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.
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!
ALDI sent me reusable bags, a gift certificate and a quarter to get started.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
Goat cheese for $1.99. Yes, please.
I was also surprised to find that the selection of milks included almond, lactose-free, traditional and organic.
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.
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.
I also picked up frozen wild caught salmon. They had a variety of frozen fish and shrimp products.
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.
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.
I wrapped up my trip by visiting the household items section and the canned foods. Limited selection on the household items but great prices.
Checkout was quick and painless. The clerks are crazy fast and friendly.
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.