Is Shopping At Aldi Worth it?

I have been retired for over five years, and because of this, my income is fixed. Despite my retired status, I still have four adults living at home.  How will that change?  Soon I’ll have five adults living at home.  My wife continues to work, so I have taken on many domestic tasks, including grocery shopping and some meal prep.  When I was working, I never thought about the cost of groceries, but that is different now.  In addition, the world has been dealing with inflation, and stores have been practicing shrinkflation.  Buying groceries has become expensive. 

It isn’t unusual to spend $80-90 at a regular grocery store and leave with only two bags.  Years ago, I started to shop at Walmart, which was less expensive and offered a full range of groceries.  However, our Walmart has fallen on hard times via short staffing, poor stock, increased pricing, and foolish attempts at automation.  

Shopping there became a dreaded activity as large areas would be out-of-stock, the produce started to look like the stuff I was throwing out at home, and the prices kept increasing. However, the worst blow was the removal of almost all of the checkers in lieu of self-checkout. I would have an overflowing cart that I would have to scan and bag, given only a tiny work surface.  Some things wouldn’t scan or scan at the right prices.  In addition, I hated going through the process of looking up and weighing produce.  

Our Walmart would station employees by the checkout isles.  They wouldn’t help; their job was to stare you down, which felt creepy. My last straw with Walmart came after going through one shopping ordeal and having the door watcher ask to see my receipt and then go through several dozen checks of products I bought. I came home exhausted, frustrated, and exasperated.  I committed to only returning to Walmart when necessary and finding a new store to shop at. Enter Aldi.

I had shopped at Aldi before, but it was slightly out of the way. At that time, I did a price comparison with Walmart, and I found that the overall prices were slightly lower than Walmart’s, but I needed more to justify the greater distance and the reduced selection.  However, Walmart had changed with higher prices and terrible customer care.  Because of this, I decided to give Aldi a second look. So, is it cheaper to shop at Aldi?  The answer is yes, but for more reasons than you may think.

Aldi’s prices are less expensive than Walmart, and it seems that separation is greater now than in the past. That is an obvious positive.  However, Aldi stores are much smaller than Walmart, so I can easily shop without feeling completely exhausted.  In addition, Aldi has very fast and efficient checkers.  Yes, you must bag your groceries, but Aldi provides large counters, making the process simple.  I like that I have to bring my bags and have purchased several of them from Aldi.  One big Aldi bag is equivalent to around 4 Walmart bags making it much easier for me to bring the groceries into the house. Aldi’s grocery cart policy is also great, as no carts clog up the lot. 

Aldi has limited brands and limited selection, which reduces decision fatigue. In addition, the quality of almost all food items is good to excellent.  I can’t buy Kalamata olives at Aldi, but I can substitute black olives, which is good enough for me. Even with substitution, there are things that I use but can’t get at Aldi.  However, a quick trip to my local grocer solves that problem.  I have to be careful not to overbuy when I get there. Generally speaking, Aldi has 90-95% of what I need.

My grocery shopping is more enjoyable and less expensive than at Walmart.  I buy what I need as I’m much less likely to impulse purchase. I also shop the house brand, because that is what is available.  I substitute less expensive items for specialty items because Aldi doesn’t carry many.  I don’t linger in the store, so I don’t buy things that look interesting.  All of these factors make it significantly less expensive to shop at Aldi.

I can’t say there is any category of food that is significantly inferior to other stores.  The produce is good, as is the packaged bread and bakery.  I don’t see a difference with their canned goods; frozen items seem decent. If one area were lacking, I would say it would be their meat department.  There is nothing wrong with Aldi meat, but I don’t think it is at the same level as a store like Costco.  However, I would happily buy my meat at Aldi if I didn’t have options. 

If you haven’t visited Aldi recently, you may want to try it.  I would suggest that you shop there for several weeks before you make your final decision on the grocery chain, as it takes a little bit to get used to the different shopping experience.