After hearing many commercials by Aldi Foods on the radio, I went to check a store out today. It's different than most grocery stores, supermarkets, and even other low-priced food retailers. Their whole system is designed to save labor, reduce employees, make it fast, and provide rock-bottom prices. I'd say they're pretty effective.
First, you pay a quarter to get a cart. The quarter remains visible the entire time but you can't get it back out until you return the cart and insert a chain. That releases the quarter. By doing this, they save on hiring people to gather up the carts. Shoppers avoid runaway carts and dinged cars.
To check out, they only accept cash, debit cards, and food stamps. Checks take time and credit cards add fees. So to keep fast lines and no added costs, they don't accept those methods of payment. Cashiers take your food from the belt and put it back in your cart. You bag or box it yourself. Bring your own or you can buy them at a low price. I didn't realize it so I used the big boxes that goods came in. Loaded them up and carried them out. It worked out fine. And I'll say, the check out line was FAST.
Regarding prices, they lived up to the advertising. They only carry private labels except for a few promotional items. They also carry few options. This seems very reflective of their European roots as Aldi is owned by a German company. In Europe the grocery stores are smaller and have much fewer options than we have here. 50 different kinds of pasta sauce? Forget it. They had marinara, meat, and alfredo. Personally, I have simple tastes and that's all I need. You won't find everything you need, but you'll find most of it.
I found the prices any where from 10% to 50% cheaper than the supermarkets. Actually, it was pretty impressive. And my shopping was fast because I didn't need to agonize over choices. White bread, check. One type, no decision. Fresh meat was more varied than I expected. Frozen meat did have a fair number of options. Produce seemed more limited to seasonal items and year-round things like bananas and potatoes. But the sweet corn I picked up for $.10 an ear was great - fresh, big, fully formed.
So check out Aldi and see if one is near you.
I also stopped at a Chicago area no-frills, super-discount supermarket,Ultra Foods. If you must have brand names, go to a store like this as they beat the major chains hands down on brand names. Aldi was still about 10-15% cheaper on the private labels. Regarding my earlier post on Target, Ultra was similar on the brand names but has a much bigger selection.
My problem now is to figure out how to get to these stores on a regular basis. Remember that saying: you can save time OR money. Neither of these stores are really close to my home, and often, I don't have the time to get there when I need things. So I'm going to have to figure out a way to get there and stock up. I'll need a plan. Perhaps a menu plan and biweekly or monthly trips. I'll do some research on those tricks and report back.