I love Aldi.
I mean that from the depths of my soul.
If Aldi grocery stores were incarnated in human form, I’d consider divorcing my husband and marrying that human.
I would cook for Aldi, I would clean for Aldi, I would happily have little Aldi babies.
For those of you living under a rock, Aldi is the inexpensive food market chain owned by German company Albrecht Discounts (abbreviated “AlDi”), who also owns Trader Joe’s. The chain began in 1948 and now has about 7,600 stores in Germany, Europe, Australia, and the United States.
Aldi has been my cornerstone and saving grace for many moons. From being a newlywed, back to college, and to my youth, me & Aldi go waaaaayyyyy back. I’m not even going to act like North St. Louis ain’t raised me. But even if you live in more prominent areas, there is no denying that Aldi is the most cost-effective grocery store around. I believe this is in part because their product manufacturers do not spend as much money on advertisements. As a result, the products are off brand, but there is no upcharge, and you as a consumer get the same products as high-end grocers for less than half the price.
Now there are some of y’all out there who are brand whores & proud of it. I’ve actually met people who turn their nose up at the average Aldi shopper. To that I say, do you boo boo. Do YOU!! If name brand cereal is how you get your kicks in life, then by all means, do what makes you happy. If you got it like that, I say go for it!!
But honey, I’ll take ‘Chocolate Waves’ over ‘Oreos’ any day, especially if they’re less than half the price.
There was a point where I dabbled in Extreme Couponing, and this was the only time in my life that I couldn’t shop at Aldi because the prices there are so low that they do not accept manufacturer’s coupons. That is literally their store policy.
That being said here are 4 ways I’ve learned to use my frugality for good, even at places like Aldi, where saving money is already a given.
1.Set & Subtract
You’re in the aisle. You see an item on your list. You see the price, whip out your calculator and tally up each item you plan on buying as you place it in your cart. You finally get to the register with a rough figure of how much you’re about to spend. Then the dreaded moment arrives when your cashier announces your total,( Sidebar: Is it just me or do cashiers intentionally announce this a little more LOUDLY than they should?) and that total is not at all what your calculator said it would be. How many times have we all found ourselves in this predicament?
I used to shop this way myself so don’t feel bad. You’re not a terrible frivolous spender without any self-control, so chill out. There will always be a discrepancy with this method unless you account for items not originally on your list, and taxes, which varies depending on the area. For example, an Aldi in the ‘hood of North or West St. Louis city may charge tax at 8.11%, whereas an Aldi in a Chesterfield suburb in West County will charge around 6 or 7%. (Another Sidebar: Why the poor & disadvantaged in St. Louis are being charged more in taxes is an entirely different blog entry for another day, but stay with me here)
To have a more realistic outcome on your calculator, implement my handy dandy ‘Set & Subtract’ method. Meaning:
- a) SET a realistic cash amount as a goal for how much you plan to spend. No more no less. Resolve that you will not succumb to Swipe-itis and leave your debit card at home. Once your cash is gone, it’s gone. If you happen to receive Food Stamps, you can still set a limited amount for yourself to swipe.
- b) Enter your cash limit amount in your calculator. Each time an item lands in your cart, SUBTRACT it’s listed price from the amount of cash you have on hand. Instead of giving you an estimate of how much money you’re about to spend, your calculator will now show you an estimate of how much money you get to take home (if any).
I’ve done this a few times, and by the grace of God, sometimes I leave with more money in my pocket than I calculated for.
2.Skip the first aisle
“Make sure the first thing your consumers see when they walk in the door is items they don’t need but will want to spend money on.”
This marketing scheme is the same in most grocery stores but it’s especially true for Aldi because their store layout is practically identical. The very first aisle in every store is chips, crackers, candy, & sweets. Every single store. And to add insult to injury, you HAVE to walk down the very first aisle to get to the rest of the store because the aisle is literally blocked off from everything else. This is no coincidence, kids. As much as I love Aldi, they still want your money, honey! And what better way to fall off your financial & diet goals than to buy something you don’t NEED to eat.
Don’t give in.
Skip the first aisle & head straight to the produce section. If there’s something on your list you really need from the first aisle, and your self-control is wavering…you can always go back to get that item later when your calculator has already put in some work and you’re of sober mind.
3. Beware of Special Buy Items
I live and die by a list but even Aldi occasionally throws me off my game with their Special Buy items. Could be anything, really. Home decor, kitchen utensils, small appliances, lifestyle gear, or my personal favorite…limited edition food items. Aldi has no shame. And they get you because there’s no telling how long Special Buy items will be on the shelves or if there will be new shipment of the exact same special buy items to your store.
So if you see something you think you could use, you either buy it right then & there or risk never seeing it again in stores. I’ve fallen victim to this a few times mainly because the item in question was such a great value for the price. I’ve gotten a knock off NutriBullet from Aldi for about $30, that’s a steal considering they usually run for at least $80. And my little knock off has lasted me about 4 years now.
Just the other day I saw an electric vegetable chopper on Facebook for about $50. But lo & behold, I get to Aldi…I’m doing my shopping…minding my own business and there’s a comparable model on sale in the Special Buy section for less than $30..WITH TWICE THE ATTACHMENTS AS THE ONE ON FACEBOOK???!!!
Just take all my money, Aldi! Just TAKE IT!!
Yeah, just skip the Special Buy aisle too while you’re at it.
So you made it through the trenches with your list, calculator, and your sanity intact. You’ve conquered the Special Buy Demon and resisted the Snack Aisle Spirit. Hallelujah!
At this point (keeping your calculator at bay), you can circle back through the store one last time and reward yourself with an item not originally on your list. At this point, you have an opportunity to consider which is a priority for you: a temporary treat, or keeping those coins? Doing this AFTER you’ve got everything on your list into your cart, ensures that you’ll be smart about the money you have left over to treat yourself.
I do this because in many areas of my life, especially grocery shopping, I am on AutoPilot. I like to get it over with as quickly as possible so that I’m less tempted to overspend or forget anything. If I’ve done a great job staying on-task, I’ll reward myself by going back for those sea salt kettle chips or salted caramel candies that I saw in the first aisle (cash budget permitting, of course).
I also do this because try as I might, sometimes I ignore my intuition and go to the store hungry. This is the absolute worst way to shop!! But alas, there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a snack for the ride home. I mean, you gotta get your strength up before you haul all those grocery bags into the house, right?
So there you have it, guys & gals. 4 Ways to save at Aldi. What money saving hacks do you guys like to use? Comment & let me know!
Til next time, Happy Fri-PAY!!
Your favorite “frugal foodie”,