So what is Aldi's? According to Wikipedia, (which even as a classically trained librarian, I trust a great deal) Aldi's is a discount store based in Germany. Oooh, swank, right? Before you agree, I'm actually sure some people over there make fun of it, too. Its name is short for Albrecht Discount, and according to the same Wikipedia article, 95% of blue collar workers, 88% of white-collar workers, 84% of public servants and 80% of self-employed German people shop there. That's not to say it's the only place they shop, but that is a considerable number. They even have competition! Aldi operates stores in such chic destinations as France, Denmark, Austria, and the UK.
So how about our experience? I'll break it down:
Who shops at Aldi's? Lots of people. Anyone who wants to save money on basics. Now that unemployment is at 10%, and has been for months, it appears that a lot of regular folks shop there. Certainly there were some very nice cars in the lot. In fact, my friend who happens to be an incredibly amazing cook shops there, too.
What do they sell? Aldi's had a lot of my normal foods. Trader Joe's is actually owned by the same company, and they have a lot of the same products...sometimes for cheaper, albeit they are in different boxes. The same box of cereal at T.J. is 1.99, but at Aldi's its 1.49. O-shaped cereal is O-shaped cereal is O-shaped cereal. Above you can see the sportsdrink Zach bought for his Hockey game tonight. It tastes similar to the national brand. They had boxes of pasta, even a whole-wheat variety. Milk, basic cheese, and weirdly enough the same type of bread they had in Albert Heijn, a grocery store in Amsterdam. On the label: product of Holland. Neat.
Lots of stuff I wouldn't eat too: Pringles, snack cakes and corn-flavored chips. Canned meat(a lot of it), cured hams, chocolate bars, and soda.
What don't they sell? I noticed a few things I'm used to buying weren't found here. No fresh herbs. No yeast packets. Nothing local. Don't look for organic products here, they don't have them, and don't be surprised. Its a discount store, and sometimes there's just no room to be a foodie. Sigh and carry on.
What is Different? To use the carts it will cost you a quarter. Indeed they are all chained together. Putting in a quarter unlocks the cart. You get your quarter back when you return your cart. The checkout is extremely fast, and you must bring your own bags or purchase ones there. This is not unlike grocery stores in Europe, in the Netherlands, I do think I remember that they cost something like 15 "euro cents". At Aldi's you must bag your own groceries, which is the case at other stores I've been to (Trader Joe's certainly appreciates your bagging skills, however they provide paper bags for free and will do it themselves if you don't want to). Aldi's also doesn't take credit cards, so like us, you won't be racking up skymiles here.
Do I recommend Aldi's? Yes. If you want to save money, there's no better place (except maybe Big Lots which I also love, but they do not carry produce or have nearly the same selection) Do use the same cautious behaviour you would use at any grocery: read labels, reject ingredients with allergens, products you adamantly avoid, and foods that are generally terrible for you. Bring your debit card, or cash and re-usable grocery bags, and one quarter. Our bill came out to 20 dollars less than usual, and that was enough to make me smile. Our first meal: Strawberries, spinach, and lettuce all came from Aldi's.