Saturday, October 1, 2011

Transitional Items: Aldi

Many of you are aware that I went through an employment change a few months ago.  While it was a positive change and a good step for our family, it also meant that I went without a paycheck for about a month and a half.

Now, before I begin, let me say that I consider myself very blessed that it was only for a month and a half--I know far too many people that have had much longer times without employment.  I'm not hanging my head or wearing what my father lovingly called the "martyr button" in this post.

I'm simply stating the facts here, folks.  

Just the facts and nothing but the facts.  

During that time, my lerve and I took a long look at our finances.  It was going to be tight, and it was going to be lean, but we were determined to make it happen.  One of the first steps we took was to leave our beloved grocery stores like Lowe's Foods and Harris Teeter and went back to shopping at Aldi.  

I primarily shop at Lowe's Foods.  I like the atmosphere, I like that they double coupons, and I find it easier to navigate.  There are usually less people and it's in the center of town.  I can also find my K-cups at the Bed, Bath, and Beyond right next door.  However, like every other grocery store, it can get a little pricey.  

I also visit our local Harris Teeter from time to time.  I used to only shop there, but lately I've found it to be out of my price range.  I will hit their coupon days, but as a general rule, I only use it for emergencies or quick pick ups.  

But, I knew that if I wanted to save money on my grocery bill, going to Aldi was going to be my first step.  

If you don't have an Aldi in your hometown, consider it a less cool grocery version of Ikea.  It's very warehouse oriented.  You select your items, you pack up your stuff after purchase, you pay for the bags if you need them (just bring your own), and you're on your merry way.  There aren't a lot of bells and whistles--it's very straightforward and basic.     

You walk in after paying your quarter deposit for a shopping cart and it's essentially 3 aisles.  There are pantry goods, paper products, dairy, frozen foods, produce, and meat as well as a smattering of non-grocery items that are usually seasonal or promotional.  The items are primarily the Aldi brands but you can also find name brands as well.  This past week, for example, I found Twix and M&M ice cream bars in the freezer as well as Minute Maid juice bottles on sale.  You never quite know what name brand items will be on sale, but you can usually count on the Aldi brand stuff to remain consistent.  

You will also notice that many are packaged suspiciously like your store brand foods and products--just with a slightly different label.  The creamer at Aldi is exactly the same as the Lowe's Foods creamer.  I have found that the only things that are a little iffy are the produce--if you arrive soon after a delivery the fruit is fresh, otherwise you need to check it closely.  Our Aldi doesn't have a refrigerated area for their produce--so it sits out market style.  But, our Aldi doesn't offer items that need that refrigerated area either (like leafy greens), so it's not a big deal.  If I need those items, I'll go by another store on my way home.  

Do I love Aldi?  No. 
Do I like that I could get a week's worth of groceries this past week for a family of 4 for $46.00?  Absolutely. 

If you've never shopped at Aldi, take note: 

  • No coupons are accepted. 
  • Bring your own bags or use the empty boxes on the shelves.  You can also purchase bags at the store for a small fee. 
  • You never know what's going to be in there, so plan to make a smaller trip to another grocery store if needed.  This week I didn't like the way the potatoes were packaged--I didn't need a 10 pound bag--so I had to make a detour on my way home to Harris Teeter to pick up a 5 pound bag of potatoes and green onions. 
  • There are no bells nor whistles nor Starbucks inside.  There are groceries and price tags.  
  • There will be very few people on staff available if you need help (which you shouldn't).
  • It's either there or it's not.  If you are brand loyal, prepare to be disappointed.
  • It will be cheaper and the quality (for the most part) is very good.  My kids LOVE their gummy fruit snacks and I can get a box of 12 for $1.39.  It's a great place to stock up on lunch box items and staples.  
  • There will be a wide variety of people shopping at Aldi.  I've seen people who look like they've fallen on rough times and I've seen people drive off in their Lexus.  It's not a poor person's store--it's truly for the thrifty shopper.  
All in all, Aldi truly helped us save on our monthly food budget.  I still plan to visit the store at least once or twice a month to stock up on pantry items.  It's a great way to save!



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