Grocery prices have been steadily rising for some time now and they’re showing no signs of stopping. My wife and I felt the pinch so several years ago we switched our grocery shopping to Aldi and haven’t looked back. Shopping there, we eat to our heart’s content for $300 a month. When we tell people this, the reaction is usually shock, followed by a “you poor things” look of sympathy. We say, don’t pity us, envy us. We eat steak, ribs, salmon, shrimp and scallops more regularly now than when we had to shell out mega bucks at Publix.
By the way, Aldi, in case you’re unaware, is a German owned discount grocery store that also runs Trader Joe’s. If you have never shopped at an Aldi, I want to provide you some incentive by listing the things I love about the discount store and its offerings.
Aldi doesn’t try to create a shopping “experience.” Rather, it tries — quite successfully — to give shoppers a reasonable selection of food staples at amazingly low prices. You’re quite literally shopping in a small warehouse — off of loading pallets with the products’ shipping boxes cut open for display. No shelves, no top-40 music, no deli, no coffee shop, no florist, no free samples, no kidding. It’s wonderful. Aldi’s bare-bones business approach is an island of sanity in a world filled with commercial noise and every conceivable distraction. The smaller selection of house brands mixed with some brand names allows the stores to have a smaller footprint, reduce labor costs, and minimize elaborate pricing and inventory systems. The goal is clean, clear, and simple — control costs.
2. Less Is More
To shoppers accustomed to having 75 selections of soup, offering just four might sound heretical. But haven’t we all been faced with “analysis paralysis” in the soup or cereal aisle? It’s perversely liberating to have one brand of corn flakes to “choose” from. The choice is either to buy or not to buy. A typical grocery trip to Publix used to take my wife and I at least an hour. At Aldi, we are in and out within 25 minutes.
3. The Food is GOOD
This might be the shocking part for some. But don’t let your brain be fooled, shopping discount does not mean giving up taste. My wife and I have found that we like the food at Aldi better than a fair majority of the name brands we used to get at other stores. If you’re not happy with a particular product, bring it back and they will replace the product AND give you your money back.
4. It’s All About The Benjamins
Many discount stores are ashamed of their discount status and attempt to hide it in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. There’s some implication that shopping in a decidedly down-scale environment is something to apologize for or re-label, dress up, or rebrand. Aldi makes no such apologies. It attempts to be nothing more than it is — unapologetically discount. Saving money is the goal, and the goal is golden.
5. FYI: Aldi is DIY
Aldi’s model is a little different than what you’re used to at big chains, so there are a couple things you need to know before shopping there. First, to cut down on costs, Aldi doesn’t pay an employee to pick up carts all over the parking lot. Instead, you deposit a quarter into the cart and get it back when you return it to the front of the store, so always have a quarter ready. Second, you’ll have to bag your own groceries so bring tote bags or buy Aldi’s green friendly bags to keep in your car. Third, Aldi only accepts debit or cash, so don’t flash your credit or everyone in line will know you’re a newbie.
All this DIY means lower prices for you and it’s well worth it.
I wonder how many defunct stores might have survived if they employed a few of Aldi’s tactics. What’s more, I wonder how many might thrive in our new economy if they scaled back a bit and we all became more reasonable in what we expect from our shopping excursions. Aldi may be humble, but in that humility, there’s a lesson or two in how to navigate the future.
What’s your favorite thing about shopping at Aldi? What’s the best deal you’ve scored there?