Wednesday, October 01, 2008
"We Found Aldi!"
That's what Iain kept yelling when we pulled into the Aldi parking lot. Oh yes, we found Aldi.
I tend to do most of my grocery shopping on one mega-trip a month. I still do the odd run here and there for produce or bread, but the rest I get at one time - mostly because I really dislike Wal-Mart, and because it's such a hassle to shop with the little guys.
So today, Nan suggested I try the new kid on the block: Aldi. I had been eyeing them for a while, because the frugal household management blogs recommend them almost without fail. Last time I checked (a few months ago), there were none in our area. But... drumroll please... now there is one about five miles away. It opened - get this - three days ago!
So today's only goal for the morning was to get this crazy run done. I decided to give Aldi a shot. But first, a little research (hey, when you're only going once a month, it pays to be prepared!). I looked up reviews on the chain and found that people either loved it or hated it: five stars or one. ONE person gave it three.
So here's my review, if you care to read.
I loved the layout. Aldi is set up in a smaller space than most grocery stores, meaning that the shelves are chock-full, but you don't walk as far. In fact, I think there were only five or six short aisles. Makes shopping so much faster!
It's a B Y O Bag store. If you don't bring a bag, you can buy some from them. I like that - encouraging cloth bags and cutting down on cost.
Speaking of cost, Aldi's plan to cut costs is brilliant, and very much like Ikea's ideas. That is, you do everything yourself that you can do yourself. You bag your own groceries. You bring your own bags. You return your own shopping cart to the front (more on that later). This means they hire fewer people and use fewer things like bags, which saves them money, which saves you money. I'd rather do it myself than pay for someone else to do it, especially if they don't do a great job (have you ever had anyone not bag your stuff the way you like? So do it yourself!).
Because the store is small, Aldi also saves money and energy, and they keep freezer/refrigerator stuff behind glass to improve energy efficiency there, too. Smart.
Another way Aldi cuts cost is by carrying pretty much just their own brand of things. With few exceptions. Don't know yet if this is good or bad, as we haven't eaten what I bought today....
Through the selection is limited (I got about 70% of my needed goods there), Aldi tends to keep mostly what moves on the shelves. Meaning the normal items, the ones that you generally want, will be there. Things like eggplant? Nope.
Because of the limited selection, I did end up hitting Wal-Mart too. I think now that I know what Aldi has, I could just do it and Publix and skip the big W altogether.
The stupid cart thing. You have to put a quarter in to get a cart, and when you return it, you get your quarter back. This is so people will bring the carts back to the front, rather than letting them get damaged in parking lots or having an employee gather them up. Okay, good idea. EXCEPT when you have two little guys and a cart full of groceries. I saw one mom booking it back to the front of the store from the parking lot, while her kids waited in the car. I didn't want to do that, so I brought the cart to the car, put the groceries in, walked back to the store with the kiddos still in the cart, got my quarter, and went back to the car with the boys. Will I walk an extra time from car to store for a quarter? You bet. Will I like it? No way.
I think over half of the people in Aldi with me today were homeschoolers. If you were one or are one, you know you can spot them. I would have bet you my cart-quarter on any one of those families.
Overall, I did save money at Aldi. I spent $65 on what I'm guessing would have been at least $80 at Wal-Mart. For example: Aldi dry milk is 5.99 for 8 quarts, whereas at Wal-Mart, it costs 6.34 for 5 quarts. Aldi's eggs are about 0.03 cheaper than Wal-Mart eggs. Aldi produce is cheaper, if you can find what you want (tomatoes, apples, onions, etc.).
I have to join the five-star crowd. Aldi wins!