I recently made my first trip to the brand new ALDI Grocery Store in my town. I had big expectations – moms have been raving about ALDI on mommysavers for years. My first impression didn't generate fireworks – in fact, I was a little disappointed. The store was much smaller than I expected, dimly lit, and product selection was pretty shallow (ALDI only stocks about 1,400 products compared to over 25,000 of the typically grocery store). The products were about as exciting as the black and white generics of years ago. They didn't rely upon the regular supermarket tricks such as mood music and great smells to get shoppers to linger.
Upon deeper inspection, I began to see why moms get so excited about it. Atmosphere aside, ALDI is a bargain hunter's paradise. You can save money — serious money, if you shop there regularly. They even stock “Special Purchase” items — good only while supplies last — that appeal to the shopper that likes the element of surprise.
For those of you not familiar, ALDI is a discount grocery chain that started its US operations in 1976. Originating in Germany, it now operates in 18 countries around the world. It now has over 850 stores in the US and is the 24th largest grocer in terms of gross sales – which is quite an accomplishment considering its small size. By limiting its product selection and working with manufacturers to secure the lowest prices on its own brand, it can pass the savings along to you.
Here's what you need to know before you go: ALDI only accepts cash or debit cards. Leave your checks and credit cards at home. The carts are locked up outside the store, and you must “rent” one by depositing a quarter when you take it. They do provide grocery bags, but you must pay for them (paper bags are 5 cents and plastic bags are 10 cents each). They also do not accept manufacturers' coupons.
Products I found to be much less at ALDI than at traditional grocery store prices were their loaves of bread, their canned veggies and their produce. The bargain I was especially excited about was a Dole pineapple for $1.59. I had recently seen them at another grocery store for over $4, so this was a steal. Plus, it tasted great!
Most of their prices are so low you can afford to take a chance on taste. They even offer a double money-back guarantee on their products which states they will replace the product in addition to refunding your money if you don't like it. My kids say their Moo-Moo yogurt is just as good as Trix (maybe even better, according to my 7-year-old). The only ALDI Food product I've tried that I didn't care for was their diet cola – but I am fiercely brand loyal in that category.
Let's let the facts speak for themselves. A price comparison of things the average mom would commonly buy shows that ALDI is on average 18% less than walmart and 22% less than a local grocery chain (Cub Foods). I compared ALDI's prices with the store-brand counterparts (or lowest cost alternative) at the other two stores. Every single product (with the exception of canned tuna) was priced lower at Aldi.
|Gallon skim milk||$3.24||$3.59||$3.87|
|Bananas, per pound||$.33||$.53||$.48|
|eggs, dozen medium||$.93||$1.43||$.98|
|Cream of mushroom soup||$.49||$.80*||$.68|
|Flour, 5 lb.||$1.15||$1.49||$1.32|
*Indicates sale price. Price research done September 2007
The margins here may not seem big, but consider this. If you're accustomed to spending $500 per month on groceries, an overall savings of 23% (over Walmart) would add up to $1,380 per year. A savings of 26% (over Cub Foods) would amount to $1,560 per year.