You may have wondered what the big draw is to ALDI grocery store chain. Some say it’s a strange cult, a mecca for frugal shoppers. The store even has fan clubs with impressive numbers of followers. And I think it might be the only store that has a secret language. Stay with me and I’ll explain.
The original company started way back in 1913 by Anna Albrecht in Essen, Germany. Her two sons took over in 1948, and in 1962 they changed the name to ALDI, short for “Albrecht-Diskont.” Yes, the store name is in all caps – as if it’s yelling at you to see its mighty thriftiness.
The store is considered the first discount grocer in the world. In fact, I was first introduced to ALDI as a child living in Europe with my family. My mother was a loyal ALDI shopper, and as an adult I quickly saw the “why.” Since its beginnings, the company offered quality alternatives with low prices. Today, you will find gluten-free, organic and free trade options on the store shelves.
Chris Daniels, an ALDI division vice president, says that the ALDI business model “is designed differently to meet people’s need for simplification, saving them time and money.”
Not every state has an ALDI store — they have locations in 36 U.S. states — so I was excited to find one nearby after I moved to my current home in Vermont.
Know before you go
ALDI is a bit different than other grocery chains. First, it is the only grocery store that I know of that allows its checkout clerks to sit while scanning your groceries. They have also eliminated a few services, which allows them to offer great prices:
- You must bring your own bags to the store, and you are responsible for bagging your own groceries. The store offers a long counter where you can park your cart full of just-purchased goodies and comfortably pack them into your own reusable bags or into empty product boxes you pick up during your trip through the aisles. In many ALDI stores the products are not placed on shelves. Instead, products are displayed in opened cases. At my own local ALDI, the display boxes are generally shelved in aisles, and although there are reusable bags for sale, the empty boxes are snagged by shoppers. Be smart and carry in your own bags. Or go rogue and just pack the loose groceries into your car directly from the cart.
- You won’t find grocery carts languishing in the parking lot, either. The company corrals its cart supply with connecting locks. You can unlock a cart for use by placing a quarter in the cart’s slot, releasing it from the cart behind it. If you don’t have a quarter and still need a cart, you will probably find a local ALDI shopper willing to hand off their ownership of a cart once they have unloaded groceries into their car.
- Your options are limited. You won’t find 10 brands of cereal or squeezable yogurt tubes here. By narrowing the choice of items, the store can purchase at lower prices and pass on the savings. A majority of the items are ALDI exclusive brands, and most are equal to or better than many of the higher priced nationwide brands you’ll find at other stores.
- ALDI does not accept manufacturer’s coupons, so you might save more money at a store that accepts coupons. Always compare prices in your area. However, ALDI has a weekly newsletter that lets subscribers in on special deals. Sometimes there is a cash-off coupon included that is only available to mailing list subscribers. Sign up here.
Insider tips and tricks
Make sure you sign up to access the ALDI Insider Facebook group, where you can get sneak peeks at new products, and learn about giveaways. The company can also be found on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. You can read reviews of products by other shoppers or ask about products before you buy. Kirkwood breaded chicken breast filets, alias “Red Bag Chicken,” is so popular it has its own fan club, according to the Facebook page!
You can lower your grocery bill by shopping exclusively or as an additional stop to buy specific items. Grab a quarter and let’s save some money! You will see a lower total on your weekly grocery receipt by shopping for these items:
Eggs. Before you pay higher prices for eggs, take a look at sticker price on eggs at ALDI. I have seen eggs as low as 99 cents per dozen. And if you prefer cage-free or free-range, they are often under $3 per dozen at peak times of the year.
Chocolate. If you love good chocolate, don’t miss the candy aisle. The Choceur chocolate bars are a ridiculously low price for fabulous quality. You’ll hide them in your closet to be eaten later, slowly and with purpose, sans the clamoring of children. Don’t worry, they carry fun-size brand name candy bars, too.
Peanut butter. If you want a low-budget peanut butter and have no worries about the ingredients, Peanut Delight peanut butter costs pennies an ounce.
Be warned – you will find that planet-unfriendly palm oil in one variety, and molasses in another. However, there is hope. The Simply Nature Organic peanut butter has just two ingredients on its label – peanuts and salt. This certified organic is pretty tasty and great to use for baking or making granola bars if you aren’t keen to use it for peanut butter sandwiches.
Anything in a clearance box. Yes, even this discount grocery chain has a markdown section! It’s usually full of non-food items that are past the preferred season, but take some time to look. You may find some great deals that can be put away until that season rolls around again. Sometimes you can find breads and pastries at 50% off.
Canned goods. You can stock up and save if you like canned vegetables. Try the canned white potatoes – they are an easy crowd-pleaser for big breakfasts or campouts. Overall, ALDI canned vegetables are of great quality and are a cash gold star.
Dairy. The ALDI dairy section is loaded with fresh dairy options. I don’t know how they sell milk at such low prices. You will find some brand name favorites such as Chobani yogurt on the refrigerated racks. But I’m a fan of the low-price, whole-milk Greek Yogurt by Family Farms.
Coffee beans. Coffee is always a big chunk of my food bill. And I love good coffee. So I make sure I toss an extra bag of Barissimo Fair Trade Single Origin Ground Coffee into the cart. It usually rings up at a price that is about $1 less than a comparable coffee at the nearest grocery chain They also carry coffee pods as well as instant coffee choices.
Benton’s cookies. If you buy dozens of Girl Scout cookies and freeze them for later in the year, you may want to check out Benton’s cookies at ALDI.
Close your eyes and take a bite, and you may not be able to tell the difference. Can I say Fudge Mint cookies? Or these caramel coconut “Samoas” taste-alikes?
The secret language
Oh, and the secret language? Well, it is actually a call, similar to “Snap!” or “Booyah!” If you find an amazing deal while wandering the aisles of ALDI, shout out to your fellow shoppers with, “Ca-Caw!” Someone will likely answer you. And if you hear this haunting shopper’s birdsong, go in the direction of the sound. You may just find that new favorite thing at this discount grocer.
More Living on the Cheap articles on saving money on groceries:
- Save time, money with less extreme couponing
- Can Costco save you money?
- How to save money on food without using coupons
- 12 hacks to cut your grocery bill in half
- Is Sam’s Club membership worth it?