Continuing the quest to simpliduce our monthly expenses, today I want to talk about grocery shopping. This is a pretty significant portion of most household budgets. I recommend the Aldi chain of supermarkets for big savings on groceries. I prefer them to other discounters, such as Walmart, because they have lower prices as well as a better business model.
Aldi is a German chain of grocers that came to the US around 1976. There are about 1,200 US locations. They set themselves apart from other supermarkets as a no-frills shop. The stores make optimal use of square footage, with products stacked in “aisles” that are actually composed of pallets. The pallets are stacked on top of each other and the top one is opened to allow access to the products. This saves the cost of having an employee stock the shelves. If you have never tried Aldi’s here are a couple of tips to know for your first visit, and the cost savings behind them:
- Bring a quarter to “unlock” your shopping cart: when stored, each cart is connected to another by a little chain which is unlocked by inserting a quarter. After shopping, return your cart and get your quarter back. This saves Aldi the cost of having an employee collect carts from the parking lot.
- Bring your own shopping bags: this is becoming common at many supermarkets now, but Aldi has been doing this all along and passing the savings onto the customer. They do have bags you can purchase if you forget yours (at my Aldi it is 6 cents for plastic and 10 cents for paper).
- Bring cash: some stores take debit cards or Discover, but in general they do not take credit cards.
- After checking out, bag your own groceries: the cashier places your groceries back in your cart as they are scanned. After paying, just move to the long counter just beyond the registers and bag up your stuff. Again, Aldi is not paying employees to bag up groceries.
Aldi specializes in carrying staple products, such as food, drinks, and toilet paper with a limited selection per product. You won’t be overwhelmed with 5 types of ketchup. Ketchup is ketchup here. This also allows Aldi to require less square footage than other supermarkets (more cost savings!).
Aldi definitely saves me money (frequently 30% to 40% savings* over a similar cart of groceries at other supermarkets), but I don’t buy all my groceries there. I generally prefer to buy organic and free range chicken as well as local grass fed beef (on the rare occasions that we eat beef). However, Aldi’s will sometimes experiment with new products and they have been introducing some organic products. In fact, on my last visit they had some grass fed organic ground beef that was $4.50 per pound (I pay $9 per pound for the local stuff from my farmers market). They also had organic spring mix salad and organic apples.
Give Aldi’s a try, see for yourself and let me know what you think. On the Green Money Stream, cutting recurring monthly expenses is a key principle to help ensure a smooth ride to whatever your savings goal may be.
*Here is a comparison of Aldi’s prices to my local supermarket based on a recent Aldi’s trip:
Red seedless grapes (per pound)
Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
Orange Juice, 64 oz
Sesame Bagels (6 pack)
Natural Peanut Butter
Whole Wheat Bread
Hamburger Rolls (8 count)
Half n Half (32 oz)
Organic Apple Juice
Large Plain Yogurt
Red potatoes (per pound)