a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth. 

Shopping bags. Aldi charges for shopping bags.  They aren’t the first to do this, as Ikea started this a long time ago too.  I use my ‘green’ bags so this isn’t a big deal for me.  At least I’m not paying for someone else’s plastic bags that will more than likely end up in a landfill.

Bag boy. There are no employees waiting to bag your groceries.  I didn’t realize this until we were checking out.  It surprised me, but then I thought about it.  They can operate with less labor, passing the savings on to us.  So when your at Kroger or Tom Thumb, and the person is bagging your groceries, what are you doing?  I’m usually trying to wrangle my kids or standing there watching them work.  At Aldi, the cashier, Victoria, was so amazingly fast, I thought I might have blacked out or something.  She smiled and said, “That will be $66.45.”  I’m sure I gave her a crazy look, then I glanced at the conveyor belt where I had just unloaded the last of my items.  Surely she missed some stuff.  Nope, all clear, all back in a cart.  My son and I bagged it all at their bagging station.  I’m really liking this place a lot.

Store size. This is the thing that took me by surprise.  It’s much smaller than a conventional grocery store, so surely I’m not going to be able to find everything I need.  Wrong.  Not only did I find 99% of the things I needed to buy, but it took less time, as I didn’t have to price shop 15 brands and sizes of the same item.  It was less stressful than my normal grocery shopping trips.  I don’t like grocery shopping, buy in this place, I don’t hate it.  I’m not in love yet, but it doesn’t raise my blood pressure to think that I have to go shop.  I can get in, get a few things, and get out quickly.  Definitely a high level of like.  Superstores are not my friend.

Merchandising. It’s easy to find things, as it’s a warehouse style merchandising and pricing system.  They don’t pay people big bucks to put kids stuff on the lower shelves and to take the hundreds of small items out of boxes to try and make them more appealing.  This style is easier to shop and takes much less time, less for them and less for me.  It’s a win-win.

Do the brands taste good? We’re still in the process of taste testing, but yes.  They taste good, and in some cases, the same as the name brands.  We even found something better than anything we’ve had anywhere else.  Holiday sugar cookies.  They were on sale for 49¢, marked down from 99¢.  I’m sure these must have crack in them or something, because none of us can quit eating them.  Yes, they’re Christmas trees, and it’s January, but they are still perfectly fresh and good.  I don’t care what shape they’re made into as long as they taste good.  Well, maybe there’s a few off limit shapes…

All in all, I’m digging Aldi.  I’ll be going back there.  If you haven’t checked it out, try it.  Also, I’m behind on my trashograms, so here’s the latest one…


5 Responses to “a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]”

  • Becca Says:

    So if you don’t return the cart – they keep your quarter and you keep the cart. In California everyone seems to have their own grocery cart. Seriously, homeless people, gardeners, moms looking for more stroller room. I think 25cents for a grocery cart us a steal – speaking of steal, I think that’s how most californians get their carts!

  • Deb Says:

    Nope…they disappointed me with the way they package there meat. Haven’t shopped there since.
    Now when they build the new Walmart…I’ll be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!

  • aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248] | trashsociety Says:

    […] for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, […]

  • Jodi Says:

    If anyone loves shopping at Trader Joes … guess what? They also own ALDI. :)