Saturday, July 08, 2006

An Aldi Primer

Do you any of you share my obsession? Many of my friends sneer, jeer and laugh at me for shopping at Aldi. But I don't care. And the Muffies? Well, let's just say, you don't have to worry about any encounters with the Muffies at Aldi. For those of you not blessed enough to have an Aldi in your midst, let me fill you in. Small grocery store, off price, only one brand of each type of product. Instead of being all Always Save or some store brand like that, it's Aldi's brand, but they've come up with their own clever name for each individual product. I got frozen pizzas there recently, and I think they were called Tortino's. Get the idea? It's often a blatant knock-off of the popular brand name. Personally, I am convinced that they've gotten the good brands to make the products for them and let them distribute them under a different name. OK, so when I quit working full-time a few years back, we lost almost half of our income in one fell swoop. I was doing everything I could to cut corners. Frankly, it totally sucked. A friend told me to try Aldi, and though skeptical, I figured, "What did I have to lose?" So, I went. If you've never been there, here's an Aldi primer...
  • Do not go to Aldi at mealtimes or at any other time that you think a normal grocery store might be remotely busy. There's usually just one checker, and lines can be a problem.
  • Don't (like I did) go to Aldi, after your exercise class, with your full wedding set on, chatting on your cell phone, get to the checkout, whip out your checkbook, only to discover that they DO NOT ACCEPT CHECKS! - An aside here, if I may...this did happen to me. There were SIX people in line behind me, and the tension was palpable. I was mortified. Embarrassed in my new haven of a grocery store. Here's what the checker said: "I'm sorry. We don't accept checks or food stamps." Apparently, she thought I might resort to food stamps when the check thing wasn't working out. I thought I was going to have to slink out of the store without my groceries. I checked my wallet, discovered I had one twenty, and two dollars and forty-two cents in change. I asked for the total, wondering how much stuff I'd have to put back, and it was $22.23. I had two bags, completely filled to the brim with groceries! I was hooked.
  • Don't expect anyone to bag your groceries for you at Aldi. In fact, don't expect bags at all - unless you want to pay for them. . . which I do... regularly. And for that, I get stared at... regularly... by the regulars.
  • And you know that curbside driveup you love so much? Not gonna' happen. Get over it, girl.
  • Oh! Here's a great one. When you're walking in, you have to grab your cart from outside the front door. But you'll find that the carts are all locked up. You have to put a quarter in to get the cart. You get it back when you return your cart to the proper place. That's ingenious, if you ask me. The number of times I've seen carts careening across a parking lot...
  • Occasionally, you won't be able to find a price for something at Aldi. Assume it's dirt cheap, and buy it, sister. You're at Aldi, for God's sake.
  • The samples? No, sweetie. There aren't any samples.

Now, let me just tell you. The first time I came home with goods from our local Aldi, my husband was less than elated. You have to understand, my big strong man is no Kip or Biff or Ken or whatever we've decided to call the male equivalent of the Muffie (Queen, we really must make an executive decision on this one...!). He grew up in a blue collar family in a lower middle class neighborhood. He doesn't put on airs. However, he has BAD memories of his dad, who did all of the shopping, buying all generic label products. Remember the black and white label stuff? How appealing a cabinet full of that stuff must've been! He swore two degrees later that he'd never have to eat that way again.

Anyway, let's just say, I had an uphill climb, convincing him that this Aldi place was a good bet. But the more products we tried, the more we were all convinced. Geez, I'm sounding like the creepy people on an infomercial.

OK, now for the really cool secrets. Some of my favorite products, etc. Their Fit & Active line of crackers and tortilla chips. Light pancake syrup. Pudding, English muffins, cereal with cranberry and almonds, all dairy products, refrigerated biscuits, marinated pork tenderloin, beef sirloin frozen in individual cry-o-vac packages. What else? Oh! Frozen curly fries - seasoned and oh, so yummy! Frozen Italian Ice, frozen fruit bars, those fabulous individual eclairs you can buy at Sam's (cheaper, just as good, and you don't have to buy a palate full of them...). Honey, ketchup, mustard, sugar, flour, pancake mix. I'm telling you, the list goes on.

Produce is hit or miss, so I don't get it as much. The consistently good stuff is grape tomatoes, pears, corn, seedless watermelon and tri-color peppers. I don't like their apples, bananas or peaches.

All right. I'm off my Aldi soap box. But soon, I'm going to tell of my recent experience of shopping at Aldi in the 'Hood. Whole different world, let me tell you. Whole different world.


Blogger dariasmama said...

Love Aldi! Absolutely love it. It's quiet, for one thing. It's wicked cheap for another. I don't like their white flour tortillas, but everything else I've purchased there has replaced a trip to Wal-mart for me.

I thought male muffies were called skippies?

7/08/2006 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

I have not been to Aldi, but my mother-in-law and mom LOVE the one in our hometown. I hit Dollar General for cheap cleaning supplies, snacks for my girls, paper towels, etc. I can go looking fairly ratty as the true Muffia dare not go there! ;)

7/08/2006 12:18 PM  
Blogger ^starshine said...

I'm so jealous.

I so remember the generic black and white stuff growing up. My Mom would get the generic sugar cookies that were basically flour cakes with sugar sprinkled on top.

7/08/2006 1:03 PM  
Blogger Blogarita said...

Aldi kicks grocery store butt!! The quality of their products just gets better and better, while their prices have remained fairly consistent for years.

My best friend worked as an Aldi manager for years; they are a great company to work for.

You are right about not seeing the Muffies there, but you will see, more often than you might expect, some of the older crowd in their Town Cars and Continentals. I figure they are wise enough to know a good thing when they find it, and don't give a hoot if anyone sees them there.

7/08/2006 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I am totally a WTM, and I love your blog, but I draw the line at Aldi's.....we live in NE Ohio, and we have an Aldi's just around the corner - now, we live in a nice, perfectly normal middle class neighborhood......very safe....but I wouldn't go to Aldi's unless I had a gun in my purse for safety - and it's a mess, it's dirty - you name it. We have other discount stores in the area - Marc's, for one, if you live NE Ohio - that beat the pants off of Aldi's. Just my opinion!

7/08/2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Laura K. said...

I hadn't shopped at ALDI much when I lived in Iowa.. but now that I live in The Netherlands I shop at ALDI here (I believe it originated in Europe). Aldi is no different than the store called LIDL here and I shop there a lot. I do most of my shopping at major grocer chains though as that's what is nearest me (and we walk or bike to the store, most people don't drive for that).

ALL stores here you bring your own bags, bag your own stuff, and put money in to get a cart. It's just standard practice here. Now when I visit Iowa again I am appalled that I don't have to do those things and c'mon.. it's the AMERICAN WAY and I miss it dearly.. but I don't miss the prices. I rarely spend over $20 for almost a week's worth of groceries at any store here except the one that is always insanely priced but I go there a lot because they have more American products there.

7/09/2006 4:34 AM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Wow, that makes me wish that we had one near us.

7/09/2006 7:56 PM  
Blogger rkeyrus said...

Must go there more often. Thanks for the pointers.

7/09/2006 8:29 PM  
Blogger R. Robyn said...

I've always wondered about Aldi. I've seen the trucks. And a bag here and there. But now I know all there is to know! I hope there are some in Texas when I get there.

7/10/2006 4:01 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Love Aldi's!! In fact, my 10-yr old swears their mac n cheese is tons better than anywhere else! And the chicken breasts? Wonderful!!

7/10/2006 7:27 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

Have you ever heard of Trader Joes? Aldi's products(for the most part) are their brand but under other names!

7/10/2006 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I am with you on this one. Aldi's is the bomb-digity. My mother was a big skeptic about the off brands, but I have finally converted her! I love going to Aldi's and finding brand name goodies for cheap. I especially love my Aldi's now that they have non-frozen ground beef, pork chops, tenderloin and ribs!

A little secret....alot of the brand names have their products manufactured at the same places as the off brands!

7/11/2006 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Kate the Shrew said...

Huh, never heard of it. Guess it's an East Coast thing? Like Jen, I do some of my shopping at Trader Joe's, which carries nearly all TJ's brand stuff, pretty cheaply, but actually has checkers, and bags, and things.

I can remember, as a kid, shopping at "Mark 'n' Save", apparently before UPC's became universal, as you had to write the price on all your cans with a grease pencil. I thought it was a blast.

7/11/2006 5:46 PM  
Blogger The Chublucky Shamrock said...

I can't wait to read the entry about Aldi's in the 'hood...see, because where I live (Indiana) ALL the Aldi's are in the 'hood. Which may explain why I have never been brave enough to attempt spite of my infrequent but icky cash flow issues. On your suggestion, I may just summon up my bravery!
Shop on, girls!

7/13/2006 1:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have them in Oklahoma, but I've never tried it. I'll have to check it out now.

7/13/2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger Mert said...

Thanks for the tip. I live in eastern Iowa, we have one here in town but have never tried it. We are a one income family of four and could use the extra money we would save.

7/13/2006 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Aldi!

When we had our child, we decided that my wife would stay home. Goodbye to nearly half of our income.

We knew it would be a struggle to make ends meet, so at first we tried clipping coupons and navigating sales - this helped a lot, and I got pretty good at it, but then I found Aldi.

It was a shock at first, and I was a little scared by the Aldi brands, but the more I tried, the more I liked. Aldi now accounts for about 85-90% of our grocery needs.

As another poster above me pointed out, the Breakfast Harvest Cranberry Nut breakfast cereal is KILLER! The flour tortillas got much better recently, within the past 4 months - bfore they stuck together a lot - the packaging changed and now they're great. The Aldi brand Fig Newtons are a lunchbox staple.

They don't do everything right. The lunchbox oatmeal cream pies were not so good, and the bananas go brown within 2 days. Lines are sometimes a problem if I get there after 11 on weekends - but ours just started keeping Sunday hours too, so that has helped.

I'll be an Aldi shopper for life. The savings are just too good to ignore.

7/14/2006 8:56 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

The things we love (and regularly buy) from Aldi are: brownie mix (it is the best in the world!), bagged spinach, bagged romaine hearts, baby carrots, portabello mushrooms (when in season), bagels, faux mashed potatoes, spaghetti sauce, ground turkey (gross looking, but works like a charm for .78 cents per pound), apple juice, & grated cheese.

Aldi is what keeps me home! I wouldn't be able to stay at home with my kids without it! It is better than Save-a-Lot or any other grocery store.

I hate it when people are too snobby to shop there- get over it! Where else can you get your two week's worth of groceries for eighty is impossible!

I feel ripped off if I go anywhere else anymore. Why would you??

7/15/2006 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[QUOTE]I hate it when people are too snobby to shop there- get over it! [/QUOTE]

Hate it? Heck, I love it - the lines are long enough thank you!

7/17/2006 5:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a religious ALDI shopper. If you're are throwing away a HECK of a lot of money every week on groceries! But...if you have money to throw away, so be it.

10/10/2006 4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an employee of Aldi, I can verify that the products are actually brand-name products, which through negotiations, are sold under the Aldi Private label. To check this out, some things have "contact numbers" on them that aren't Aldi contact numbers (check the brick cheeses) and will connect you with the actual manufacturer of a brand-name product.

Also, don't be afraid to try something, we have a double-back guarantee. If you don't like it, we'll give you twice your purchase price back (or in case of a damaged product, we'll replace the product and give you your money back). You really can't beat that!

1/14/2007 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a proud, so called, "Muffie," (Junior League, country club, lawyer's wife type) I also shop at Aldi. I grew up with wealthy parents, who were that way because they pinched every penny. My dad always bought generics, to my horror; but, now as a stay-at-mome mom, I now can't resist the savings. I simply can't justify spending an extra $400/month to have brand name labels on the exact same food.

2/01/2007 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the cashiers told me that some of their items ARE definitely made by the big brand names. I'm trying to think of the ones I was told. I can't right now, but she said that every once in a while, the Aldi product comes shipped in a box labeled with the actual brand name. She told me the real brands for catsup (Heinz?)and cold cuts (Tyson?).

4/05/2007 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always look forward to our trips to see my mother-in-law in Germany as I know it means I'll get to shop at ALDI again! Living in Southern Ontario we sadly don't have ALDI here. They were considering opening stores here several years ago, but changed their minds-wonder why? Luckily we are close enough to the border and there is an ALDI just across in Niagara Falls New York which I finally got to check out recently. It VERY closely resembles what I am used to in Germany. Germans are EXTREMELY fussy about quality and extremely big on environmental issues. Both of which ALDI has covered. The insulated shopping bags are fantastic, they keep things cold when shopping on hot days and last really long. You can always count on quality even though you may not recognize the name. I was thrilled to see the same makeup wipes I usually pick up at the German ALDI-LUCERNA (or something like that)They are such a good product and what a deal!
In Germany its also great fun to see the weekly specials, clothing, sports themes, childrens school supplies, craft items, etc. Not sure if ALDI does that in the U.S.? The products are ALWAYS very good quality, but limited in supply. I'm always sure to stock up on the jumbo pencil crayons @1.99 euros, which sell here for about $20.00!
(and by the way, what's a muffie or a skippy?)

7/04/2007 9:11 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I too am an Aldi Convert! We had one back in Milwaukee where I grew up and it was a DUMP. However, we just had a new one open in IL where I live and I absolutely LOVE it. It's super clean, very quiet, the prices can't be beat and the food is GREAT! Love the Fit N Active line of products, and the fudgsicles ROCK.
I used to hate packing my own groceries because the people behind me made me feel like I wasn't going fast enough. I love taking my cart to the counter to pack my own groceries at my own pace.
Oh! the wine selection is GREAT too!!!

3/13/2008 6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just went to Aldi for the first time the other day. It was a little puzzling at first until you get used to the way they do things. I asked the cashier who made their brands, and she said it's all the big name companies, like Kellogg that makes their cereals sold under the "Millville" label. Other packages are identical to the big brands but they slapped a generic name on it. Their frozen orange juice is identical to the Minute Maid packaging. Try comparing the packaging if you want to figure out who really made each item. I don't mind not paying for some company's advertising budget if I can save more.

1/11/2009 2:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've shopped at Aldi regularly since our middle daughter was a baby (she'll turn 32 this year). When our three girls were little, we shopped there for the savings. Now my husband and I shop there even though we could afford to shop somewhere more expensive - but why?. The Fit & Active line is great. We buy at least 80% of our groceries at Aldi.

4/21/2009 12:45 PM  
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