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Aldi – A Different Kind of Grocery Store

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Many months ago I saw these Temkin Customer Service Ratings that included the top and bottom rated companies. I noted that USAA is at the top (as it should be) and Comcast and Cox cables services were at the bottom. This is exactly how we feel about these companies, so it wasn't a surprise. My wife feels the same way, so I sent an email to her with the article.

Her email back to me was a surprise, "Number 15 is Aldi Grocery. It is opening up near us. I saw the sign when I drove by this AM."

As far as grocery stores go, I'm pretty much all set. I've got the military commissary and a Wal-Mart near by. I've got a BJ's Warehouse near me for bulk purchases. (It's a competitor to Costco in New England.) In fact, I grocery shop at 5 different stores.

I have no need for another grocery store, until I walked into Aldi... It's very different from any grocery store I've ever seen. I wasn't the only confused person, everyone was trying to figure it out.

To start with, I couldn't get a grocery cart. Simply couldn't figure out how to pull them apart. It seemed like they were all stuck together. However, these were brand new and they don't typically stick like the old banged up carts. Someone walking in gave me a clue... I had to put a quarter into a slot do dislodge a chain that locks everything together. I could have read about this from the sign above, but who is looking to read signs when you get a grocery cart? It's like looking for a sign when you approach an elevator, you just expect it to work as every other elevator does.

The sign explained why the carts worked differently. When you return the cart and hook it back up it dislodges the quarter so you get it back. The idea is that you put a deposit on the cart and that deposit ensures that the cart is put back in its proper place. This saves them from having to hire people to gather carts and bring them back. It also ensures that carts are usually brought back to a nice covered area that helps prolong their life. The store saves money and passes savings on to customers.

Another difference that I found at Aldi is that there are limited brand names. For some that might be a bad thing. For bargain hunters like myself, it is a great thing. I found that the products are even cheaper than Wal-Mart's "Great Value" brand. I've found many are even cheaper than I can get at the military commissary. The commissary typically gives me brand names, but I'm generic brand kind of guy when it save me money. The milk, $1.99, and eggs, $1.29, are values that are hard to find elsewhere. (A few months later Aldi had to raise prices on these to $2.49 and $1.69, but that is still a good value.) They have their own value energy drink brand at a buck for 16 ounces. It tastes just like Monster. I've bought a 10-pound bag of potatoes for $2 and a pound of baby carrots for $0.69 cents. These are just a few of the values that I found. It's just scratching the surface of the values Aldi offers.

Beyond the values, they keep the products limited. You aren't going to find a whole cereal aisle with every option known to man. You can zip in and grab a few items and get out very quickly. There's no hemming and hawing about the best price... as I'm typically guilty of. The aisles are wide. Perhaps because the secret hasn't caught on, there aren't many people. I tend to shop in off-hours. When I do, they seem to have one employee, a check out person.

Finally, when checking out things are, again, a little different. You have to bring your own bags, or buy reusable bags from them... there's no in-between. I appreciate this from an environmental perspective. In fact, Aldi doesn't employ baggers. The cashier puts the groceries in your cart and you take it to the bagging area and do it yourself.

Don't try to use a credit card at Aldi. They'll take your debit card, but it seems like they don't want to pay those fees to credit card merchants saving them another few percent. It means I don't get to stack up rewards, which is a shame, but when the total bill is so much cheaper, I don't mind about the 3% too much.

Aldi is doing everything it can to keep prices low. I appreciate how they are thinking out of the box. It gives me a great resource to jump in and grab a few items and get out of there... at an exceptional price. I've never had to deal with their customer service, but it seems like Temkin's research is reflective of the value of the business as a whole.

If you get a chance, I highly suggest you give Aldi a chance. I think you'll like it.

(I realize that some may think I was paid by Aldi to write this. I wish. Safeway has invited me to review them before, but this is just me sharing a what I feel is a great value with readers.)

Posted on April 16, 2014.

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7 Responses to “Aldi – A Different Kind of Grocery Store”

  1. robyn says:

    i shopped at aldi’s MANY years ago in pennsylvania. there are a few nearby now [orlando/kissimmee florida] and they have AMAZING produce. their hummus, meats, chicken and cheese are also less than BJ’s or couponing. we picked up frozen pizzas marked down to 99 cents, same pizza is 4.99 at walmart. frozen spinach 50 cents/box vs 89 at publix, grapes 1.99 lb, potatoes 99 cent for a 5 lb bag. i appreciate the limited selection because sometimes i don’t want to calculate the best per ounce price.

  2. kosmo says:

    A lot of people don’t realize how big they are, but Aldi is a huge multinational company (with the majority of their stores in Europe). They have more than 9000 stores worldwide, including Trader Joe’s.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Yep, my wife wanted a Trader Joe’s more than an Aldi, but having seen Aldi, I have to say that I like it more than Trader’s. They don’t have nearly as many health-focused products, but the prices are much better.

      I had no idea that Aldi was as big as it was until I did a little research for this article.

  3. Michele says:

    I learned to Love the Aldi after my dad died and my personal financial circumstances changed. Its very basic but it makes you review your choices with much more scrutiny. Do you really need that brand name that is $4 when aldi has an equivalent for half that amount.

    These days I too shop multiple stores.
    I go to Aldis first, second is Save a lot (another discount store with more selection and an extensive mexican section, Sams club for very specific things, then I hit the loss leaders at the local grocery particularly meat sales, and occasionally (because its not close to me) a store called Marcs for various produce meats etc. Marcs is an amazing store if you have one near you. Lastly I go to the Asian Grocery up in Cleveland about once a month.

    • Lazy Man says:

      Sorry that your personal financial circumstances went in a negative direction. It’s exactly as you say with the generic equivalent being half price.

      My shopping pattern is pretty similar to yours. With a chest freezer for the meats, and enough storage space to buy in bulk, I’m not shopping nearly as much as it seems when I say, “I shop at 5 grocery stores.”

  4. Money Beagle says:

    I love Aldi. We go about once every 3-4 weeks and stock up on various staples. Cereal, as you mentioned, is a great deal. Yogurt is 39 cents a cup and tastes awesome. They tend to have great deals on fruits and vegetables but you have to catch them on a good week as sometimes it’s on stuff you might not use regularly. Bread and bagels are an incredible deal, and the bread is actually regular sized bread, not the half size stuff that many places seem to be passing off as a way to reduce overhead. They also have an aisle of stuff that changes out every week or two, which is not usually grocery related, but you can catch some great deals there too. We would probably go more often but the two nearest our house are about 8 miles apiece, but if it were more convenient, we would probably go weekly.

    • Lazy Man says:

      I forgot to mention the great prices on Greek yogurt. Thanks for reminding me Money Beagle. I’ll have to check out the bread next time I go. I’ve been pretty happy with the commissary’s selection there.

      Oh one more thing, six roses for $3.99. It was a great add-on for a very frugal Valentine’s Day a couple of months ago.

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