Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Who are you, and what is Aldi?

I bet that's what you're wondering. Well, maybe you're just wondering, "What is Aldi?" and don't care about me at all. Knowing that Aldi is one of the best grocery stores out there is important. It is much more important than who I am. I should really change the order of the questions in the title of this post. I'm not going to, but I should. That's who I am.

OK, question one answered. Now let's move on to Aldi. You may have heard of Aldi, or seen their TV commercials, or you may have no idea what Aldi is, and came to this blog looking for pictures of cats doing something cute like trigonometry with the caption "I can has arcsin(sin θ) = θ?" Well, the magical internets is full of that nonsense, and we don't need any more of it here.

Aldi is an international chain of grocery stores. That in itself is nothing special, but Aldi is amazingly inexpensive and has good quality items. A few years ago I was shopping at a Jewel-Osco when one of the employees was exceedingly rude to my girlfriend and I. Despite my years of patronage to that store, I decided I needed to find a new grocery store.  I am cheap. I buy things on special, use coupons, etc. I, however, do not often buy store brands because I think they often lack the quality necessary to be considered food. I also love to cook. My girlfriend suggested we try Aldi, and I was very hesitant. All I knew about Aldi is that they were inexpensive, but didn't have the name brand products that I was used to buying. She got me to go to Aldi the first time and I haven't looked back.

While it's true that going to Aldi will net you a bag of Clancy's instead of a bag of Lays or Ruffles, the products available are not the store brands or generics you might be used to. The way Aldi operates is by getting exclusive contracts with providers, then selling their products under the various Aldi names (Baker's Corner, Clancy's, etc.). The quality presented by these products often matches or surpasses the name brand products at other stores. In recent months I have also noticed more brand names appearing on the shelves at Aldi. These are mostly snack items such as Pringles and M&M's.

There are a few things you should know about shopping at Aldi:

1. Bring a quarter. Their shopping carts use a quarter lock system, so you have to insert a quarter into the lock of the cart in order to take the cart out. you get your quarter back when you return the cart.

2. Aldi is not as pretty as most grocery stores. Instead of shelving displays, you have pallets of products. It may seem haphazrad at first, but I guarantee there is a layout to the store.

3. Do not expect to be able to compare four different kinds of slivered almonds. Aldi typically has one or two variations of products available. This is not to say that they don't have a wealth of available products, or that you will only be able to buy one type of chip. Potato. And you'll like it. They have about 5 versions of tortilla chips (rounds, triangles, restaurant style, whole wheat, etc.) but compared to how many different kinds of tortilla chips the average grocery store has, it's less. Currently you will only find a couple of Quick Breads available, but both are good quality at a low price.  Aldi carries about 1,500 products. That may sound like a lot, but the average grocery store carries over 20,000.

4. You may not be able to get everything on your list. If you are looking for grains of paradise and ouzo, look elsewhere. Aldi specializes in bulk grocery items that are the biggest sellers. Ketchup, milk, eggs, cheese, bread, and cereal are the types of things you will find at Aldi, but they do have a good number of specialty items that come and go. For instance right now they have $10.00 1 pound whole lobsters. I already have 2 in my freezer. They also have Cornish game hens for $1.99 each. They say you can do 95% of your shopping at Aldi and head elsewhere for the specialty goods. We do 99% of our shopping at Aldi, and only shop elsewhere if we need to grab something quick.

5. Bring your own bags. We forget every now and then, and bags are available for purchase at the checkout, but bringing your own is the way to go. You will also be bagging your own groceries.

6. You will likely have to wait in line at the checkout. Aldi only keeps one or two lanes open at a time, but since bagging isn't done at the checkout, the line moves quickly.

7. Aldi does not accept coupons, checks, or credit cards. They accept cash, debit cards, and EBT. This is one of the things that keep prices down. I have heard that Aldi is now accepting Discover card, but I don't know if that rumor is true. It costs money to print and distribute coupons as well as put a system in place to handle and update coupons. It also costs money for businesses to accept credit cards. Aldi doesn't spend this money, so you don't have to pay for it.

8. Be prepared to spend less. I was shocked the first time we went to Aldi and bought a cart of groceries near to overflowing for about $80.00.

I am aware that I didn't really answer question one. I'm just a guy. I like to cook and am an admitted foodie, although I truly think that term sounds like a cult where they mass marry stalks of celery. I mentioned before that I am very cheap. If I can find a way to skimp on price without skimping on quality, I will do it. That last part is important. I do not believe in skimping on quality. For instance, I refuse to shop at Ikea. Sure the furniture is quirky and inexpensive, but it is also mostly wood pulp, glue, and bits of Scandinavian orphans. I'm a solid wood or hardwood and veneer kind of guy. Admittedly though, I do have a credenza made from orphans.

I started this blog to share my love of both cooking and cheap groceries. I try to use all Aldi products in the recipes, but they can be made with food you got from anywhere, as long as it is the same food in the ingredients list. Don't try to make my Spanish omelet with dishwashing liquid and ice cream. The only thing you can make with those two ingredients is a horrible mistake.

Now, you've read the whole post, you're probably wondering where's that lolcat picture i promised you? The answer is I didn't promise you anything you entitled bastard. Don't look at me like that. This is my blog, you mistakenly came here uninvited looking for kitteh pics as though the interwebs weren't already absolutely polluted with them. It is a fact that lolcatz are about as appealing as Japanese scat porn and you will find neither of those things in this blog . . . fine.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun blog to start! I vaguely remember going to Aldi with Grandma Jo as a kid...then didn't go back until I was older. Not sure why Mom and Dad didn't go there with 7 kids, but I go there all the time with only 3!! And I did see the Discover sign today on their card machine. I think it's a 3% charge to use Discover or something like that...can't remember the details, but they are accepting it now! I'm anxious to see all your future posts!