9 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Aldi for the First Time

updated Mar 12, 2021
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(Image credit: Carina Romano)

I’m not always a budget-minded person. I can easily find a way to justify an $80 sweater at J.Crew (It’s so soft! I’ll wear it all the time! I’ll totally sleep in it when I inevitably ruin it!). And I’ll pay an arm and a leg for a quarter-pound of the newest, stinkiest wedge at my local cheese shop. But when it comes to random snacks and groceries, I’m Aldi ALL. THE. WAY.

Haven’t been to one yet? Not sure what all the hype is about? Here’s what you need to know before you step foot in an Aldi.

See what I mean by no-frills? (Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

1. It’s totally no-frills.

If you’re looking for a hoity-toity grocery store, Aldi is not your shop. Aldi is a discount grocery chain and it does all sorts of things to keep the costs down. For starters, Aldi doesn’t mess around when stocking its shelves. Some aisles don’t even have shelves! Most items are put on display in the boxes they were shipped in. And those boxes are up for the taking to be used by customers as makeshift shopping baskets and bags. (Note: Aldi does not give away bags, so bring your own or be willing to pay for them. Or just use empty boxes!)

Stores are only open during the most popular shopping hours, which means they spend less on labor and keep prices lower for shoppers. And while a typical supermarket carries about 30,000 items, Aldi offers a much smaller inventory, translating to lower rent and overhead.

Also: Aldi has carts — you’ll just have to temporarily fork over a quarter if you want to use them. You insert the quarter into a mechanism on the handle and, when you bring the cart back, you’ll pop the quarter back out. This way, people are more likely to return the carts and staffers don’t have to waste resources tracking them down. The “Aldi Quarter” is such a thing, the store started making these Quarter Keepers to sell during special times throughout the year.

See? No frills, but super smart!

Please excuse my creepy thumb. (Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

2. Speaking of smart, even the barcodes are smart.

Pick up an Aldi brand item and you might notice it’s covered with UPC codes. Some codes are super long, spanning the entire back of the package. And some items have a UPC on every side of a box. What’s the deal? It’s so that cashiers can slide items over the scanner at lightning-fast speed. The faster you get in and out, the faster more customers can be served. (This isn’t super important to know, but it’s fun, so I wanted to share!)

3. You can return anything.

You might not recognize some of the brands in the store, but it’s totally worth giving everything a shot. And you don’t have to worry because their return policy is pretty sweet. If you’re not happy with, say, a box of cereal, you can bring it back for a replacement and a refund.

(Image credit: Aldi)

4. You should keep your eyes peeled for Aldi Finds.

Every Wednesday, Aldi grocery stores around the country bring new products into rotation for a limited time. And they’re called, you guessed it, Aldi Finds. These special products can be anything from frozen pizzas with fun toppings, to drawer organizers, and even trampolines and chainsaws!

I bought five of these and I’m not ashamed to admit it! (Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

5. You should buy all the coffee.

If you ever come to my house and I serve you coffee, you will think it’s the most amazing, fanciest cup of joe you’ve ever had. You’ll compliment me on the brew and then you’ll ask what high-end website I used to import it. Then, I’ll tell you it’s from Aldi and you’ll be amazed. At least, that’s what usually happens.

A few years ago, my husband and I tried Aldi’s German Roasted Regular Ground Coffee and it changed our mornings. We’ve been loyal buyers ever since. Try it — you won’t be disappointed.

Other things that Aldi shoppers rave about: the chocolate, the frozen pizzas, the cheese, and the snacks.

(Image credit: Heather McClees)

6. It’s got plenty of produce and organic options.

A lot of people think that a discount grocery store won’t have fresh produce and might be a heavy on the processed stuff. That’s not the case at Aldi. Stores are currently working on introducing even more fresh and organic options. And Aldi made the news a few years back for removing artificial colors, hydrogenated oils, and MSG.

7. You don’t have to coupon to save.

In fact, Aldi doesn’t even accept manufacturer’s coupons. It’s not as crazy as it sounds: Most of their products are exclusive and already offered at deeply discounted prices. Once in a while, they do have regional promotions and coupons for an event (like a store opening), so be on the lookout for those.

(Image credit: Jessica Kelly)

8. The private label brands are legit good.

Aldi has nine private label brands that are as good (if not better) than national name brands. I should know: I did an official taste test at Aldi headquarters and was stumped or guessed wrong almost every single time.

See ya next week (Image credit: Lisa Freedman)

9. They advertise their sales two weeks at a time.

Why wait until Sunday or whatever day your grocery store comes out with its weekly circular? Aldi publishes a circular for the week, which is available online and when you enter the store, as well as a circular for the following week, also available online and when you exit the store. This way, you can plan ahead.

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Are you an Aldi aficionado too? We’d love to hear your tips!