I need as well, making it truly one stop.

Given the food shopping talk of the last few weeks, it was perfect timing when ALDI invited me to participate in their ALDI Fresh Blogger Ambassador Program. As part of this program I will shop at ALDI, share recipes using their food and fresh produce, visit their test kitchen and share the experience with you.

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There is an ALDI just a mile or two from my house so the store is convenient for me to shop at. If you’re not familiar with ALDI, let me introduce you to their concept.

ALDI is a budget grocery store that offers over 1,300 of the most commonly purchased grocery and household items at the lowest possible prices. They have nearly 1,300 stores in the US and are adding an average of 80 stores each year. Some of the ways that ALDI is able to provide their low prices include:

– Small stores (think similar in size to Trader Joe’s) but easy to navigate
– No non-essential grocery services such as banking, pharmacies, check cashing, etc
– Minimize the number of staff needed by the way they stock their shelves (primarily open boxes), no bagging assistants and no grocery cart attendants (more on that below)
– Private label ALDI brands that can provide up to 50 percent savings over national brands (savings based on a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading retail grocery stores)
– Accepting only cash, debit and EBT cards to keep processing fees down
– No bags provided, bring your own or purchase

Shopping at ALDI is definitely a different experience than your typical grocery store run but if you’re prepared you can save a lot of money!

Let’s go shopping!

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ALDI sent me reusable bags, a gift certificate and a quarter to get started.

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When you arrive at the store you rent a cart for a quarter. ALDI does this to keep the parking lots clean of stray carts and to prevent having to hire someone to police the carts. You get your quarter back when you return the cart at the end of your shopping trip.

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When you enter the store you notice the way that they stock their shelves is different. The food remains in boxes to streamline the shelf stocking process. This is similar to a Sam’s Club or Costco.

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Their private label makes up 90 percent of the store’s inventory but they do carry national brands if they are not able to create an exclusive product that meets or exceeds the quality and taste of the national brand.

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I was immediately impressed by the prices. Some of the first things I thew into my cart were nuts and dried fruit. I’m going to do another post with the breakdown of everything I purchased and how much it cost.

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Of course I had to check out the peanut butter selection. Small but they did have a natural option. While they did have a private label Nutella spread, there was no almond butter to be found. (But such great prices on whole almonds that you could easily make your own!)

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I made my way out of the pantry staples section and into the dairy, juice, cold foods area. I was surprised to find brie, prosciutto rolls, blue cheese and goat cheese.

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Goat cheese for $1.99. Yes, please.

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I was also surprised to find that the selection of milks included almond, lactose-free, traditional and organic.

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One of my favorite finds of the day was this tub of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt for $3.99. I typically pay $6.99-7.99 for a container this size.

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ALDI carries a full selection of meats including USDA choice meat. I picked up some uncured applewood smoked bacon but skipped on the chicken and beef because I try to buy those items local when possible and organic/grass fed if not possible to buy local.

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I also picked up frozen wild caught salmon. They had a variety of frozen fish and shrimp products.

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While I was in the frozen foods section I stocked up on frozen fruit for my smoothies. They had organic strawberries and blueberries and a wide variety of other non-organic fruits.

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I spent some time going through the produce section. ALDI has recently started to carry organic produce which I appreciate. The selection at my store was limited but did include bananas, tomatoes, carrots, apples and a few other items. They had amazing prices on produce overall but I was especially impressed by the price of the avocados, pineapples and strawberries. Can’t be beat anywhere in town.

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I wrapped up my trip by visiting the household items section and the canned foods. Limited selection on the household items but great prices.

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Checkout was quick and painless. The clerks are crazy fast and friendly.

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After I checked out I wheeled my cart over to the bagging area where I organized and bagged it all. I actually kind of like that you have to bag your own groceries because there is nothing I hate more than having my produce or bread smushed at the bottom of a bag.

Stay tuned for part two of this post where I’ll break down everything I bought and how much I payed. This is a fun topic to blog about!

Have you ever shopped at ALDI? 

This post is sponsored by ALDI as part of the ALDI Fresh Blogger Ambassador Program. 

{ 60 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Kristin OHea February 19, 2014, 12:02 pm

    I have steered clear of Aldi because of their bad rap for carrying many products filled with GMO, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and other yucky things.. Did you find that to be true? Is that something you look for? I have a family of four and I’m am always looking for ways to save $ on healthy foods.

    • 2
      Jen February 19, 2014, 12:14 pm

      yes, i am mindful of those things which is why i read labels and avoid buying processed foods in general. you’ll notice when i do my recap post that most of what i picked up is non-processed! they’ve also just launched a simply nature organic line that is usda organic thus none of the stuff you listed above.

      • 3
        Kristin OHea February 19, 2014, 6:24 pm

        That’s great! I will have to check them out. Can’t wait to see your recap, thanks Jen 🙂

  • 4
    Jennifer February 19, 2014, 12:09 pm

    I am a huge fan of Aldi! There is a widespread rumor that many of their products are actually the same that are sold at Trader Joe’s but I don’t know if it’s ever been substantiated. Also they are clearly working to include more healthy and organic options among their offerings, which I appreciate!

    • 5
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:08 pm

      yes, i was really excited to hear about the cleaner, healthier and organic options!

    • 6
      Mike February 22, 2014, 7:23 am

      Likely to be true as both are owned by the same German company.

  • 7
    Tanya February 19, 2014, 12:11 pm

    I have resisted Aldi for years, but only because I already shop 2 stores in a typical week. well, with how quickly my guys are eating my fruits out of house & home I started going. I was pleasantly surprised when I happened to go during their cycle of TONS of organic items. I stocked up. My freezer is FULL of natural/organic breakfast chicken sausages & sandwich meat. Anyway, I try to go every Monday before my other stores later in the week & get organic fruit & then I’ll stock up at the other stores.

    • 8
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:09 pm

      tanya – that is awesome! i know it’s a pain to get to multiple stores in a week but sounds like this is working well for your family’s needs!

  • 9
    Kari Fortner February 19, 2014, 12:11 pm

    Excited to hear JUST this morning that Lincoln, Ne is getting one! And close to me, yippee!

  • 10
    Katie February 19, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I have been an Aldi shopper for a few years now and continue to be impressed by their selection and prices and think it really is a hidden gem when it comes to buying staples for baking, canned goods, produce, crackers and the like. What I find most interesting is the history between Aldi and Trader Joe’s. The stores were once one in the same, owned by two brothers who had a fued in the 1960’s and the chain split in two, each conquering separate parts of the european world and developing their separate busines models. Now, Aldi strongly follows the German model when it comes to the experience of the grocery store. Interesting history between two very different stores who target two very different demographics.

    • 11
      Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) February 19, 2014, 2:53 pm

      So interesting! I didn’t know that.

    • 12
      Kim February 20, 2014, 9:58 am

      I agree – this is super interesting! When I saw the pictures of this store in Jen’s post, it instantly reminded me of the Iceland supermarket chain in the UK. So the German connection made a lot of sense.

      • 13
        Jen February 20, 2014, 12:10 pm

        i had heard that years ago. it totally makes sense. they are so different but similar.

  • 14
    ErikaMC February 19, 2014, 12:15 pm

    I’ve heard that Trader Joes and Aldi are owned by the same people – not sure if that’s true or not. It’s been a long time since I shopped at an Aldi -the closest one is 30 minutes away. Did you feel like it was a one-stop-shop where you could get everything (grocery wise)? I’m interested to know the quality, taste and how long the food was good for.

    • 15
      Mary February 19, 2014, 12:30 pm

      Trader Joes and Aldi are owned by german brothers, but are otherwise entirely unrelated and are run separately. 🙂

      I personally don’t care for Aldi but love Trader Joe’s!

    • 16
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:11 pm

      erika – it was not one stop for me. there are a lot of things i use on a regular basis that they did not have but it was great for staples and stocking up on certain things.

  • 17
    Elizabeth {Positively Healthy} February 19, 2014, 12:34 pm

    I love Aldi! I shop their and Kroger and I find so many good finds. It made me so happy when they started carrying organic produce, and I love the deal on Greek yogurt as well! Awesome deal!

  • 18
    Nikkie February 19, 2014, 12:52 pm

    This is so fascinating. I’m German and Aldi has been a thing here for many, many years. And yes, Trader Joe’s and Aldi are run by the same family, but the story is even more interesting: in Germany we have Aldi North and Aldi South, each run by one of the Albrecht brothers (hence the name ALbrecht DIscount). They are treated as two separate companies and act accordingly. The home brand of Aldi North looks differently than the home brand of Aldi South. And there are differences with regard to what you can actually buy in the stores. I’m living just south the Aldi North/South border and am happy about it, Aldi South has the better options (imho :-)). As to the US, Trader Joe’s is run by Aldi North and Aldi is run by Aldi South. So the differences you noticed are pretty much the same over here.
    What I really found funny was your description of the whole cart renting procedure. I have no idea how it usually works overthere, but that’s basically standard since the early nineties. Before that, carts were just being left all over the parking lots, causing accidents and leaving scratches on the cars parked. They’re probably gonna start selling little plastic coins, the size of quarters that you can attach to your key chain – that way you always have a quarter for the cart. They’re huge over here.
    Really interesting post. I’m looking forward to the cost comparison post as well.

    • 19
      Amanda February 19, 2014, 1:21 pm

      Interesting! Thanks for sharing!
      To your point on grocery carts being left all over the place – that is exactly what happens! The quarter idea seems like a no-brainer to me! Maybe more stores will pick it up in the future.

      • 20
        Jen February 20, 2014, 12:12 pm

        nikkie – thanks so much for taking the time to comment with your perspective. the aldi north/south thing is crazy! thanks for explaining it. we need more of that cart renting here. it’s a huge issue in most parking lots of big stores!

  • 21
    Hillary February 19, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Great topic Jen! I’m always interested in finding new ways to save at stores I don’t typically frequent. This is so important as a college student about to transition into the working world! I’ve shopped at Aldi a few times and I must say, their selection of almonds, nuts, and seeds is fresh and fantastic. Have a great day!

    • 22
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:13 pm

      i can see how shopping at aldi for snacks, fruits, veggies, etc would be awesome for a college student!

  • 23
    Laura February 19, 2014, 1:16 pm

    The ALDI stores are quite popular here in the UK and I always use them, especially for staple items.

    There are loads of different items that look like popular branded items and I’ve tried them as comparison between a better known brand. I didn’t taste any difference between the two.

    I always save quite a lot when I shop there. They do ‘special buys’ here in the UK, where it is different categories of items that they sell, not long after Christmas there as special buy fitness items, like Yoga and Pilates Kits, Kettlebells etc, so I always keep an eye out for those!

    Laura | Health and Fitness Blogger

    • 24
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:14 pm

      yes, i think they’re great for staples! thanks for the feedback on the private label stuff. good to hear. i want to check out the special buys thing!

  • 25
    Amanda February 19, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Very timely post! I keep debating on trying out Aldi. It isn’t very close to my house, so I want to be sure it’s worth the drive before going. Thanks for including pictures – I wasn’t sure what to expect inside. In your follow-up post, I’d also love to know what you thought of the food in terms of taste. Generic brands are great b/c they’re cheaper, but if they don’t taste good it’s just not worth it. Thanks!

    • 26
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:14 pm

      i would at least try it out once to see if it works for you, your budget and your needs!

  • 27
    Kim @ FITsique February 19, 2014, 1:46 pm

    I seriously drive by Aldi everyday and for some reason it has always intimidated me. I guess I will have to check it out!

    • 28
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:15 pm

      give it a try at least once!

  • 29
    Lauren February 19, 2014, 1:50 pm

    I just started shopping there and am so thankful for their boxes of organic greens (spinach and spring greens) for $1.49!!!! And amazing quality. I had some for a week that still wasn’t wilting. Those boxes are $4 at other stores. Also really like their roasted garlic dressing. I usually make my own but sometimes a bottle is kind of nice to have on hand. I got kerrygold cheddar and organic cheese at mine too. Super pleased with my experiences there.

    • 30
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:15 pm

      wow, that’s awesome lauren! i’m happy to hear that you’ve had good experiences with the quality. thanks for the head’s up on the dressing!

  • 31
    Kaitlyn February 19, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Wow! I never realized how much cheaper ALDI was. I went once in college and had a bad experience, so I just didn’t go back. Once I move back to the USA, I’m definitely going to check it out now. We have a budget store similar to ALDI in Spain and it’s where I get all my greek yogurt and grains. I love it!

    • 32
      Susan February 19, 2014, 6:46 pm

      Hi Kaitlyn, I live in Madrid, I’m curious which store you are referring to? 🙂

      • 33
        Jen February 20, 2014, 12:16 pm

        kaitlyn – checked out your blog. it’s awesome!

  • 34
    Amanda @Fitforgloryfoundbygrace February 19, 2014, 2:13 pm

    I think I’ve always lived in small towns because I have never heard of them! But their prices are great! Wish I had access to one!

  • 35
    Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) February 19, 2014, 2:52 pm

    I’m so bummed I had to turn down this opportunity to work with ALDI because of a scheduling conflict 🙁 It would have been so much fun to get a chance to hang out with you again! Oh well, moving on…

    I have never been to an ALDI, though as I am not a grocery store loyalist either, it’s on my list to check out sooner than later! The prices look quite impressive and I’d love to do a comparison to see how much I might save. Thanks for the sneak peek!!

    • 36
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:16 pm

      BOO! it would have been so much fun to work with you.

      you totally aren’t a grocery store loyalist. i love reading your food shopping posts! 🙂

  • 37
    Tina February 19, 2014, 3:11 pm

    Aldi is called Hofer here in Slovenia. And yes, I do shop there, because they are offering products that are relatively high in quality yet low in price.

    • 38
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:16 pm

      it’s so interesting how global this store is.

  • 39
    Holly February 19, 2014, 3:13 pm

    Interesting post. I had head the same that Trader Joe’s / Aldi were owned by the same parent company or such. I went in there once or twice but have never purchased anything. I have to be honest at my store I did not see some of the items you showcased. It might be worth it for me to try again. I too am very label-conscious and was a bit hesitant when I saw a lot of packaged foods in the store by me.

    • 40
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:17 pm

      scroll up for some background on that from a german reader. super interesting. i would give it another shot…especially since they are starting to carry some organic/healthier/cleaner items.

  • 41
    karla @ finding my fit February 19, 2014, 3:13 pm

    I need to go to the ALDI more often. I have one a couple miles from work and could save so much money on the basics that I need and stick to more quality meat products then.
    Great review–can’t wait to see the next post.

    • 42
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:17 pm

      thanks karla!

  • 43
    She Rocks Fitness February 19, 2014, 4:15 pm

    I have never heard of them, but looks like it is a smaller “Costco” and it looks like you got some good stuff. I always think it’s amazing how you can find other products for SO MUCH cheaper in another store. I have found that at Costco with Greek yogurt and cheeses as well (plus tons of other things…HA!) Interested to see your breakdown…Thanks for sharing!

  • 44
    sue February 19, 2014, 4:17 pm

    i just heard about aldi’s recently and am glad you did this post, am looking forward to the next one!

    • 45
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:18 pm

      glad it was helpful!

  • 46
    Nicole February 19, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I really need to make a trip to Aldi. This post confirms that!

  • 47
    Elizabeth February 19, 2014, 5:08 pm

    How would you compare the prices at ALDI or Harris Teeter to shopping at Publix? I primarily shop at Publix, because I prefer it over Kroger, with an occasional trip to Earthfare.

    • 48
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:18 pm

      check out today’s post for a side by side comparison of shopping at aldi and harris teeter!

  • 49
    gracekelle at leangirlsclub February 19, 2014, 6:31 pm

    Wish i had an ALDI in NYC…grocery shopping has its challenges here.

    Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are personal favorites, just don’t like how they’re not accessible to everyone. I try to support my local organic store and the local farmer’s market.

    • 50
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:19 pm

      gosh, i can only imagine. i’ve heard so much about how big of a pain it is to shop (and cook!) in NYC.

  • 51
    Amanda Bee February 19, 2014, 11:16 pm

    ALDI was my family’s go-to in high school, and I continued to shop there in college. Recently I haven’t gone much and it looks like they have REALLY expanded their selection. Impressed to see that the prices haven’t raised much though the selection looks a lot better. I’ll definitely be checking out ALDI soon!

    As a tip, when I shopped there all the time I had an “Aldi quarter” that I kept in my car for nothing but the Aldi carts. That way you never find yourself stuck without one 🙂

    • 52
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:19 pm

      ha! love the tip. check it out again. i love the new focus on healthier and organic foods.

  • 53
    Lindsay February 20, 2014, 9:58 am

    Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by the same people

  • 54
    Nicole February 20, 2014, 11:23 am

    I just re-discovered Aldi this past weekend. I had been once before but at the time was nervous about trying their products. However, now that I have a family to feed, I have to be more budget conscious. From my trip this past weekend, there’s only been one item I maybe might not buy again (taste wasn’t up to my expectation). However, I’ll definitely continue to shop there. I look forward to the rest of this series 🙂

    • 55
      Jen February 20, 2014, 12:20 pm

      that’s great news! thanks for the feedback on your experience nicole!

  • 56
    Holly February 20, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Hmmmmm…..interesting stuff. I’ve never been a big fan of ALDI. I haven’t been in years. Maybe I will have to try it again?! I’m interested to find out if this is something that you will stick with? Do you plan on shopping there regularly instead of Trader’s?

  • 57
    Pam Scott July 3, 2016, 3:39 pm

    I shop Aldi once per week and find GREAT buys each time.
    They don’t have a ton of organic produce, but my Aldi always has organic bananas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, ands ometimes cucumbers and grapes.. They also have quite a bit of organic other stuff-,peanut butter, flax seeds, corn tortilla chips, lots of gluten free products as well. I think overall you will find good buys at Aldi. I love mine!

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