Can We Talk About the Aldi Grocery Store Chain?

Has anyone ever been to one? I have not, but apparently it is owned by the brother of Trader Joe, and according to Rebecca Schuman at Slate, it is the best grocery store in America:

Aldi also private-labels (those $1.99 “Millville” Rice Squares are Chex, you guys!), but what makes it a more exciting venture—and even cheaper than Trader Joe’s—is that it has imported the entire German grocery experience (aside, alas, from employees yelling at you if you do something wrong).

If you’ve ever visited Germany, you’ve noticed that a 4-ounce glass of juice at a restaurant may run you $10, while groceries—often of much higher quality than their American counterparts—will be noticeably less expensive. This is in part because of cost-cutting shopping practices whose arrival stateside I greet with a robust “Wunderbar!”

Hmm. This does sound nice but I will remain loyal to Publix until I have more first-hand accounts.

Photo: Nicholas Eckhart

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44 Comments / Post A Comment

aetataureate (#1,310)

Well, the phrase “a robust ‘Wunderbar!’” is so embarrassing that I can’t make myself click through.

But Aldi is wonderful!

Meaghano (#529)

@aetataureate lol the author does throw around a little more than her fair share of german phrases

laluchita (#2,195)

I was all ready to love Aldi, but the one time I went to one it was ginormous packages of a limited number of things that I don’t want. What do people love so much about it?

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

Aldi <3 FOREVER. My mom is a die-hard Aldi shopper. (I literally sent her this article yesterday.)I think the only time I ever had branded cereal was at friends’ houses. My favorite thing was to put the quarter in to get the cart. And if I returned the cart, sometimes my mom would let me keep the quarter. Everything is so cheap! You can get milk for like $2.25 still. Bread is less than a dollar. They’re also getting into selling more upscale stuff too. Like they keep rotating in these frozen hors devours and desserts. And they have things like fancy kettle chips and crackers. (For cheeeep.) They’ll frequently have some swank European brands too – like these amazing shortbread cookies. The physical store in my hometown has also gotten nicer too. I feel like as a kid shopping at Aldi may have been one of my first exposures to economic diversity. There definitely was a feeling of “this store is not as nice/for people who need these prices.” And it was always interesting when my mom ran into people she knew at Aldi – they would either own it and acknowledge their thriftiness or make some sort of excuse.

Aldi’s not always the best for produce, so you do have to check that. And the meat isn’t always the best quality either. But for anything else they’re sure to have the best price and equal quality. I don’t shop at Aldi as much as my mom because it’s farther away and I bike to get my groceries. The most convenient grocery store is actually a Whole Foods, which kills me inside.

faustbanana (#2,376)

@lemur_niemer Aldi has gained some young person cred in the past few years, it seems, probably because of the Trader Joe’s connection. When I was a kid there was definitely a stigma associated with it, at least by my parents, which is kinda ridiculous because their bank account was not exactly flush. So we never shopped there. I went there for the first time as a teenager to pick up a 100-count box of ice pops. I also bought a watermelon, but didn’t eat it because I still had my parents’ disdain for Aldi produce floating around my consciousness.

Thought it may have been unfairly maligned over the years, I think Aldi has also gotten nicer as of late. Comparing the one I went to 15 years ago to some of the newer ones I’ve been in recently, they’re cleaner, better stocked, and overall less depressing. And yes, those fancy kettle chips (salt + pepper) are delicious.

Stina (#686)

@lemur_niemer Aldi is where I do my basic shopping and supplement it from other stores. While the selection is still limited the produce in the past few years at my store has gotten a lot better.

But now is the season for the apple pie/cheesecake hybrid they sell that I, not kidding at all DREAM about.

sea ermine (#122)

I used to live in Germany and I shopped at Aldi all of the time, for everything, but I haven’t gone in the US because I heard that the one near me (the one in Rego Park, near the Queens center mall) was dirty and poorly stocked. I’d love to go to a good one in the US, it’s a great grocery store. I still might try the one near me out, it may have just been bad online reviews.

pearl (#153)

@sea ermine I didn’t care much for Aldi or Lidl. Netto, however, was my jam.

LB (#3,427)

It’s not great for produce, but awesome for frozen and canned things. My mom shopped there when I was a kid, and I did when I was in college. If there was one near me, I’d still go. Aldi!

I like Aldi, but nothing compares to Wegmans.

allreb (#502)

@Vodka Queen I was gonna say. My hometown had an Aldi and a Wegmans, and Wegmans has my heart and soul. Or at least the portion thereof that’s devoted to grocery stores. (…though I wouldn’t be shocked if Aldi was cheaper on a lot of things.)

snoopygirrl (#1,710)

Aldi is awesome!
Pros:Great Prices!
Cons:Limited selection of produce
Also, be prepared, you have to bag your own groceries.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

Meh. There’s an Aldi that I shopped at occasionally while visiting grandparents. Produce and meat was hit-or-miss, they had limited selections of items(or might have something for a week and then it’d be a while before- or never – before it showed up again) and it was always kinda grungy? But that could just be the Aldi’s in my grandma’s town.

I just re-discovered Aldi this week after being unimpressed on a first visit when one opened in my city a few years ago. It’s magical!

99 cent pineapples. High quality dairy (I’ve been told their Happy Farms label is actually Byrne Dairy) for soooo cheap. 3 lbs of onions for 99 cents. 10 lbs of potatoes for $1.99. 99 cent spices and dirt cheap baking goods. $2 jars of fancy pesto. $2 hummus. 59 cent cans of beans. And the weirdest thing – a wide selection of name brand cheeses like Jarlsberg and Kerrygold and Wensleydale for way cheaper than even Trader Joe’s.

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

@down the rabbit hole Aldi generally puts its own labels on the nearest local dairy products. My kindergarten actually took a trip to the dairy processing plant in my hometown and saw the milk jugs go into two lines – one got “Swiss Valley” labels and the other got “Friendly Farms.”

sheistolerable (#2,382)

I adore it! I didn’t encounter it until an adult, so I’m not sure about the stigma, but gotta love it for cheap basics and occasional fun luxe German stuff like chocolate Advent calendars. Buying all your baking stuff at Aldi actually makes baking gifts for friends cost-effective, which is usually a lie. Also, I like that a lot of their produce is unrefrigerated because it’s usually closer to ripe than in your typical US supermarket.

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@sheistolerable I have been shopping at Aldi for months (and liking the prices very much) but never noticed the produce was not refridgerated!!! I need to be more aware of my surroundings.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I shop at Aldi all the time. There is some stigma attached to it where I live, but I seriously couldn’t care less. I get all my staples there, like milk, eggs, flour, etc. The fancy cheese is great and super cheap, which is good for me, because I make a lot of homemade pizza. If you like chocolate, Aldi’s has great fancy chocolate. I get frozen fruit for smoothies there. They don’t have an extensive selection of produce, and there’s nothing very offbeat, but it’s fine for carrots, celery and onions.

Having said that, it’s not a store for hip, upscale people. It’s aimed at people who don’t have much money. I understand why upscale urban folks go there and are disappointed. I do about a third of my shopping there and think I save a lot of money, but I’m not sure it’s going to appeal to everyone.

eraserface (#1,628)

I went to an aldi once in DC and was neither impressed nor unimpressed. Some things seemed like a good deal, others not really. I think the best deal I got was a pack of bell peppers for like $2 or less, and they were all very good. I recall that the fancy cheese section was also generally a good deal. Also, I was unprepared for the debit card only thing.

BornSecular (#2,245)

I like Aldi! Like other users, I was suspicious & thought it had a stigma when I was younger, but I also wouldn’t shop at thrift stores then either. Now, as an adult with bills, buying my own groceries, I love it.

The prices are generally reasonable as well as the quality. I’m still a little leery of some of the meat & extremely processed foods, but most of it’s good. I even really like the produce. It tends to actually be ripe, unlike standard grocery store fare. But then it also goes bad faster, so buyer beware I guess.

One caveat about Aldi: I find prices advertised in local grocery circulars can be cheaper. Aldi being cheaper depends on if what you need is on sale somewhere else, in my experience.

BornSecular (#2,245)

@BornSecular Also I am a midwesterner, so this may not apply everywhere!

CL (#3,590)

The brother of Trader Joe? Joe Coulombe doesn’t have a brother, or at least not one in the grocery business, and he sold Trader Joes more than thirty years ago to Theo Albrecht.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

@CL This is covered in the article. Theo Albrecht’s brother, Karl Albrecht, owns the American Aldi stores.

kentuckienne (#4,294)

Aldi is great for stocking up. They always have basics at lower prices. Sometimes I’ll still have to supplement with a trip to Kroger because the produce section is limited, but it’s worth it for the cheaper cheese, almonds, beef jerky, and frozen goods, etc.

I’m totally okay not paying extra for nicer shelving and bags, etc. Also, they only take cash or bank cards; the saving on credit card fees is passed along to the customer though!

A-M (#4,317)

I have only been to Aldi in Germany but it was fantastic there! Great for stocking up on German treats to bring home at minimal prices.

Marge (#4,715)

My understanding of the corporate structure as explained to me by a TJ employee is that Aldi is TJ’s parent company. The Trader Joes produce section is not great either. coincidence? I’m pretty sure that TJ food is Aldi food with fancier labels, and that Aldi is where all of TJ’s dented cans wind up.

The in store experience is nearly the same. Sometimes there aren’t even aisles you have to wind around the store in a maze that ends at the checkout, and much like Trader Joes often more time is spent waiting to check out than actually shopping. The bonus to Aldi’s one track layout is that you can ACTUALLY get in line and shop simultaneously which people try and fail to do at Trader Joes anyway.

shannowhamo (#845)

They only recently came to Texas so it was shiny and new and without stigma. But, still, because it’s considered a budget brand, it did mostly open up in less-than-stellar parts of town which worked out well for me because I worked at a library in a strip mall next door. But I just couldn’t get into it, since the produce and meat are sometimes sketch, there just wasn’t enough stuff that I needed there to make it worth my while. I also don’t regularly buy staples like milk and plain bread so it didn’t make sense for that stuff either. I am also not a bag bringer so I couldn’t get in the habit of that (if you’re already a bag bringer, this won’t be an issue.) I also always found the check out process stressful- they checkers are super fast and put your stuff in a cart (even if you didn’t have a cart) and then I guess you wheel the cart over to the bagging station? I was never quite sure and I always felt like since the checkers were so fast, that I was expected to be just as efficient!

RiffRandell (#4,774)

@shannowhamo I love the checkout experience actually because I am a) a bag bringer and b) someone who hates using self checkout at other stores but dislikes the way the checkout workers bag groceries. I believe Aldi offers the best of both worlds there.

theo albrecht(markus foundation) owns aldi nord and trader joe’s, but the two companies are not liked directly. But as far as I know they have some kind of cooperation. There are some similarities: They mainly sell store brands. But I’m 100% curtain that the aldi and the tj products are completly different.
I’m from germany and my wife is american. Everytime we are in the us I’m jeallous and wished we would have TJ in germany too.
Aldi in germany is a great store. Super cheap and the products have partly an amazing quality (they win lots of awards and product tests). The us aldis I visited so far where a dissapointment for me, It’s just not the same. BTW Aldi süd in germany is way better then aldi nord.
The linked articel is well written, but I think the author didn’t do any fact checking and as a german I get crazy reading all this german words. Many of them aren’t used the right way and often there is an equaly good and less pretentious english word she could use.

lemonadefish (#3,296)

Aldi is… okay… I find there is a really limited selection, and things like the private label chocolate bars are not nearly as good at the Trader Joe’s chocolate bars (though I don’t have access to Trader Joe’s regularly…). It’s rarely worth the separate trip to me, since I can only get maybe half my list there. Produce is especially sparse and sad. (Though my Aldi experience is in a small town, so maybe it’s different other places?)

pixiesuperhero (#3,951)

Aldi is… I want to say gross. I don’t feel quite that strongly but I really, really can’t understand people’s enthusiasm for it. To each his own. But, you know, everyone always very quickly admits the dearth of good produce, and I’m sorry, but good produce is pretty much my entire diet.

toninator (#3,522)

Aldi in Australia is great. Recently I have got some excellent cuts of meat there, it has stepped up how often I visit. I try to alternate shopping between a regular supermarket and Aldi.
They also offer a really great prepaid phone plan.

EmilyAnomaly (#4,238)

I went to Aldi when I was studying abroad in Austria and Germany. In Europe you have to use a WHOLE EURO to “rent” a cart instead of a quarter. You could buy a pint (probably closer to ein Maß) of beer for less than the equivalent of $1. In the U.S. stores I’ve frequented, the trick with Aldi is to get your staples there and plan on other places for produce or fresh meat. Produce is hit or miss (I have gotten amazing strawberries there, but it was while berries were in season) and then explore the random specialty goods. My dad almost exclusively shops there for groceries and loves it, but he buys a lot of frozen food. I haven’t been to an Aldi in a few years. I used to pass one everyday coming home from work, but it is in a sketchy part of town and always looked really busy.

kellyography (#250)

I am also from the Midwest, and growing up, Aldi had MAJOR stigma. It was the place where “poor” people shopped, and being poor, my mom and I went there semi-often. I always remember it being really dingy with bad lighting, but that may have just been the way the 1980s looked. However, if there were any in the NYC metropolitan area, I’d check it out again.

sea ermine (#122)

@kellyography There are! There is one in Rego Park (across from the Queens Center Mall right by the subway (it’s sort of in between the Woodhaven Blvd and 63rd Dr-Rego Park stops on the M and R). There is one in East Harlem, by the 116 6 train (it’s a farther walk than the one in Queens, it’s way over by the Target/Costco). There is also one in Brooklyn but it’s not a reasonable walk from a subway stop.

illnona (#4,783)

Ok, so I love both Aldi and Publix. I don’t know that I believe you can do all Aldi for groceries. Aldi is great for the majority of groceries, but Publix produce and fresh meat cannot be beat, so in my home we alternate. In fact, I went to Aldi yesterday. I bought chicken breasts, flank steak, ground beef patties, fish fillets,potato chips, cookies, lettuce, a bag of on the vine tomatoes, 6 cans of soup, a loaf of bread, a carton of almond milk, cookies,aluminum foil, a pack of shredded cheddar, a bottle of wine, cooking oil, turkey sandwich meat, a bag of brussel sprouts, a bag of grapes, trash bags, and 16 pack of toilet tissue for less than $100. Had I gone to Publix and attempted this it would have easily been double the cost. We did purchase bananas and apples from Publix today. The Aldi in my neighborhood is less than a year old and is very clean. I think you have to learn how to shop at Aldi. I tend to do one giant shopping trip at Aldi a month and then supplement with little trips to Publix each week to refresh produce. Aldi doesn’t have a great variety and it is inconsistent in the products available, but the wine, cheese, cereal and snacks are awesome and extremely cheap. The eggs, bread, and milk are better than name brand.

halloliebchen (#5,373)

I live in Berlin, Germany, and shop at Aldi, but Lidl and Netto are way better. Aldi doesn’t stock ANY name brands, which is okay sometimes, but sometimes you really want a Diet Coke and not some weird off-brand “Cola Lite”. But now it makes sense why my Aldi in Berlin carries Trader Joe’s dried cranberries!

annev17 (#4,822)

I like Aldi! Limited selection but really cheap. I’m in Europe and we don’t have Trader Joe’s, but Aldi carries a few “Trader Joe’s”-branded products. I especially love the salted pistachios.

notpollyanna (#2,841)

Yeah Aldi! I mostly get ingredients there: flour, butter, milk, tinned tomatoes, oil, frozen fruits and vegetables, that sort of stuff. I also get yogurt, peanut butter, cheese, and cereal there, but I’m trying to wean myself off buying those at all. (I’m so lazy about feeding myself! I would eat a bowl of cereal for every meal always if it were good for me.) I’ve stopped buying fresh produce there because it never worked out for me and I’m a vegetarian, so I can’t comment on the meat. I mostly supplement with ethnic grocery stores (Little India has the best/cheapest nuts, rice, beans, exotic flours, spices, and really good produce. The Puerto Rican stores near me have pretty good produce and beans, too.) and the occasional trip to a major chain, mostly for cat food.

veedub1144 (#5,204)

Aldi product are just fine. Clientele can be a little dicey, though – I once saw a guy punch another guy over the last box of fruit snacks.

jclark (#5,470)

Aldi is great for your basics. That’s kind of the whole point. It was never meant to be an all out grocery store

Their whole business model is to only stock certain items (instead of 30 brands of toothpaste, there are just one or two). And it is amazingly cheap for most of the items it has. They also only stock things that sell well, which helps them keep prices down. There are the regular items which they always have, but there are also many items that are really just there for a week or a few weeks, or maybe just a season (like Christmas stuff now). Every week they also have random non-food items, which can range from toys to household appliances and so on. Those are really only there for one week, so if you see something you like, don’t expect it to ever be there again. I live in Maryland and since Aldi isn’t close, we stock up once a month, and use Safeway for other stuff. Sometimes we go to a few other grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s, but Trade Joe’s and Aldi are two totally different types of stores. And maybe it’s different in Maryland, but Trader Joe’s is certainly not what I would call an affordable store, except for a few odd items (like $1.30 pizza dough!). The main connection is that Aldi bought Trader Joe’s a few years ago.

Aldi has been around in Germany for a hundred years, and most German grocery stores follow some parts of the Aldi model to keep prices down (at least the grocery cart deposit, and packing 1,000 grocery items in 30 seconds). And Aldi chcolocate, which is imported from Germany (sometimes some other European countries too) is better than anything you can usually find here, at only a fraction of the price. Every time we go, we stock up on these amazing $1.29 bars, that are some of the best chocolate I have ever had (and I lived in Europe for seven years). I’ve also found their meat and produce to be good here (while it always seemed slightly dodgy in Germany). They also have a pretty good selection of gourmet cheeses and meats, actually imported from Europe, and there are also always a few German items year round, such as Spaetzle. At Christmas, though, they have Lebkuchen, Stollen, and all sorts of other German Christmas food. Apart from that, they are great for snacks, breakfast cereal, basic baking supplies (especially cheap flour and sugar), milk, eggs, lunch meat, canned goods, and so on. And I think their produce is great, at least at the store near me.

Most Aldi items are priced at about 70% of what you would pay for a similar item elsewhere. When I go to Costco or Sam’s Club, things seem maybe slightly cheaper than elsewhere, but at Aldi, it’s way cheaper, cheaper than the steepest discounts anywhere else. And the quality is good. Just don’t expect them to have the variety of Wegmans, because Aldi is not meant to be that sort of store. If we had an Aldi nearby, we would probably use it every week, and supplement less at other stores.

Sloane (#675)

My favorite thing about Aldi’s: no music! So quiet and peaceful.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I assumed that nobody is still reading, but just in case someone stumbles on this, I just got back from doing a big grocery shopping at Aldi. I’m making a huge batch of holiday cookies this weekend, so I got lots of baking supplies.

Here’s what I got. Prices are American dollars.:

10 multigrain frozen waffles: $1.29
4 lbs sugar: $1.49
5 lbs all-purpose flour: $1.39
1 lb frozen strawberries: $2.29
1 lb frozen peaches: $2.29
8 oz. cream cheese: $.89
32 oz. Greek yogurt: $3.89
12 oz. fresh cranberries: $.99
Strawberry jam: $1.99
3 heads of garlic: $.99
12 large eggs: $1.29
3 pounds unsalted butter: $5.07 ($1.69 per pound)
Milk chocolate hazelnut candy bar: $1.99

Total: $25.85

Aldi’s is the closest market to my house after a number of much nicer ones closed some years ago. I go there sometimes but I always have to be prepared to go someplace else if they don’t have what I want. I don’t care about brand names, but I’m talking about no buttermilk or cantaloupes.

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