Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Food Plan, Part Two

An Aldi near Alicante, Spain.

I know people who love Aldi, and I know people who cringe at the mention of it.  Which one are you?

Gerry was very wary of Aldi when I first dragged him into one.  He reacted to the unfamiliar labels and inexpensive prices the way he would to a "Rollex" watch or a "Burburry" raincoat. To him, there was a taint of second-rate about the place, and he was in no hurry to go back. 

It took a trip to Ireland to change his mind.  Lidl was new in town.  Knowing we a) love to visit grocery stores and b) love a bargain, all the cousins were urging us to check it out.  Off we went, expecting a store along the lines of Costco.  Instead, we found a store quite like Aldi!

And this is when Gerry experienced his conversion.  We were walking through a store full of unfamiliar labels, but it didn't feel weird, because you expect things to be different in a foreign country.  The labels in conventional supermarkets were different too, and we didn't automatically assume there must be something wrong with them, so why did we assume something was wrong with the products at Aldi?
I read Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette books years and years ago, and there's one thing that always stuck with me.  In speaking about brand name foods, she said (and I can't believe I was able to find this quote), "Just because a brand tastes different, it doesn't mean it tastes worse." 
The thing we like best about Aldi is that it's easy.  The store is small, selection is limited, and it's quick. We are in and out in fifteen minutes.  There are no coupons to worry about, and everyday prices are good.  We've been happy with the quality of almost everything we've tried. 

So what do we buy at Aldi?
Snacks.  I love my salty crunchies, and junk food is junk food.  I might as well save some money when I get the urge for cheezy doodles.

Cereal.  A dependable place for reasonably priced cereal.  We avoid anything containing high fructose corn syrup.

Cheese.  All kinds. 

Selected produce.  Citrus doesn't grow in Pennsylvania, so our lemons and oranges usually come from Aldi.  (The oranges have been absolutely heavenly this year, too.) 

Frozen vegetables and fruits.  Fresh and local just doesn't always happen.  For the sake of convenience, there are usually a few bags of frozen veg in our freezer.  Gerry loves the broccoli and says the corn and peas are always good too.  The bags of frozen fruit are great for smoothies.

Breads.  Now that they've removed HFCS from many of their breads, we sometimes grab a loaf if we're craving mushy peanut butter sandwiches.  The take and bake loaves are also nice to have around, because they have a long shelf life. 

Non-foods.  I like their tissues, and their dishwasher detergent is phosphate-free. 

Specialty/holiday items:  The windmill cookies they get at Christmastime are wonderful, and Ger has enjoyed some of the German specialties they get twice a year. 

Others:  White sugar for when raw sugar won't do, masa, canned pinto beans, saltine crackers, frozen french fries, real-fruit frozen pops.

You can see this still isn't everything we need, as there is no mention of milk, eggs, meat, fresh produce, etc.  Again, it's all about saving on some things so we can spend on others.  Yes, there are still a few more links in our food chain!  Up next: Shopping local.

How about you?  Are you an Aldi shopper?  What are your favorite products?


Anonymous said...

I *love* Aldi. Yes, we actually have one up here in the northwoods :O)


Sherry @ A Happy Valentine said...

As I commented on one of your other posts, we probably get 99% of our groceries at Aldi. I love the fact that they guarantee you'll like what they sell or they'll replace the item and refund your money. I also appreciate that their milk is hormone-free (I buy four gallons a week!).

I'm able to feed our family of four (including our two grown sons), along with a frequent supper guest, for an average of $75 a week. I can't do that when buying my groceries at any other store in our area.

Sorry, I carried on so, but I love Aldi! Thanks for the post.

Jenn O'Leary said...

I have always wanted to see what it is all about - I loved when we were in Ireland (can't remember the name of the grocery store) and everything seemed so new and exciting :) They had great snacks! I am not sure where my closest one is but I'll have to check it out sometime. Trader Joes has all their own brands so that is also fun!

Kris said...

I went to Aldi's once. It seemed weird to pay for my cart. I bought some produce which was fine, some yogurt which I didn't like, and some hamburger buns.
I put the leftover buns in the bread box and forgot about them for over a month. Pulled them out and they looked brand new - soft, no mold. I was scared to eat them! What preserves bread for that long?
If it was convenient to my house, I would give Aldi another try. As it is, I'll stick with my local stores, Costco, Trader Joe's, and the farmer's market when it reopens.

Kathryn said...

I sometimes shop at Aldi's, depending on what we need. They usually have the best prices for canned vegetables, milk and produce and their produce seems fresher than chain grocery stores, but I usually buy frozen foods and meats at Sav-A-Lot, which is similar to Aldi's.

I also shop at Kroger's and Meijer's for the sale. Only rarely do I venture into Walmart anymore as it is always such a hassle if you have coupons and although they have more than a dozen lanes, there is usually only one or two open and a line a mile back.