For someone who has a minimal part-time job I feel remarkably unproductive. I write on this blog, I try to run 27GoodThings.com, and I try to do some writing. Most of my day is spent hopping from little chore to little chore; running our kids places, cleaning up a mess, making another mess to make dinner. It's cyclical and never getting off this merry go round of parenting doesn't bother me. It gives me time to think and often my thoughts are about the grocery store.
I wonder about eating well and inexpensively a lot. A few weeks ago we went as a family to Aldi, my favorite grocery store even though it's twenty three minutes away. Despite what I've written about taking my family and how embarrassing it can be, this trip went smoothly. As we left my wife asked if Aldi is a lot cheaper than Walmart and I scoffed at the naivety of question. Ha, I laughed from my perch of grocery shopping knowledge, of course it is. Then I thought it is right? Well I listed the 26 items we bought that day and compared them with Walmart prices the same week and it turns out that Aldi is about 25% cheaper than Walmart.
Assumptions about comparing Walmart to Aldi
- I usually buy generic brands at Walmart and that's what I compared the Aldi prices to. Sometimes as in the case of hummus and almond milk there is no generic and I compared the Aldi price to whatever it is we normally buy.
- Some things I did a bit of math. Aldi sells three pound bags of sweet potatoes but Walmart sells them individually. To solve this I multiplied the price per pound at Walmart by three.
- All unit sizes are the same - I think. I was trying to do this quickly rather than perfectly so the box of cereal may have been 15.5 ounces rather than 15. Nothing was drastically different in size but I'm not certain they weren't exactly the same.
- This experiment could be the case of me randomly picking all the things that were cheaper. Of the 26 things, only one was more expensive at Aldi, the everything bagels. However, the list was a good smattering of what we usually buy. Milk, cereal, and apples are all staples. Pudding and canned oranges were a treat.
Benefits of Shopping at Aldi
I like Aldi because it's easy. Even though I have to grab a quarter for the carts it's not that bad because Aldi parking lots are often much smaller and wrap around the store meaning that you're probably as far from the store as a cart corral at Walmart. At Aldi you also have to bag your own groceries. This means at check-out the store worker scans your items quickly and then places them right back into a cart. It makes the process go very quickly but then you have a cart full of groceries. I don't mind this because I have a huge Ikea bag which I can place nearly everything in and carrying that to my car and house is easier than all the little bags. Plus, no plastic bags to rip or pollute.
The smaller size of the Aldi store means that my daughters can easily walk around and I can easily see them. At Walmart or Meijer they can easily get turned around and wander away or complain about being tired and then ask to ride on top of our bread and eggs. At Aldi they just walk.
Drawbacks of Shopping at Aldi
There are a few drawbacks about shopping at Aldi. The first is the limited selection. On the day we went I also needed ink 125 for our printer and a perscription for our youngest daughter, there is no pharmacy or electronics sections. There are also times I need something more unique like panko breadcrumbs or shallots that Aldi doesn't stock.
For me, Aldi is also not conveniently located although once my college schedule picks up more in late fall and throughout winter I'll be traveling to the same town and can pair shopping trips with work ones.
Aldi's produce is also occasionally less fresh and closer to rotting than Walmart. I've noticed that examining food for soft spots takes much longer at Aldi.
How can you Shop at Aldi?
Grocery shopping on a budget but also eating well requires some knowledge of what your family eats regularly and what prices those things sell for. We eat a lot of potatoes ($3/10lb) so that's something I know to look for on sale. The same is true for bread ($1/loaf) , pasta ($.88/box) , pasta sauce ($.90/jar) , and pork sausage ($2.50/lb). I can also make sure my Evernote Shopping List is up to date on my phone.