Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Nov 22, 2013 08:16 AM

Do you shop at Aldi's?

We all shop at Trader Joe's (if we have one), but I haven't been into an Aldi's since I was a child, and that's a long time ago. In Northwest Indiana where I grew up, Aldi's had a rather negative image. They were known for low pricing but we didn't even shop there and we were pretty poor. We thought it was kind of dirty and drab with brands we had never heard of.

Of course things are different now and generic and off-beat or small brands are popular, but I'm curious how they have managed to get to the top of this list.

We don't have any Aldi's in our area of New Mexico, but It sounds like they've re-invented themselves and upscaled their image.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The Chain board has many devoted Aldi customers and I am def. one of them.

    Aldi is highly competitive on basic necessities. The stores are cleaner than years ago and also more in tune with consumer. They haven't changed the way you shop (quarter for the cart, no credit cards) but their return policy, price correction policy, brand and no brand labels, non food items and website def. reflect a more in tune business model.

    In Europe, they are rockstars for many, Americans are catching on. And new competitors for the Aldi consumer are popping up too.

    This week I bought eggs, Fage 2%, bag of 4 avocados, ruby red grapefruits, plain goat cheese and sugar. Spent $15.

    4 Replies
    1. re: HillJ

      Wow. That is impressive. You have to pay for the trolley? How creative!

      1. re: sandiasingh

        A quarter to remove the cart, refunded when you replace the cart.

        1. re: sandiasingh

          Paying for taking the cart then getting the money back if you return it means they don't have to have a person walking around the parking lot gathering the carts. Also, carts are less likely to be taken from the parking lot. Another cost saving measure.

      2. You also have to pay for bags (they offer a variety of sizes/materials)--great encouragement for folks to bring their own.

        We try to get to Aldi for their rock-bottom prices on some veggies and things like avocados (as HillJ said) and berries, which are more expensive elsewhere.

        They also have good, obscure-brand dark chocolate 72%, 90%, and in-between which we like.

        27 Replies
        1. re: pinehurst

          pine, have you seen the chocolate library set they are selling for the holiday yet? TJ's price for the pretty case was $9.99; Aldi for the identical chocolates in a less flashy case $3.49. Stocking stuffers. I did a bar by bar comparison with my son (the taster) last night.

            1. re: HillJ

              Our new Aldi is opening mid January, only minutes away from home. Hope they still have the chocolate then.

              1. re: coll

                They have Euro chocolate year round coll but during holiday periods they offer special selections.

                1. re: HillJ

                  OK thanks. At least I know to bring cash, and a quarter for the shopping cart, thanks to this thread. I wonder if that will keep any of the locals away?

                  1. re: coll

                    Funny you should say that because in the three years our local Aldi has been opened we (regulars) all notice a shift in attitude. When the store opened the thought that you needed a quarter, needed to put your own cart back in the rack to have your quarter returned, had to buy or bring your own bags, had to bag yourself and had to bring either cash or a debit card really made some customers bothered. But today, I see most customers handing off a cart to one another, handing off a quarter, helping each other bag (if they need help) and a true frenzy over the deals and money savings.

                    So, moral to the story-customers learn that a good thing is worth a few extra steps.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      Thanks for reminding me about the bags, I do have a bunch in the car, have to remember to bring them in too. Better start a check list!

                      I am sure people will adjust, most I mention it to have NO idea what ALDI even is, so I will enjoy my first few months without the crowds. But I'll warn them about the rules, so they don't have a bad first experience.

                      1. re: coll

                        If you do need extra bags, the mid range plastic bag they sell is super strong and only 10 cents. I actually deliberately buy some for other uses in my house!

                        1. re: Violatp

                          Their insulated bags are also terrific. I've taken food in them to college field hockey & football games and they worked out very well.

                          1. re: Violatp

                            My pantry closet is overflowing, maybe I can sell some to them?

                        2. re: HillJ

                          Whenever I go to Aldi and I am returning my cart and someone is offering me a quarter, I tell them to keep it and give the cart to someone else when they are done shopping.

                          (The first time the kids went with me to Aldi I said "look kids, they're selling shopping carts for only .25ยข!")

                          1. re: John E.

                            That's funny John E. We see a good deal of "keep the cart" in the parking area too.

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Around here, you see so many shopping carts on the side of the road, miles away. I feel bad for the retailers, what a waste.

                              1. re: coll

                                Really? I get peeved when I see carts that I know are going to move across the lot and hit a parked vehicle, so I tend to bring them back to the building to avoid a ding. Who wants that!!

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  It depends on the neighborhood. A few years ago Target tested a cart that had a locking wheel. There was a buried cable surrounding the parking lot. If the cart was taken outside of the parking lot, a wheel locked. Sort of like those invisible fences for dogs. The problem was, the system cost too much to implement. Now they have people scouring the neighborhoods looking for stray carts.

                                  1. re: John E.

                                    Wow, I wasn't even aware of that security measure. Holy cow I can't imagine how that would be cost effective long term. Why is it so difficult to return a cart. The cart caddies are right near your car!!

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      The Target to which I was referring was the victim of theft of the carts. People were stealing them and then abandoning them. I suppose some of them were used to push their merchandise to their home and then abandoned.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        I see, well that's more than unfortunate for both the retailer and the folks who feel it's necessary to take the cart off the premises but that surely doesn't excuse the lazy, thoughtless people who can't return the cart to the area of the lot intended. What can I say, just about everywhere we look and enjoy life there's going to be a wrinkle of some kind.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          Some of the stores in our area send a guy out with a truck to pick them up. I can't imagine taking a cart like that.

                                          1. re: sandiasingh

                                            Wow, I really had no idea that cart stealing was a big big problem.

                                      2. re: HillJ

                                        Many years ago, I heard that carts cost around $500 each, don't know how true that is. It bothers me when I see them sitting far away from where they should be. If they had rental terms, then that would be another thing. But they're not public property.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          Well.I'm not sure that lease agreements would be any cheaper in the long run..because human behavior is unpredictable :)

                                        2. re: HillJ

                                          it's super-common in Europe. They lay the cable as they pave or repave the parking lot.

                                          It's a total pita to get a cart that has been deactivated, but they're usually quick to swap it out for you.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            No kidding. I have never noticed anything like this. Learned something today :)

                                        3. re: John E.

                                          We have several Kroger's here in town that have put that system in.

                                          Price out the cost of a new "bas-cart" as theya re called and you'll know why.

                                          Turn them on thier side and put/make a fire in the cart portion and the side grid makes an awesome grille.

                                          Spend time on the river banks or witht he homeless and you learn all the tricks. :)

                                          1. re: John E.

                                            Plenty of Aldi's in my city.

                                            I cherry pick the goodies.

                                            In the warm months they have a super secret deal for goat cheese whith some US supplier that is very good stuff for a reasonable price.

                                            Frozen items and produce is on par with the big box grocers.

                                            Since Euro based lots of Euro beers, wines, candies and cookies.

                                            It's BYOB (bring your own bag) and no frills, but I don't see it as a lesser retailer as a result, but some do. It's not so happy, fussy, and stocked as TJ's but it has its place.

                                            I'm happy to keep many Aldi products in my fridge and pantry all day long. But, like TJ's, what's there one week may not be there the next.

                                            The Euro made chocolates and cookies they sell do rock tho.

                        3. re: pinehurst

                          Not so much obscure-brand as Aldi's own brands.

                          But really good, European chocolate.

                        4. Most definitely yes, for this and another brand of European dark chocolate. I don't remember the brand name at the moment.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chowdom

                            I've got a bar of Moser Roth 85% (well, it's five little bars in the pack, I think) waiting to be made into a cake.

                            1. re: Violatp

                              Yes that's it, the bars are individually wrapped like the ones pictured below however they look more like traditional chocolate bars than the kit kat shaped choceur bars in the photo. Their dark chocolate mint is surprisingly good as well. Please if you don't mind report back after you make the cake.

                              1. re: chowdom

                                Will do. I'm going to try using the Aldi cocoa powder, too, in the same cake, so fingers crossed!

                                I'm a sucker for these milk chocolate hazelnut bars they stock (at my location anyway) right in the checkout lanes. Only 99 cents and jam packed with whole hazelnuts. Probably a little sweet and bland for people who don't like milk chocolate but I love it! Wish I didn't succumb almost every time I check out, but that's my own problem.

                          2. My long-ago experience with Aldi was like yours, rather dirty and not welcoming. Then, two years ago, a new one opened up practically across the street from me. I thought while it was new was the best time to try it and they hooked me. It's now a regular stop. Their potatoes are always a great price and are good potatoes.

                            To piggyback on the chocolates discussion, I really like their chocolate chips for baking.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hippiechickinsing

                              Agreed on the chocolate chips. If you look at the ingredients list, they're legit. And make great ganache!

                            2. I was not aware that Aldi (no 's) had been operating in the U.S. prior to just a few years ago. Describing Aldi stores as 'dirty and drab' is something that would not occur to me.

                              I find the stores to be clean and welcoming. The employees are all friendly and efficient at what they do. We have been shipping at Aldi since 2007 when their first store arrived in our area. Since that first store, another one opened up about 1-1/2 miles from our house making it even more convenient.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: John E.

                                There's a "fancy" Aldi in Lincoln Park here. It's actually in the same structure as a Trader Joe's (which does nothing to dispel the whole "owned by the same company" thing!

                                It's not one of their best selling locations - rich people are wary!, but I think is probably very welcome to all the students around there. DePaul University is in the neighborhood.

                                Funny about that connection, though - like Trader Joe's, I have absolutely seen items at Aldi that I could swear are their branded versions of a regular supermarket item. Identical other than where the name would go. I think it is something they share in terms of business practice.

                                1. re: Violatp

                                  Aldi and Trader Joe's are owned by the same company.

                                  Aldi is heavily into own-branding (like many European retailers) -- much of what's found at Aldi is their own house brand, often made by the national-brand company.

                                  Aldi in the 80s was pretty grim -- it was pretty much a former supermarket with pallets stacked everywhere -- and they pulled out of the US for a long time.

                                  They've returned with a nice store layout and a little more attention to aesthetics -- but that holds true for their European stores, too.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Not technically. The company did indeed start off as one entity but split into two in the 60's. Aldi North and Aldi South. One of them owns the Trader Joe's chain. It is still in the same family, though!

                                    You're right though; I implied there was no connection whatsoever. That isn't true. And still it is still in the family, it makes sense that they'd have business practices in common.

                                    1. re: Violatp

                                      You are correct, Theo and Karl Albrecht separated their business operations in the early 60s because they disagreed about selling tobacco. I don't know which one was for and which one was against, but that's the reason.

                                      Aldi North (Theo) owns Trader Joe's.

                                      Aldi South (Karl) owns Aldi in the U.S.

                                      1. re: Violatp

                                        I'm well aware of the Aldi North and Aldi South issue -- according to rumour, the two brothers haven't spoken since before they split the company.

                                        The only reason I didn't reference the north/south divide is because I couldn't remember which one was which, and couldn't be bothered to go look it up.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            Nonetheless, the statement "Aldi and Trader Joe's are owned by the same company" is NOT true.

                                            Theo Albrecht died in 2010, so I would guess the brothers haven't spoken to each other since then!