30 Things to Know Before Shopping at Aldi

Things to Know About Aldi

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Things to Know About Aldi
Joe Seer/shutterstock

What's in Store

Aldi, a budget grocery store with European roots, is a famous disruptor of the industry, mainly because its streamlined shopping experience and cost-saving measures translate into big price reductions on common items. It's growing fast, too — faster than any other grocery chain in the country, according to Food Dive, with plans to open 150 new stores in 2022. The Aldi shopping experience, however, can be unfamiliar and even intimidating to novices. Here's everything you need to know about Aldi, and what to expect when shopping there.

Related: I Shopped at Aldi for the First Time and Here's What I Learned

Aldi's New Look
Aldi's New Look by Nicholas Eckhart (CC BY-NC-SA)

There's a Fan Club

Aldi is so beloved — especially the ever-changing seasonal center aisle, affectionately nicknamed the Aisle of Shame — that there's a Facebook fan club with over a million members. The busy public group of enthusiastic shoppers discusses trips to the store, details recent purchases, and gives honest product reviews. Like all hobby-based communities, members have their own language, including a very unique way of identifying each other in store. If you happen to hear someone "caw caw" like a crow while you're shopping at Aldi, don't be alarmed: That's just one Aldi uberfan trying to locate others.

Related: These 10 Aldi Products Are Customers' Favorites

Aldi Newbies: Don't Expect to See Many Familiar Logos
First-Time Aldi Shopper Lessons

Shopping at Aldi Could Save Big Bucks

Aldi claims that by switching from national brands for weekly necessities such as meat, bread, and produce, customers can save as much as half off their grocery bills. How? Aldi avoids hidden costs such as marketing and advertising that other stores pass on to customers.

Related: 24 Organic Grocery Bargains From Aldi

Walmart Is Taking Notice
Ken Wolter/shutterstock

Walmart Is Taking Notice

Retail king Walmart launched a price war some years back designed to slow Aldi's momentum and reclaim coveted discount shoppers, leaning on suppliers and manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble to lower prices by 15%, according to Reuters. Aldi responded in 2018 by announcing plans to expand its fresh food sections by 40%. Who won? Shoppers.

Related: 30 Family Meals You Can Make for Under $10 at Aldi

Aldi Isn't No-Frills Only

Aldi Goes Beyond the Basics

Aldi has a reputation for focusing on workaday food staples. Shoppers unfamiliar with the store might be surprised to learn they can also find items such as European chocolates, almond milk, smoked salmon, award-winning cheeses, and quinoa.

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Want a Cart? You'll Need a Quarter

You'll Pay a Quarter for a Cart, But You'll Get It Back

At most grocery stores, paid employees spend hours corralling stray shopping carts. Aldi reduces labor costs by keeping its carts in one place. To use one, you pay a quarter; when you return it, you get the quarter back. Don't have a quarter? Ask to borrow one from an employee (be sure to return it!). 

Related: How Do Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi Stay So Cheap?

Bring Some Bags — Or Snag a Box

Aldi Is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

Aldi discovered another opportunity for savings at the checkout line. As part of its simplified approach, Aldi doesn't give away bags. Shoppers bring their own or buy reusable bags. The money saved on plastic and paper bags goes toward lower price tags on Aldi products.

Related: 24 Earth-Friendly Habits That Can Save You Money

Don't Wait for the Bagger (He's Not Coming)

Don't Wait for the Grocery Bagger (They're Not Coming)

The Aldi model is all about trimming the fat to create savings, and a big part of that is lean staffing. Just like there's no shopping cart chaser, there's no grocery bagger. Shoppers bag their own groceries — which might be preferable anyway.

Related: These 32 Stores Are Getting Rid of Cashiers and Checkout Lanes

Aldi Doesn't Compete on Hours
Dominic S./Yelp

Aldi Doesn't Have the Most Convenient Hours

Competitors are likely open earlier and later than Aldi — by design. Aldi's lean business model dictates that the store opens only during peak shopping hours. Depending on location, doors are likely to open at 9 a.m. and close within a maximum of 12 hours.

Related: 17 Ways Grocery Stores Have Changed Over the Past 50 Years

Leave the Coupons at Home

Leave the Coupons at Home

Aldi occasionally issues regional coupons or coupons associated with grand openings. Other than that, don't bother looking — the focus is on keeping costs low by simplifying operations, and since Aldi negotiates for the lowest possible prices, it does not honor coupons for the few national brands in the store.

Related: Websites That Can Save You Money in a Recession

bargain beef

Wednesdays and Saturdays Are Special at Aldi

Aldi may not offer coupons, but it does have "Special Buys" every Wednesday and Saturday featuring items from all store departments, from electronics and clothing to furniture and garden equipment — just check out that aforementioned "Aisle of Shame." Special Buys come with a 60-day refund policy.

You Can Totally Plan Ahead

Look for Random Deals Called 'Aldi Finds'

Similar to Special Buys, these spur-of-the-moment deals on premium food and household items don't last long. Past "Aldi Finds" have included German specialty items, a Belgian waffle iron, Thai food, and seasonal holiday fare.

Related: Unexpected Finds Hidden in Convenience Stores

The Cashiers Are Ruthlessly Efficient

Shopping at Aldi Is Faster

Veteran Aldi shoppers know the brand is packaged with several barcodes, so cashiers don't have to spend precious seconds searching for one — just to speed up the shopping experience. That's also why, in addition to being smaller and easier to navigate than large grocery chains, the stores all have the same layout. 

Related: How Companies Trick You Into Spending More Money

Young man in a supermarket choosing wine

Aldi Sells Beer and Good Wine

Aldi touts partnerships with winemakers around the world and boasts at least 20 award-winning wines, which it sells in select locations. We tracked down several Aldi house wines that are worth trying. The company also sells beer, including a Beer of the Month, at certain locations. A store locator makes it easy to filter results to find out if there's one nearby.

Aldi Has Good Whisky, Too

Aldi Has Good Whiskey, Too — Just Not in the U.S.

Aldi’s Highland Black Scotch Whisky ($17) and Glen Marnoch Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky ($23) has earned gold medals from trade publication The Spirits Business, putting them right up there with costlier and better-known brands such as Chivas Regal. Unfortunately, they're not available at Aldi in the United States.

Related: Best Whiskeys Under $50

Aldi Is Conquering Europe

Aldi Is Conquering Europe

Aldi has roots dating back to 1913 in Germany but has expanded into a global juggernaut that now beats budget and premium chains alike in all corners of Europe. The chain has opened new U.K. locations nearly weekly since 2016, and has announced plans to expand to 1,200 stores by 2025. Aldi maintains a presence in 20 countries, including Switzerland, Portugal, and Spain. In Eastern Europe, Aldi has locations in Poland, Slovenia, and Hungary.

Related: 21 Secrets for International Online Shopping

Aldi Is on a Health Kick
Steve Debenport/istockphoto

Aldi Is on a Health Kick

Aldi has removed harmful oils, synthetic colors, and MSG from all Aldi brand products; expanded its organic produce offerings; and installed checkouts without sugary snacks displayed. It has also created a team of nutrition experts called the Advisory Council to make healthy eating suggestions to customers.

Aldi Has a Brand Just for the Health Conscious

Aldi Has a Brand for Health-Conscious Shoppers

Aldi markets its Simply Nature brand for what it lacks: Every item in the line is made without anything on a list of more than 125 additives such as dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (and other things with really long names). The products, which include everything from cereal to salad, have no artificial ingredients or preservatives.

Related: How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Aldi Has a Brand Just for the Gluten Sensitive
Rosa S./Yelp
Aldi Has a Brand Just for Babies

Aldi Has a Brand for Babies

Aldi's website lists a whole bunch of scary average costs for essential products for babies and young children. Aldi says that by buying diapers, wipes, and formula from its Little Journey baby product line, parents can expect to save as much as 50% — or $1,200 a year — with no sacrifice in quality.

There Are Few Surprises At the Register
Monkey Business Images/shutterstock

There Are Few Surprises at the Register

Aldi prides itself on industry innovation but doesn't stray too far when it comes to payment. It accepts all major credit cards, cash, most debit cards, and EBT. Neither WIC nor checks — which can slow down checkout — are accepted. 

Related: Where You Can Order Groceries Online With an EBT Card


Aldi Doesn't Just Guarantee; It Double Guarantees

Aldi Doesn't Just Guarantee; It Double Guarantees

Aldi insists that its products meet or exceed the quality and flavor of national brands and backs that with a Double Guarantee. If shoppers don't like something they bought, they can bring it back for a replacement — and a full refund.

Related: Products Costco Will Take Back That Are a Pain to Return Anywhere Else

The Founders Shared Shoppers' Frugality
Aldi north and south v2

Aldi Is Really Two Companies

In 1960, the chain split into Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd when the Albrecht brothers fought over whether to sell cigarettes. They carved up the world into regions peacefully, but the family's younger generation has been known to feud.

Related: Mountain Dew Moonshine and More Secret Brand Histories

Aldi Owns Trader Joes
Aldi Is on the March in America
Aldi Is Getting a Major Makeover

Aldi Is Getting a Major Makeover

Aldi announced a $1.9 billion spending spree to modernize and upgrade existing U.S. locations by 2022. Renovations include the introduction of green building materials and systems, including LED lighting and energy-efficient refrigeration. There are also plans to improve building aesthetics with natural lighting and open ceilings.

Related: 15 Smart Purchases That Pay for Themselves

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

The Peanut Butter Cups Won a Blind Taste Test

Though it surely chagrined Reese's fans, Aldi won best peanut butter cup in a blind taste test by Yahoo. Honorable mention went to Trader Joe's, and those beloved Reese's Peanut Butter Cups? They warranted only runner-up status. 

Related: Best Store-Bought Desserts from Trader Joe's

Aldi Will Deliver Your Groceries
Aldi Is Hiring

Aldi Is Hiring

Aldi employs more than 25,000 people across the United States and is looking for help to fuel its expansion. Employee hierarchy is simple, and the company vows to pay industry-leading wages and compensate employees with full benefit packages that include retirement plans and insurance.

Related: Costco and Other Companies Paying at Least $15 an Hour