ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

ALDI 101 continues!  For those of you who are just tuning in, I am taking a mini-break from recipe posting to share a 3-part series with you about one of my favorite places – ALDI!  After my first post yesterday on Why I Shop At Aldi, we are continuing today with How To Shop At Aldi.  Then be sure to tune in tomorrow too for What To Buy At Aldi.

As I mentioned yesterday, I do about 50% of my grocery shopping at Aldi and am a huge fan of the store.  But without a doubt, there are a few quirks that differentiate Aldi from traditional grocery stores.  So I thought it would be fun to do a little “how to” post about the entire shopping experience there — from planning your trip, to arriving, to finding your way around, to checking out, and then leaving with your bags and boxes of affordable Aldi goodness.

For those of you who have never set foot in an Aldi before, I really hope this will inspire you to give it a try.  (And then you totally have to report back and tell me how it goes!!)  For those of you who haven’t been in years, or even those of you who go regularly, hopefully there will be a tidbit or two in here that you didn’t know that will make your shopping experience all the more Aldi-tastic.  :)

Again, this series is not sponsored, endorsed, or in any way associated with the store.  This is just something I wanted to do for fun to hopefully start a conversation about even more affordable grocery shopping, and share with you some of the reasons I really like shopping at Aldi!

Here goes…

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Planning Your Trip To Aldi: Store Hours & Weekly Ads

Store Hours

I mentioned yesterday that one important thing to note when planning a trip to Aldi is that they are not a 24/7 grocery store.  They are only open during peak business hours, which in the US is typically 9am-8pm Monday-Saturday, and 10am-7pm on Sundays.  So pencil that into your schedule!

Weekly Ads & Specials

Weekly ads are one of my favorite things about Aldi.  In contrast to most grocery stores that publish their weekly ads the day they go into effect, Aldi always publishes their weekly ads and specials 2 weeks in advance every Wednesday.  And the specials are always amazing!

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comThe weekly ads are usually condensed to a simple 4-page flyer, which can be found on their website, on their cool new app (where you can also find stores and create grocery lists), or you can even sign up to have the weekly special offers emailed to you.  Then of course, once you are actually in the store, the current weekly ad flyer is available for you to pick up right as you walk in the door.  And the upcoming week’s ad is posted in the window as you are leaving.

In addition to the weekly ad, don’t forget to check out these amazing specials which are posted on their website and marked in the store:

  • Special Buys — Every week, Aldi has a section in the middle of the store called “Special Buys”.  The special buy items are usually all over the map — from food, to housewares to everything in between!  Often they are mostly grouped around a theme, like the SuperBowl or Valentine’s or next week, for example, is apparently an Italian Pasta theme with everything from fresh pastas and sauces, to fancy olive oils, to stainless steel pasta pots, etc.  They are totally worth checking out, as I have found all sorts of random things there over the years.  And when those items go on clearance, they are even cheaper!
  • Fresh Meat Special Buys – Every Wednesday, Aldi publishes a fresh meat special buy, which is usually an amazing deal.  (This week is an entire pot roast set with veggies for $7.99!)  These are advertised online and in stores, but be forewarned — they usually disappear quickly.
  • New Low Prices – Aldi also has an entire page on their website that they update whenever prices drop on certain items.  It’s practically like another great weekly ad in and of itself.

Or You Can Skip The Planning…

…and be spontaneous and just show up to see what’s in the store that week!  Again, the weekly flyers are always available just inside the door, so at minimum, be sure to grab one when you arrive.

 

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Arriving At Aldi: Carts, Bags & Boxes

One of the important distinctions about shopping at Aldi is that they do not provide you free bags or carts to carry your groceries.  As I said yesterday, Aldi was green before “green” was cool.  ;)

You can either bring your own reusable shopping bags to use when you grocery shop, or you can use Aldi’s carts, bags or boxes.

Carts

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comAldi always has a large section of carts housed just outside the front entrance, and they are technically free to use — but you have to pay a quarter to release a cart, and then your quarter is returned once you turn it back in.  Or you can be a “quarter angel” and leave your quarter in the cart to surprise the customer coming after you. :)

This may go without saying, but just in case you’re iffy about releasing the cart, there is usually a tiny box up by each handle where the chains are connected.  Just pop your quarter into the slot and pull.  Then you’re ready to go!

Boxes

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comAnother option instead of (or in addition to) a grocery cart is to grab one of the cardboard boxes throughout the store where items are displayed, and then use it to help carry your groceries.  Trust me — you are totally allowed to take the boxes (provided they are empty or at least mostly empty).  In fact, Aldi encourages it because then there is less for the checkers to clean up around the store.

Sometimes people also leave leftover boxes in the bagging area near the register.  So if you end up needing an extra bag or box when you’re checking out, be sure to peek ahead and see if there are any boxes you can take for free.

Bags

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comAldi also provides plastic and paper grocery bags that you can buy to take your groceries home.  But heads up — if you go in expecting to buy a bag, they are only available at the checkout (not at the entrance).  So you need to find a way to carry your groceries until the checkout.  But once you do reach the checkout, they are generally located just underneath the grocery checkout belt where you lay your groceries.  You can choose paper or plastic, and they are each a few cents.

You can also reuse old Aldi paper or plastic bags that you have bought on a prior shopping trip.  Just be sure to tell your cashier that, otherwise they will charge you for them again.

 

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Finding Your Way Around Aldi: Store Layout, Pallets & Labels

Store Layout

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comOne of my favorite things about Aldi is that the stores are all laid out very similarly.  In fact, I can’t speak to many other cities around the world, but at least in Kansas City, our Aldi stores are practically identical.  (Although you cannot legally sell alcohol in grocery stores in Kansas, so the wines/beers/etc. are only available in Missouri.)

In general, Aldi stores basically have three long aisles.  When you first walk in, there should be a place to pick up the weekly ad.  Then typically there are a few of the specialty items just inside the door as a preview.  Then the aisle are comprised of the following sections:

  • Dairy
  • Frozen Foods
  • Pantry Items
  • Snacks and Sweets
  • Beverages
  • Wines/Beers/Sangria
  • Refrigerated Meats
  • Household Items
  • Pet Food
  • Special Buys (you can’t miss it — this is usually a section in the middle of the store with all sorts of random items from the Weekly Ad!)

I will go into more detail about the specific items in the store in tomorrow’s What To Buy At Aldi post.

But in general, know that 95% of the items in the store are the Aldi brand.  And typically there is only one (or maybe two) options for any one specific product.  So for example, there is only one type of baking soda.  You don’t get the option of 5 different brands and packaging.  This helps keeps the prices low and focuses the store’s inventory.

Pallets & Labels

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comThe other thing about Aldi is that they are unapologetically “no frills”.  They don’t invest in tons of fancy signs and displays, and the money they save there helps keep your prices low! Case in point: the way their food is displayed.  Unless it is in the refrigerators or freezers, all of the items are generally store in cardboard boxes on pallets.

And the price for each item will either be clearly printed on labels above or below it.  I love it because you don’t have to squint down at teeny tiny labels to see the price on each item.  The pallets (which now happen to be tres popular on Pinterest) also help for easy stocking for the employees.

 

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Checking Out At Aldi: Lines, Paying, Cart Swap, Bagging

Checkout Lines

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comOk, I feel like the first thing I should say about the check up lines is that they move FAST.  So don’t be dismayed if you walk up and there are a few people in front of you with full carts.  The cashiers at Aldi are super-crazy-unbelievably-ninja fast, and (fun fact!) nearly every item in the store has two barcodes on the packaging.  So when they go through the two-sided scanner, they pretty much always scan the first time.  (Brilliant, Aldi!!)

But a few important things to know about keeping up your end of the speedy checkout process.

  • You are responsible for unloading all of your items onto the checkout belt.  Don’t leave them in bags or boxes.  Unpack every single one for speedy scanning.
  • If you plan to purchase a paper or plastic bag, go ahead and pull them out and set them on the checkout belt along with your groceries.  Or at least, hold them up so that the cashier can see them. 

How To Pay

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comYou have three options for paying — cash, debit or EBT card.  Checks slow things down, and credit card fees hike up prices.

So be sure that you plan accordingly!

The Cart Swap

While you are paying, the cashier might surprise you by doing the Aldi Cart Swap.  You might not even notice — often it happens so quickly!

When the cashiers are scanning your items, they will usually place them in a cart that is already waiting there at the end of the checkout (not the cart you have been using).  So once you have paid, you have a cart full of groceries waiting for you.  Rather than hold up the line and wait for you to unload the cart so that it can be reloaded with groceries of the person behind you (remember, things are moving quickly!), the checker will just do a cart swap and send you and the grocery-loaded cart to the bagging station.  And then they will sub in your cart as the replacement, which you leave behind.

Sometimes this can work a little differently, depending on whether or not you have tons of groceries, or whether you had a cart to begin with.  But in general, the idea is that you are not supposed to hold up the line by leisurely bagging your groceries right by the check out.  Thus…

Bagging

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comAldi customers are encouraged to bag their groceries in the bagging area just beyond the checkout.  It’s nothing fancy — usually just a long counter, and sometimes there are a few extra cardboard boxes or bags there that you can use.  The idea is just that you can take your time bagging groceries however you would like there, while the checkout line can continue to move uninterrupted.

 

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Leaving Aldi:

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.comAnd voila!  You now have your groceries, you’ve saved a lot of $$$, and you are ready to go home and cook some recipes from Gimme Some Oven!!!  Ok, ok, or you can go home and enjoy your groceries however you’d like.  ;)

On your way out of the store, be sure to check out the flyer for the next week’s ad which is posted on the doors as you leave, as well as being available in a print flyer that you can take home.

Also don’t forget to turn in your cart.  There are no cart bays in the parking lot, so the hope is that you will return it right where you found it.

Then you can say hasta la vista, bebe — until next time!

ALDI 101: A 3-Part Series On Shopping At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

Coming Next:

Tomorrow the final post will be What To Buy At Aldi.  Then don’t forget to check out yesterday’s post on Why I Shop At Aldi.

ALDI 101: How To Shop At Aldi | gimmesomeoven.com

What are some of your tips for shopping at Aldi?

 

Leave a Comment:





Comments

  1. Andy — January 20, 2014 @ 8:31 pm (#)

    You forgot to mention ALDI has virtually no customer service, tries to avoid issuing rain checks, and has limited selection

  2. ben — March 3, 2014 @ 12:01 pm (#)

    One tip i have to make the ninja cashiers move even faster is to take a second when you putting your items on the belt and organize them from heaviest and toughest to lightest and weakest. It makes it easier and quicker for them to stack your cart full. Which is also the biggest complaint I have heard from people about Aldi’s is sometimes a cashier will literally toss items helter skelter without care into the cart. Doing this tip elevates both problems. But if a cashier is tossing your items stop him/her and ask them to be more careful.

  3. Rebecca Sanchez — March 18, 2014 @ 11:03 pm (#)

    I decided to try out Aldi’s tomorrow and I feel more confident about that decision from reading your post. They were very informative and delightful at the same time!

  4. Stephanie Stephens — March 26, 2014 @ 5:45 pm (#)

    My neighbor sent me your Aldi 101 as a guide, since our neighborhood store is opening TODAY. Very cool! I appreciate all your valuable info written in such a helpful and amusing way :)

  5. Debbi Shertz — March 28, 2014 @ 1:04 pm (#)

    Do you have an actual PDF or form with the layout of the store?? and maybe even a grocery list you can print and just check off what you need??
    thanks

  6. D Young — March 29, 2014 @ 2:55 pm (#)

    Would you please list what county the products are from?

    • Kathleen — April 11, 2014 @ 1:56 pm (#)

      Most of the produce is seasonal and is from the USA. Some items are from other countries and since these items are usually sprayed with pesticides by the US when arriving into our country, I usually skip those.

  7. Rebecca Myers — April 5, 2014 @ 6:14 pm (#)

    Lovely explanation. Learned alot eventhough I have shopped there.

  8. Kathleen — April 11, 2014 @ 1:48 pm (#)

    Aldi’s is always my 1st stop on shopping days, then my local health food store and then a fill-in for any other items at Walmart Superstore. Last week at walmart strawberries were $2.99 and $1.17 at Aldi’s for the same size container.

  9. susan — April 23, 2014 @ 8:10 am (#)

    Very helpful entry. Went to Aldi for first time,and was lost at check out procedure. Now I can go back informed . Thank you. Every question was answered. Love the store. Items I bought were equal to all the brands I have,always bought in the past.

  10. Kit — April 30, 2014 @ 12:01 pm (#)

    I like to clip coupons from my local grocery store to take along to Aldi (shop Aldi first, then the bigger grocery store). While Aldi doesn’t take the coupons, at least I can check if their prices are lower than even the sale prices at the larger grocery store! Great way to save even more money!

  11. Monique — May 3, 2014 @ 4:03 pm (#)

    Ali,
    Thanks for posting information about Aldi. I love this store. But I am skeptical about their meats?? Can you provide more insight. Thankd

    • Kayla — August 31, 2014 @ 10:05 pm (#)

      I’m not sure if anyone has replied yet, but as an Aldi employee, I can assure you that the meat selection is of excellent quality. We get the same brands (Tyson chicken and pork, IBP beef) that all the big name stores get. We just package it in our private label (ex. Kirkwood chicken) in order to save you money. We are also extensively trained in inspecting the meat for quality.

  12. Andy — May 22, 2014 @ 12:31 pm (#)

    At the local Aldi around here, if you spend $80 or more you get a $10-off coupon for your next order of $40+. I try to only hit Aldi about once every three weeks for stuff, but although I try to keep it to milk, cream, butter, canned tuna, tacos, and a few other things, there always turns out to be some really great seasonal specials, which can (sometimes) put me over $80.

    There’re a lot of things I don’t care for at Aldi, but for general staples they’re great. They only have bleached flour and only one size of everything, though that one size can be generous for the money, like 24 oz of salsa for $1.80. They do have some AMAZING things like 200g German chocolate bars for $2. Their frozen pizza is the best around; their canned tuna is low-end mush, but just as good as Chicken of the Sea and about $0.30 less. They recently started selling a BIG jar of mixed nuts for about $12 – a huge deal.

    Yes, the cashiers will just throw everything in the cart (assuming you rented a cart) so if you’re wise, you’ll bring a cart-size box (@18″ x 24″) and keep it on the cart’s bottom shelf until you’re in the front of the check-out line; get the box in the other cart FAST ’cause those cashiers are in a hurry!

  13. tim — June 3, 2014 @ 10:21 pm (#)

    Went to Aldi today for the first time at the recommendation of a friend. OMG. I was impressed by the prices. I’m terrible at making decisions so the limited selection is great. It’s my new grocery store. Love that you have to pay to use a cart. Saw that when I went to Italy and wished American stores did it. And their produce was pretty fresh. No rotten fruits or vegetables. None that I saw anyway.
    I’m going to the new one in Denton Texas. Opened last year in May.

  14. annika — June 23, 2014 @ 5:50 pm (#)

    I am from Germany, Aldis home country. In Germany it is normal having to pay for bags and having to pack your own groceries in every supermarket, not just Aldis. Also you always have to insert a quarter in the shopping cart and bring it back.
    The only thing different at Aldi is the packing area – only the cashier will not put your stuff in another cart for you, you have to do that yourself and you have to use the cart you used to do your shopping. They have really long conveyor belts so all your groceries will fit, but you better be fast because the belt ends right after the cashier! I think this is a really great system because I hate it when I have to wait just because other customers are too slow. Aldi makes them speed up.

  15. Amy — June 24, 2014 @ 4:31 pm (#)

    I shop at Aldi in Illinois. I almost never take bags or boxes, seems a waste to sort and fill just to unload and sort at home. I have a few small square laundry baskets I bring in the car. When I come out with a full cart, I sort items into the baskets like this: cold/frozen, boxes/cans; fruit/bread/soft. That way, nothing gets squashed, and if I’m in a rush, I can put away the cold/frozen and leave the rest for later. Easier to bring into the house this way too!

  16. Rebecca — July 16, 2014 @ 6:42 am (#)

    I love Aldi, it has been around a long time. It certainly helped my single mother raise 5 kids. I love how it has evolved, and I think that it has some of the bests chocolate bars anywhere, also the pasta sauce, and salad dressings are delicious. I like that things that are new and trendy even make their way and our store in West Virginia even offers Organic milk! You are a fool if you do not take advantage of the steals here, why pay more? I’ve been blessed the cart quarter Angel 3 times, and I’ve passed it along every time too!

  17. jamex@gmail.com — July 24, 2014 @ 11:15 am (#)

    Could not figure out why all the junk in the first aisle?

    Margin leaders, maybe?

  18. Ginny — August 16, 2014 @ 8:24 am (#)

    Your posts have given me the confidence to shop at Aldi. I too grew up with a preconceived notion about Aldi and have avoided it for that reason and also as getting the cart out with .25 seems confusing. Like somehow I won’t be able to get it out. So silly I know. I’ve heard great comments lately from friends and acquaintances who shop there so I’m going this week!

  19. Sharon — October 16, 2014 @ 2:50 pm (#)

    Every week I shop at aldi and walmart.  I have a list for what is the best buy at each store.  I have nnot found any products that my family does not like from aldi.  I do save money by shapping at aldi.  I buy most of my meat at walmart.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: ALDI 101: Why I Shop At Aldi | Gimme Some Oven

  2. Pingback: My First Aldi Shopping Trip | My Best Laid Plans

  3. Pingback: Grocery Shopping: Aldi 101

  4. Pingback: Monday Mix Vol. 19 » Kylene Lynn Photography

  5. Pingback: Creamy Mexican Chicken Pasta | Gimme Some Oven