by Rayne DeVivo
Today I’m admitting something embarrassing to Chambanamoms readers.
My whole adult life I’ve heard tales of the great deals to be had at Aldi, but I’ve been too anxious to shop there. I tried to go there a decade ago and was flummoxed by the shopping carts and left without stepping foot in the store.
Earlier this year I sought out an Aldi mentor to prepare for my maiden shopping trip.
A round of applause goes to Sally in Chatham who held my hand via Facebook and armed me with the knowledge to be successful. There are serious deals on food at Aldi without clipping a single coupon.
What you need to know to successfully shop at Aldi:
• Don’t be anxious about the quality of the food. It’s good and if you don’t like it, return the food or EVEN the EMPTY packaging with your receipt and Aldi will refund you money AND replace the product. My family has taste-tested a lot of Aldi food this year and it always tastes like name brand. The packaging is a cheaper quality though. The plastic bags for pretzels and crackers shred easily after they are opened.
• Aldi and Trader Joe’s are owned by the same company, and some Aldi products are identical to the products Champaign-Urbana folks drive to Indy, Chicago or *ahem* Nashville to purchase at Trader Joe’s.
• Bring a quarter to rent the shopping cart. Use the quarter to unlock the cart and when you return the cart to the store, your quarter pops out.
• Bring shopping bags with you. Aldi does not provide free bags and employees do not bag your groceries. After you pay, you are able to bag your food at the counter near the front doors.
• Choice is limited. There is only one size of any given product.
• Aldi only accepts cash, debit cards, and SNAP. I urge you to bring cash because I have found their debit card scanners to be unreliable. It is unpleasant to stand at the register with a toddler shrieking “boobies” at the top of his lungs while your debit card won’t scan, you only have $15 in cash for $50 in groceries, and they won’t take a check or key in the debit card information.
What you gain by all these unusual choices is that most of the products are at or close to the “Great Buy” price ALL THE TIME.
The blocks of cheese are $1.49 per 8-ounces without a sale price or a coupon. Six packs of granola bars that retail at other stores for almost $4 are $1.89. There are also rotating deals that change weekly. Pineapples were a special buy last week and were priced at $0.99 each.
I am careful about high fructose corn syrup at Aldi. Same as other supermarkets, it’s in a lot of products it doesn’t need to be in. But at Aldi, the limited choice means that if you find HFCS in the applesauce, which I did, there is no HFCS-free option.
Good luck! I hope these tips give you the confidence to try Aldi and not turn back before you even get in the door.
Rayne DeVivo is an attorney and a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. A Hoosier by birth, Rayne has lived in central Illinois for 15 years. She currently stays home with her two sons, Henry and Quinn. Rayne’s hysterical tale of taking her sons grocery shopping is one of the most popular chambanamoms.com articles of 2011.