Quick Tips For Aldi Shopping:
Look For The Right Labels: Aldi recently made waves because of their very public removal of 5 harmful ingredients and artificial colorings from their products, as well as the rapid expansion of their natural and organic line. But to successfully shop for these items, you have to know what types of labels to look for.
Aldi's Simply Nature label looks something like this:
Aldi also has a Fit & Active brand that is worth paying attention to. My only word of caution is that you read the nutrition information before purchasing, as some of these products contain added sugars that we Trim Healthy Mamas try to avoid at all costs and/or artificial sweeteners that are not on plan.
Finally, there is one more worth mentioning: Live G Free, Aldi's Gluten free line. Again, make sure to read the nutrition information, but often these items are very THM friendly:
Check The Freezer Cases (Carefully): the freestanding freezer cases located near the produce (not built into the wall) contain both horribly processed foods and awesome, seasonal THM-compliant frozen items. These freezer cases are a mixed bag of items, so make sure to read the ingredients carefully. Yes, you risk falling prey to chocolate pies, chicken nuggets, and pizza rolls, but you can also find some goodies. I've found quinoa steamers, seasonal mixed vegetables, okra (a THM favorite) and even organic frozen fruits that Aldi doesn't carry on a regular basis. If you find something that you really love, make sure to buy a few since the items in these cases are for a limited time only.
The Clearance Bin: Aldi routinely tries out new products on it's shoppers, especially within it's Simply Nature (organic) line. Some of those products, while they're of great quality and prices, just don't jive with their target market, so they clearance them out. Check the clearance bins regularly for great values on everything from gluten-free baking mixes, to organic jelly, pastas, sauces, and much, much more. You name it, Aldi has probably tried it (or is going to try it in the future) and if you're lucky it will be on clearance.
Look Around: Let's say you're shopping for salad dressings (typically located in the first aisle of Aldi when you walk in. Right in front of you will be the traditional salad dressings, with added sugars, chemicals, and not THM compliant. Since Aldi doesn't have super tall shelves like other stores, to find the organic and natural food products, you need to look to the bottom shelves, as well as right and left. Aldi has been working really hard to remove harmful and artificial ingredients from their foods, so most items have a healthier alternative, you just have to look for the symbols I showed you above.
Check The Seasonal Aisle: My final quick tip is a really important one: find and shop and seasonal aisle. As I said before, Aldi is always trying out new products, especially those that are within their healthier labels. You can find these in the seasonal aisle, sometimes at discounted prices. Here I've found things like Aldi's version of organic teddy grahams, organic juice boxes and much more. Be warned though, this aisle also contains unhealthy seasonal items, so steel yourself to say “no” to those!
Use The App: Aldi has a really cool app, hence why I'm mentioning it here! It's features include: (taken straight from Aldi's website)
- Weekly Special Buy Updates: With just one click you can get each week's Special Buys right at your fingertips
- New Low Prices: Find the latest price reductions on the items you love.
- Weekly Ads: Get your low prices even faster with our weekly ads.
- New at ALDI: Be the first the know about our latest and greatest items available at your local store.
- Create a Shopping List: Easily use our shopping list tool to create your list of must-have items.
- Store Locator: Find nearby ALDI stores from your current location – all with their address, directions, map and store hours.
- QR Code Reader: Use our QR Code Reader to view special content on some of your favorite items.
Didn't want to read all of that? That's ok. Here's how you can use the app (practically):
First, find your local store: Use your local store + the shopping list feature to build your shopping list out of their Simply Nature (or similar) products before you ever leave the house. This will help you prepare for what products they do and don't have.
Browse Special Buys: Get the scoop on what's available, and maybe even plan your week's meals around those fun new items.
Estimate your costs: Even though ALDI now accepts credit cards (they've always accepted debit cards) I find it easier to stick to a budget if I know exactly what I need + what it's going to cost before I even get into the car to drive to the store.
Now that we've gotten the basic tips out of the way, I want to share with you a big list of products that Aldi carries that are THM friendly.
Why would I share this with you? For a couple of reasons: first, when you're just starting out on your Trim Healthy Mama journey, shopping can be intimidating. It is super helpful to have a list to go off of, of food products that don't contain sugar or artificial sweeteners, and that fit nicely into an S, E, or FP category. Simply put, it helps you succeed with less research.
Second, Aldi is MUCH cheaper than many other grocery stores.
Many people, when they start on THM, purchase some expensive ingredients and foods that they wouldn't normally buy. Make no mistake – you can absolutely do Trim Healthy Mama without any speciality ingredients, but they certainly help.
For me, I wanted to purchase some of the THM branded ingredients, and shopping at Aldi made room in my budget so that I could afford them.
If you haven't checked out your local Aldi yet, I highly encourage you to do so – you might be surprised at what you find!
If you haven't shopped Aldi before, here's what you need to know:
Why Shop At Aldi?
Whenever I tell people that I shop at Aldi more than any other store, I get a mixed bag of reactions. There are the reactions from fellow Aldi fanatics who give me a high-five and comment on how awesome Aldi is. Usually we speak briefly about the latest deal we’ve found there (such as 6 lbs of fresh chicken legs and thighs for $1.59) and them move one, happy in the fact that we each are saving boatloads of money!
And then there’s the other reaction. The one you get when someone thinks you’re cheap. You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you? Usually this reaction is followed by some sort of comment about a) how low-quality Aldi’s food is, b) how Aldi’s food contains fillers, or c) how terrible their meat is. There was a time when I agreed with these people, and there was also a time that I was embarrassed about shopping at Aldi, but no more! Why, because none of those things are true! Read on to find out why!
I grew up on Aldi food. Each Wednesday, my mom would load us up in the car for shopping day and Aldi was the main place we shopped. In the 23 years I’ve been going to Aldi, I can tell you they have made huge strides as far as what products they offer, the quality of their products, and their business/marketing model. I remember dirty floors especially from shopping with my mom when I was younger. Although I cannot remember specific products, I know for certain that Aldi did not have an organic or gluten free line, or the quality and variety of produce and meat that they do now. Of course, once I started school I no longer shopped with my mom each Wednesday, so I essentially did not set foot in an Aldi store until I started college (although I was still eating plenty of Aldi food).
Imagine my surprise when I started shopping for myself during college and found myself in this mecca of affordable food! I was shocked to find impeccably neat stores, a huge variety of food, great prices, and cashiers that were far friendlier and more efficient than in any other store I shopped at!
Consistent Selection: Every single basic kitchen staple can be found at Aldi – at an impossibly low price. However, because the physical size of an Aldi store is far smaller than your Walmart or Schnucks, they carry only basics and staples that appeal to everyone, not specialty items that might only be bought once or twice a year.
Aldi carries canned and dry goods, frozen items, fresh meat and produce, dairy products, beverages, and even household goods such as toilet paper and paper towels. Since we are not fancy people, this encompasses nearly every grocery we buy on a regular basis. Additionally, Aldi has a “special buys” section tailored to in-demand products depending on the time of year. Some examples are dorm supplies for going back to school, Patio/Grilling supplies for summertime, and Christmas decorations and gifts around Christmas time. Aldi also has a clearance section, where food and former special buys alike are marked down even lower! This year I bought a small swimming pool for a daughter at half off the already low price! I have also found things like sidewalk chalk, BBQ sauce, and canned Rotel marked down because they were dented or the store was no longer carrying them.
Ridiculously Low Prices: I find that Aldi’s normal prices almost always beat other stores’ sales prices. And when Aldi puts and item on sale, it gets even better! This is because of Aldi’s business model that eliminates extra fringe costs like advertising, large amounts of staff, and large inventories. I’ll talk about the specifics of this a bit later.
Consistency of Quality: Like I said earlier, a lot of people assume that Aldi’s low prices mean that their products are low quality. This is absolutely not the case. I have shopped at large chain stores, and I have shopped at Aldi, and I can tell you that other than with a few exceptions, I can’t tell a difference. (Those exceptions would be things like Aldi brand cheerios and the like that just aren’t quite like the name brand). However to me, there are less than 10 exceptions.
A note about produce: I have found Aldi’s produce to always be fresh and at an unbearably low price. However, once you get it home, you generally have to use it within the week. When I shopped at large chain stores, I could get my produce to last almost 2 weeks, but with Aldi I have to use it a bit sooner.
If you ever buy a product, try it at home, and it doesn’t live up to your expectations, Aldi offers The Double Guarantee. It reads that “if for any reason you are not 100% satisfied with any product, we will gladly replace the product AND refund your money.” This is completely awesome of Aldi! I don’t know of any other stores that do this – that’s how confident they are in the quality of their products. I have actually returned two items before. Once was a pool that had a hole in it, and the other was milk that went bad 2 days after I bought it even though it was good according to the sell – buy date. Those were literally the only two times I’ve had problems, and both times the return was painless and I didn’t even need my receipt!
Store Design: Virtually any Aldi you step into will be laid out the same way. Inventory is organized in the same way no matter what store, with products being stacked in their cardboard display boxes on pallets. If you’re visiting and out-of-town Aldi, finding your way through the store will be a piece of cake!
Business Model: This blog deals with personal finance, so it stands to reason that I would be interested in the underlying structure (business model) of the Aldi Corporation. Founded in 1913 (more than 100 years ago!) Aldi now has more than 8,000 stores – and their business model is consistently applied to each and every store. Their cart check-out system (which makes checkout super fast), the small footprint of their stores, hours of operation, inventory, bring your own (or pay for theirs) grocery bags, the quarter-in-the-cart system, and minimal advertising, Aldi has made really smart business decisions, which has made them super successful!
An Honest Employer: Maybe you’ve seen the signs advertising that your local Aldi is hiring. Have you ever looked at what they’re paying their cashiers? Well I have, and in my area it’s $11-$13 an hour. Bear in mind, this varies by region, but seeing as mine is a fairly inexpensive place to live, this is huge! Aldi hires the best by paying their cashiers more so that they can better serve their customers. I love the emphasis they place on hiring good people, keeping good employees, and paying them well. It really speaks to the integrity of the company! To make this deal even better for employees, those who work 20+ hours per week are eligible for Aldi’s full benefits package!
You Can’t Find These Things at Aldi:
Everything: Aldi doesn’t carry specialty products that are only bought once in a blue moon. But, while I enjoy good food, I don’t usually cook with super fancy ingredients. About 80% of my grocery shopping is done at Aldi without a problem. If you cook with more specialty items than I do, I recommend going to Aldi first, buying everything that they carry that is on your list, and then hitting up another store for the rest. You’ll save tons of money and you won’t have to think it though very much!
A Health Food Store: That is not to say that the food at Aldi is not healthy, but again, Aldi doesn’t carry specialty foods and included in that would be health food items or an extensive selection or organic products. They have introduced a small organic line, and it is growing every day, but you’re not going to find a huge variety yet.
Open 24/7: Aldi has standard business hours and is open on nights and weekends, but they close at reasonable hours. This keep their employees happy, and their prices low. If you need milk in the middle of the night you’ll be running to CVS, not Aldi.
How To Shop At Aldi:
Plan Your Trip Around Hours and Sale Flyers: As I said above, Aldi isn’t open 24/7, and they have a new sale flyer every week. Shopping the best deals each week allows you to save the most money! While you’re their, pick up the sale ad for next week on you way out! That way, you can prepare for your next shopping trip! This is just another thing that I love about Aldi!
The Sale ad contains:
- Meat Specials: Each Wednesday, Aldi has a special meat buy day. Basically, it’s a one-day sale on meat. It’s almost always an amazing deal, so if you can, I would try to stop in on Wednesdays!
- New Markdowns: Each week in their ad, Aldi also lowers the price of several items in the store. It is usually only by $0.10 – $0.50, but when you consider how low the price is already, that’s an awesome deal!
- Produce Specials: Aldi generally rotates weeks for produce specials. One week will be vegetables, the next will be fruit. Either way, their produce prices are unbeatable, even by other stores’ sales!
- Weekly Special Buys: Aldi also carries a weekly special buy section that is not food or household goods. This section is special buys related to the season, be it Christmas, Back to School, or Super Bowl. I have purchased colanders, sidewalk chalk, a little wading pool, and even car cleaning kits from this section and have been very happy with everything!
Arriving (Carts, Bags & Boxes: Aldi has carts, but shoppers are required to deposit a quarter into them in order to release them. Once you’re done, you simply put your cart back with the others and get your quarter back. If you don’t want to use a quarter to release the cart you can glance around the store for boxes. As employees remove empty boxes, they leave them in a giant bin that customers have access to for the very purpose of using them to shop or put groceries in for the drive home. Of course, there’s the third option: bags. At Aldi you have two options for bags, either bring your own or buy their while you’re there. Bags only cost between $0.05 and $0.15, but if you buy bags once and remember to bring them when you shop, you can avoid that cost. All three of these things specific to Aldi help them to keep costs low.
Pallets/Signange: Aldi makes no bones about the fact that they do not invest in fancy signage or shelving. With a few exceptions, products are stored in boxes on pallets. They come in cases already decorated for display, and pricing is clearly displayed either above or below the products. Their whole system is fast, easy, and simple. Aldi designs their stores for efficiency.
Checking Out: Aldi Checkers are ridiculously fast. This is because, as described above, Aldi can hire the best. I say that so you don’t think that when 4 carts are in front of you the process is going to take forever. I promise you, it won’t. How are they so fast? Well, other than hiring good employees, Aldi puts two bar codes on nearly every product, allowing almost every item to be scanned faster. A couple of important points:
- Aldi does not take coupons: Aldi doesn’t carry many products that there would be coupons for anyway. What you will find are Aldi’s house brand products at unbeatably low prices!
- You are responsible for unloading your cart onto the checkout belt. You cannot leave items in boxes.
- If you plan on purchasing bags, make sure to grab them while unloading onto the checkout belt so they can be scanned as well.
- Aldi Does not Take Credit Cards: You have three payment options: Cash, Debt, or EBT.
- You can get cash back from your debt card after you make a purchase. The maximum amount differs by store.
- Swapping Carts: After you place your items on the checkout belt, the cashier will scan them and place them into an empty and waiting cart at the end of the checkout lane. You will need to switch your purse, child, or whatever you have with you from your first cart to the cart that your groceries are now going in. When all of your groceries are done, the cashier will pull your now empty cart around and fill it with the groceries of the person behind you. Amazing, isn’t it?
Aldi isn't your average grocery store. They have fine-tuned their business model to save you money, save them money, and be the leader in low-cost, high-quality products.
Have you shopped at Aldi?
I LOVE Aldi! You know you go there a lot when the manager tells your husband that she had a dream that he was buying his milk at another store! Haha! It’s crazy how much cheaper their stuff is! But I didn’t know about the Aldi app! So glad I stopped by your blog! I’m definitely downloading and checking that out today!
haha – too funny Karen! Thanks for stopping by!
Christine Sheedy says
Love your article. Just one thing you might want to update it to read that they do accept credit cards.
“Aldi Does not Take Credit Cards: You have three payment options: Cash, Debt, or EBT.
You can get cash back from your debt card after you make a purchase. The maximum amount differs by store.”
Good call, Christine! I actually wrote this back when they didn’t – I totally forgot!
Do you have a list of THM on plan items that Aldi carries? I love Aldi and I’m starting THM and I want to be able to get as much as I can there.