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Adventures At Aldi

I kept hearing about this place called Aldi.

One of our neighbors, who moved here a few years ago from St. Louis, works for Aldi.

A good friend here (who also moved from St. Louis) talked about how great Aldi was.

My husband, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, said his grandma always used to shop at Aldi.

My friend Emilie said that my old hometown in Maryland had just gotten an Aldi

And a few blogs I was checking out that focus on cooking and saving money kept referring to...you guessed it...Aldi.

We actually have an Aldi, though it's about half an hour away and not exactly on the beaten path.  But one day when I was in that area running some other errands, I thought I'd give it a try.

My first impression was mixed.  I was confused how to get the shopping cart unlocked (you have to put a quarter in to get it).  And then I walked in and it was so small.  My daughter would later ask if we were going back to that "little grocery store" to give you perspective.  I think it is really more of market.  The aisles were piled high and the ambiance was not exactly upscale (not to be a grocery store snob).  And there were hardly any name brands to be recognized...most products were Aldi's own brand, with a handful of name brand products sprinkled in.  I decided to give a few things a try.  I was conservative that day, spending only about $30, a mere fraction of a typical grocery run for our family unfortunately (and yes I know, I should become a coupon queen, I might get there one day, be patient with me).

So I checked out (purchasing my paper bags by the way, another Aldi quirk) and spent my $30. I couldn't use my Discover , which is a bummer because I like to use it on everything and pay it off monthly so I can use my cash back bonus to buy gifts or other extras (my cashback bonuses have already purchased two American Girl dolls, bought other Christmas gifts, and paid for half of a cruise through the years, it's a pretty sweet deal).  But at Aldi you have to use cash or debit cards. Then I bagged my own groceries on this big long shelf (this ain't Publix, folks) and loaded it up and figured out how to return my cart.  It was a bit of work with two kids involved (and in 100 degree weather) so I was still a bit of a skeptic.  But I was determined to try it out, as I am always looking for good deals to make ends meet on our one income, youth pastor and stay at home mom budget.

As I unloaded my groceries at home, I had to admit I had gotten a lot for $30.  I'm talking a few milks, several things of ground beef, butter, frozen berries, etc.  I was pleased at the price points, but unsure of if we would like anything I purchased.

I was to be pleasantly surprised!  The first thing I noticed was how delicious and creamy the milk was.  Then my kids commented on it.  We hadn't mentioned it to my husband, but when he poured himself a glass later that night he commented right away how that was some good milk.  Considering how much milk we drink in this family and how Aldi's milk was about $1 cheaper than other stores right now, I was pretty happy about this!

Then over the next week or two we proceeded to try everything my $30 had purchased, and we like it all!  So a few weeks later I went back, this time filling my cart and spending $120 (which is still less than a typical massive grocery run around here) and again, I got so much for my money).  I stocked up on things like flour, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, butter, etc... as all these staples are significantly cheaper than even Walmart brands.  And I tried a bunch of new things as well.  I still had to run to Publix or Walmart to get a few things we really like (certain types of yogurt, blueberries and other produce, coffee creamers) as Aldi definitely has a limited inventory.  But I certainly was able to stock my pantry and freezer, their 93%  lean ground beef is lean as can be and very inexpensive, and their frozen sliced strawberries I used to make shortcake on Sunday were red and delicious and came in a large, very economical bag.

It's still off the beaten path.  It's still small, without every item we use available.  And it's still a bit of a job to bag it all and deal with the cart with two kids.  And while I will still use our local Walmart (which I can't stand but endure) and Publix (which I love), I think Aldi will be a part of my grocery rotation when I'm out that way running errands so I can stock up on certain staples and save.

I think I could even say I'm now an Aldi fan.

If you have one near you, you may want to give it a try...just remember to bring a quarter and a debit card and an open mind to try new things!

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