Moving from the West Coast to the Midwest recently brought a lot of obvious changes to our family, but one of the things I was most eager for was my chance to shop at Aldi. My parents shopped there during my formative years, but my memories are vague, since cheap prices and brand-name selection are of little importance to a 6 year old. With wide eyes and an open wallet, I entered the first time and realized there were a number of things I’d neglected to bring with me.
A Quarter – With a constant nod toward efficiency, Aldi maintains a cart-keeping system, much like the luggage carriers at many airports. You put a quarter in to take a cart; you get your quarter back when you return your cart to the row. Even more delightfully though, there seems to be a Quarter Cart Culture where finished shoppers actively seek those arriving and gladly pass on their cart, in exchange for a quarter, of course. My apologies to the gracious woman who handed us a cart before I got to the store for the first time and realized the coin life cycle.
Bags – The checkout process is fast because the cashier doesn’t stop to bag. The assembly line moves from your cart, to the conveyor belt, through the scanner and into another cart. After you pay, you take the cart and bag your own items, at a wall-length shelf just past the cashiers. You can purchase bags on-site (I learned thankfully), but it’s so much easier and quicker to load reusable totes. If you arrive unawares, you can look for empty shipping boxes lying around to load your groceries– some locations provide a basket full of empty boxes for customers to grab. Also, because there are no express lanes, if you see a shopper behind you in line with few items, it’s a courtesy to let them go ahead of you.
Your List – One of the cost saving maneuvers employed by Aldi is their shelving system. Everything is in its original manufacturer shipping boxes, stacked and opened on top. As a result, items are packed in tight and it can be visually overwhelming. Your list will keep you from paralysis – and will save you from filling your entire cart with the alluring snack aisle upon entering the store.
A Friend – Regular shoppers are accustomed to moving through Aldi with speed and efficiency, and for good reason, don’t particularly enjoy the mesmerized newbie who’s swinging her cart around numerous times in the tight aisles because she continues to get distracted and lost, forgetting an item an aisle back. Sending a partner back for that one bottle of soap is much more friendly.
The Weekly Ads – Aldi features so many fresh and organic options at ridiculous prices, it can be enchanting. Instead of getting wrapped up in the magic of it all, check through the ads to see what is especially on sale this week and what finds are here only for a short time. Focusing on those specials will ensure you make the most of your Aldi experience. Also, if you’re a savings scavenger, keep in mind that Aldi doesn’t accept manufacturer’s coupons so watching those deals is important.