14 Things Not to Buy at Aldi
We're big fans of Aldi. The compact German grocery is perfect for quick shopping trips at surprisingly low prices. And while Aldi is particularly great for things like baking supplies, canned goods, and other pantry staples, there are some products we still prefer to pick up elsewhere. Why? Sometimes we just want tried-and-true name brands or a wider selection, other times we can beat Aldi's prices. Here are 14 things we typically keep off our Aldi list.
Let's be real: Grocery stores are very rarely a place you can buy good sushi. Aldi is no exception, fans admit. "While it's only $4.99, you probably just want to skip this," Aldi Nerd says of the store's thaw-and-serve Fusia Shrimp and Avocado Roll. "If I lived somewhere rural where sushi joints were few and far between and I had a serious hankering for it, I may buy this. But I live less than a mile from a really delicious sushi restaurant and the frozen Fusia just doesn't compare." On Reddit, reviews range from "inedible" to "meh." Call us traditionalists, but sushi just shouldn't see the inside of a microwave. We'll pass.
Aldi carries several types of coffee, and while you're in frugal Aldi shopping mode, it might be tempting to choose the cheapest kind. That dubious honor goes to the chain's Daily Basics ground coffee, a steal at around 17 cents an ounce (in comparison, Walmart's most basic Great Value coffee will set you back about 20 cents an ounce). But one look at this brutal review from Coffee Coffee Coffee might convince you to splurge on one of the chain's pricier brands, like Barissimo or Specially Selected, which earns raves from The Kitchn.
Whether cereal is a good buy at Aldi depends on how picky you are: Some of the unintentionally hilarious knock-offs are reasonable facsimiles, while others aren't as close. For instance, Aldi Reviewer says the chain's version of Cheerios comes up short, but its Raisin Bran is spot on. One thing is for sure: It's easy enough to get name brands on sale at other grocery chains, then combine those sale prices with manufacturer's coupons that Aldi does not allow. That can mean deals equal to, or even better than, Aldi's cereal prices.
Don't get us wrong: Aldi can have great deals on meat. Savvy Aldi shoppers know the best buys are rolled out on Wednesdays — for instance, our local Aldi just had pork sirloin roast for $1.49 a pound, and the bargain was quick to disappear. But the regular prices aren't consistently good. In particular, chicken or turkey might be a better deal at your local grocery store, especially when they're on sale. Quality can also be questionable, Consumer Reports has found.
This one should come with a big asterisk, because on any given day you can find perfectly fine, fresh produce at Aldi. But we've shopped there enough to know that the opposite can also be true, and have been burned too many times by bagged peaches or apples that looked fine on top, only to realize once we were home that they were rotting at the bottom. Consumer Reports has found Aldi's variety and quantity of produce lacking, too. Proceed with caution.
Yes, you can grab things like shampoo, soap, and razors here, but you might not want to unless you're truly committed to one-stop shopping. The prices aren't all that compelling, especially considering the limited selection. For instance, we saw that a liter-size bottle of Aldi's Dentiguard mouthwash was 10 cents more than Target's store brand, Up & Up. Throw in Target's better selection, frequent sales, and REDcard discounts, and it makes more sense to stock up there.
Here are another couple of products where it makes more sense to watch for deals at other stores. Big-box stores and grocery stores other than Aldi frequently put paper towels and toilet paper on sale, and when you combine those sales with manufacturer's coupons, you can get the brands you already love for super-low prices. Of course, warehouse clubs are also a good bet for cheap paper towels or toilet paper if you don't want the hassle of deal hunting.
Aldi stocks mostly store-brand items, and that's where the best values are. But the chain has added a limited number of name brands, too. While we've spotted brands like Coke, Tyson, Gatorade, Crest, and Tide on the shelves, the prices are nothing to write home about. Example: We recently spotted a 12 pack of Coke for over $5, when our local Kroger had 24 packs on sale for $4.77. Consider the fact that you're not allowed to use manufacturer's coupons at Aldi, either, and that often makes name brands a much better buy elsewhere.
Yep, you'll often find clothing among Aldi's non-food "Aldi Finds" section, but this might be a case where the price is, indeed, too good to be true. Aldi Reviewer documents a pair of PJs that can't even be machine dried, with a button that popped off in the washer almost immediately. A pair of slipper socks the site tested pilled and developed holes after just a couple of weeks, and a golf polo came snagged — and without any washing instructions on the garment itself. Unless you're buying something that will see very light wear, we'd pass on any Aldi fashion.
While features are typically quite basic on small appliances at Aldi, the price tags can be compelling. For instance, you can snag an Aldi-brand Ambiano stand mixer for $60 that looks a lot like a $300 KitchenAid, and it's not bad – if you only do some light baking occasionally, that is. Reddit users give the small appliances decidedly mixed reviews, noting a decent number of performance issues. For our money, we'd rather invest a bit more in something we don't need to worry about long term.
Come spring or fall, you'll see various lawn and garden equipment from Aldi's Gardenline brand popping up in stores. Whatever you pick up will likely be light on features, and long-term durability is an open question. Reviews of these products are uneven at best, with some buyers saying they've gotten great bang for the buck, and others reporting issues like hard-to-find parts and manuals. We'd go for brands with a more established track record for anything beyond the most cursory yard work.
Aldi's dishwasher detergent inspires some strong feelings among normally happy store devotees. Aldi Reviewer notes that several customers complain about the powder pacs, and says the gel "leaves cloudy marks all over my glasses and plates and spots on my silverware." Reddit users give generally solid marks for the powder pacs, but call the gel "garbage," among other colorful names.
Aldi's main strength is that it can offer warehouse-like prices at Regular Joe quantities. So if you don't need a three-pack of ketchup, Aldi can be a lifesaver. But if you have a large family and a warehouse-club membership already, switching to Aldi might not make a ton of sense. As long as the bigger quantities won't go to waste, prices are often about as low or lower at Costco or Sam's. Of course, shopping at Costco also gives you access to the Kirkland brand, which has a cult-like following for its high quality and low prices.
Especially once you get to the frozen food cases, you'll notice a bunch of foods labeled "special buy" or "Aldi Find." We warn you about these not because they're low quality — in most cases, far from it. It's because as soon as you go back next time for one of these products (we're looking at you, hibiscus berry craft soda), it could be gone. These labels are Aldi's way of warning you not to get too attached — whatever you've found isn't part of their normal repertoire. Our advice: Buy only if you won't get too attached.
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