Monday, March 5, 2012

My trip to Aldi Food Market

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling too lazy (as usual) to leave my house. I made up some plausible excuse and decided I would head to Aldi on Sunday. The Aldi is across from a Walmart so I figured that I would determine if I needed anything from Walmart before I headed there.

Whenever I head out on these scouting trips (no major shopping), I tend to walk. That way, I get my exercise in. It's an 8 mile walk (round trip) and so far I have been able to do it easily. The return trip is usually the hardest since I spend a lot of time exploring but I typically walk along a bus route just in case I need to throw in the towel and hop on the bus. I was especially careful this time since I have a mild cold.

I checked the weather for Sunday and sure enough, rain was expected. I sighed. I wanted to jerk some pork also. I can't fire up the grill in the rain. The only way to do it was to get up really early and head to Aldi. Um. No. Around 2 pm, I put an audio-book on (my new obsession!) and decided to chance it. It started to drizzle as I stepped out but it stopped when it realised I was serious. Take that, rain!

First thing to know about Aldi is that you need to rent a shopping cart. I am glad that I read about this before so I had a quarter ready. Aldi is all about cutting overheads. If employees don't need to constantly gather errant shopping carts, they can focus on other things. Renting the shopping cart is easy. You stick your quarter in and pull your cart out. When you return it, you lock it to the cart in front and your quarter is returned to you. Simple! I can see how this could be frustrating for those who don't know the policy beforehand. However, it should be pretty easy to get change inside the store.

My first shopping cart didn't work very well and I had to return it. After that, I was on my way. I didn't need many items - flour, garlic, and ginger. It isn't a large store. In fact, it is relatively small. They don't stock multiple brands of the same item and most likely it is the store brand. Items are stocked on pallets. You are literally ripping the shipping plastic off some items to get to them. When a pallet is empty, the employees replace it.

Now since they don't stock multiple brands, Aldi is not the store for you if you have brand loyalties. However, if you are willing to test the store brands and save some money in the process, go ahead and check it out. Now about those savings. I didn't want to take my notebook out to record prices so I tried to memorize a few prices of items I would probably buy. Overall, Aldi does seem to have lower prices than your average supermarket or even Walmart. However, there are some items that could be comparable especially if the supermarket is having a sale.

My 5lb of flour cost $1.69. I think the Walmart brand is $1.98 while the Publix brand is $2.49 or $2.29.  That's significantly cheaper if you use a lot of flour as I do. The one disadvantage is that the flour is bleached.   I don't usually care if my flour is bleached or unbleached. However, my sourdough does (it also doesn't like tap water). It's usually hard for me to find unbleached store brand flours. I have never seen unbleached Walmart brand flour and my Winn Dixie doesn't have an unbleached version of their flour either. I'm glad Publix does!

So basically, if you need specialty items, Aldi may not be the store for you. I did hear a mother tell her child that they needed to head to Publix next. However, if you just need to the basics, I suggest you check them out. As I type now, I remember that I had wanted to check out some other items in the store. I guess I will need to go back. Here are a few items that I know were cheaper than I usually see at other stores:

  • Chips
  • Cake mixes
  • Shortening 
  • Yogurt (I got 6 oz cups for 39c. I think Greek yogurt was 89c)
  • Some frozen meats
  • Bagged salads (I saw one that was 99c but I didn't pay attention to the prices of others)
  • Potatoes (A 5lb bag of Idaho potatoes was $1.29, I think. I would have grabbed a bag if I was driving.). 
  • Onions (On sale, my Sedano's would probably have them cheaper or about the same price) 
  • Milk 
That's what I remember now. Checkout was pretty simple. Some items have multiple barcodes so that it is easy for the cashier to scan them. It doesn't matter how the item is placed on the scanning belt, it will scan. For example, the bag of flour had a barcode on each side so there were 6 barcodes total.

Aldi does not offer shopping bags. Well, let me rephrase, you won't get the traditional plastic or paper bags there. You could always buy a reusable shopping bag. The cashier scans your items and places them into the cart beside her. You then put the items in your cart yourself and then take them to a bagging shelf along the wall and put them in your own bags. Or, you could just take them to your car as is. It's up to you. I think that's the same thing that Costco does,right?

So that was my quick trip to Aldi. Will I go back? Most likely. I always need flour!

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