So I am back after a bit of a hiatus! I have a Portland holidays trip and a DC trip to blog about and some Miami posts (some quite overdue). I was contemplating going chronologically (most recent to oldest) or doing DC or Portland first and then the Miami posts chronologically (though both means my tour of the stunning Olympia Theater keeps getting pushed back…). Instead I felt I would be most motivated to write (at 6 AM in the morning) if I started with a post on Aldi. Yes a grocery store. I’ve become a big fan of Aldi recently and, for the purposes of this blog, very impressed with their gluten-free selection!
For a while now I pretty much exclusively have cooked in my crockpot. I think every guy should be given a crockpot at his college graduation to ensure 1) he actually survives and 2) he survives by eating out less (both encouraging healthy eating and saving money). Since I eat a rotation of meals each week, I started looking into how to save money on my groceries. I got a Costco membership and in my research on what to buy there vs. Publix, also came across Aldi. I had noticed the store before near Sun Life Stadium and my little brother’s, but hadn’t been in before. Between Costco and Aldi I’m saving about $100 a month over Publix, which I am pretty happy about. Being 6’3” I probably eat more than the normal individual, but I am only one guy, so I’m sure families can save a lot more.
Here’s a bit of background on Aldi. Aldi overall is an international discount supermarket chain based out of Germany. It was started by two brothers who took over their father’s grocery store and now is one of the largest private companies in the world. The brothers split it into two groups in the 60’s- Aldi Nord (North) and Aldi Sud (South)- that operate independently. Both have operations in the U.S. with Aldi Nord operating as Trader Joe’s (another favorite of mine) and Aldi Sud operating “ALDI,” which is what I am focusing on today.
In the U.S., the Aldi brand aims to provide groceries at a lower price by employing a lot of cost-cutting measures (some of which I find quite brilliant). It starts before you even enter the store. When you visit Aldi make sure to bring a quarter. Why? Well you have to put down a deposit for your grocery cart/buggy. They are all hooked together in the corral (not sure where in my memory I pulled that vocab word from, but it came pretty quickly) and you have to put a quarter into a little contraption on the first cart to release it. They do this so they don’t have to pay an employee to run around the parking lot collecting and returning carts.
Aldi stores are also quite small (which saves them money on rent, utilities, etc.). The typical grocery store carries 30,000-40,000 items (Wal-Mart Supercenters have almost 150,000). Aldi only has 1,400 according to an article a Business Insider article I read. 90% of those items are the Aldi private brands. It’s similar to the Kirkland brand at Costco in that they aim to have equal, if not higher, quality to national brands. They offer a Double Guarantee, where if you are not satisfied with your money, they’ll replace the product and refund your money. National brands pay tons of money for marketing and that’s the premium you’re paying for on those brands. Aldi estimates you can save up to 50% by buying their store brands over national brands. They do have some national brands (that remaining 10% of products) where there is a lot of demand or where they are unable to find a cheaper option for their private brand.
A few other things they do to save money:
- They charge you for the plastic grocery bags if you don’t bring your own (they also have reusable, eco-friendly, reusable bags for purchase). It’s not only better for the environment, but the cost of all those plastic bags aren’t transferred to the consumer in product prices.
- At checkout you can only use cash, EBT, or debit cards. That way Aldi saves money on high credit card processing fees (another thing they don’t pass along to the consumer).
- Aldi is all about the basics, so products are put on the shelves still in their boxes. This saves employee manhours by not having to arrange all the products nicely on the shelf (and thus saves money overall).
- Aldi is only open during the most popular grocery shopping hours. This saves on labor costs.
I’ve found Aldi to be very competitive on price. I get all my canned goods there, plus chicken and certain fruits and vegetables. I would get a lot more there over Publix (no offense Publix…) if I didn’t shop at Costco. Pasta sauce is half the cost of Ragu at Publix (and I can’t tell the difference). The Aldi black beans are about 40% off the Publix brand. Unfortunately the Publix chili beans has wheat flour in it (something I didn’t realize for a while…) and the Aldi chili beans are 59 cents compared to $1.11 for a gluten-free national brand at Publix. Frozen chicken breast at Aldi is 50% less than Publix’s brand. Carrots are 50 cents less. Fruits and vegetables I get at Aldi if I will eat them within the week. I’ve found great deals on spaghetti squash. I also get bananas there (though they start out pretty green). Produce is the one area that I think you want to be discerning with the balance of cost and quality. Otherwise the deals are pretty spectacular.
Now I knew a lot of this info before my first visit to Aldi. What I did not know was that Aldi has a quite a lot of gluten-free products! Given the limited number of overall products in Aldi, the number of gluten-free products is impressive. The products are scattered all over the store and it was a bit like a treasure hunt. I was very surprised at the number of products and the variety. And like their other products they are far cheaper than the regular grocery store. I’m talking packages of cookies (like knock-off Oreos) and crackers for under $2 (when the regular grocery stores those cookies could go for around $5).
A list of some of the gluten-free products I have found:
- Gluten-free multipurpose flour
- Granola (multiple flavors)
- Boxed macaroni and cheese (cheddar and white cheddar)
- Frozen pancakes (blueberry and homestyle)
- Frozen waffles
- Pizza and Southwestern “Hot Pocket-like” sandwiches
- Cookies (Snickerdoodle and chocolate chip)
- Chewy granola bars (caramel apple, very berry, and chocolate)
- Crackers (many varieties)
- ‘Oreo” cookies (vanilla and chocolate)
- French fried onions and stuffing (this was quite a surprise and might have been tied to Thanksgiving)
- Baking mixes (pancakes, brownies, chocolate chip and sugar cookies, and cupcakes/yellow cake)
- Frozen pepperoni pizza
- Frozen cheese ravioli and cheese lasagna meals
- Chicken nuggets
Sometimes the selection has varied by visit and store, but there always is quite a number. I’ve only tried a few of the products. I’ve tried the pretzels and one of the kind of crackers and found them pretty identical to the gluten-free crackers I’ve found at stores like Publix. For the price I was impressed (and they were good in general). I also tried the pepperoni pizza “Hot Pockets.” Again the price was only a few bucks. I felt the pastry part was a little dry, but overall would take care of a craving for pizza pockets. Definitely have a lot more products to try and think it rivals the selection of most grocery stores (and you can’t beat the price).
If you are the type of person who just buys generic (or doesn’t mind it) and/or likes to save money then Aldi is absolutely worth a look. There are some quirks to get used to and figured out, but you can’t argue with the price. Make a visit and compare the prices/taste/quality to your regular products. I’ve heard all pretty positive responses on the taste/quality and especially the price. If you are looking for gluten-free products then it absolutely is worth a look (you might find some new favorites)! Pictures of the different gluten-free products I’ve found below!
Aldi- locations across Miami and in many parts of the U.S.