The Cheap Grocery Store Advice Column

When I say "cheap grocery store", I'm referring to Aldi's, but I'm sure there are other Aldi's-like stores around. I'm not sure if there is anything quite like Aldi's, though. Sometimes people talk about Sak-n-Save (sp?). I have never been there. If you want to know the truth, I've never been to Aldi's. I'm too dang nervous! I'm never prepared! Every time I drive by it, I chastise myself for not having any quarters or any sacks with me. My friend, Shawna, went recently and told me about her experience in an e-mail. She went to Aldi's because she remembered that I brought it up on the Kelley's Break Room Facebook page several months ago. I always love, love hearing Shawna tell stories, whether they are in person or in writing. She's got a way. So, I thought I'd make the purpose of this post be two-fold. First, you can read about Shawna's experience. Second, you can tell us about yours. Maybe you have some really wise words about shopping at places that make you buy or bring your own sacks.
Before we get to Shawna's story, I must add something. Shawna references two things that I want to make a comment on really fast. She talks about her Kia Soul. Her husband just bought that car for her. I loved that I test drove one for a week and wrote a post about it here. Those people at Kia are working it.
Shawna also mentions her Louis Vuitton in this story. I must let you know that I have never in my life owned a Louis Vuitton. I remember going to the Galleria (the ultra fancy mall in Houston) with my friend, Kelly, back in 1995. We walked inside Neiman Marcus and that girl whipped out a WAD of cash she had been saving. She counted out $400+ dollars to Ms. Snooty Pants behind the counter and walked away with herself a brand new Louis Vuitton. It took a while before my heart stopped beating fast. FOUR HUNDRED PLUS DOLLARS. That is pocket change to the people in the magazines, but, lawduhmercy, that's a lot of money for a purse.
I get my purses at Target.
Well, I take that back. The one I'm carrying now I got from the Macy's 50% off rack and the one before that I got at DSW. I do have a Coach purse (without the C's) that I got at an outlet mall. One of these days, maybe I'll get all sophisticated and walk around with a nice purse. Maybe. Probably not.
Let's get to Shawna's story now...
I pull up in my new, cute as can be, Kia Soul and assessed the other cars to see what type of people might shop at Aldis. There was anything from a car that was so old and beat up I have no idea how it made it there to a Nissan Pathfinder with paper plates.  I felt as if I belonged so I parked my sweet car and off I went on my adventure.  First problem I encountered was you have to have a quarter to get a shopping cart.  Yes, you have to have a quarter to get a shopping cart.  I did not want to put my prized possession, my Louis Vuitton, on the ground to dig for a quarter nor was there really a nice place on the line of carts to put my LV so I made the decision I would have no cart.  I would buy what I could carry and that would be my limit.  I cannot sacrifice my purse to save a few dollars on groceries.  

When you go in it is very small compared to a normal type supermarket, but they have put a LOT of stuff in a small place.  It is set up like a warehouse meaning there are not really shelves, but rather huge boxes that have been stacked and cut open to display the items for sale.  First things I see are chips.  I decided to try several kinds so got a bag of barbecue, sour cream and onion and tortilla chips.  They were all the Aldi brand, whose name escapes me at the moment.  I then picked up some salsa, some apple sauce, a box of honey nut cheerios, some mini muffins, some gummies and a loaf of bread. It was all Aldi brand. Last thing I grab because my arms could not hold one more thing was a box of their cheese bread pizza that comes with red sauce and ranch sauce.  I get to the counter and literally drop most of the groceries because I could not hold it all another second.  The lady behind the counter is sitting on a stool pulled up to the cash register and looks at me.  I look at her, she looks at me, I look at her and finally after about 30 seconds of awkward silence she says "do you have a bag".  "No" I say, "I don't have a bag".  She says "Well, you are going to need to buy a bag or carry all of this to your car".  I question her to make sure I understand and sure enough, you must bring your own bag to Aldi's unless you want to put it all back in the cart and take it to your car.  The problem for me was I had no cart.  So, I ask how to buy a bag, she shows them to me and I paid 10c for a bag to carry all my goodies.  

I was a little perturbed at this point.  I did NOT know I needed a quarter to shop and I did not know I needed a bag to carry out my goods.  What kind of place is this?  Then, are you ready for this, she gave me my total.  $11.32.  Yes, $11.32.  I got allllll that stuff listed above for less than $12.00!  

Fast forward, a few days later I went back with my quarter in hand, my 6 year old and bags.  On the way in we passed a man pushing TWO shopping carts full of groceries to his car. I'm not making this up, TWO grocery carts of food.  He says to me  as I pass him on my way in, "Ma'am, in case you don't know this you have to have your own bags.".  I pretended I did not know because I did not have the heart to tell him I learned the hard way but with only 10 items.  He was on his way to his car to load all the items he bought into his car.  I hope when he got home he tossed it all in garbage bags to get it in the house.

My review of Aldi's is this:   It is well worth the effort to gather your own bags and have a quarter in your pocket.  We have tried everything I bought and the only thing that was not exactly the same as any other brand was the apple sauce.  It is not sweet so we had to add a little sugar for the kids to eat it.  Otherwise, everything was really good and I don't have one complaint...other than perhaps a sign in the parking lot warning you about that whole bag thing.  
My favorite part is about the man and his two large baskets of groceries and no bags. That is awesome. He didn't let those sacks stop him!
Have you been to Aldi's?
Was your experience like Shawna's?
Let's say I get it together and find a quarter and some sacks, what would you recommend that I buy there or avoid?
Don't you wish you could have helped that man unload all the groceries he must have dumped into his trunk? Do you think he made it home with the eggs intact?
I've been sort of busy over at NickMom lately, only I didn't know it. Here are some posts I wrote for them that have popped up over the last month or so. Thought you might like to take a look see!