Can you really save money at Aldi? That’s what I decided to find out a few years ago for my family.
I love a good deal and I am competitive, especially with myself.
My husband (Mr. Wealthy Nickel) tracks all of our expenses and categorizes them. When he forces me to look at our finances (not my preferred activity) I can admire the colored graphs and pie charts that display our monthly spending on groceries. This is the area I focus on because I am in charge of buying all of our food.
And this is when my competitiveness kicks in. I want to get the number lower and “beat” our previous month of spending.
Editor’s Note: For the record, I do not force Mrs. Wealthy Nickel to look at our finances, but I do sometimes bribe her with chocolate and wine 🙂
Our Grocery Spending Problem
Before we started shopping at Aldi, I thought I was being careful with what we bought. But I couldn’t decrease our spending.
It seemed that every month the number was going up and up. I tried to reason or explain why our spending was increasing.
Part of the reason was our kids have been getting older and starting to make a dent in our groceries. While our budget was in line with what the average American spends on groceries, we still wanted to see improvement in the numbers.
I was shopping at normal grocery stores and taking advantage of sales. I would buy items that were in season and hold off buying food that was not a good deal. Even following these rules, it wasn’t keeping our grocery bill in check.
Making the Switch to Aldi
So, I decided I needed to really change it up. We would get flyers from various grocery stores and Aldi’s prices seemed lower than the other stores.
I had always been a little wary of Aldi, and thought there was some catch or that the food wouldn’t be fresh. There had to be a reason the food was so much cheaper than the surrounding stores. Could we really save money at Aldi and still get quality food?
In hopes of helping our grocery budget, I decided to try out Aldi. I didn’t know what kind of selection they would have, but I made my list and went. It took a few minutes of trying to figure out how to get my cart (more on that below), but then I was in.
After walking the aisles, I was impressed with all that Aldi stocks. I was able to get everything on my list and over time, I developed an Aldi grocery list that has all the Aldi specific items we’ve come to love.
They have a lot of products with clean ingredients and for amazing prices. Items that typically cost a lot more elsewhere – such as almond butter, organic vegetables, and wild-caught fish – are a fraction of the price.
I even switched over to buy all of our diapers, wipes, and baby supplies from Aldi! I know, some people swear Pampers or Huggies are the only brands that contain the blow outs. But, we’ve never noticed a difference in the quality and we solely buy Aldi’s diapers.
To my surprise, our grocery spending changed dramatically! We were able to consistently cut our spending by $100 a month or more just by changing where we shopped.
I haven’t been disappointed in the quality or selection that Aldi offers. I have found new products that we enjoy and I appreciate the amount of items that stick to a short or clean ingredient list. Buying healthy food is important to us, and shopping somewhere that helps support that is valuable.
Why I Learned to Love Shopping at Aldi
#1 – They have consistently low prices (without coupons)
One of the best things about shopping at Aldi is that you can pretty much guarantee you are getting the best price on whatever you find. And you don’t have to clip coupons to get that price. Hooray!
While Aldi doesn’t carry everything on our shopping list, we do the majority of our shopping here. The low prices are reflected in our budget, and we easily save $100-200 every month shopping at Aldi vs. a “normal” grocery store.
#2 – Almost everything is store brand
One of the ways Aldi saves you money is by offering almost all products under a private label. Instead of 27 different brands of peanut butter, you just get one or two to choose from.
This could be a bad thing if the store brand is no good, but in the case of Aldi they go above and beyond to make sure they carry quality products. Our family often prefers the Aldi brand to a name brand – be it yogurt, deli meat, peanut butter, you name it.
Some of Aldi’s store brands:
- SimplyNature – natural and/or organic line of products made with “real” ingredients
- liveGfree – Aldi’s gluten free product line
- NeverAny – meats without any hormones, antibiotics, or artificial ingredients
- Little Journey – baby products (we love their diapers and pre-made fruit/veggie pouches!)
#3 – You can get in and out in under 30 minutes
As a consequence of not having 53 options of every single product on the shelves, you can make a much quicker decision without the usual analysis paralysis. This also allows Aldi to pack in an amazing array of products in a small space. The average Aldi’s is around 12,000 square feet vs. 150,000+ for a Wal-Mart or Costco.
#4 – Aldi offers organic options and better ingredients
We’ve only been shopping at Aldi for the last couple of years, but even in that time the number of organic items available has grown significantly. Many of the salad greens and other produce can be bought organic, and their Simply Nature brand is a good choice for organic and GMO-free pantry items (for example, we love the corn-syrup-and-hydrogenated-oil-free almond butter).
Aldi is committed to reducing the number of pesticides, hormones, and other artificial ingredients in its products and has banned many of them outright in everything they sell.
I will refrain from getting on my soapbox of food quality in Europe vs. the U.S., but suffice to say it is refreshing to see a company take a strong stance on ingredient quality. (And not coincidentally, Aldi has its roots in Europe).
#5 – The “Aldi Finds” aisle always has something interesting
There is an aisle in the middle of the store with “Aldi Finds” – a collection of random things at amazing prices. You might find deck chairs, Easter candy, cookware, decorative baskets, and who knows what else!
While not an essential part of the Aldi shopping experience, it does provide some fun (especially for the kids). And I’ve gotten some amazing deals on shoes and clothes for the kids, a blow-up mattress, and even bags of potting soil!
Shopping Tips to Save Money at Aldi
Here are some practical tips to save money on groceries at Aldi.
#1 – Don’t forget your quarter
Aldi is a unique place, and they do some ingenious things to keep costs down. One way is to incentivize you, the shopper, to put away your own cart by charging you if you don’t.
In order to get a shopping cart at the front entrance, you have to deposit a quarter into a special lock on the cart. When you are done shopping, you return the cart and get your quarter back. It can be confusing your first time, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
I hardly ever carry cash anymore, but I keep a quarter or two tucked away in the car just for my Aldi shopping trips!
#2 – Bring your own bags
Looking for someone to neatly bag your groceries for you in branded sacks? Then Aldi is not the place for you.
To save money on labor and materials, Aldi does not provide free grocery bags. We usually bring our own, but on the not-as-rare-as-I-would-like occasion that I forget, you can buy grocery bags for 5 or 10 cents, or even use empty boxes left on the store shelves.
#3 – Get to know the store layout
Aldi packs a ton of different products into a small space. If you don’t know where something is, it can be easy to miss it. It took me a few shopping trips to get a rhythm down and find all of our usual items.
If it’s your first shopping trip to Aldi, allow a little extra time to browse and get to know the layout of the store. The nice thing about the small store layout is once you know where everything is, getting in and out is a breeze!
#4 – Shop the produce and meat sales to save even more at Aldi
Almost everything in the produce and meat department goes on sale if you wait long enough. We stock up on sale-price items when we can and freeze them for later if we won’t use them right away.
Grapes are always a hit with the kids and are often on sale for $1.99/lb, so we make sure to make note of the sale dates.
#5 – Avoid name brand products (usually)
Aldi does carry a small rotating stock of name brand products (for example, I often see Coca-Cola products there), but the prices are much closer to what you’d pay at a normal grocery store. I almost always stick to the Aldi brands when I shop – there is usually an equivalent Aldi product that is as-good or better quality than the name brand.
#6 – Go organic without breaking the bank
If I didn’t mention it enough above, Aldi has a great selection of organic and natural products. You really can eat healthy without shopping at Whole Foods (a.k.a. Whole Paycheck). The prices are surprisingly low, and depending on the product often only 10% or so higher than the non-organic version. If we can save money at Aldi on quality, organic foods that’s a win-win!
#7 – Get ready to bag your own groceries
Aldi originated in Germany, and if you’re a fan of Germany efficiency, it doesn’t disappoint. In order to save money, Aldi usually only has 5 or 6 employees working in the ENTIRE STORE. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 2 checkout lines open, and needless to say, nobody is there to bag your groceries.
In case you’re worried about the time it takes to check out, don’t fear. Aldi’s products have a barcode on literally every side of the packaging for easy scanning, and the check out process is quick. I often can’t put my stuff on the conveyor belt fast enough to keep up with the checker.
Everything goes into an empty cart at the end of the process, and then you can wheel it over to an open bagging area to pack everything up.
It usually only takes me a couple minutes to bag the groceries, and I secretly like being in control of where everything goes. No chips crushed under milk or orphaned frozen items for me!
#8 – Don’t sleep on the baby products!
If you have young kids like us, Aldi’s has their Little Journey line of baby products such as diapers, wipes, baby food, and bath products.
I was initially worried about the quality of the diapers and if they would hold up, but they work just as well as Huggies or Pampers for a fraction of the cost. It’s also nice to be able to stock up on baby necessities on our weekly Aldi shopping trip as opposed to making a special outing to a big box store just to get diapers or baby soap.
Top 10 Items We Buy at Aldi to Save Money
So what exactly do we buy, and how does it compare to what we used to pay? Here are just some of the things we regularly save money on by shopping at Aldi.
#1 – Salad Bags ($2.89 vs $3.69+)
I love pre-made salad! Aldi’s offers a good variety of salads with a dressing and toppings. My favorite is the kale mix with pepitas and cranberries.
#2 – Eggs ($.83 vs $.99)
When there isn’t a difference in a product, it seems ridiculous when the price varies. When I buy eggs at other stores, $.99 is the cheapest I can find them. But, Aldi keeps the price low all the time.
#3 – Almond Butter ($4.59 vs $5.99)
Other nut butters can get very pricey. And a lot of the natural options you have to stir or keep refrigerated. Aldi’s Simply Nature Cream Almond Butter is Non GMO and is no stir! It’s not too salty and we don’t break the bank by stocking up on it.
#4 – Wild-Caught Salmon ($3.99 vs $10.99)
Aldi carries wild-caught (not farmed – important distinction) salmon for $3.99/lb. I honestly don’t know how they get it that cheap! It’s a great deal compared to the $10.99+ you’d pay at another store, and even beats out most farmed salmon prices.
#5 – Carbonated Water ($2.99 vs $4.99)
Mr. Wealthy Nickel recently got hooked on carbonated water, after proclaiming it a silly fad for several years. While water drinkers have preference on brands, thankfully he loves the Belle Vie brand from Aldi.
There are several flavors to choose from such as grapefruit, lemon, and lime. There is a big difference in price compared to LaCroix or even other store brands that makes it an easy choice.
#6 – Avocado Oil ($6.99 vs $9.99)
Avocado oil is a staple at our house. It’s a great cooking oil because of its high smoke point (better than olive oil), and it’s become more available in recent years. True to form, Aldi tends to have the best price by a few bucks, and the quality is the same or better than other brands.
#7 – Diapers ($0.11 each vs $.20)
We have saved a lot of money at Aldi on diapers over the past few years between our two kids. Depending on the size of diapers, I get them in the 10 – 13 cent range per diaper, and I don’t even have to buy a box of 200 to get that price!
#8 – Organic Corn Chips ($1.99 vs $3.99)
We love our chips and salsa, and have tried a lot of different brands. While there are a few brands we prefer over Aldi, their chips are better than 90% of everything out there. And given the price difference, we usually stick with Aldi.
#9 – Organic Macaroni and Cheese ($1.15 Vs $3.49)
The kids love their “roni and cheese” as they call it, and polish off a box in one sitting. Luckily, it makes for a cheap meal shopping at Aldi.
#10 – Trash Bags ($4.99 Vs $10.49)
We get 80 kitchen-sized trash bags at Aldi for $4.99. They hold great, and we never have any issues with tearing or falling apart. If it works, why pay double the price for something you’re just going to throw away in a few days anyway?
How to Save Even More at Aldi
If you haven’t tried shopping at Aldi yet, I hope this article provided you with some inspiration to get started. It helped us cut our grocery bill by over $100 a month – and we were already shopping frugally before!
If you’re looking for even more tips to save on groceries (whether at Aldi or other chains) or you’re curious how much you should be spending on groceries, check out these article:
- 7 Practical Tips to Save on Groceries (And Still Eat Well)
- How Much Should I Spend on Groceries? Maybe More Than You Think