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Saturday, December 17, 2011

my slobbering love affair with aldi

with the kiddos growing like weeds (and appetites to match) and our grocery budget shrinking, i need to get creative with grocery shopping.  earlier this year i discovered a great store in my backyard, and it helps us save money on groceries.  yep, i'm having a love affair with aldi.

it's funny how a craptastic economy forces you to rethink the way you feed your family.  with the boy, it was only organic meats and produce!  whole grain bread!  healthy snacks!  we still eat healthy and i try to find deals on organics.  unfortunately our budget dictates what we eat.  i also call it cutting the cloth to fit the coat.

my dad shopped at aldi long before it became trendy.  he gets crackers and nuts there.  he told mom and me that the food is just as good as what we get at our local groceries except it was a lot cheaper.  canned goods were cheaper, meat was cheaper, even orange juice was cheaper.

aldi keeps saves money in many ways.  it costs a quarter to use a shopping cart - when you return the cart, you get your quarter back.  this keeps "wandering cart" costs down (somewhere in my posts you'll find my gripe about how the local grocery store never has those shorty carts becos people are constantly stealing them).  no missing carts = no costs passed on to the customer.

i take my own shopping bags to aldi - no plastic bags there (although they have large plastic and canvas bags there for purchase).  cashiers do not bag your groceries - they are returned to another cart and YOU bag your food.  some customers use the cardboard flats and boxes to package their groceries - i did this once  but it's easier to take my bags.  i forgot my bags once, couldn't find any cartons and had to unload my groceries (which included a lot of canned goods) into the trunk of my car.  big pain!  i learned my lesson that day.

if you are brand loyal, you'll be in for a shock.  pretty much the only brand at aldi is their own store brand.  occasionally they'll get a special purchase and you can find name brand cereal or ice cream, for example.  but there's one kind of canned peas, one kind of stewed tomatoes, one kind of wheat bread.  there's no green giant or del monte canned produce.  i get bremen brand frozen salisbury steaks instead of on-core brand (another one of my dirty secrets - yes, i feed my family crappy frozen dinners on occasion).

i stock up on staples when there is sale, especially around holiday time.  i learned recently that bags of grated cheese are at least 2 dollars cheaper than at the regular stores.  butter is 2 dollars cheaper.  when they are on sale, i go to town and buy up - thank goodness for our freezers!  i also get my cereal here - cookie crisp is much cheaper and doesn't taste any different than the name brand!  at oktoberfest time, i stock up on spaetzle.  you don't want to see my noodle hoard in the back porch.

when seasonal items are available, buy up.  a few weeks ago pouches of dates were on sale, and i bought two.  they were much cheaper than the regular stores.  when i went back to get more they were gone.  i wish i bought more.  

i found goat cheese on a trip recently - it blew my mind.  aldi carries goat cheese?  i was also delighted to find apple cider, fancy bagged salad greens and little cucumbers!  it saved me a trip to the regular grocery store, this discovery.  

there are a few things that i don't get at aldi.  i buy whole grain pasta and baking staples in bulk at our local surplus and amish/mennonite stores.  i prefer low sodium canned vegetables, broth or jarred spaghetti sauce so i often get those at the regular grocery.  i also get organic milk at the store.  those are my splurges.

aldi does not accept coupons nor credit cards.  pay in cash or use a debit card.

how much do i save?  a regular trip to the grocery store could yield a bill averaging $120.  the same food at aldi (minus distractions such as snack foods and magazines)?  under $50.  yes!

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