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Q&A Tuesday: What do you buy at Aldi?

I have a question. I noticed you do a lot of shopping at Aldi. We have one where I live, but for some reason I am hesitant to shop there. I was wondering if you could go over what you do and do not buy there, or if it does not matter at all. -Chelsea

Before I got married, I’d never been inside an Aldi store before. And I was hesitant to do so as I’d always had this impression that it was a dirty store with low quality food. However, since my husband and I had such a meager budget in the early years of our marriage, I quickly decided to get over my inhibitions and just go check out the store to see what I thought.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover Aldi wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. Sure, it doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a traditional grocery store has, but I’ll gladly give those up for the money I save by shopping there.

Here are a few tips for successfully shopping at Aldi:

1. Shop in a Nicer Section of Town

If possible, find an Aldi nearby that is in a nicer section of town. The Aldi stores in more run-down areas tend to be less clean and the food does seem to be poorer quality (it might just be my imagination–or the fact that it’s a lot more picked over many times!).

2. Shop With an Open Mind

Go to Aldi with an open mind (and a strict cash budget) and start carefully looking over all they have to offer. Right away, you’ll probably find some things you wouldn’t buy there, but you’ll probably be surprised at how similar other items look to things you usually buy at the grocery store.

Buy a few items to try and take them home and see what you and your family think. You’ll probably find some things you don’t care for, but you’ll probably also discover that you actually like some of their products better than the name brand products at the grocery store (for instance, we think their canned green beans are better than name brand green beans!).

The one thing I’ve found that varies the most at Aldi is their produce. At times, their produce will be great. Other times, it’s downright awful. You can always price-match their weekly deals at Walmart, so don’t feel like you need to buy produce there if it looks less than ideal. Stick with what looks fresh and high quality and skip the rest–no matter how inexpensive the price.

3. Stick With Staple Ingredients

In most cases, you’ll save the most at Aldi if you buy primarily staple ingredients there. Many of their processed foods aren’t much less than you’d pay at the grocery store (they can actually cost more than what you’d pay when combining a coupon with a sale!).

However, their every day prices on baking supplies, canned goods, frozen fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, oatmeal, eggs, milk, and butter will be at least 20% less than you’d pay at the grocery store. Plus, while you’re family might be able to tell a difference in ketchup brands, they probably won’t be able to tell if you use Aldi baking soda!

Do you shop at Aldi? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is best to buy there and what items you won’t buy there.