|This is 12.7 cents/oz. And it's the SAME product.|
|This is $4.39, or 31.4 cents/oz.|
I raved about Aldi before the economy tanked, before middle-class people realized that Jewel sucks and that Aldi's products were actually decent, and before the company responded to the influx of higher-end customers by greatly expanding their product offerings and brightening up their stores. Here's my list of reasons why Aldi rocks:
1. Interesting history: Aldi has a quirky origin story as a grocery store chain owned by two German brothers, Karl and Theo Albrecht; they split the company in two over a 1960 dispute about whether or not to sell cigarettes in their stores. Aldi now operates as two separate companies, Aldi Nord (North) and Aldi Sud (Sud), each doing business in different companies (wiki).
2. They also own Trader Joe's: Aldi Sud manages the US Aldi stores, whereas Aldi Nord actually owns...Trader Joe's. How about that?
3. Literally insane prices: Aldi's prices are and have always been ridiculously low. For example, the Aldi Millville cereals are breathtakingly cheaper than name brands. To wit: Millville Crispy Oats is 12.7 cents/oz, whereas General Mills' Cheerios currently costs 31.4 cents/oz. The Aldi brand is 248% less! If you buy 12 boxes of the stuff at a time like we do, you've saved $33.60 just on cereal. That could buy a pair of jeans, some nice wine, or more cereal.
4. Surprisingly broad product offerings: Aldi's offerings in the US used to be quite basic, offering mainly bare-bones staples and only one price point per type of item. But you would be kind of amazed to walk into an Aldi and see what's available now, in comparison to the old days. Just a few examples: organic marinara sauce made with no corn syrup; a premium line of bronze-cut pastas from Italy; the house equivalent of Fiber One bars, baked potato chips (a la Baked Lays), several varieties of hummus, a full line of Fit & Active products (reduced fat), and the like. Now, you can "splurge" on Aldi's low-cost premium brand lines and save even more money shopping their basic brands.
5. Excellent product quality, for the most part: In addition to product line expansion, Aldi's product quality has improved dramatically. There is evidence to suggest that Aldi's Millville line of cereals are all made by General Mills. The Crispy Oats do taste, smell, and look EXACTLY like Cheerios. So it makes even less sense to pay 248% more than you need to for fake Cheerios, when you're eating real Cheerios anyway. (trolling for hard evidence on this is tough, but I have discovered that Millville, NJ is a suburb of Vineland, NJ, HQ of General Mills. That's good enough for me.)
6. Funky German foods in the fall: Aldi is German, so you can get good/oddball German and European stuff: In Germany, upwards of 80-90% of citizens shop regularly at Aldi. It's not the cheapo store; to them it's just the grocery store. Because of their market penetration in their native land, you will find an abundance of specialty German foods under the Deutsche Kuche brand at Oktoberfest time (Sept-Oct): spaetzle, knockwurst, chocolates, white asparagus (does anybody except the Germans eat white asparagus), cream cakes, herring, pork schnitzel, und so weiter.
7. Booze! Yes, you read that right - and it may be good enough to drink. Some Aldis, like the one on Montrose west of Western, sell wine, beer, and liqueurs. A Landshut Riesling (German, of course) can be found in the standard tall blue bottle for 4.99, and it will taste as nice as the 18-dollar bottle you didn't buy. There's 13 bucks back in your pocket.
8. Good cheap chocolate: High-end chocolate (Lindt, Ghirardelli, etc.) is wonderful but pricey. However, any of the choices in Aldi's Choceur line of chocolates can hold their own, particularly the large flat bars that contain 3 individually wrapped pieces of high-quality dark or milk chocolate (very similar to Dove's product of the same type). They also offer a 3.5oz/100g milk bar crammed with whole hazelnuts that is just lovely - for 99 cents! Again, the issue here is not just cheapness - it's cheap and good.
9. Special Purchases on brand names: Even though Aldi sells only its own brand names as a rule, you will always find brand-name items on "special purchase" at prices 2-3 times less than what you would pay for at a regular grocery store. Examples of this would be a Reggio's cheese pizza for $3.99 that would normally cost $6 to $7 elsewhere.
10. A doggedly utilitarian esthetic: Even though Aldi has been sprucing up its stores, they're still strictly no-frills. You bring a quarter to unlock a shopping cart. You bring your own !@#$%^&* bags or buy paper--not plastic--bags (6 cents) or reusable cloth bags (99 cents) at the counter. You bag your own food. You bring it to the car. You push your own cart back to the corral and get your quarter back for next time. All those things you're doing yourself mean that Aldi doesn't have to pay people to do them. Obviously this isn't the place for a lofty esthetically pleasing shopping experience, but it's FOOD. In and out, get it done. I love that about Aldi. if I want aesthetic, I'll go to Whole Foods, spend $100 on one bag of groceries, and sit at the counter with my $3 Greek yogurt.
Now, the caveat.
Product quality is generally completely fine, but you need to shop there for a while to figure out which types of foods you are better off getting elsewhere. For example, the Cheerios are the bomb, but since the cornflakes aren't made by Kellogg's, if the cornflake lover in your life will only eat Kellogg's, don't buy them here. The produce section is OK, not huge, and kind of like Vegas, in that you don't always know what they will have beyond the staples. If you're me, that's great, because then you can improvise, but if you're the kind of shopper who has to be able to find certain fruits and vegetables, you might want to pick up what you can find here and fill in at your local fruit market. Other foods, like canned potatoes, may be perfectly good to those who enjoy them, but I can't think of any reason to ever buy canned potatoes, so I stay away from them. I do wish they carried whole wheat flour, but they do have 100% whole wheat bread for less than $2, which is great
If you've never been to Aldi, or it's been a while, try it out sometime for staples. You might surprise yourself at what ends up in your shopping cart, and you will undoubtedly have spent far less money.