Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Conquer Your First Trip to ALDI

How to Conquer Your First Trip to ALDI:

Hello Again! 
I recently stumbled across a new place that I would like to share with everyone out there!  Sometimes I go to a new place or use a new product and am so pleased that I just HAVE to share over and over again.
Since beginning the Dave Ramsey baby-steps to financial peace, we have been looking for new ways to cut back on our expenses.  Each week our mail box is bombarded by surrounding grocery store ads and many times we have looked through the ALDI add and were amazed by the prices, but had never taken the time to actually go to the store and check it out. 
I sure do love me some Super Target, but I do NOT love the prices when I get to the check-out.  That being said, we usually buy our groceries from Wal-Mart and try to make it to the farmer's market by our house for most of our produce (we are not crazy about the Wal-Mart produce).
Like I have said before, I am in a constant battle between eating healthy and saving money, and this is why I thought ALDI would not work for me.  I thought the prices would be great but the choices for someone who is health conscious would be poor or limited.  HOWEVER.... I was wrong! 
The first weekend that we began using our budget and started using the cash envelopes method we needed to go grocery shopping.  We had been working 6-7 days a week and had absolutely NOTHING in our fridge other than 1 beer and some condiments.  We needed to buy ALL of our normal items to completely stock out fridge and pantry for the next two weeks.  Not only did we need enough for 14 dinners for two, but also enough for 28 breakfasts, 28 lunches, morning snacks, and afternoon snacks because we both eat 5 times a day. 
Our grocery budget for the entire month was set at $300. Normally when we are completely empty and in need of everything we spend $250-$300 restocking on just one trip.  So.... I knew we would have to do something different.  That is when I decided we needed to check out those awesome prices at ALDI.
My husband was at work so I had to try and conquer ALDI alone.  I looked up the nearest location and headed out, not really knowing what to expect but hoping I would be pleasantly surprised. 
What I discovered is the sole purpose for this post.  I found a store that is not only affordable but a store that does things differently so that it can help save you money!  How cool is that?
Since they do things differently than most grocery stores, there are some things to know before taking the first trip to ALDI (I wish someone would have told me before I went). I was not prepared when I took my first trip to ALDI so I just had to learn along the way, but the next time I went I was much more prepared and things went a lot smoother.  So, I hope these tips will help!
  • You need to bring your own shopping sacks with you or buy them while you are there.  They do not supply them for you.

I did not know this until I was checking out with my cart full of groceries (man was I confused when I saw NO plastic bags anywhere in the check-out lines). Maybe some of you already do this?

I know people have turned to those fabric sacks that you use over and over again to help save the environment (which I think is great). Though I had thought about getting some reusable sacks in the past, I had never actually done it.  I was confused so I told the checker that it was my fist time to ALDI and he was more than happy to help me with the process.

They DO have sacs you can buy if you forget to bring yours or prefer to use disposable bags.  Since that was my only option, I purchased 10 brown paper sacs at 6 cents each. 
Yes, that cost me $.60 that day, but looking back I am pretty happy about buying those sacks.  One reason is, I didn't use them all that day even though I had a LOT of groceries.  I think I only used 5 or 6.  The other reason is I have actually reused them each time I've gone to ALDI since.  When I unloaded my groceries after my first trip to ALDI, I folded up all of the sacs and stuck them in my car for the next trip. 
Now, I never have to remember to grab my sacks and I only had to spend 60 cents total on them all. Though I will probably have to replace them later on, I can tell they will serve their purpose for many many trips to ALDI before that is necessary. :)
ALDI is passionate about 2 things:  the environment and saving their customers money.  Encouraging their customers to bring their own sacks has help them achieve both of their goals.  When I purchased my sacks at ALDI I was the only person in the check-out lines who did not have reusable sacks already (I must have been the only first-timer).
My handy brown ALDI sacks

  • Your local ALDI store will NOT be in the nicest or fanciest location

The ALDI store will not be located in some fancy high-dollar shopping center like a Target or Whole Foods.  Those spots are extremely expensive for the retailers which only causes them to charge higher prices for their merchandise. This did not bother me at all because the ALDI I went to was right by a few thrift stores I like to go to sometimes.  It wasn't a scary part of town  or anything like that, it just wasn't what you normally see when you walk into your typical grocery store. 
Located by a few older retail chains, a few restaurants, and some second-hand stores.

The view from my car.
  • You must bring a quarter if you want to use a shopping cart

Trust me, it is not what you think.  You do not have to pay $0.25 to use a cart (so they can sneakily take money from everyone for things that should be free).  In fact, ALDI has created a cart system that helps them cut back on operating expenses and in return saves their customers money.  Brilliant! They do not hire people to manage the shopping carts.  Instead, the customers help keep the carts where they need to be using their creative system.   
You bring a quarter and head over to the shopping carts that are located in front of the store.  The carts are outside only so do not go inside looking for all the carts like I did.  You will not find them.

All of the carts are linked together by a lock system.  When you insert a quarter into one of the slots, it allows you to take the cart.  Once you are finished shopping, you place your cart back with the others and lock it to the cart in front of it.  When you lock the two together your quarter will pop out for you to keep.  I think it is so awesome!  Don't you???
  • ALDI stores are pretty small, but have a lot to offer!

When I first walked in to ALDI I was a little shocked at the size of the store. The one I went to was really no bigger than a Dollar Tree or Dollar General Store.  I had a huge list of items to get and thought there was no way they would have all of the things I needed.  However, I was wrong!
ALDI has all the "sections" of a normal grocery store, only condensed.  You are not going to find 1943989 flavors of yogurt from 100 different brands or 9876899 flavors of ice cream to choose from.  Each item they have only comes in 1 or 2 different varieties/brands.  This makes the store MUCH smaller, which I found SOOO relieving.  You can go on every aisle of the store and pick up everything you need in 30 minutes or less. What a relief from the 2 hour long trips to Wal-Mart!
They even have an isle or two of non-grocery items where I was able to pick up some soap and disposable razors (for great prices!).  Didn't even have to make a second stop on the way home :)
My worry that they would not have healthy items was completely unnecessary. Do they have a lot of really cheap boxed convenience foods?  Yes.  Is that all they are about?  NO.  My husband and I have pretty high standards (compared to most) for the food items we buy, and I had no problems finding all the items that we regularly eat.  They also have a LOT of organic options!  The best part is that the same items are MUCH cheaper at ALDI than even Wal-Mart.  Wow!  Who knew? 
I was blown away by the produce prices listed on my mailing flier and I was even more blown away by the produce section when I arrived at ALDI.  I was not impressed by the vast size or quantity, but by the quality of the selections and the PRICES! I was able to get better quality produce than I had been getting AND a larger quantity for a LOWER price.  I guess you can have your cake and eat it too! 
Just to note:  My husband HATES the produce selection at Wal-Mart.  We have went to Wal-Mart a few times in the past and left with NO produce because everything available was that bad (black spots on the fruits, bugs in the potato bins, brown wilted veggies, etc.). When he saw all of the produce I brought home from ALDI, he was very impressed.  When I told him what the total bill was for everything he couldn't believe it!  Needless to say, we were both super happy with our new grocery store find!
  • You have to pack up your own groceries at check-out:

This is also a way that ALDI cuts back on costs.  At check-out they quickly put all of your items that are scanned into an empty shopping cart that is waiting at the end of the line (they do not bag groceries).  After you pay, they take your empty cart to use for the next customer and you take the new filled cart to the bagging area.  So basically, all of your items are just transferred to a new cart by the checker. 

The bagging area is a very long counter where you can place all your items purchased on top and bag them as you wish.  The picture below was taken on a Saturday afternoon.  I had all the space I needed to bag my items and I didn't have to wait in a long line to check-out..... on a SATURDAY people!  That is crazy awesome!
The process is so unique and SO FAST that I couldn't believe that I didn't have to stand in a horridly long line to pay for my cheap groceries! Yes, you have to bag your own groceries, but in the end it really saved me time being able to put everything in bags myself.  I put all my meat in one, produce in one, dairy in one, etc., and when I got home I had only a limited number of bags, which made unloading easier, and I had all the items grouped together for easy put-away. 

  • ALDI is super cheap, super efficient, and super clean!

I think I was subconsciously thinking that ALDI would be a dirty, smelly, disorganized place to shop, where you could save a few bucks and it may or may not be worth the money you saved.  (We've all been to those really bad Wal-Mart stores, some are nice and clean and others are NOT.)
To say the least, I was SOOO wrong!  I was pleasantly surprised by so many things at ALDI that I now go there EVERY time I need groceries.  When you walk in ALDI it sort of looks like a small version of a SAM's Club store.  The set up is very basic with no bells and whistles, like brand-placement set-ups for every holiday on every aisle cap. 

  • The simple truth about ALDI

So here is the final break-down: 
That first day, I spent only $142.48 to completely fill our fridge and pantry and to feed us for 2 weeks, no problem. 
The next trip I made, I spent only $74.21 to restock us again for another 2 weeks.
If you add that all up, I only spent a total of $216.69 to feed 2 people for and entire month!  That amount made about 60 breakfasts, 60 lunches, 30 dinners for two, and 120 snacks.... all healthy!!!

Here are some of the things I bought:
  • Ground Turkey
  • Chicken tenderloins
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Tuna
  • Filet Mignon wrapped with Bacon
  • Baby Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Bell Peppers
  • Poblano Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Green Beans
  • Spring Mix
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Egg whites
  • String Cheese
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Jif Natural Peanut Butter To-Go
  • Corn tortillas
  • Black Beans
  • Pita Chips
  • English Muffins
  • Bread
  • Hummus
  • 100 Calories Packs of Guacamole
  • Steam-able Veggies Packs
  • Brown Rice
  • Salsa
  • Chicken Broth
  • Gnocchi
  • Organic Spaghetti Sauce
  • Wine
  • Razors
  • Tampons
  • Soap
  • Paper Bags
I think that about wraps is up on my ALDI rant.  :)  I am happy to say that we went from a $300 grocery budget a month (and thought there was no way we could make it work) to a $250 budget with some leftover for toiletry items like TP and shampoo/conditioner when we needed it.  And, the best part is we really didn't have to sacrifice anything we like!  We only had to make a venue change for our grocery shopping. 
This change has helped us stay on our path to financial peace and has even helped up get there sooner! 
 What do you think of ALDI?  Do you have any tips to share with us to cut our budget in other areas?   

No comments:

Post a Comment