Your Ultimate Guide: How to Shop at Aldi Like a Pro

Jen SmithFrugality, Personal Finance4 Comments

Aldi St. Pete, FL

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In my experience, the best way, by far, to save money on groceries is shopping at Aldi. The prices are a fraction of those at other grocery stores, the quality is way better than other discount stores, and the size allows me to shop at lightning speed to avoid “off-list” distractions.

Everything about Aldi is designed to help home cooks on a budget.

So that’s why I meal plan and modify to accommodate Aldi’s selection. Aldi has 90% of what I want so it’s not worth going to multiple stores and risking the temptation of seeing something else I “need” to follow a recipe completely.

While some people have a cult-like obsession with Aldi (raises hand) it can be intimidating for most people that aren’t familiar with its ins and outs. So I want to help you get to pro-level in this comprehensive guide on how to shop at Aldi.

After you read this you’ll be prepared to make your grocery list, tackle all four of Aldi’s aisles with finesse and check out with ease. Let’s get started.

Before You Go

 

Check the Aldi weekly ads and meal plan. Aldi has two types of weekly ads. The Aldi Circular that’s sent to your house has produce picks, meat specials, and other seasonally selected sales. I like to look at the ad before I meal plan but you can count on most of the sales being on in-season items so it’s not always necessary.

The in-store ad is called Aldi Insider; it’s full of limited time Aldi finds. Mostly nonedible stuff but there’s a few Specially Selected products in there too. I find that all of Aldi’s products are good quality for the price you pay. If you see something you’ve needed it’s definitely worth getting it at Aldi when it becomes available.

Patio set and rug from Aldi

Patio set and rug from Aldi

Aldi is very big into the seasonal selection. You won’t find winter gourds in summer or sunscreen in winter. That’s one of the ways Aldi can keep its prices low. I won’t give you a full list of their inventory for all seasons but you can check past weekly ads here to get a feel for what might be coming up.

Bring Your Bags

 

Aldi doesn’t offer bags like a normal grocery store; it’s another time and cost-saving method, so bring your own reusable bags. You can also use any empty boxes you see around the store but it’s a lot easier to bring your own than to hunt those down.

Have a Quarter Handy

 

Shopping carts require a quarter deposit. There’s a contraption on the right side of the handle that you push a quarter into and the lock pops out allowing you to pull your cart out. To return your cart you stick that metal lock in the backside of the doo-hickey and it pushes the quarter out the front.

You can always tell an Aldi noob by the way they’re fidgeting with the cart lock, now you won’t look like a noob.

Aldi Locations

 

Aldi has 1700 as of writing this and plans to have 2500 stores open by 2022. Aldi is also actively revamping its current stores. You can find a store near you on their website.

If there’s a new Aldi opening nearby it’s a great idea to attend the grand opening. There are free gifts, tastings, limited release products, and it’s the only time you can get a legitimate Aldi coupon. The same goes for grand re-openings after renovations.

Aldi Grand Opening

Open aisles at my Aldi

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Aldi so Cheap?

 

Aldi cuts corners on service to give you quality products at half the price of the other guys. If you asked me if I’d pay to have someone bag my groceries, arrange produce beautifully, or return my cart for me I’d say no every day.

Aldi erupted in Germany after World War 2 when people didn’t need that fancy stuff, they just needed food they could afford. So Aldi has smaller stores, less selection, no bags or baggers, and makes you return your own cart so they can save on labor costs.

But don’t worry, Aldi offers some of the best hourly wages among its competitors and, at least at my local store, the employees seem to like their jobs. Aldi streamlines everything for its employees from displaying products in the boxes they came in, to having a ton of barcodes on products so they don’t have to hunt for them at checkout.

All this makes shopping at Aldi cheap and really fast.

What Time Does Aldi Close?

 

Most Aldi locations are open 9a- 9p Monday through Saturday and 9a-8p on Sunday. Opening later and closing early is another way Aldi saves on labor costs and keeps prices low.

Does Aldi Take Coupons?

 

Aldi Coupons are like unicorns, most of the time you see them they’re fake but once in a while, they’re real. This is true at grand openings where you can get $5 off $30 coupons. And honestly, you don’t need coupons. You can save a ton on groceries without them.

Does Aldi Take Credit Cards?

 

For a while, it didn’t, but in March 2016 Aldi started accepting credit cards and in September 2017 started accepting Apple Pay and Android Pay. Still no checks though.

Does Aldi Take EBT?

 

Yes! Aldi accepts EBT but not WIC.

What to Buy at Aldi

 

When I’m making my grocery list there are things I need and things I want. My favorite thing about how to shop at Aldi is that it makes things so cheap I can get all the things I need and have room left in my budget to get some of my wants.

Produce

All the produce in my experience has been fresh and long lasting. There’s always a variety of apples, oranges, berries, and lemons. There are several exotic fruits available when in-season like mangoes and pomegranates.

There’s always a wide variety of vegetables from celery, onions, sweet peppers, potatoes, and carrots, to seasonal produce like winter squash. I bought one bad bag of kale and I was able to swap it out for a new one but make sure the expiration is a couple days out to avoid my mistake.

Frozen

Frozen corn, asparagus, broccoli, and peas are always available and seasonal mixed vegetables change throughout the year. Aldi’s ice cream is SO GOOD. You have to try the peanut butter s’mores if you see it. It’s the most divine.

I would skip the veggie burgers but other than that you’re safe with the frozen stuff.

Dairy

Aldi’s milk doesn’t last as long as other stores so don’t get the gallon unless you’re going to finish it fast. I get the organic milk and it’s worth the money. It tastes better and it’s not very expensive.

Check your eggs for cracks before you take them but other than that I’ve been pleased with all dairy products, especially the gourmet cheeses.

Pantry

I’ve never bought a bad pantry item or canned good from Aldi. There’s a great selection of canned beans and vegetables, Italian and Mexican sections are extensive, and you can get all your baking needs there too.

Grains are limited to rice and quinoa and dry beans are limited to black and navy. While the selection leaves much to be desired the quality has always been good.

Aldi Grand Opening

Produce at Aldi

Here are a few of my favorite wants:

Aldi Organic Products

 

I’ve heard horror stories about people living near farms that use pesticides on their crops. I always think that even if I’m not living in it, I’m eating it and that will be just as bad in the long run.

Aldi allows me to get organic produce for the price of regular produce at any other grocery store. I love the organic milk but I also like several other “dirty dozen” items when I see them.

Aldi Beer & Wine

 

Out of the way Trader Joe’s, Aldi has the wine game on lock. Aldi’s brand of wine called Winking Owl is good but they have some even better wines that don’t even break $5. Burlwood Pinot Noir is my favorite. They also have wines rated in the high 80s-90s according to Wine Spectator.

Aldi has a limited but good selection of beer. I like the Broegel Bock and Kinroo Blue Belgian White. Not every Aldi carries beer and wine but if yours does you should definitely compare it to your favorite brands. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Aldi Gluten Free

 

Live G Free is Aldi’s gluten free brand and it’s one of the most affordable out there. The brand includes everything from frozen foods and snacks to pantry items. I’m not gluten intolerant but when I see a Live G Free product on sale I’ll get it because it feels healthy.

Aldi Pizza

 

Every Wednesday in our house is pizza night. And by pizza, I mean Aldi’s Mama Cozzi’s Four Cheese Frozen Pizza. We add olives to it and each eat a half. I’ve grown to prefer it too greasy takeout pizza. Our usual Pizza Hut order comes out to just over $8 with a coupon but we’re satisfied with our $3 frozen pizza.

If you’re really looking to splurge (and by that I mean spend $5) you can get the extra large Take & Bake pizza in the refrigerated section. The five-cheese pizza is AMAZING. I don’t know what the fifth cheese is but it makes all the difference. It’s bigger too so you can have a slice or two for lunch the next day.

Aldi vs Walmart

 

It used to be that Aldi had significantly lower prices than Walmart. But Walmart has caught on and their prices are pretty similar now. According to the most recent price comparison, I found on Don’t Waste the Crumbs, it’s still cheaper on most items, just not by much.

You can compare weekly ads from both in your area to be sure. So even if you don’t have an Aldi near you, you can still get great prices at Walmart. I live near both and Walmart is actually closer to me but I choose to go to Aldi.

I choose Aldi for two reasons, first reason: it’s faster. Walmart is big and crowded and I could spend as much time waiting in line as I do shopping. When I shop at Aldi I’m in and out in 30 minutes. A list helps speed things up but there are some time sucks you can’t control at Walmart.

The other is quality. I find the produce and dry goods to be much better at Aldi vs. Walmart. I can let produce from Aldi sit in my fridge for weeks (whoops) but by the second day I get it home from Walmart it’s gone bad.

But if you’re someone who needs certain things from Walmart that you can’t get at Aldi you really don’t need to make trips to two different to save money.

Final Notes on Aldi

Aldi fanatics are passionate about Aldi. We can’t believe people would choose to shop elsewhere if there’s an Aldi nearby. There a sense of camaraderie among shoppers that’s not found elsewhere.

  • Sometimes people will trade you cart for a quarter in the parking lot or give you their cart and tell you to pass it on.
  • Sales start Wednesday so get there early if there’s something you have your eye on.
  • There’s an area at the front of the store for you to bag your groceries. Once you’ve paid you just pull your cart over and fill up.

That should about cover it. If you have any other questions about Aldi, favorite Aldi foods, or tips on how to shop at Aldi more comfortably there please leave them in the comments.

When you get so engrossed in something you can forget what it’s like to be clueless about it and that’s about where I am but I hope this guide helps you shop and save at Aldi because it’s a true budget saver!

Aldi shopping secrets and what to buy at Aldi!

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