I went to ALDI once as a child, retained a faint memory of being confused about the shopping cart system, and never went back. That is until I went to college and got a reality check, seeing the store through a new perspective. Now, I consider ALDI to be my “go-to” grocery store.
I do understand the appeal of shopping at larger grocery stores; you are likely to find almost anything you are looking for. However, ALDI provides so much more than convenience. Although it may seem confusing at first, ALDI’s unique way of operating provides a fresh relief from the craziness of the mass retailers. Understanding the cart system, layout, product, and prices, all help make shopping at ALDI a great experience.
I wanted to provide accurate personal opinions and observations, so in preparation for this article I did my grocery shopping at both a mass grocery retailer and ALDI, here are my comparisons. For those who aren’t as familiar with ALDI, I also included some tips to help understand and navigate ALDI to ensure a great shopping experience:
Remember Your Quarter! (The Cart System)
When you first get to ALDI, if you want a smooth shopping trip, my best advice would be as simple as making sure you bring your quarter. The carts are connected to one another, each by a small chain. By putting your quarter in the small slot, it will push out the chain and disconnect your cart allowing you to begin your grocery expedition. If you forget your quarter (something I have done numerous times) no worries, you can grab a box if you see one around the store, otherwise, a departing shopper is usually kind enough to give you theirs upon asking.
I was at first confused why these extra steps were necessary but implementing this allows for less staff needed at a time, which in the end helps lower prices on food. It also keeps customers accountable for returning carts to help decrease the chances of a rogue cart hitting a car. Once your cart is returned and you hook the chain back in, it will pop your quarter out. Although my own random act of kindness has been to leave my quarter for the next person (helps me sleep at night). In short, bring your quarter, and don’t worry because you’ll get it back once you return the cart.
When I went to a larger grocery store to shop and do my research, I couldn’t help but notice that when I was walking around it was easy to find myself in someone else’s personal space and vice versa. After thinking about it, I decided to attribute it to the fact that there was no steady flow of foot traffic. Everyone was on their own confusing path to the point that it was overwhelming. ALDI’s has a simpler organization strategy that allows for aisle-like walking space through the produce and bakery section, all without feeling too condensed. This creates a steady flow of energy, instead of the roaming and bumping you find in the vastly open produce and bakery sections of the larger grocery store.
I love having a feeling of a collective community connection in a grocery store and ALDI promotes this friendly community feel by providing a welcoming, organized environment. Being a college student, I find that the sense of loneliness can tend to be a new concept for people in my age group. To be able to go somewhere I feel connected while having my personal space be for the most part respected, is a nice escape from the close-quartered lifestyle so many of us find ourselves living today.
One thing that is important to note is that due to ALDI being smaller in comparison, it should be expected that they might not have everything on your grocery list. This frustrated me at first, but I was soon able to find relief in the smaller selection. Whereas when I walked down the chip aisle at the larger grocery retailer, I was greeted by what seemed like an almost staggering number of choices. At ALDI there was still a respectable amount to choose from, but not to the point of being overwhelming. I also appreciate the fact that ALDI tends to have many healthier options and offers a lot of food that is clearly labeled gluten-free and organic. Some of my favorite Aldi products are Friendly Farms oat milk, Choceur dark hazelnut chocolate bars, and Appetitos mozzarella cheese sticks. ALDI has a well-rounded selection of cheeses and high-quality chocolates; I always shop these sections when I’m in the store. I also like to check out the ALDI Finds aisle which has a constant rotation of new household products.
ALDI’s prices are extremely affordable compared to the larger supermarket I visited. I appreciate this very much, especially during school when I am cooking for myself and there is an even greater emphasis on saving.
As a student in college trying to balance a budget and prepare my own meals, I appreciate all that ALDI has to offer including affordable prices, quality food selection, and the sense of community that it creates. When grocery shopping, my personal routine is to first stop at my local farmers market (if the season permits) then ALDI. Since ALDI has a more limited selection, if necessary, I will make a quick stop at a larger grocery store to grab the remaining items on my list. I understand some may not like the possibility of needing to make more than one stop, however, I found what caters to my personal needs and wants, as a college student.
If you are not familiar with shopping at ALDI, I gently encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, even just once, to better understand and optimize your shopping experience in a way that caters best to you. As a side note, I also personally suggest investing in an air fryer, to elevate your food experience and overall quality of life. You can thank me later!