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We've recently added Aldi as one of the stores we visit regularly to fulfill our grocery shopping needs.  There isn't one really close to us (7 miles is the closest), but we found that it was worth it and could offer savings for our family.  Last month, Aldi represented about 20% of the money we spent on groceries.

mb-201304groceryAfter buying some items, either once or regularly, I thought it would be interesting to review how the items stacked up against the same items we would buy in a more traditional grocery store.

Here are a few comparisons, with as much information as I can remember:

  • Pineapple – The first week we went to Aldi, we bought a pineapple for $1.49.  The normal price is $3.00, with sale prices available around $2.50, so this was a big discount.  I even posted about it on Facebook, and someone sarcastically replied that the pineapple must have been grown in Kansas (they do not grow pineapple in Kansas, to the best of my knowledge).  The pineapple was fine and we've bought it at other times.  Buy at Aldi?  Absolutely!
  • Broccoli – Produce can be found very cheap at Aldi, and one of our favorite veggies, broccoli, is often a good price.  They don't sell it as a full head of broccoli.  Instead, it's cut (I think in half) and put in a package.  I'm guessing that this makes it easier for shipping, but it seems you end up with the same amount.  The quality was fine, though we did notice a few more brown spots on the tips than we usually see, and our three year old son refuses to eat those pieces.  Buy at Aldi?  Sure, but give it a good look!
  • Milk – A gallon of milk can be a fantastic find at Aldi.  Sometimes it is cheaper elsewhere, but sometimes Aldi has the best prices, often by 15-20%.  We go through a lot of milk, so this can add up.  The milk tastes exactly the same, and the rumor is that it comes from one of the better dairy companies here in Michigan, but they just put a different label on it. Buy at Aldi?  Absolutely.
  • Canned tomatoes – My wife makes a mean spinach lasagna (a recipie made famous from my mother-in-law), and she adds a few cans of tomatoes.  Each batch usually comes out slightly different.  The version she made with the canned tomatoes from Aldi came out a little more soupy than usual.  It still tasted fine, but we wondered if the tomatoes held a little more water.  Buy at Aldi?  I would buy a can or two and see how you like it.
  • Box mac-and-cheese – I'm still a kid at heart in that I enjoy box mac-and-cheese.  I actually prefer the ‘special flavor' versions in the same size box, notably Three Cheese and Spirals.  Still, we found a box of the regular variety and decided to give it a shot.  It definitely had a different taste than Kraft or even the store brands.  It wasn't bad, it was just different.  They have an Aldi version of the specialty types that I still might try, but for the regular brand: Buy at Aldi?  I probably would not buy this again.
  • Yogurt – I like the flavored yogurt cups.  I usually get the low-calorie version of Yoplait or the Meijer brand equivalent.  I don't like Dannon, Kroger, or WalMart, which are the other three varieties I've tried.   Aldi has their version for 39 cents a cup.  The cheapest I see Yoplait is 50 cents (it's usually 70) and the cheapest for Meijer is 40 cents (it's usually 50).  So, it's definitely a good deal.  I bought some and when I tried it, I loved it. The yogurt, to me, tasted better than either the Yoplait or Meijer.  Two caveats: One, they don't have as many flavors.  Two, they have the low-calorie type and they also have a regular type.  The distinction for Yoplait is unmistakeable, the regular cups are pink and the low-cal cups are blue.  With Aldi, I've mistakenly grabbed the wrong type more than a few times.  They just don't stand out from one another enough in a way that's perfectly obvious, plus they are often intermixed.  Buy at Aldi?  Yes, but give your cups a second look to make sure you picked out the variety you were looking for. 
  • Gum – I normally hate the impulse buy section near the register of most grocery stores.  Aldi has it as well.  They just have more reasonable prices.  I bought a pack of gum, or rather a package that has six 10-piece packages of gum.  The pieces are the rectangles that you get with Eclipse or others, where you usually have to push them out through a piece of foil.  Aldi packages them in groups of 10 in packaging that looks like the typical stick gum.  They're not individually wrapped, so once you open the package, you probably don't want to carry it around in your pocket.  It's fine for sitting on my desk at work.  And, it tastes very minty, as it should.  Buy at Aldi?  Yes, but not if you want to carry it in your pocket, otherwise it will probably get loose and/or get dirty since they're not individually wrapped.
  • Tortilla chips and potato chips – We have bought both at Aldi for a pretty cheap price per bag.  In both cases, we served them at various family gatherings.  They tasted fine to me and everybody seemed to enjoy them.  Buy at Aldi?  Certainly!
  • Half and half – I usually buy a pint for $1.10 – $1.50.  Aldi has a quart for $1.49.  I figured even if I didn't use it all, it would be a good value.  It tastes fine in my coffee, and so far, I've not had any go bad.  It's definitely a cost savings.  Buy at Aldi? It's the only place I buy it now!
  • Bread – They have a few different types.  My wife loves whole grain bread, and says that the Aldi brand is great, and it's a great price.  I don't like real heavy bread, but prefer a more regular loaf of whole wheat.  It's not a bad value and it tastes fine.  My only complaint is that two of the loaves we've bought so far have had slices that have big holes in them, presumably from air during the rising process.  I'm not used to this, and it can be troublesome when making PB&J or egg salad sandwiches.  Buy at Aldi?  Whole grain, yes.  Wheat bread, a yes for now, but if the holes persist, I may turn this to a no, at least for my variety.

So, for the most part, buying things at Aldi seems to work out just fine in terms of quality and taste, though you have to assess each item for yourself.  We'll definitely continue to go there regularly to fulfill at least a portion of our shopping needs.

We've bought a lot of other things but those are the ones that pop into my head.  We haven't bought much out of the frozen food section.  Maybe someday.  We also haven't bought anything like margarine, butter, or sour cream (my wife will only buy Daisy, which doesn't have a long ingredient list).  Any thoughts on those or other items?