For months now, friends and readers have been telling me that I need to try shopping at ALDI. They say that ALDI has unbeatable prices, and the quality is better now than it ever has been. Finally, I have decided to try it. And I have to say, ALDI, you let me down.
Let me first say that I tried very hard to go into this experience with an open mind.ALDI and I have a history…
I have been to ALDI in years past, and I always felt like their products were of a lesser quality than other grocery stores. I sort of felt like I was in a store of entirely off-brand food. (Yes, some off-brand food is just as good as name-brand, but I don’t believe they’re all equal. Plus, I save enough by couponing to buy the name-brand for cheaper than the off-brand.)
My intention was to shop at ALDI for two weeks or possibly a month depending on how successful I was at finding the items on my list and how much we enjoyed those items. We also purposefully tried a few items that we don’t typically buy, just to get a taste of what ALDI has to offer in things like frozen fruit or frozen pasta.
I shop for deals, but I also thoroughly enjoy the experience of grocery shopping. Although I’m not crazy about always bringing my own bags or bringing a quarter in order to use a grocery cart, I proudly marched myself up to ALDI this week with bags and quarter in hand. Because we had just returned from vacationing over the holidays, my fridge was empty, and it was time to stock up.
Ryan was on board.
My husband, a little skeptical of ALDI, was by my side as we grabbed a cart and walked in. I will say, he loves putting the quarter in and unlocking the cart guard. He’s a kid at heart. We walked in with a long list and high hopes. I’m sure you can see where this is going…
Even though we mostly needed perishable items like dairy and produce, we decided to walk every aisle to check prices and see what ALDI had to offer. We immediately noticed that nuts and other snack items were less expensive with coupons at Bi-Lo or at Sam’s. However, cookies and crackers seemed very reasonably priced. I only buy snack items like that with sales and coupons, but if I needed something last minute, ALDI had good prices.
We walked down to the first produce aisle, and that’s when the train started to derail, there was no lettuce, no kale, no greens of any kind, and barely any fruit. Whole refrigerator shelves were bare except for the signs labelling what was supposed to be there. So the kale, lettuce, and green onions on my list were a no-go.
We did find a cucumber for about $.25 cheaper than Bi-Lo’s normal price and green peppers for about $.50 cheaper per pepper than the Sam’s club price. Baby carrots were also significantly cheaper than the ones we typically buy at Sam’s, but they were also larger and not organic like the ones we typically buy. Because we tend to get more servings out of the Sam’s one, the ALDI price was pretty comparable.
Another item we had planned to get was a tomato. The individual tomatoes were a great price, but very mushy, so we opted for a package. The tops seemed firm and looked good, but we made the mistake of not checking the bottoms. When we arrived home, we realized that one of our tomatoes was completely rotten and moldy on the bottom. Frustrating!
The price we got on eggs was almost exactly the same as what we purchase at Sam’s Club, but milk was about $.30 less expensive. In the past, Ryan has always been convinced that the ALDI milk tastes weird, but he hasn’t complained yet. ALDI brand greek yogurt was about $1.50 cheaper than the Oikos brand that we usually buy at Sam’s Club. I don’t think Ryan likes it quite as much, but it’s quite a bit less expensive.
As we continued through the produce aisles, we also found that onions and potatoes were almost completely out of stock. We were lucky enough to get a few of the last avocados, but they’re rock-hard so they’ll have to sit awhile. We did end up purchasing a few other things throughout the store that we wanted to try.
I found that cheese was more expensive than the deals I get on Kraft cheeses at Bi-Lo, and I found that the meat was all more expensive than it would be on sale at Bi-Lo or at Sam’s. So, we didn’t purchase any cheese or meat on this trip. Randomly, I found a big container of Christmas sprinkles on sale for $1.49, so that was a perk!
Here is a list of the items that were in our cart by the time we hit the checkout line:
- Kale Ravioli (Frozen): $2.99
- Strawberries (Frozen): $3.79
- California Blend Vegetables (Frozen): $.99
- 3 Green Peppers: $1.49
- 16 oz. Roma Tomatoes: $1.69
- 2 Avocados: $.98
- Mango: $.89
- Bananas: $.44 per lb
- Cucumber: $.49
- Red Grapes: $1.99 per lb
- Plain NF Greek Yogurt: $3.49
- Tortelloni: $1.49
- Canned Pumpkin: $.79
- Sprinkles: $1.49
- Popcorn Kernels: $1.69
- Skim Milk: $1.89
- 2 lbs Baby Carrots: $.98
- Flour Tortillas: $1.19
- Yellow Corn Chips: $1.99
- 12 Large Eggs: $1.19
- Total: $33.05
As we went through the checkout line, I asked our cashier if they were supposed to get a produce shipment in soon. 5 of the items on my list were completely sold out, and I wondered if that was normal. The cashier said that ALDI typically has stocked produce, but the past few weeks they haven’t been receiving all of their produce because the warehouse is out of stock.
I was shocked! People who shopped over Christmas and New Year’s certainly would have had to go elsewhere. The cashier went on to say that they didn’t really know when the produce section would be back to normal.
I don’t know about you, but most of my shopping is produce, dairy, and meat. When I go to the grocery store, I always hit produce first and load up my cart, and I like to know that the food I need is going to be there. Now, I understand that every store has times when the tomatoes are over-ripe or they’re out of stock of something, but a whole section? What in the world?
As we left, after getting our quarter back of course, I started looking over my receipt to figure out how many items were cheaper at ALDI than my normal purchase price at Sam’s Club or Bi-Lo. Frozen strawberries, avocados, mango, cucumber, and milk were all slightly less expensive. Green peppers, carrots, and yogurt were at least $.50 cheaper per unit.
Then, I started looking to see which items were more expensive per unit at ALDI than at my other stores. Eggs, corn chips, grapes, bananas, and flour tortillas are all cheaper per unit price at my Sam’s Club. The only difference is that I have to buy them in bulk. However, those are all items that we can buy in bulk because we eat them often. All of the other items in my list were pretty much equal to what I pay for them at Sam’s Club or Bi-Lo.
As we were driving home, my husband said, “Maybe we won’t make it through a month of shopping at ALDI. I mean, think about it, you still have to go to another store now to get lettuce, potatoes, onions, kale, and meat.” As we talked, I thought about the fact that ALDI is important to some of my friends and readers. It helps them save money and enjoy grocery shopping. However, it doesn’t have to be my store.
I told myself outright that I wasn’t going to add ALDI to my shopping routine unless it could substitute for another store. Clearly, a store that doesn’t have its produce in stock isn’t ideal, plus ALDI is about 4 miles out of the way of where I normally shop.
Ultimately, ALDI was not cheaper.
Other things I don’t like about ALDI are that you cannot use Ibotta for rewards and you cannot use coupons. I love coupons! I tend to get most of my packaged aisle items for free or crazy cheap when I use coupons. Most of my toiletries cost less than a dollar with coupons. Bi-Lo also gives me a $5 off coupon every time I shop and runs deals that make buying name-brand items cheaper than ALDI’s off-brand items.
If my only objections to ALDI were bringing my own bags and using a quarter to get a cart, I’d say that’s not enough to rule it out. Overall, I didn’t see savings. I didn’t see the customer service that I appreciate at my normal stores. I can’t use Ibotta rewards or coupons, and their produce is essentially out of stock, for now.
Maybe I’ll occasionally stop by ALDI to stock up on cheaper produce items (if they have them in stock), but the total savings would have to be worth the trip.
If ALDI works for you, go for it! I know that all stores are not created equal, and I know that ALDI saves some people a ton of money. For me though, I’m sticking to Bi-Lo and Sam’s club. They’re the two stores that I can go to do all of my grocery shopping and stay well-within my budget.