Do you shop at Aldi? If you don't, why not??? I do understand that there are still areas in the US where Aldi doesn't have stores, and let me just say, I feel bad for those people. But if you live near one, and you don't shop there, you really should.
Not familiar with Aldi? It is a grocery store chain that is classified as a "deep discount" chain, originally started in Germany, but now with locations around Europe, the US and Australia. Aldi's basic idea is that they carry primarily their own brand instead of numerous name brands, reducing square footage which in turn, reduces expenses and overhead. Their prices are significantly lower than most grocery stores and when they do have name brand merchandise, it is generally at a discount price as well.
I first discovered Aldi about 16 years ago. They had stores popping up here and there in our area, and I wasn't at all familiar with them, I assumed (quite wrongly) that it was just another regular grocery store chain. It wasn't until part of my photography club met up at the home of one of our members that had recently relocated. Aldi was close to his new home and he was telling us all about it and how much money he was saving. I decided it was worth checking out.
I started out by buying 10 items we used a lot of. Don't ask me what they were exactly, I do remember buying a can of corn. My thinking was that 10 items wouldn't break the bank and I could try a variety of items in different categories. I was very impressed with what I bought and the next time I went, I bought more different items. As the months progressed, we had tried just about everything we would use regularly, and for the most part, everything was good. The only thing I ever remember being so bad that I wouldn't buy it again was a spaghetti sauce. At the time, they had two different ones, this was the cheaper of the two. Luckily we'd only bought one jar, it wasn't good at all and they no longer sell it, so I guess we weren't alone in thinking it didn't taste good! I've since bought it there (under another label) and it is good, I used to use it all the time when I made lasagna. Now that I make my own, it's no longer something I purchased in a jar.
Aldi is a fantastic place to buy staple items like flour, sugar, etc. A friend of mine for whom money was no object always went to Aldi to buy baking supplies for doing all of her holiday cookie and pie making. Since I do the bulk of my cooking from scratch, I regularly stock up on basic items. Their spices are good, we've gotten so we prefer a lot of their condiments and pickles, and their cheeses are terrific, always consistent in taste and quality. We live in a state where dairy prices are highly regulated and Aldi is the one place we can get these items at the best price.
Items we aren't fond of: butter (it doesn't melt well), bread (not as fresh as my hubby likes) cereal (tastes fine, but the boxes are puny).
Items I highly recommend: all of the dairy items (except butter), tea mixes, tortilla chips, rice chips, storage bags, frozen thin green beans.
Everything else I have bought there has been good to very good. Produce overall is very good, but I will warn you, it does tend to go bad rather quickly. I'm not sure if it's because of how it's stored, or some other reason. If you are cooking for a large family this is probably not going to be an issue, but with just two of us, sometimes I end up throwing things out before I can use them up. Price depending, this still might not be a deal breaker though. You just have to know what these items are selling for at the competition in your area.
Meat was something that was just okay for a long time at Aldi, but in recent years, some of the stores have added an actual meat counter instead of selling everything frozen. I regularly buy pork chops and/or loins, ground beef and chicken this way, and I have absolutely no complaints, many times it's better than what I'd been buying at local grocery stores. I started out buying frozen whole chickens there a couple of years ago and just in the past year they have gone to selling fresh chickens, they are fantastic.
Aldi has a few interesting "quirks" that help them keep prices lower. You have to insert a quarter to get your shopping cart, but you do get that back when you return it. This eliminates the need to pay someone to regularly retrieve carts from the parking areas and cars are less likely to get damaged. You have to pay for the grocery bags, but they welcome you to bring your own. This is probably one of my favorite things about Aldi (besides saving money) because I have a real problem with the number of bags thrown out and/or wasted. In the US they don't take credit cards or checks, but you can use a debit card. Cash is always welcome.
Another thing that I love about Aldi is the fact that the store is smaller. Since they aren't carrying 5 varieties of the same item, they need significantly less floor space. It makes shopping far less stressful and I can be in and out in no time.
The drawback is that Aldi doesn't carry everything. If you are cooking something that needs an unusual ingredient, you are probably going to have to make a stop at a bigger grocery store. I've gotten in the habit of going to Aldi first, then filling in at another grocery store with the items I couldn't get there. I still buy the bulk of my groceries at Aldi though.
So how much money do you save? Depending on where you live and the prices at the competition, the savings can be anywhere from 30% - 50% off. About a year after I started shopping at Aldi's on a regular basis, I had no choice one day but to stop and pick up a few things at another store (it was a Sunday and at that time, Aldi stores in the US weren't open on Sundays). I was floored to see how much money I had been wasting for all of those years by shopping at a larger store.
Now, I will tell you about one caveat with shopping at Aldi: quality changes. In order to get the good prices that they can pass on to consumers, Aldi buys their products from a variety of manufacturers. I'm sure it's probably on a contract basis. The problem with that is when the contract runs out, they may continue selling an item, but it's now being made by a different company. This can cause anything from a minor change in taste to a huge change. The good part though is everything Aldi sells is covered by a "Double Guarantee": "If, for any reason, you are not 100 percent satisfied with any product, we will offer a Double Guarantee where we will gladly replace the product AND refund your money." How can you beat that?
Get that shopping list ready! Give Aldi a try! Even if you do it the way I did by starting out with a handful of items, I think you will be pleased. And that's all I have to say about it, I'm getting ready to head out the door to Aldi myself.