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Whole Foods- I have to let you go (for Now)...Hello Aldi

Nothing like receiving a 3rd quarter 401K statement in Saturday's mail....nice way to start the weekend...anyway, I've made an applied economic transition, albeit temporary, but ya never know, it could achieve permanence.....So, this Aldi is actually OK, despite these mystery brands like Grandessa, Millville, and the cutesy Fit and Active....I hear they are part of Trader Joe's, so it may offer hope.....So I checked it out a couple of times recently, and here's my shortlist:

The Good:

1) The Millville whatever Bran Cereal- can't beat the huge box for $1.49...and it sure beats 3 tabs of Metamucil
2) Imported Havarti w/ Dill , an 8 oz slab for under $3...the Antoinette brand- but no sign of Maria
3) The frozen Southwestern style eggrolls- oozing with ecstasy....once you heat 'em
4) The turkey cold cut variety pack...somewhat retro, especially the Cotto turkey- what is Cotto? the turkey bologna is lame though- how but turkey pastrami instead Mrs. Aldi?
5) A delicious, bold, well-defined, casky bottle of Winking Owl Shiraz, with plum and Currant notes for $2.99 to top it all off...why bother with a pricey Silver Oak when you could indulge in some robust Winking Owl!!! I can't wait to try the $3.99 Riesling to chase down with some Hot Pockets...

The not-so-good:

1) Why can't you have more than 1 cashier per store? ..and why is that one cashier the only person I ever see in the store..I guess that's how you keep the prices down...1 employee..so the line usually goes all the way back to the refrigerated dairy section..Are you the Manager too?
2) The fresh produce section....no comment
3) You guy's carry some weird stuff!!! like Bury Lane Parka winter coats for $24.99.. I didn't know you were in competition with TJ Maxx!!!
4) You charge 25 cents for a shopping cart!!! I have never felt so humiliated...all the more reason to go back to Whole Foods, where the cart is free

And speaking of whole Foods...You know i I luv ya... I walk into your store and want to buy EVERYTHING!!! But your too pricey for the most of us IMHO....I just can't right now shell out a bloody fortune for some curried chicken salad, $11.99 per# for your superb olive bar,$4.95 for a slice of carrot cake, or $6 for a bunch of celery.... But your $5.99 Rotisserie chicken on Thursday's here in Chicago is the best deal in town...and your salad bar is the best,!!!

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  1. paulis..you gave me quite a laugh. Seems you have that love/hate thing going on with Aldi's. That quarter for the cart also keeps prices low. Our local Aldi's sells a dozen eggs for .99 cents and I'll never pay more than that again. Just saw Halloween candy well below the grocery chains/quick marts. I have my favorite items and a few items I've tried that I won't revisit. I don't buy the produce; except for .44/lb bananas or the non food items (I see them too). The flowers are a steal but my location doesn't sell wine. Last week I FILLED my cart with staples for $50.00. I can't shop like that anywhere else.

    Whole Foods on the other hand doesn't seem to acknowledge the economic times we're living in. I love their Indian bar for lunch and the bakery breads, my fav brand of Greek yogurt and the cheese dept. but until I see a "reality check" from WF's I'm not writing any checks.

    On the other hand, it's a completely unfair comparison Aldi/WF's.

    I've been shopping everywhere to get the bargains, leaning on local produce I love and cooking a good deal more at home. The best offense is a well planned shopping list!

    1. pauli, know that you get your quarter back when you return your cart at Aldi. :-)

      Aldi is great for some things. Hello, canned salmon. Hello, decent dijon mustard for a great price. Um, straightforward pasta, yes...onions, no, lettuce, no. It's a crap shoot, but worth the roll of the dice for staples. Hey, but you can find good deals on tilapia fillets. And crappy deals on peppers. Know your market.

      And get that quarter back! :-)


      1. Am I crazy, or did someone tell me that they saw SOME organic items at Aldi?

        Note: When I was in college I knew the regional manager of the store in my college twon. He asked me to steal items (hiding expensive canned goods among the corn, etc) and shoplift items from the store and report back on how I did it and what I was able to get away with. My heart pounded everytime, but it turns out I was pretty good at it. I had a "get outta jail free card" that I was to present if I got caught but I never had to use it. The bonus, I got to keep all of my goodies.

        Note to self: If economy gets too bad I can return to a life of crime. Hope I'm not rusty!

        1. The Aldi's that I go to has some good produce. It's not better than Wegman's, but most of it is pretty good. I also buy the eggs, juice, soymilk, and other basics there.

          Why buy Kellog's cornflake crumbs when I can get a ginormous box of 'flakes of corn' and grind it up at home for a fraction of the price?

          Has anyone ever bought their canned tomato products? I've always been wary of them.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cheesecake17

            >>The Aldi's that I go to has some good produce. It's not better than Wegman's, but most of it is pretty good. I also buy the eggs, juice, soymilk, and other basics there.

            I cannot speak for all Aldi locations. However, I will say that the stores that I shop at in Chicagoland turn ALL their produce in less than two days. In other words, by the end of the business day, the store is nearly "stocked out" of most produce items.

            I would not doubt if the stores turn their inventory 50+x which gives them a tremendous free cash flow.

            1. re: jlawrence01

              The best time to shop at Aldi is Friday afternoons. Sometimes they put their fruit half price or buy one get one free. When I'm buying apples for a pie or crisp, I would rather buy the 10 lbs on sale at Aldi than spend $1.39 at Wegman's.

              Maybe it's different in Chicago, but I noticed that a lot of the shoppers in the places I go to don't buy a lot of fruits and vegetables. I've seen people picking out one pepper or a handful of string beans. (and these aren't single people... they're moms with kids in tow)

          2. Actually, it's the other way around: Trader Joe's is part of Aldi, which is a huge German-owned international discount grocery chain (revenues of $48 BILLION in 2006).

            8 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              My last understanding of this is that there are two separate Aldi companies that sometimes may work in conjunction but often don't. The part of the (Albrecht) family that owns Aldi stores in the US is NOT the part that owns Trader Joe's, so unless something has changed recently they don't do much in the way of sharing or joint planning, even though that might make sense sometimes. May be difficult to know for sure, though. The Aldi companies are privately held and don't necessarily have to disclose such things.

              Back to the original topic, comparing Aldi's to Whole Foods is kinda like comparing McD's to Capital Grille, yeah? ;-)

              1. re: CrazyOne

                >>The part of the (Albrecht) family that owns Aldi stores in the US is NOT the part that owns Trader Joe's, so unless something has changed recently they don't do much in the way of sharing or joint planning, even though that might make sense sometimes.

                But they sure think alike:

                1) limited SKUs
                2) private labels
                3) name brand products generally limited to special purchases
                4) smaller stores
                5) Produce generally wrapped
                6) Highly centralized warehouse distribution (as opposed to direct vendor delivery)

                1. re: CrazyOne

                  Aldi's (Europe) is jointly owned by the two Albrecht brothers. In the US, one brother has Aldi's and the other has Trader Joe's. So while they aren't technically the same company they are effectively modeled after Aldi's Europe (similar to what Wal-Mart does here they have fixed-price contracts with producers to keep costs low and will vary the product mix based on what they can get for the best price).

                  Whole Foods has deeper and wider product offerings. Although WF is not my primary food source I'll shop there more often than I'll hit Aldi's. Aside from proximity issues Aldi's (at least the ones in my area) are downright depressing stores to shop - sort of like cold-war era East Berlin.

                  1. re: ferret

                    ferret, then you should be delighted to learn that the Aldi's nearest me is CLEAN, friendly, well stocked, well organized and provides coupons. While speaking to a manager about an overcharge (one item scanned one to many times,which I was promptly refunded) I commented on the cleanliness and his whole face lit up.

                    Having stopped at an Aldi's closer to one of my customers homes, I've seen quite a different Aldi store ie: smelly, dirty and unorganized. I walked in and walked out in seconds.

                    No one enjoys shopping in a poorly managed store but it is NOT inherent in all locations.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      The only thing I can think of more depressing than returning to either of the Aldi's near me is driving out of my way to find a less-depressing Aldi's. As I said, I have never regarded Whole Foods as my main grocer (I have two mega-chain groceries on my way home that I rely on more for regular shopping). I'll go to Whole Foods for cheeses, sometimes wine and the occasional odd & end. My financial outlook needs to worsen well beyond where it is now to contemplate a return trip to Aldi's.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Interesting ferret. My financial outlook hasn't changed at all (yet) but I like saving money where I can. I won't pay $3.00 for a dozen eggs when Aldi's sells them for .99. While I'm there, I'm going to nab a few basics for my travel bargain. But I appreciate your perspective.

                        1. re: HillJ

                          I don't see a real reason to go out of my way to save less than a buck on eggs. My time has more value than that. I don't recall ever paying $3 a dozen, possibly more than $2 but that really doesn't justify my visit to Aldi's. Add to that a far narrower range of products and it just ends up being a concession. I tend to focus my shopping on what's on sale at my larger grocers (Jewel & Dominick's in Chicago) and get specialty items at Costco and Trader Joe's when I happen by. Whole Foods happens to be at my offramp on the way home and I will occasionally get some specialty items. To reiterate, my time is worth more than a few dollars savings. I appreciate saving money but I can't say I'm wasting a lot by not visiting Aldi's.

                          1. re: ferret

                            Last week a dozen eggs were 3.60 at A&P in NJ. Even if I'm there shopping, I won't buy eggs at that price. As I said up thread I shop everywhere depending on the bargains that week and that includes farmers markets. I work two jobs, have 4 kids (2 still under my roof) and a husband who pitches in when he's not out of town but I think the discussion of this thread touches on tradeoffs during these uncertain economic times. Everyone feels their time is valuable but perhaps we just differ on how that time is spent shopping for food. I'm cool w/that.

              2. I'm in Massachusetts. There's an Aldi's about a one hour drive from me. Is it worth the drive?

                4 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  No. It is designed as a small-scale, budget-driven, grocery. Useful as another option that is on your way home from work, but not as a trip you must put effort to. Fortunately for your sense of curiosity, they seem to be popping up like mushrooms everywhere this summer/fall. They'll get to your doorstep yet.

                  1. re: thinks too much

                    Thanks very much for your response. I'll see it when I see it, I guess. We have very good shopping options very near where I live, thankfully.

                  2. re: Gio

                    My family always thought that a half hour drive was worth it to stock up at Aldi's. We never bought anything fresh there. We would stock up on staples and flats of canned goods. Basically, we bought nothing perishable there, except maybe milk and eggs.

                    1. re: Gio

                      Absolutely not worth an hour's drive. I pass 2 regularly (and a third semi-regularly) and, even then, refuse to stop.

                      It's fine if you want weird-brand non-perishable items. If you have a recipe you're trying to follow or you want to eat anything that has a short shelf life, it's impossible to shop there. My impression from my one recent visit where I showed up with a shopping list for some COTM recipe and after wandering the store for about 10 minutes and found nothing on the list, then walked hurriedly out the way I came in, waiting for someone else to come "in" and activate the automatic entrance door so I could go out (which is what I did instead of what I really wanted to do, which is to run, screaming, from the building): if you want, say, catsup, you have the "choice" of one (weird off-brand) brand, which they carry in exactly one size.

                      I find their stores thoroughly depressing. Equal in atmosphere to a Dollar store.

                      I suppose if you're on a budget and your only other option is a Whole Foods, then, Aldi is the way to go, but in my experience, Aldi's are in a different part of town than Whole Foods (or even Trader Joe's) are and if an Aldi's is convenient to you, then Whole Foods wouldn't be and vice versa.

                      I find it hard to believe that anyone's only options for grocery stores are Aldi's or Whole Foods. Surely there are some "in between" stores. In the Twin Cities, at the "more affordable" end of the spectrum (that I can name off the top of my head), we have Cub, Rainbow, Festival, SuperValu, SuperTarget, some one-off indie grocery stores, co-ops, ethnic markets, and farmers markets. We also apparently have a Costco, but I don't know where it is. I'd stop at any of those, or even Sam's Club, before I'd stop at Aldi's. On the more expensive end of the scale we have Lunds/Byerlys and a lot of specialty markets. I stop at any of those before I stop at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's I only go to when I'm dragged and someone else is driving/parking (no TJ's in my universe are accessible by anything but car). Aldi's I won't go to even if dragged. Seriously, I'd sit in the car(actually, no I wouldn't, they aren't in the parts of town where I'd like to wait alone in the car for an extended period of time), or, more likely, say, "Hey, drop me off at this neat-o ethnic market 2-3-4 blocks away so I can browse it while you shop at Aldi's."

                      Finally, if my concern is the economy, I'd much rather support a local business at either the budget or premium end of the spectrum, than Aldi's or Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.


                    2. I love Aldi. There are new ones popping up all over so the experience is brighter and cleaner than our old one provided. (Not that I cared all that much about that, but the new ones are nice.)

                      There are certain things I don't buy there like mayo and cola, I want my Hellman's and Coke.

                      But for many things like
                      frozen vegetables, especially the thin green beans,
                      flour, sugar, baking soda, chocolate chips,
                      eggs, milk, Happy Farms or whatever it is sharp cheddar, - recently I got 2 small logs of goat cheese that were about to go out of code for .69 each.
                      ww sandwich bread, chips, soft tortillas,
                      chocolate bars,
                      bagged heads of romaine, various produce items, depending,
                      canned beans, pb&j
                      ziploc-type bags
                      we can't beat it.

                      I can send one of the kids to the store with a bit of cash and they can come back with everything I requested plus plenty of snack foods for themselves.

                      One disappointment for me was the plain yogurt. I usually buy Stonyfield Farms Organic Plain and strain it. Tried the Aldi version and it just didn't let go of its liquid so the texture didn't improve. I'll finish the container I have but probably won't buy it again.

                      That reminds me, I also buy canned grapefruit segments there. I strain the juice into a glass to drink it and use the fruit on yogurt or in salads. EASY.

                      Love Aldi.

                      1. After opening my own pitiful 401k statement I also made an Aldi trip to see if it is worth adding to my rotation. When I was growing up in a depressed old suburb of Chicago in the 80s we had an Aldi that was positively rank, so I have had to get over my old bias to look at it with fresh eyes.

                        I bought quite a few items such as Cheerio type cereal, canned tomatoes, cheese, milk, some produce, frozen wings, etc.

                        My take: while the quality is fine, the prices were not much better than what I can find on sale or at Costco. Milk in my area is almost always on sale cheaper at one of the bigger stores. Canned tomatoes can be had at the same price if you buy store brand, such as Target's Market Pantry.

                        I feel that if you live in an area of very limited options, Aldi is probably a great bargain, but for me it's out of the way to make a few purchases (since they only carry about 1200 products) when I can get the same deals on my normal routine. Everything we bought though was high quality, I would not have an issue recommending them based onthe product.

                        1. I love me some Whole Foods. That was back in the day. Then I moved to a town which didn't have one, so I rocked Trader Joe's. Hard. Now, I've got both WF and TJ's. Having returned to WF, I nearly shrieked when I saw the price sticker. $3.99 for a can of chili?!? Are you kidding me?

                          Food prices have risen everywhere, but WF's prices have shot into the stratosphere. Adieu, WF, adieu! Nice knowin ya.

                          1. Holler.
                            My two cents: In my town in CT we have 2 Whole Foods (one used to be a Wild Oates, which I miss), a Trader Joes and an Aldi's is being built. I've been to all of them. Trader Joes ROCKS and is number 1 in my book. Whole Foods is great but I agree that I don't know any "common" folk who can afford to shop there. I might get Bell and Evans chicken tenders in their frozen section or a Pie Guy pie every now and then but it's always shockingly expensive.
                            I love TJ's because you can actually go in there with a list and find what you need nearly every time. You could technically do your weekly shopping there and be satisfied from wallet to belly.
                            There is already an Aldi's nearby (that I've visited before the one in my town is complete) and I was kind of freaked out by it. I bought a couple of things there that were fine: chocolate bars (one of which was amazing), some cereal and some salty chip-like snacks. I would like to go back and be less hesitant to buy stuff that looks like other familiar brand names, but isn't. I would say that you definitely can't rely on anything being in stock on a regular basis.
                            A friend found me a box of frozen glazed donuts there that were just like some I remember as a kid, which were awesome. On the flip side, the same friend bought me a non-refrigerated pouch of some Swiss Hashbrowns which I did try to cook but the smell of them (was it rancid or was it swiss?) so grossed me out that I tossed the entire pan before I could dare myself to try it.

                            One more thing I'd like to add--did you notice that the people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods, act like their arms are broken and they can't bag any of their groceries? What's up with that? I guess being able to afford food that expensive translates to "I'm not bagging that up, the cashier should do it." It's annoying.

                            1. It's odd, but I'm the exact opposite. Aldi's isn't an option, it's 45 minutes away in a direction I rarely travel. So for me it's a choice b/t Whole Foods and Foodlion. I never even gave it a second though, shopped almost exclusively at FL except for occasional WF jaunts to buy bulk herb, spices, and flour. The one day I needed apples and happened to be at WF - I couldn't believe it, but a 3-lb bag of organic apples at WF regular price was cheaper than a bag of conventional apples at FL. So I started exploring more. FL in my neighborhood is still cheaper for some things, especially ingredients for Latin American cooking, but for some produce items WF is cheaper and for others the quality is good enough to make up for the few cents difference.

                              1. In my area of NJ, we have more grocery/market choices than you could possibly need but no one sells a dozen eggs for .99 every week. Thank you, Aldi's.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Can't recall the last time I shopped at Aldi's but I did buy extra-large eggs for .99 at my local produce store last week.

                                  1. re: ferret

                                    ah but can you buy them every week for .99 or w/out a coupon? I can't which is why Aldi's stays on my go to list!

                                      1. re: ferret

                                        Lucky you ferret. Our household goes through 4-5 dozen eggs a week for breakfast, baking, etc. At .99/doz each and every day, I'm sticking with Aldi's.

                                        1. re: ferret

                                          Another case in point. Fresh Florida pink grapefruits are selling for 1.00 a piece at every market except Aldi's where I just purchased 5 FL pink grapefruits for $2.59. Just juiced one for my late snack, delicious!