Why I’ve converted to the Aldi way of life

I used to be a grocery store snob.

Here in the suburbs, chain groceries are everywhere. Giant, Safeway, Weis, Food Lion — not to mention the expansive grocery areas of Target and Walmart, where I find myself at least once (OK, twice) a week.

I loved Giant best. It was close to our first apartment and, after I took over grocery duties early in our marriage, I felt grown-up and responsible inspecting apples for blemishes and acting like I knew the difference between different cuts of steak.

(Ha! I used to buy steak. That’s cute.)

Spencer and I shopped together, making it our Monday after-work ritual. My husband loves trying new things, so all sorts of international items would wind up with our order. We were impulsive. I didn’t make a list. Didn’t meal plan. We wandered freely like the newlyweds we were, looking at each other by the deli counter. “I don’t know,” we’d say. “What do you feel like?”

The variety was captivating. Standing in front of the dairy case, 50 — heck, 100? — varieties of yogurt were at our disposal. Did we want toasted coconut or Key lime? Greek or plain? Dannon or Oikos?

I’d stare at the flavors and brands and prices. I’d cross-reference which was cheapest with my personal preferences. I’d think about what we liked in the past. Was coffee-flavored yogurt actually … gross? Did Spencer hate the mango? Should I stock up now, or wait until it went on sale?

Decisions. So many decisions.

Grocery shopping today — with a 2-year-old and 6-week-old — is … well, it’s a production. One we don’t make, given I go alone. I typically run out on Sundays, known to be the worst day to hit the grocery store with the rest of town, with Spence holding down the fort. I’m always a woman on a mission.

And I never leave the house until I’ve created a plan for the week. That’s how you overspend, you know? Wind up with all sorts of stuff you forget about, forgotten on a dusty pantry shelf. I sit down with recipe books and jot down what I’ll need to pick up versus what we have already to use up. Once that list is done, I rewrite a new list organized by department: the meats together, the veggies together, etc. So I don’t forget anything.

Have I mentioned I’m a little OCD?

This takes a half hour. I often write all this down while hiding in the corner of the kitchen that Oliver can’t see from the living room, thus granting me time to sip my long-cold coffee and put two thoughts together without toddler interference.

Up until recently, I was still darkening Giant’s door. I love Giant. The store is new and clean and rarely crowded. The parking lot is a pleasure to get in and out of. The selection — oh, the selection! — of produce is awesome, and every aisle is well-stocked. I don’t have to worry about Giant being “out” of … well, anything. It’s reliable. Predictable. And 10 minutes away.

So why the heck am I now schlepping up to an Aldi?

And … liking it?

My sister told me about Aldi years ago. Newly opened in a neighboring town, it’s tucked off the highway in an inconvenient and insanely busy location. From our current house, it’s easily a 35-minute drive. Always in traffic.

But I go. Because it’s cheap. And with two working parents and two kiddos soon to be in day care (don’t end, maternity leave!), affordability is important.

But even more than that?

It’s simple.

My brain is fried. We get very little sleep. I make what feels like endless decisions a day for my children and my husband and myself. When I go back to work in two weeks, that stress will multiply tenfold. (I’m trying not to think about it, really.)

At Aldi, if you want chicken, here are breasts and tenderloins. If you want ground beef, you grab the 93/7 split — ’cause that’s what they have. If you want milk, here’s a gallon of milk. Apples? Take a bag. You have to buy the bag. No debating Gala versus Pink Lady, you know? And how many of each?

When I first went into Aldi with Spencer, I was … well, I was a snob. Seriously. Where were my 10 kinds of shredded cheese? My super-specific favorite coffee creamer? My whole wheat sandwich thins?

It’s true that Aldi does not have everything. But you know what? They have most things. Many things. Enough for us.

And something strange happened. The simplicity, the lack of variety …

It’s been a balm on my frazzled soul.

There is something very zen about Aldi. I think it stems from the relief of knowing I’m getting out of there with my weekly order for less than $80 — absolutely, totally impossible for my family at any other grocery chain. I don’t always come home with everything on my list (fresh ginger was a no-go yesterday), but you know what? I improvise. We can manage. Or occasionally stop by the other chains for those unique finds.

If you’d told me last year that I’d be dragging my behind all the way to Brandywine to go to Aldi, where the parking lot is always full and the carts must be unlocked with a quarter (and I never have a freakin’ quarter!), I would have sipped from an overpriced latte and sneered.

Sneered, I tell you.

But I get it now. Megan Johnson, mom of two (!), harried wife and employee and daughter and sister and friend with a thinning bank account … she’s a convert.

I like easy and I cannot lie. It takes longer to get there, yes, and traffic is awful, but once I’m there? It’s easy, breezy, lemon-squeeze-y.

Now, if only I could find a quarter.

17 thoughts on “Why I’ve converted to the Aldi way of life

  1. I am so in this frame of mind today to. I want to simplify. I want to take away choices and just have what is needed. I have been to an Aldi’s once. The closest one to here is 40 miles away.


  2. I’ve never been to Aldi, but Trader Joe’s is my haven. I just moved farther away from Trader Joe’s (I live in the city and don’t have a car), but still bus to Trader Joe’s, even though there’s a Safeway a fifteen minutes walk away. I know where everything is there, and it’s so much easier to navigate than conventional grocery stores. It’s also cheaper without the hassle of couponing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! Another Aldi convert! We LOVE Aldi! I’ve been drafting up a post about Aldi too and what products we like the best, what we spend, etc. Have you tried the Indian simmer sauce? That’s our favorite. We spend around $60 a week… even buy our diapers and wipes there. A few odds and ends we have to go to Wegmans for, but Aldi is our primary store.

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  4. I have been going to Aldi’s more and more here lately. I typically buy one of 2 things, sometimes (most of the time) both, cheap wine and their Tikka Malsala Simmer Sauce. I first had it at a friend’s house back in January and loved it. I’ve since bought it 2 or 3 times myself now. So simple and so good!

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  5. In Sydney, Australia, more and more suburbs have an Aldi. I’m at the other end of the age spectrum- retired, thinning bank account, and I love it too.


  6. We have two Aldi’s close to us, and we’ve loved it. We need to get back to them! There’s also another German-based store called Lidl that is expanding into our area this summer. I keep a film canister of quarters and loose change in my car (something my dad started years ago when we needed to feed parking meters).


  7. Aldi is the best. Seriously. Been shopping there for more than 3 years now for all of the reasons you mentioned — it’s cheap, fast, nearby (two within 15 minutes of us). Many of the ALDI brands are just as good as — and in many cases, superior to — name-brand items. I keep several quarters in both my husband’s and my car; same with reusable totes and bags.


  8. I love everything about this post! From the description of newlywed shopping to loving the simplicity of Aldi. There is one near me I’ve been to a handful of times, but I’ve been hesitating making it my main store because of my favorite brands. I think I will get over that very soon.

    Also, they make cute little keychains to hold your Aldi quarter:

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  9. yes! I recently hit up Aldi recently! I kind of loved the lack of choices, forcing me to use my reusable bags that I often forget in my after work schlepps to Wegmans. I think Aldi, BJs and the occassional wegmans visit will become the norm. Our grocery shop last week was insanely cheaper!


  10. A few years ago we got our first few No Frills a few years ago on the east coast of Canada, for the saving and simplicity, there is no way I’d go back. Mine is 35 minuets away too.!


  11. It has been so long since I’ve been to the Aldi near our town. I know they don’t have a lot of the name brands that I like, but the fact that you can buy in bulk and NOT spend a fortune is definitely worth going. I don’t have kids but cooking for 2 on a budget isn’t easy, especially when prices on food are so high, even at a Town & Country. One average meal costs almost 30, 40 bucks and lasts all of, say, 15 minutes. Aldi is a good option!


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