Appreciating Aldi

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

When I was really little, I lived with my grandparents for a bit. I remember my grandpa would take me grocery shopping at Aldi. I thought Aldi was pretty much the coolest place ever, because you got to walk through a turnstile when you walked in, and my grandpa always let me sit on the grocery bagging counter (which you aren't supposed to do, but maybe they were more lax about that in the early 90s).

As I got older, my dad would take us to Aldi sometimes. But instead of being excited, I just felt embarrassed. As I became more aware of class differences, it became pretty apparent that Aldi was thought of as the "poor" grocery store. It didn't matter that my classmates didn't know that I was eating off-brand cereal for breakfast; it only mattered that I was. We ended up moving to a town without an Aldi, and I didn't really think about it again until I met Tom and moved to Lafayette.

Living with Tom was my first experience with truly adult life (rent, utilities, etc.), and when it came to budgeting for food, Aldi was my first thought. I shopped there for a month or so and then stopped for like four years.

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I recently started going back to Aldi a few weeks ago, shopping there almost exclusively (I don't often buy produce there other than bagged salad, but it really depends on what they have during my trip), and it's been working out really well for us. We're saving money (buying less and spending less per item), buying less junk (they do have junk food, but it's less plentiful), and helping the environment (you have to bring your own bags if you don't want to buy them, though you can also take cardboard boxes from the aisles).

If you're worried that Aldi foods aren't up to snuff, don't be. While, as with any other grocery store, some items are hit or miss, there are plenty of great choices to be found (including gluten-free items and grassfed meats and cheeses!). Many items are name-brand items with different packaging. In some cases, I find the generics to be better than the name-brand (particularly with string cheese -- Aldi's Happy Farms? Great. Target's Market Pantry? Great. Meijer brand? Great. Kraft? Tastes like flavorless rubber). Additionally, they carry some name-brand products as well; I just bought Tom some Pringles and Gatorade yesterday, and you can almost always find Pop-Tarts at my Aldi.

I think Aldi is great, and I look forward to my weekly trip. I find it somewhat relaxing. The Aldi I go to is always clean and well-organized, and I actually like bagging my own groceries (I'm pretty anal about how I like them bagged). If you've been on the fence about trying Aldi, I highly recommend it!

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