You may have seen and Aldi store and not even realized it sold groceries, which is understandable. Aldi’s buildings are very drab looking, and their logo looks like it hasn’t changed since the 70’s. When I look at Aldi I tend to imagine it sells carpet or something equally boring. But hidden behind the walls of those non-nondescript buildings are groceries. Unbelievably cheap groceries.
When you visit an Aldi store, the first thing you’ll notice is the karts outside are all chained together. In order to get a kart (which you really will need) you have to insert a quarter into a locking mechanism on the handle. Don’t worry, you’ll get your quarter back when you’re done, but don’t make the mistake of showing up at Aldi without at least one quarter. Aldi’s reasoning behind the rent-a-kart, is to eliminate the need for keeping extra employees around to gather karts. This in turn, passes savings onto the customer (and of course Aldi Inc.).
Once inside, you’ll notice that it looks nothing like any other grocery store. No shelves, no advertising, and almost nothing above head level. Aldi aisles consist mostly of pallets of various food products, that are replaced as they empty. Imagine if grocery stores were all run by the military, and you’ll get an idea of what the interior looks like. Signs are limited to “what it is”, and “how much it costs”. For instance, a normal grocery store might have a sign on the shelf that reads “Try Frenches Mustard”, complete with a Frenches Mustard logo. Aldi store signs tend to read “Mustard. $.49”.
There are rarely more then four or five employees around at any given time, most being cashiers and a few acting as stockers that only appear when a new pallet of food needs to be brought out. All of these features are cost saving measures that keep the prices down in the store.
Aldi specializes in base-needs products like food, bathroom and cleaning supplies. You will often see a limited selection on electronics, ranging from televisions to digital cameras. Items such as these change frequently, rarely hanging around for more then a week. Most Aldi food products are Aldi brand labeled, though of no lower quality then anything found in a normal grocery store. Rarely will Aldi offer more then one size or brand of any particular item. Certain items Aldi seems to recognize as being irreplaceable or brand-name recognized. For instance, you will most likely find Snickers brand candy bars, the store realizing that only Snickers truly satisfies.
Aldi also offers a couple different styles of beer and a rather sizable selection of wine. I am personally sampling the Wyalla Cove Shiraz as I write, and consider it to be very drinkable. Not bad for $4.99 a bottle.
Checking out can be a bit of shock the first time out. First, the lines often look like they go on forever, mostly because they do. This, however, does not mean that it will take you a long time to actually check out. The cashiers rapidly scan your food off of the conveyor belt and slide it into a “holding area”. At this point, you’ll be standing next to your now empty kart and trying to keep pace with speed of the cashier, putting the items back into your kart without mashing anything fragile. This is why it was important to rent a kart: Aldi does not have bag-boys. In fact, Aldi does not provide you with bags for free, you have to purchase them. Very sizable plastic bags are available for $.10 and paper bags for $.05. Aldi highly encourages bringing in your own bags. After you get all your items back into the kart and pay, you move to their bagging area to bag at your leisure.
Aldi is the perfect grocery store for those with low incomes and college students. On average, I can survive an entire month after spending around $50 at Aldi (and yes, it is a month of variety. I’m not eating fried potatoes, baked potatoes, potato soup, etc.).