Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why I love Aldi

Confession: I’ve use to think Aldi was gross. You only shopped there if you had to. And if you could possibly afford to shop even at Walmart, you obviously would, because ew, Aldi. I don’t know why I thought that, and seeing as how I’ve done most of my grocery shopping at Walmart the past several years, I definitely don’t consider myself a grocery store snob. I don’t exclusively shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, I often buy generic brands, and I cut coupons sometimes. But still, I turned up my nose at Aldi.

Oh how I was wrong. It’s my new favorite grocery store. Here’s why.

1. It’s easy to get through
The store is small. Hallelujah. You know those tiny city markets that all those super cool city dwellers have to pay extra money to shop at? Aldi is like that. But cheaper. Seriously, there are 5 aisles. If I realize that I’ve forgotten something once I’ve made the 1.2 mile trek around Super Walmart and am in the checkout line, I usually have to decide it’s not worth it and do without. But say, that item I forgot is something essential like diapers or wipes or hummus, I then break down in tears and forfeit my spot in line to go fetch said item, thus adding another 15 or 20 minutes to our trip. Good gracious. Even with a categorized grocery list, I always end up needing to walk the whole length of Walmart at least once because I forgot something, or because the fancy cheese is in the front of the store but the regular cheese is 27 aisles away. Help a momma out people! With 2 kiddos under 2, I cannot tell you how much I love the size of Aldi. It’s small. Thus far, my babies have never gotten crabby by the end of an Aldi trip because we can get in and out of there in 20 minutes. 20 minutes, y’all. I WOULD NOT JOKE ABOUT SUCH MATTERS!

2. Cheap organic options.
Now some of my all-time favorite people and best friends are of the organic or gluten-free or paleo-eating variety. I am not. We just try to not eat a ton of crap and call it good. If my family gets a green vegetable at dinner, I consider it a win. That being said, Aldi has a lot of organic options that are cheaper than their non-organic counterparts in other grocery stores. Once in a while, I do end up buying some of the organic options there that I wouldn’t want to shell out for at a typical grocery store.

3. Less choices
Choices is not my forte. Ask my husband what it’s like to sit with me at a restaurant. The waitress may or may not have to come back a few times to ask if I’m ready. At most big grocery stores, there are SO many choices. At our Walmart, here are 11 varieties of peanut butter, 4 brands of cheese, & 5 brands of sour cream. I counted. When you multiply that by your whole grocery list, it can be overwhelming to choose. Even if you know exactly what you like, it still takes a fair amount of time to find the one you want. And to choose what size to buy it in. Enter Aldi. There is one choice for everything. Peanut butter is peanut butter. Just grab it and go. One brand of tortilla chips, one brand of coffee creamer, one brand of eggs, one brand of better. Just one. No price comparing or coupon cutting or searching the 7 shelves of soy sauce for the perfect kind. Just one. It’s easier and faster and less stressful.

[Side note - It might sound like I’m bashing Walmart. That is not my intention. It’s basically my only point of comparison to Aldi because it’s the only other store I regularly shop at. I will write another post on things I love about Walmart.]    :)

4. Fast check out
Depending on where else and what time of day you shop, you may or may not have to wait in long lines. But I have never had to wait a long time at Aldi, no matter how many people are there. From what I’ve observed, the fast checkout lines are mainly caused by a couple things. For one, Aldi is not a one-stop-shop. While they have a lot of basics, you can’t buy EVERYTHING the average household uses, so people tend to have smaller loads to purchase. Also, they have a separate area where you bag your own groceries after you pay, which cuts down on checkout time. And, every employee in the store knows how to ring and is supposed to help keep the lines short. If the lines get long, the guy restocking milk hops on and opens another lane. Which brings me to reason number 5 for why Aldi is the bomb.

5. Maximum efficiency & random acts of cart kindness
Aldi is super efficient. And as someone who appreciates maximum efficiency, I love their philosophical reasons for doing what they do. One of the reasons Aldi is cheap is because they are an extremely efficient organization. (This, by the way, is the fascinating article that convinced me to jump on board the Aldi train. She talks all about their efficiency.) One of those cost-saving policies is the rent-a-cart thing. All the carts are corralled right in front of the store instead of throughout the parking lot. This saves from having to pay employees to collect them. You bring a quarter, use it to unlock the cart from the others, and then you get your quarter back when you return the cart. For me, this is the biggest downside of Aldi. Is it annoying to carry my purse, the baby’s 27 pound carseat while holding my toddler’s hand across the Aldi parking lot in the 15 degree weather? Yes. But, most of the time, I don’t have to. Because Aldi shoppers are so stinking nice. Somehow this policy encourages smiley customers & frequent random acts of cart kindness. No one is grumpy while trying to get carts out - people help each other and give away quarters if needed. If someone is finishing up unloading their groceries in their car and sees me coming, they’ll just walk their cart over to me and I give them my quarter. Often people don’t even accept my quarter though. (Something about my yoga pants, spit-up stained tee, and yesterday’s make up smeared under my eyes screams please just give me your cart for free or I’ll squirt you with the pear-prune puree pouch my toddler is eating.)
I get their cart to transport my kiddos safely across the parking lot & they don’t have to put it back.

Everyone’s a winner at Aldi.

On our most recent Aldi trip, a man gave me his cart and wouldn’t take my quarter. He started to walk away but then turned around. He said to me, “I just came from visiting my wife of 63 years. She has bad alzheimers and doesn’t remember anything of our life together, except that she likes these suckers. [He took a lollipop out of his pocket.] I go see her every day and bring her one of these every day. I have extras at home though. Would your daughter like one?”

Yes I’ll take your lollipop and your cart and your inspirational long-suffering-marriage stories. Can I hug you? Now excuse me while I get in the car and sob all the way home.

6. Cheap
While all the other reasons are things I like about Aldi, the low prices take the cake for me. We are on a tight budget, attempting to pay down our student loans at unprecedented speeds. And so, I pinch pennies and buy over half our groceries at Aldi. And when she rings up my 47 items for $32 I gladly fork over the cash as I try to fend off my toddler from hitting that ‘cancel’ button at the register. Sure Aldi, you can have my money and my smiles and my heart. Because you are small and well-stocked and efficient. And you have friendly workers and polite customers and my grocery budget loves you.