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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.

http://business.time.com/2013/07/29/h...

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  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!

                                  2. You will think me a food snob -- maybe I am! I never, ever shop at Aldi! The reason may sound a bit silly. I have a girlfriend who is not a foodie at all, and will buy anything, no questions asked, as long as it is cheap! She raves and raves about Aldi, so I have determined in my little mind that is inferior (like her cooking). I have gone in and done a "walkabout" several times, and came out empty handed, unimpressed. Now I do love a good bargain, but not at the expense of quality.

                                    I must say that I am a little surprised that a lot of you CHOWers don't seem more concerned about additives in meats and other foods, GMOs, and high quality. How much do you CHOWies care about these things? I am so concerned about high quality steaks, for instance, that I shop at a locally owned "high end" supermarket which sells Canadian beef! Don't scoff -- this beef is the most tender, the most marbled, and flavorful beef I've eaten, other than USDA Prime grade. Far better than any American USDA Choice beef.

                                    After reading all of these comments, I will give Aldi another try, and will try very hard not to go with an "attitude"!

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: Jessiet

                                      and remember that house-label items that are manufactured in Europe are made to European regulations regarding GMOs and additives.

                                      1. re: Jessiet

                                        I guess the major reason why I like Aldi is for the reason I like other markets, I go for the deals and items that they offer that appeal to me and I don't buy the items that don't. I can't shop for everything I want for myself or my family anywhere-I wind up shopping everywhere. And, over time I've learned what items at each stop are keepers in my cart.

                                        So, I'm always surprised when folks like yourself focus on an all or nothing scenario. The shopping options are endless where I live. I have the luxury of choice-and I make choices.

                                        1. re: HillJ

                                          eta: I understand not all Aldi stores are clean, in good neighborhoods, have helpful crews and that can certainly contribute to a lousy shopping experience. Where we are the Aldi store is about three years old now and the customers shopping there began slowly and has grown with every year. I use to take my time heading over for advertised specials I wanted and now I know I better get there within three days of the special or it could be gone.

                                        2. re: Jessiet

                                          Let's see, things I have bought or seen in the past few months:

                                          - organic butter $2.79
                                          - Kerrygold cheese $3.29
                                          - German spaetzle $2.99
                                          - avocados for 75 cents
                                          - pineapples for a dollar (Dole, same as what you get anywhere)
                                          - condensed milk $1.19
                                          - excellent cottage cheese and sour cream $2.29, $1.49

                                          - thick cut bacon $5.99 (this was actually an expensive item for them. But I'd bet anything the same stuff was being sold elsewhere for twice as much)

                                          Their meats tend not to be great and are pretty much all injected with some sort of salt solution, and aren't actually that much cheaper than regular market.

                                          I'm not sure why we might scoff at Canadian beef?

                                          1. re: Jessiet

                                            Meat is not the only item they sell at Aldi's. I get that there are people who want to buy Whole Foods, organic meat, berries, dairy... although there are organic items at Aldi's as well.
                                            But what about Potatoes, Squash, Pomegranates, Cucumbers, pineapple? All 1/4 price of other supermarkets and all produce that does not need to be organic and all grown in the U.S.A.
                                            All I can say is - lucky for our economy that there are people who will pay quadruple for items - it keeps our economy going :-)

                                            1. re: acssss

                                              Potatoes are absolutely on the dirty dozen list! So are hothouse cucumbers.

                                          2. Aldi is one of my favorite grocery stores. It is very slim pickings in the town I live in with only a Super Walmart, Food Lion, Aldi and Save a Lot. I buy majority of my groceries from Aldi with some fillers from Walmart. Food Lion is the most expensive of the bunch and the quality isn't any better then what I can get at Aldi's.

                                            1. I only shop at Aldi's maybe once a month, because I have a variety of shopping alternatives. Most of my groceries are purchased at the Ft. Belvoir commissary, for supplemental shopping, I have Costco, Bestway, TJs, Aldi's-I'm lucky that I have so many choices.

                                              1. We moved a couple years ago to a location where there isn't an Aldi anywhere close, and I miss it terribly. I saved at least $100 a month shopping there, and although some items were hit and miss, some are surprisingly very good. They have pretty good German candies and chocolates, for example. Most of all I miss the dairy prices - for awhile they were selling a gallon of milk for $1.79! And I think the heavy cream was about a third of the price of publix.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: slopfrog

                                                  that's my issue -- I like them, but the closest one is about 20 miles away -- so I only go when I happen to be in that part of town.

                                                2. There is an Aldi's in my town but I don't shop there for no real reason aside from that I have another grocery store just two blocks from my house.

                                                  My extended family loves Aldi's for its produce.

                                                  1. has anyone tried their K-Cups yet? Not an amazing price but not horrible either.

                                                    1. Does anyone happen to know how often they carry Fage yogurt? I went to my local Aldi for the first time about a month ago and was so excited to see Fage yogurt however I went back this past Sunday and, alas, none was to be found. Is this a once in a blue moon item or is it possible that I just hit them on a bad day?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                        1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                                                          They've been carrying the small tub Fage for some time but recently I've noticed they are carrying the individual (with flavors) sizes too. (NJ).

                                                          More times than not I see it on sale. Usually $3.49 for the tub and .99 for the individual containers.

                                                          1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                                                            Thanks to you both! I think I must have hit them up on the wrong day. That makes me feel better.

                                                            1. re: Erika RollerGirl

                                                              I have found it to be very hit and miss for my local stores. Maybe someone is snatching them up before I get there every time.

                                                          2. Moved to the Midwest in 2000 and avoided Aldi for ~5 years because they had no "name brands".

                                                            Have since become a huge fan.

                                                            My two cents is to shop carefully and often.
                                                            They often have GREAT deals, especially dairy/produce.

                                                            Most stuff is cheap enough that you can buy once and if it's "meh" just pass it up next time.

                                                              1. Shop there once every couple of weeks. I get paper products, eggs and milk ($1.89!!) there all the time. I get a lot of things there as well, but some special things don't last too long.

                                                                Last year I bought these really yummy gouda cheese crackers on clearance for 49 cents a bag. They were great. I went back and they were gone. This year they had them again (must be a holiday thing) and I loaded up. Last I looked they were on clearance again (and I bought more).

                                                                1. Love Aldi! I tend to gravitate toward their "Specialy Selected" brand. I can always find something neat/interesting for cheaper than my normal grocery store.

                                                                  1. I shop at Aldi's every week and love their deals.
                                                                    I buy almond milk there for $3 less than my local supermarket. A few weeks ago, I bought pomegranates for $0.59 each (local supermarket has them for $3 each). For thanksgiving, I bought butternut squash for $0.69 each (local supermarket has them for $0.69/pound = $4 each) and a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $1.50!!!
                                                                    Who wouldn't shop there?

                                                                    1. I saw the Slate article and noticed that they offered virtually no actual reasons to like the store, other than price. I went to Aldi's all the time as a kid, because my mom is all about 39-cent bread. If you do all your shopping at Safeway or Wal-Mart, I guess it's a good alternative.

                                                                      (EDIT: That sounds totally catty, and I don't mean it to. Right now I live in a place with multiple year-round farmers' markets, lots of specialty grocery stores, etc. etc. I would rather buy cheap local produce, and it's easy to. But if I lived back where I used to live I would definitely be looking into the spaetzle and other interesting Aldi items. Still probably avoiding some of the suspiciously cheap things, though!)

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: wintersweet

                                                                        Where did you grow up where your mother shopped at Aldi (there is no possesive) as a kid?

                                                                        I first encountered Aldi in about 2007. It is my understanding that the Aldi of many years ago in the U.S. is nothing like the Aldi that was reintroduced not much more than a decade ago.

                                                                        It has been my experience that Aldi is even less expensive than Walmart and even more so than Safeway on comparable items. Aldi also carries many European items not carried by the tyical American grocery store. It appears you missed that. I don't know why Slate also apparently missed that about Aldi. It is possible neither you or Slate has shopped at Aldi recently.

                                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                                          Aldi had a presence in the US in the early 80s. Don't remember if it was North or South, just remember making provisioning trips for the boat to Aldi -- pretty grim and grungy, IIRC -- nothing like the plain-but-pleasant stores of today.

                                                                          Don't remember why they shut down their US operations, either.

                                                                          I'm actually headed to the part of town where the Aldi is today. Yay.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            Aldi in the U.S. has always been Aldi South. What I find interesting about the Slate article is about bagging. In Minnesota, the registers have two moving belts after the cashier has rung up the items. The customer bags their own groceries, either paper or plastic, and it seems the customer will use fewer bags than wheb the cashier bags everything.

                                                                            About 30+ years ago, SuperValu started a "warehouse" store concept in the Twin Cities where the customer bagged their own groceries. The warehouse thing sort of left, but the customer bagging has mostly remained.

                                                                          2. re: John E.

                                                                            The first Aldi I encountered was one in Moberly, Missouri, in the late 70's, when I was a teen. Mom shopped there often because it was so f'in cheap. Yes indeed, Aldi has improved and brightened their shopping experience since those bad ol' days.

                                                                            1. re: Christine

                                                                              Aldi has popped up in Rhode Island over the past few years, one not too far from where I live. I do shop their weekly and buy their own store brands, and through trial and error I found what I like and buy repeatedly - such as their dairy products (butter, milk, cream) and their 'snack foods'. Other items I have tried - cereal, bakery items, juices, produce - and was very disappointed, though friends of mine swear by these products as well. I have to say the stores are always very clean and well-stocked in my area, and the service is attentive and friendly.

                                                                            2. re: John E.

                                                                              My mother used to shop at Aldi in Des Moines, Iowa in the late-1970's/early-1980's. A lot of the canned and private label commodity-type products are similar and most of the store is currently stocked much the same way as it was in the past. The key differences would be the expansion of frozen and cold items, fresh produce, and meat. The new stores are much bigger/brighter than the older ones. However, I live in a college town of 50K residents that has an older facility that is much like the one my mom shopped at when I was a child.

                                                                              1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                                                I remember visiting my first US Aldi's when I was in high school, which made in the mid 80s. That particular store has improved greatly since then.

                                                                          3. Not at present... but I just saw that they're opening a store near our apartment, so I'll give it a try. The last time I went into an Aldis was more than twenty years ago when they opened up a few stores in Australia... my mother was NOT impressed by the no-service no-grocery-carts etc. policy, or by their range of products so we never went back.

                                                                            One thing - as a disabled person, the electric grocery carts are a lifesaver (and a prime reason I shop at Publix - they're by far the most willing to assist you with your shopping)... I had to shop without one today and it wasn't much fun. I assume that Aldis does NOT have them?

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Kajikit

                                                                              Aldi does not have electric carts for the disabled. Interestingly enough, when Aldi was first coming to the Twin Cities, they bought some newspaper advertising with their logo saying they were coming to the Twin Cities. My then 75 year old disabled mother was with me in my car when she told me she needed a restroom. I saw an Aldi store and I brought her in to use the facilities. If I had to judge a store based on the restrooms alone, Aldi would be at the top of my list. I did not even know it was a grocery store.

                                                                            2. This past Saturday, I happened to be close to the Aldi --

                                                                              Two 4-ounce logs of goat cheese, a 5-ounce block of Five-County cheese (Red Leicester, Cheshire, Cheddar, Derby, and Double Gloucester -- imported from England), a 16-ounce bag of roasted pistachios (in the shell), and an 8-ounce box of Belgian chocolates filled with hazelnut ganache.

                                                                              Total cost? Just a lone Jackson, WITH CHANGE LEFT OVER.

                                                                              Less than $20 for all that? I'm there.

                                                                              1. I love Aldi and shop there a lot. One opened near me a couple years ago and it is new and clean. I like it for three reasons: 1) I save a significant amount of money on our monthly food bill; 2) it is a relatively compact store, so I don't waste time flying around aisle after aisle trying to find something and 3) they carry some European foods that are hard to find here and at very good prices. They do carry some name brands. I can't do all my shopping here (wish they would carry seltzer water), but I do most of it.