ALDI: A Guide (And a Love Story)

A Time To Save $

Parents everywhere are feeling the squeeze; inflation is at a rate we haven’t seen in decades, thanks to an ongoing global pandemic which created shortages and supply chain issues. Between groceries and gas, not to mention housing costs, so many families are looking for creative new ways to save money, and who could blame us?

Not feeling creative? I present to you: ALDI.

ALDI sign that says "Shop Differentli"
A simple way to easily save money: switch grocery stores

A Different Kind of Grocery Store

If you live around Houston, or almost anywhere in the USA or Europe, you have probably noticed signs for ALDI and wondered what it is. Maybe you know it’s a grocery store but are curious how an entire grocery store can fit in such a small, free-standing building. Perhaps you’ve even tried to shop there but got flustered by some of the unique differences between ALDI and traditional big box grocery stores {I’ll explain these later}.

Maybe you have a friend who has tried, unsuccessfully, to get you to try shopping ALDI. If you don’t, never fear: I will be that friend.

And I am here to impart decades worth of ALDI wisdom on you right when you need these money-saving tips the most!

ALDI was once known as a “stock up” store, primarily selling non-perishable items or bulk freezer goods. But in the past decade or so, they have seriously stepped up their game.

ALDI produce is awesome; you can find an array of fresh, high quality conventional produce and even some organic {since 2014, the company has added 12 organic items to their regular produce offerings}. They have a wide variety of fresh meats, dairy products, and an awesome frozen food section. Their commitment to sustainability and environmental protections is impressive.

grocery shelf of organic produce
Organic at Aldi? Yes!

Why ALDI?

First and foremost, the savings. Let’s say switching to ALDI saves you between $.50 and $1.00 per item {this is entirely feasible} and you buy 20 items a week. You could be saving $10-$20 each week on those items just by shopping at ALDI instead of your regular store!

Second, the quality for the price. ALDI is a European owned grocery chain. Because of this, the in-house brand foods sold there follow stricter regulations that aren’t always part of American FDA rules. I began noticing this when shopping for “kid” foods after I became a mom; ALDI’s version of Froot Loops cereal is missing the blue loops! Why? Because all of the ALDI brand foods contain no certified synthetic colors or dyes.

two brands of strawberry ice cream side by side
The price of Walmart’s Great Value brand is comparable to Aldi– but Aldi quality is above and beyond Great Value in ingredients.

ALDI has also changed with the times, offering gluten free, all-natural, and organic dry goods. They often have specialty items {like keto-friendly hamburger buns} that sometimes vary season by season.

Because ALDI sells primarily their own in-house brands, the savings really add up! I notice the prices the most on things like chips and pretzels, specialty cheese, cereal and breakfast convenience foods, like “pop tarts”, fresh meat, dairy, and frozen fish.

Brand Loyalty

If you are a person who usually buys the in-house store brands wherever you shop, making the leap to ALDI is a small one. If you are devoted to name brand items {Chips Ahoy cookies, Lucky Charms cereal, Lays Potato Chips, Dannon Oikos Yogurt} you might notice slight taste or texture differences with these brands. Or, you might not– it depends on your palate.

grocery store beverage aisle
Aldi also sells their own label beer, wine, and even hard seltzer and Irish cream. They have been known to carry local brews too, like Karbach Lovestreet

I honestly prefer shopping ALDI over big grocery stores, which can be a bit overwhelming. I don’t need fifty choices for every item on my list! For example, I’m searching for a penne pasta noodle. At HEB, there might be 10 different brands and options. At ALDI, there is likely only one kind of penne {though I should add there are many different noodles at ALDI, ranging from organic wheat, gluten-free, or even red lentil or black bean pasta}.

There is a downside, though. If they are out of penne, you might be out of luck.

ALDI First

There are a handful of items that I regularly use in recipes but can’t get at ALDI, like sesame oil, certain fresh herbs, or specialty produce like leeks. However, this is not a deal breaker for me; I tend to round out my ALDI list with a trip to a more traditional grocery store for these kinds of items, or the name brand things I prefer {like fresh cut deli meats, Bounty napkins and Finish dishwasher tabs, among others}. I usually need to make a grocery trip every few days to restock fruit, milk etc anyway, so I alternate stores. My rule of thumb for maximum savings potential: get everything you can at ALDI first, then buy the rest elsewhere after.

Quirks

There are a few things worth noting if you are a first time ALDI shopper:

Bring a Quarter

This is for the cart! Don’t worry, you get it back. Do you ever notice stray carts in super market parking lots? Or watch employees pushing 50 stacked carts toward the store in 90 degree Houston heat? ALDI doesn’t do that!

ALDI carts held together by chains
A quarter to borrow your cart, and you get it back when you return it

Carts are linked together at the outdoor front entrance of the store. Because the parking lot is small, the steps taken to return the cart when you’re done are barely more than you would be walking to push your cart into a cart stall in the parking lot at Walmart. This saves them the liability of getting sued for parking lot cart car damages, as well. Those savings are passed on to us!

BYOB: Bring your own Bags

ALDI is ranked the “greenest” grocery store in America. There are many reasons why, of course, but something I have personally always liked is their bag policy.

ALDI workers ring up your items at a ridiculously fast pace. They do this because each item has multiple barcodes, making scanning a breeze for the employee. As you check out, you move your empty cart near the cashier and they scan and replace every item into your cart. The line moves quickly. Then, you can either purchase paper or reusable bags to bag your own items, or bring your own bags. There’s a counter near the checkout to organize your groceries and bag them.

reusable shopping bags on ALDI counter
These canvas shoppers are my favorites- and I love filling them as strategically as possible

I love this ALDI quirk for two reasons: first, better for the planet. Second, better for my finicky self who cringes when someone else bags my groceries at traditional supermarkets. I have a specific way I want my foods organized and bagged to make them easier to put away.

Take Note

As you frequent ALDI more often, you will find that you can create your grocery list based on your familiarity of what is available there. This is really easy for me to do at this point; I base my meal planning and shopping around my trips to this store. I’m hard pressed to think of meals we eat regularly {tacos, pasta, fish and veggies, stir fry} that I can’t buy every ingredient from ALDI.

Price Comparisons

Here it is, the hard truth. I thought I’d compare a handful of items regularly on my family’s grocery list.

If you’ve read this far and are still not convinced, the proof is in the pudding…or maybe in the organic grass fed ground beef prices. You be the judge!

Turkey Bacon {12 oz}:

ALDI price: $2.15

Walmart: Butterball $3.42; Oscar Mayer $3.98

HEB: HEB Brand: $4.74; Jennie O: $2.76; Butterball: $3.52; Oscar Mayer: $4.10

Kroger: Butterball: $3.99; Oscar Mayer: $4.49; Boar’s Head Uncured: $7.49

Potato Chips {regular-not party- sized bag}:

ALDI price:$1.88 {10 oz}

Walmart: Great Value $1.84 {8 oz}; Lays $3.00 {8 oz}

HEB: HEB brand thin potato chips: $2.07{9 oz} ; Lays $3.07 {7.75 oz}

Kroger: Kroger brand: $1.69 {8 oz}; Lays $3.99 {7.75 oz}

Fruit Loops Cereal 

ALDI price: $1.25

Walmart: Great Value $2.54; Kellogg’s Froot Loops $3.98

HEB: HEB brand: $1.71; Kellogg’s Froot Loops: $3.38

Kroger: Kellogg’s Froot Loops: $3.89

Organic Marinara Sauce:

ALDI price: $1.95

jar of organic marinara sauce

Walmart: Great Value $1.98

HEB: HEB Brand: $3.58

Kroger: Kroger Brand: $2.39

Organic Milk {1/2 gallon carton}:

ALDI price: $3.28

Walmart: Great Value $3.98; Horizon $5.47

HEB: HEB brand: $4.10; Horizon: $4.92

Kroger: Kroger brand: $3.89; Horizon: $4.29

Fresh Organic Grass-fed Ground Beef {85% lean, 1 lb}:

ALDI price: $5.49

meat shelf at ALDI

Walmart: $6.28

HEB: HEB brand: $7.20

Kroger: Kroger brand $7.99

These savings are real! So tell me- are you going to try ALDI yet?

*This post is in no way sponsored by ALDI. I’m just an ALDI nerd trying to share the love whenever I can.

woman in car blowing a kiss at ALDI
Proud ALDI Nerd Alert. As my husband says, I’ve saved our family thousands over the years just by choosing a different grocery store.

 

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Mary B. is a lifelong creative, dreamer, and joy seeker. Born and raised in northern Illinois, Mary attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, receiving her B.F.A. in acting, then worked as a sometimes actress/model, sometimes waitress. Mary and her husband got married in Sept 2012, welcomed a son in 2014, moved to Texas from Chicago in 2016, and welcomed a daughter in 2017, completing their family. She self-publishes her musings on marriage, motherhood, and life on her blog, Accidentally Texan,. In her free time {free time--ha!} Mary loves to read, cook {and eat ;)}, work out, swim, travel, and spend time with her family. Mary believes emotional connection is the root of humanity and our collective purpose in life.

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