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Aldi: The Supermarket That Combines Quality and Low Prices
It seems that new Aldi supermarkets are popping up on every corner. The Los Angeles Times reports that since 2014, the German-owned retailer has opened roughly 130 U.S. stores, with plans to open 45 more in Southern California alone. For shoppers, this translates to deeply discounted prices on high-quality items.
If you've yet to check out your local Aldi, the format may be a bit jarring at first. For starters, the space is on the small side. While it isn't uncommon for major supermarket chains to tout 40,000- to 60,000-square-foot stores, Aldi features just a handful of relatively compact aisles.
Shoppers also need to be prepared to bring their own shopping bags, shell out a 25-cent deposit to use a shopping cart, and bag their own groceries.
Aldi may be lacking a bit when it comes to convenience, but the retailer more than makes up for it with their prices. According to Phil Lempert, editor of SupermarketGuru.com, the no-frills, bare-bones format allows the company to pour all its energy (and money) into the food.
"Can you buy everything you want there? Maybe; it depends on what you're really looking for," says Lempert. "But it's certainly a place to save money, get high-quality store brands, and to have a good shopping experience."
What kind of savings are we talking here?
I recently checked out my local Aldi in Clearwater, Florida and was immediately taken back by the dramatic price difference. (I typically do the bulk of my family's food shopping at Publix.) For instance, while fresh mangos typically go for $1 each at Publix, they were just 39 cents at Aldi. I also stocked up on cans of organic black beans for 79 cents a pop, a pound of whole grain pasta for only 49 cents, and seriously discounted dairy products, like yogurt and cream cheese. Everything I purchased, aside from the mangos, were Aldi's store brand.
"Most of what they sell is their own store brand, which is very high quality," adds Lempert.
The selection, especially the produce, was limited at best—but the items they did have were insanely inexpensive. A pack of deli-sliced mozzarella only cost me $1.99. That's about 50 percent less than what I pay at Publix. Another bonus was that I was met with a friendly and helpful staff. My cashier even assured me that I could get a full refund on any item I wasn't crazy about.
When it came time to settle the bill, the woman behind the register also informed me that credit cards were a no-go—cash or debit only. Some Aldi stores in Europe have started accepting credit cards now, so maybe we'll see it over here in the US soon as well.
The good news is that everything I purchased was up to par in terms of quality. Unlike other low-price store brands, where the quality can be hit or miss, I was more than happy feeding my kids the fresh produce I picked up at Aldi.
This is precisely why Lempert says that Aldi's U.S. expansion is giving other supermarket chains a run for their money.
"There's no question that they're among the smartest, best retailers that are out there, and they've proven over the past few years just how powerful they can be," he says, adding that the same family that owns Aldi also owns Trader Joe's. "This is especially true when we look at the millennial generation and generation Z, who are more focused on the food than the environment."
Lidl, another European chain with a similar shopping format, is also making its way over to the states. Lempert predicts that within five years, we're going to see more new Aldi and Lidl stores popping up across the country. Whole Foods is reacting in kind with its 365 concept. These new stand-alone stores, which are specifically geared toward millennial shoppers, will spotlight lower prices for high-quality, all-natural products.
In the meantime, Aldi continues to expand throughout the United States. Does the retailer offer huge selections and spacious storefronts? Not really, but the prices will definitely have me coming back for more.
What Slickdealers Think of Aldi
@slickdeals I love Aldi's they have the best prices on cheese, gluten free products, bread, chips and produce!
— Corrie Ellas (@CorrieLE) July 29, 2015
@slickdeals I love the shopping cart idea they have - drop a quarter in to release one and then get your quarter back upon return.
— Jonathan Chang (@jonathanichang) July 29, 2015
@slickdeals Typically great deals at Aldi - many times much cheaper than the big guys on frozens, bacon, and some refrigerated items.
— Donald Harris (@heymistahdj) July 29, 2015
@slickdeals Aldi has been around a long time. Many items are great, only cheaper (milk) but some items don't taste great (ketchup). Big fan!
— David Andreasen (@David_Andreasen) July 29, 2015
@slickdeals I love Aldi, especially for baking staples, lean ground turkey, and the "black wrapper" sharp cheddar cheese!
— Danielle (@sketchball) July 29, 2015
Tips for First-Timers Shopping at Aldi
- Don't leave the house without your shopping bags. Alternatively, you can purchase reusable bags at the store.
- Hang onto your quarters — Aldi requires a 25-cent deposit to use their shopping carts.
- Don't expect to knock out your whole shopping list. In general, the selection at Aldi is somewhat limited. That said, you'll still find some killer deals and significant savings. (Click here to see their weekly deal page.)
- Be ready to pack your own bags — you won't find baggers at Aldi.
Looking to give Aldi a whirl? Click here to find your nearest store.
Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons (Onderwijsgek, Bidgee)
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