I’ve been an Aldi-exclusive shopper since grad school. There’s nothing like being broke AF to teach you about bargain shopping.
My mom shopped at Aldi for much of my childhood, so some of the more intimidating aspects (bringing a quarter, few name brands, bringing your own bags) weren’t an issue. BUT, I still remember going to Aldi for the first time on my own while I was in college. I forgot a quarter AND my reusable totes. So I just left and went to Walmart. Don’t be me!!!!
In case you are an Aldi novice, let me explain: Aldi is an incredible discount grocery store. They cut corners in ways that don’t matter to save you money on the things that DO MATTER. There are no shelves, just stacked pallets. The carts are all locked up, and you use a quarter to get one. You get your quarter back when you return it, which means they don’t have to pay cart wranglers. (If you put your cart back but leave the quarter so someone else can use it, you’re a Quarter Angel ™!) Bags aren’t provided, and groceries aren’t bagged. You bag your own stuff on the countertops beyond the checkout. Most people bring reusable totes, but you can buy paper and plastic bags for like $.05 each.
And here’s the real shit. I took two weeks of Aldi grocery hauls and price compared those items at my local grocery store. Week One, the total at Aldi was $104.60. At the Hy-Vee near my house, the same groceries would have cost $169.92. Week Two: $97.24 vs $162.02.
You may have an impression that Aldi is full of gross discount food. Since all of the food is store brand, it’s not as good as the name brands you can get at Target, Hy-Vee, or Price Chopper. This is so wrong! With every passing month, the food gets better and the selection gets more expansive. Just like any store brand, there are things I wouldn’t buy. Off-brand Oreos are just NOT WORTH IT. But the Aldi-brand caramel coconut cookies taste literally IDENTICAL to Girl Scout Samoas. They are a go-to potluck item for me when I don’t have time to make anything. Other Aldi misses: the Cheerios taste like the Trader Joe’s Cheerios, which means that they’re less crunchy and kind of dry…? I also don’t love the big jars of Casa Mamita salsa that are by the tortilla chips. The refrigerated salsa is GREAT, though, especially the varieties that come around summertime.
Another thing to note about Aldi and the way that I shop there: Since I buy mainly whole ingredients (veggies, meats, beans, grains), and not a ton of prepared foods, those are the things I know best at Aldi. Canned beans are canned beans, so you best believe I’m going to buy the cheaper, off-brand ones.
I’ve learned to make my menus based around what is available at my local Aldi. I live in a smaller suburb, so my Aldi doesn’t have as much variety as Aldis in bigger areas. My friend lives in a bigger, higher-income suburb and her Aldi IS BOMB! If my Aldi is a 7, hers is an 11.
Aldi carries the same products year-round in 85% of the store. But other than the regular products, there is a center aisle with SPECIALS that are seasonal and discounted. This can include kitchenwares, patio furniture, all sorts of random stuff. Before you knock it, a shelf in our living room that we receive a TON of compliments on is from Aldi. Two fave seasonal items that I literally hold my breath waiting for: HORSERADISH FRIDGE PICKLES and various refrigerated salsas.
Shopping at Aldi is a learning curve, and you will likely need to pick up a few things at another store. My Aldi doesn’t carry cashew milk or nutritional yeast, so I often swing by Hy-Vee on the way home and grab those couple items.
But once you’re familiar with your local Aldi and what they carry consistently, you will save SO MUCH MONEY. Seriously. When I was doing the price comparison at Hy-Vee, my eyes were bugging out of my head. I literally couldn’t believe how expensive some of the stuff was. A three-pound bag of apples at Aldi is $2.69. The same weight of apples at Hy-Vee? $5.94!!
A few notes on price comparison: I chose the store brand at Hy-Vee when it was available. I made sure that I was matching organic to organic and conventional to conventional. I couldn’t find two items at Hy-Vee, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and said they sold the product for the same price as Aldi. In the spreadsheet linked here, cells marked in yellow account for that adjustment. If a price at Aldi varied between weeks, I used the higher price in the comparison. All comparisons are based on weight. Things like cereal and crackers came in a same or very similarly sized box, but there was a HUGE difference for things like nuts. In this case, you would have to buy two bags of almonds at Hy-Vee to come home with the same weight. This is reflected in the spreadsheet.
WEEK ONE BREAKDOWN
For that week, I purchased food for our regular breakfast, lunches, and dinners, plus a brunch with three girlfriends and a meal for friends with a new baby. You can view my whole receipt here.
Price comparison standouts: Three multicolored bell peppers for $1.89 would have been $4.88 at Hy-Vee. Strawberries were also $1.89 and would have been $3.99 at Hy-Vee. Mother’s Day cards are what really saved my bacon, though. You know the beautiful cards at grocery stores with the cutouts and the sparkles, the ones that are like $6? Cards just like that were $0.99 at Aldi.
WEEK TWO BREAKDOWN
This was a week that went totally haywire, but when I went shopping, I planned on two meals for company and our regular breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The receipt is here.
Big savers this week: Basmati rice ($2.99 at Aldi) was $7.88 (!!!!!!) at Hy-Vee. One pound of asparagus was $2.69 but would have been $4.99 at Hy-Vee.
A note on produce at Aldi: if you get the bag of onions home and notice that the two in the center are totally moldy, bring them back. Aldi replaces the item AND gives you your money back.
I love these items, in the order that they appear at my Aldi: Outlander red wine, Savoritz 6 Cracker Assortment, tortilla chips strip-style, almonds, whole coffee beans, ground flax seeds, La Croix 12-packs, corn tortillas, the CHEESE selection, the supremely spicy hummus, and the basmati white rice.
Aldi also has DELICIOUS refrigerated pizzas that I’ll sometimes get when G is out of town, and I just saw on Saturday that they have Halo Top-style protein ice cream now. I haven’t tried it, but I’m telling you they carry it to show: Aldi is ALWAYS introducing new, trendy products, and they also keep up with the awesome stand-bys that keep us Wallaces fed.
Do you shop at Aldi? What fave products am I missing? If you’re not an Aldi shopper, what would you still like to know?