Monday, January 7, 2013

Aldi Grocery Store Review: Low Prices and Quality Too?

I'd been meaning to get to grocery store Aldi for a long time. I'd heard it was owned by a European company, and the prices were rock bottom. (And in fact it is owned by a German Company: "ALDI Einkauf GmbH &Co. oHG, doing business as  ALDI (German pronunciation: [aldi]), short for "Albrecht Discount", is a global discount supermarket chain based in Germany"), per wikipedia.

I finally got there, and no I want to share with you my outing to Aldi, with lots of photos and info, the way I wish someone had shared with me before I went to the store for the first time. So here is my review of Aldi...I hope you enjoy  it! :)

Above: What the front of the store looks like in the strip mall in my area where it is located.

The first thing you'll notice when you walk up to Aldi is that the grocery carts have a controlled system. You cannot get a cart unless you put a quarter in the cart's lock slot; all the locks are chained together so as to fit together when the carts are pushed together. This, as the signs proclaim, helps Aldi, and therefore you, save money.

Above: Signs around Aldi's shopping carts explaining how the controlled system saves them money. They don't have to hire people to gather carts from the lot, plus no carts get lost or stolen.

So I put my quarter in and I was ready to go.

The first thing I noticed when I got to the store was a little unnerving, but again, I see how it saves them money (and therefore us). A video monitor to keep an eye on potential shoplifters.

Yep, there I am capturing myself on, video!

So, the first aisle is where it immediately hit me that this is a European-based chain. It's hard to miss when you see chocolate labeled "Schogetten" and "Choceur." And check out the price...$1.99 for some high-quality chocolate; that's pretty good!

By the way, I taste-tested the dark chocolate, and while quite creamy and smooth, it is not as dark as I prefer, Still, it's tasty, and it's a good size..about 8 inches, not accounting for flaps.

Next I saw an impressive collection of very low-priced wine..again, no surprise, European..German and some French.

Above we can see some wine that appears to be Italian, and "Winking Owl" Cabernet Sauvignon for $2.89! I did not buy wine on this visit but I hope to next time.

The one disappointment for me in terms of wine was that they did not have any sparkling wine, Prosecco or champagne. If they can negotiate something with a Prosecco maker in Italy, I would love it!

Actually wait..I take that back...they did have one last bottle of an Asti..I did buy it. But..I worry it will be too sweet. I'll report back later as to how it was.

There was also a lot of snack food in the first aisle. Potato chips, corn chips, etc...a good assortment at low prices. I bought a good-sized bag of some potato chips for $1.49.

Sorry the above pic is a bit blurry; I'll try t get a better one next time. They also had plenty of crackers, and of course some kinda cool European crackers and chocolate-covered cookies.

Soon after all the snacks was the dairy area. They had all the dairy I normally need..milk, cream, eggs. Here is a look at the eggs..I had to laugh at their name:

Not a bad price! There only appeared to be one kind, though, so if you're into the organic/brown/cage-free variety, you may not want these.

Oh wait, let's not forget the coffee. As I think you know, coffee can be durn expensive. The deals here were good and the quality looked fine too:

They had a small selection of different types but it was not the variety you get at a Safeway or Giant. But I am so anal about my coffee that I order it online, preferring a very specific flavor. So this didn't really bother me.

Cereal: Aldi had "knock-off" brands of popular cereal such as these which were like Honey Nut Cheerios:

Honey Nut Crispy "Millville"! If you squinted, you couldn't tell the difference between this box and General Mills's. And the price? $1.49 for a large-size box. You can't beat that with a shaft of wheat! We all know how name-brand cereal runs into the $3-$4 range and up, depending on the brand and size. It does go on sale at mainstream grocery stores every so often, but you have to wait for a sale.

Still, I have not taste-tested these yet. Report to follow.

Next we got to some kinds of bottled drinks. There was this faux "Gatorade" type sports drink: I bought one  bottle of the red variety to see how my kids liked it. For 65 cents, I don't see how you can't give it a shot.

There was also an energy drink:

This may have come earlier in the store, but they also had staples like Mac n Cheese, and also, interestingly, various kinds of whole grain or whole wheat pasta.

Now we come to something a little bizarre. The pet foiod section. Here I did have a quibble.

When it came to dry pet food, they seemed to have only these huge-arsed bags that were way more than I wanted to buy at one time and way bigger than I wanted to hoist into my cart:

Let's get another look at that:

In case you can't tell, them's some big-arse bags! They probably weigh a good ten pounds each! Now, they did have cans of wet cat food (and dog food) that were not ginormous, and I grabbed one of those, thankfully (99 cents for a good-sized can). But I'd have to buy my dry cat food elsewhere.

Big is the order of the day when it comes to other things, too, such as condiments. Take this ketchup:

That's also part of what saves you money. You not only get lower prices, you generally get bigger sizes as well.

The meat looked to be good quality, and priced well. Again, the package was generally bigger than what you'd find at typical American grocery stores:

And, they also have your standard variety of meats: chicken, steak, cut-up beef stew meat, pork. I did not see "New York Strip: steak, which is the kind my husband I did not buy steak there. But they did have other stypes of steak.

Here's a look at some more meat:

Aldi pork chops, above.

There is a whole funky aisle at Aldi with toys and the like. I am not reviewing them for this blog post, but if you'd like me to cover them in a future post, post a comment here.

Next we come to the Product section, with fruit and vegetables. I found the quality of all the fruits and veggies to be very good, even if the selection was not huge.

Above, we can see prices for some fruit, including a nice bag of mixed fruit, with apples and oranges, for $4.79.

I thought the quality of the oranges was excellent; they are very tasty! A bag like you see below cost me $1.89.

They also had green plantains, which looked great. I plan to get some next time. Their green grapes looked very fresh, tart and crisp, not mushy as you get at some stores.

They have a whole wall devoted to frozen foods...nice-sized family dinners. I bought a frozen chicken pasts, a large frozen pizza, and a pot pie. Their frozen boxed food looked larger than average to me as compared to your usual grocery store - the Giants and Safeways of the world, or what have you...truly "family sized."

Note the brand name: "Bremer." That doesn't sound German, does it? ;)

Above...a good-sized frozen pizza. At $2.99 for a take-out sized pizza, you can't beat that with a stick! But..we'll see if this deal is not there next time we come.

They also had individual pot pies for 79 cents. If I'm not mistaken, Banquet is an American, it's not like Aldi has no American brands.

Last I came to the bread area. The had fine whole wheat and whole grain breads,  just like at those other stores. I paid $1.69 for a bag of cinnamon raisin bagels and $1.89 for a loaf of whole grain bread.

At last it's checkout time. The lines were medium-sized; not long. And everybody seems to know the drill.

What's the drill? I'll tell you, because I wish someone had been there to tell me. And don't expect warm and fuzzies from your cashier. When I joked to mine that I was a first-timer and "where do I put my cart?" she replied with a blunt, "I take that and put those in there." I think those were the only words she said the whole time. But she rang everything up quickly, there were no problems.

Somehow a cart had appeared to her right, my left. She started grabbing each item out of my cart and into the empty cart on her right. You are expected to bring your own bags or buy Aldi's bags, which hang there for purchase near the checkout. They have fabric bags and plastic thermal bags meant for frozen food. The fabric bag cost me $0.79.

Above: "Baaaaaggggssss...bags for saaaalllleee..they're going cheap; only seven guineas..." (Sorry, that's inspired by a song from the musical "Oliver"; these bags cost 79 cents, at least the fabric ones do).

At the end, you'll hustle away from the register with a cart full of groceries, unbagged. Your old full cart becomes the empty take-away cart to be filled at the next guy or gal's checkout.

Above: my cart after checkout, foreground, with partially bagged groceries. The red bag you see is a Trader Joe's bag I brought on my own. Note the lady in the pic, above, dealing with her own cart of unbagged groceries.

You now must either bag all your own stuff or, if you feel wild and crazy and inefficient, wheel the whole mess out to your car and put it in your car one thing at a time (not recommended because taking the food into your house will then be a hassle).

OK, now here I will give you a warning. Or, um, suggestion. If you buy liquid items, such as drinks or window cleaner, bag them separately in a plastic bag. I found that both one of the drinks I bought and the plastic bottle of spray window cleaner leaked into the bag when they got turned on their sides. So best to keep those apart.

The only product I had not been happy with is the liquid foaming soap. When you push on  the dispenser, it shoots foamy soap forward about six feet. So beware.

Everything else, though, was a real value and quality too. Will I be going back? I sure hope so!

Oh, and one last thing...don't forget to take your cart back to get your quarter back! Plus, it's just the Aldi thing to do.

Got questions? Comments? Things you'd like me to blog about next time? Post a comment here!


julia wilkinson said...

Update: my kids were not impressed with the big frozen chicken and pasta dinner. (The "bremer" label). But then there are very few meals we can all agree on. I'd say their frozen pizza is better than the giant frozen dinner I bought, but I need to try more of them.

Miss. Marie said...

Wow there organic food prices are the lowest I have found other then the milk- Kroger organic is lower priced...

julia wilkinson said...

Miss Marie yep. This place has good quality food at rock bottom prices. The savings are in the do-it-yourself stuff like bagging and total lack of frills. Save on! I just wish I made the trek down there to the store more often..I'm too lazy to drive the extra few miles. :/