Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

The Aldi Experiment

Admin note: At the end of 2009, I started my very first blog, The Empty Kitchen. The purpose of that blog was to disseminate information on feeding a family on a small budget. It was a pretty decent website, especially for my first foray into blogging. However, I quickly realized that I was not cut out to be a food blogger and that site was abandoned. I’ve decided to incorporate some of the information that I wrote for that site on Jana Says. 

The biggest project that I completed while working on that site was the Aldi Experiment. I spent 6 weeks at the beginning of 2010 shopping almost exclusively at Aldi. The information that I learned transformed my grocery shopping, and many of the tips I gathered I still use. I’ve opted to make the Aldi Experiment archives available on Jana Says for several reasons, the biggest ones being it’s relevance to finance and eating well on a fairly small budget. 

It is necessary to note that all of the information in this series was documented in January-February 2010. 

I hope you enjoy it. 

When a family, or an individual, is looking to trim expenses, one of the first budget items that gets the ax is groceries. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to trim the grocery budget and still eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. One of those ways is by shopping at Aldi.

I first heard of Aldi from watching TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. The Duggars would shop there and basically brag about how much money they were saving (which is really important when you have an army to feed). Then, on the message board that I frequent, shopping at Aldi was always a suggestion when someone came looking for advice on how to trim grocery costs. I was curious about it but could never have my curiousity satisfied since there was no Aldi anywhere near my house. But this past summer, that all changed. Aldi moved in. And my grocery shopping experience became vastly different (in the spirit of full disclosure, I loathe grocery shopping. Everything about it, to me, is unpleasant).

So what is Aldi? Well, Aldi is a discount grocery store that looks a little different from a traditional supermarket. You’ll find very few name brands; almost the entire inventory is their private label brand. Rather than the 20,000 or so items at a regular grocery store, there’s only about 1,400 at Aldi. There are no baggers, no one in the parking lot gathering up shopping cart, no grocery bags and no shelves. You bag your own groceries in bags brought from home, return your carts yourself (you must put a quarter in to get your cart and when you return it, you get your quarter back), and the products are aligned in self-displaying cases. It’s all a bit overwhelming at first, but you get used to it.  And the savings are ridiculous.

Armed with all of this information, and a desire to save money, my family has decided to embark on a 6 week experiment. The experiment? Shop primarily at Aldi and see how much money we can save.

Here’s what happened: 

The rules

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

The complete summary

Menu plans

2 Comments

  1. John

    We’ve been long time customers of Aldi and appreciate their focus on keeping prices reasonable. It’s only reasonable that we should expect them to focus on charging accurate prices. Unfortunately, markdown prices, usually indicated by handwritten prices in black marker, are commonly not entered into the computer.

    There are a number of circumstances that make this a problem for customers:
    – The registers do not display the scan price to the customer so you don’t have a means to review and address corrections when scanned. ALDI cashiers are trained to focus on efficiency only and are generally not interested in reviewing prices with you while scanning.
    – The receipt details the item/price but is only provided after the purchase is complete. By now, the cashier is usually working on the next customer’s transaction.
    – Price adjustments require a return/repurchase with adjustment which requires the manager involvement. As such, you need to get the cashier between transactions, delay other customers and wait for manager to arrive and complete the purchase.

    I’ve lost as much as 30 minutes getting price corrections and, while not always the case, on more than one occasion encountered rudeness from cashiers and managers. This is not an isolated event as I encountered the same problem in four different stores/two different states in a 2 week period.

    I’ve brought this concern to the corporate offices and was assured that regional leadership would address my concerns and contact me personally. After two reminders and four weeks, I received no response from any of the regions. Corporate advised “we are addressing the concern” but it seems to be more of a token message in hopes that I will go away.

    My recommendation:
    – When purchasing markdown items, review your receipt before leaving the register so they can be addressed immediately.
    – When you purchase an item that was over charged, request the “double back” guarantee be applied. This means you get a refund and a free product. While this guarantee is not designed for this purpose, a purchase that results in higher pricing than marked on the shelf qualifies as “I’m not satisfied.”
    – Report incorrect pricing to your state regulators. While this may be only be a small amount on your receipt, it seems evident that this is a widespread problem which requires outside oversight.

    Reply
  2. Myra

    John…has there been any contact from “regional leadership”?

    Reply

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