My big Aldi debut

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So I have written before about grocery shopping and why it is the bane of my existence – not just because I find myself paying $6.99 for a tub of mushrooms, but because with kids, heading out to do groceries is mighty annoying.

While I felt confident for a while there that Woolies online was my thang, I recently read an article that – by the end – was basically yelling at me to go to Aldi BECAUSE IT WILL CHANGE MY LIFE.

There were a few things pointed out in the piece that did tick me off and hence turn me off going and they included -

Bagging things yourself

I sound like a princess I know but I often look at checkout chicks/ dudes and marvel at how they know where to put what. It’s almost like a gift – to ensure bags aren’t too heavy, things don’t get squashed, you don’t mix chicken and veg etc. I know it all makes perfect sense while I write it and while you read it but actually doing it while a trillion people are waiting is a skill. 

No frills. I hate “no brand” names with a passion

I know – where’s my tiara? I am actually ashamed to say I hate no frills products – not because they are brand less, but because I just don’t know where the hell they come from. Are they made to the same standards? Will they taste the same? And let’s be honest, when you are a clever marketer’s dream  - yep that’s me, grabbing 3 of the new, fabulously packaged Lux shower gel called “magical spell” – the plain, no brand names just don’t tickle my fancy.

The range of a 7 eleven

Ok the range is far greater than that of a 7 eleven. But I knew I wouldn’t be doing a one-stop-shop and that’s what I look for as a busy Mamma. And I am definitely one for an array. I am a “plethora” kinda girl. So having limits to my selection was definitely a deterrent.

My parents motto was always to be frugal on everything except food

And so when I would have a $300 weekly grocery bill I would always tell myself that it was money well spent – it would all be eaten, it would all be used. I always bought the best cut of meats, the free range chickens and where possible, organic fruit and veg. And so I tried to cut costs elsewhere – without even contemplating that perhaps, just perhaps, I could also cut my grocery bill by still buying quality products in places other than the major chains. 

My single pet hate in humans is The Tightarse. And I’ll be damned if I was going to become one

Let’s be frank here  - shopping at Aldi is very closely linked with being somewhat a cheapskate. Someone “careful” with their money. Some of these types – I am sure you know a few – call themselves “conservative” when really they are just Tightarses. To be clear – I don’t hate Tightarses (and even hate is too strong a word. Dislike) because they are careful with their money (because of course that is a good thing) – but because I think it ‘can be’ indicative of the person they are. I have a friend who is minted –  stupidly minted – that would rather die than buy you a coffee. And the same person will buy themselves a ridiculously expensive car and will make their girlfriend who works in a retail shop pay for dinner. For both of them. True story.

But then a few people on Twitter convinced me to go 

And the majority ruled. So here’s what I thought.

My closest Aldi was in the middle of nowhere

Are they all like this? One thing I was determined to avoid at Aldi was the meat, fruit and veg. I don’t know why, really. I just prefer butchers and fruit shops so I was hoping it was in a “complex”. It was, but there were no butchers or fruit shops and I damn well can’t buy mince at the newsagency now can I?

On entry

I honestly felt like I was in another country. Like maybe Sweden. Or Holland, where I have lived. I remember when we first moved to Holland grocery shopping was the weirdest experience ever because of course everything is labelled in Dutch. I really had to go by look and smell in some things and as my cooking skills were as great back then as my proficiency of the Dutch language I was often in struggle-ville. Um, that recipe called for Rosemary… What exactly does that look like again because I sure can’t read the label.

So, back to Aldi. The first thing you notice are that most things, of course, are brand-less. Or to be precise, they are branded but it’s a formality really. They aren’t a brand. They are Aldi-brand with a name that makes it look more enticing, hence the reason you feel like you are in Germany.

Once you get past the fact that you are in Switzerland

You spot something you know and cheer! I actually almost squealed with delight out loud (which would have not gone down well given Aldi is silent… eerily silent) when I spotted my daughter’s beloved Nutella and felt crushed when I remembered I already had 2 tubs at home so didn’t have a reason to excitedly throw 5 in the trolley.

Weirdly, this recognition gives you the confidence to remain and happily shop for what you do actually need.

My Rule Number 1 – only buy stuff made in Australia 

I try to apply this rule everywhere – even in Woolies and Coles. There is no better assurance than knowing what you buy is made on home soil according to Australian standards – and besides, it’s better for our economy.

With brand-less stuff I think this is even more imperative – and so when I shopped around I only bought Australian, and I was pleasantly surprised that a great majority was. With one important exception – the chocolate. Which of course comes from Germany and is therefore amazing. Those Northern Europeans damn well know how to do chocolate – that’s for shiz.

Is it really that much cheaper?

Yes. Absolutely yes. Not only did I walk out with a lot of stuff – that included a Feng Shui plant and educational placemats for my girls – but it only cost a grand total of $104. I was perplexed.

Here are some notable grocery items that are on my weekly list:

- Bread in the same packaging as Top Top 9 grains only its called “Grain Wise” – $2.19 as opposed to $3.99 at Woolies

- Yogurt Squishy tubes in similar packaging as Pauls and Made in Australia, 79c as opposed to $1.39 in Woolies

- Corn Thins 99c – $1.79 Woolies

- Australian 6 pack snack sultanas – $1.79 Aldi and $2.59 for Woolies Brand

- Free range eggs – 12 extra large – $2.99 

- Berri “Deluxe” Juice $2.69 as opposed to $4.49

- Colgate (yes Colgate not Colgade) triple action toothpaste 2 x 160g – $3.99

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What didn’t I like?

- Can’t they at least put on a radio? It is just so quiet in there – so much so that you can hear every conversation going on around you. There were a lot of Mamma’s shrieking “you put that back or bloody else” and it made for some awkward half smiles as we were practically touching shoulders.

- The aisles… they are just so skinny. I was literally following the leader at a snail pace waiting for them to choose and collect and couldn’t zip around them like a woman on a mission.

- Things are a little everywhere, and because the range isn’t extensive I  missed a few things and had to skilfully manoeuvre my way back through the herd of bargain hunters.

- It is the most time consuming type of shop simply because I had to finish off the shopping at Coles – there were just some things that Aldi didn’t even have imitations of, nor would I want to buy as I am brand specific about certain things. So I kinda felt like I was grocery shopping all day to save a few bucks. Not ideal when grocery shopping is about as fun for me as pulling teeth.

So. Would I go again? 

Yes. But maybe not weekly. Maybe fortnightly for pantry items and staples.  For stuff I couldn’t give a rats about the brand and definitely for chocolate. It pleasantly surprised me with how much I could save so next time I go – I buy in bulk so my trips there are less often.

Oh and while I was there, I bought a few canvas bags and bagged at that counter like a pro. You know it!

Now… back to my choccie.

 

 

 

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  • Sophie

    Haha. I love this! I especially love that you were willing to reveal your prejudices – some of which I most definitely share. I’m the same about no brand products – people always say that they are made in the same factories as the high end ones and therefore the same but the quality is awful in some of them. I bought no brand floss and it was impossible to use as it shredded – in the bin. Tried a tomato sauce once and it was incredibly watery. That said, there are some good no name brand products. Aldi has some really good products. I usually wait for recommendations from people before I buy though. The cheese comes highly recommended by lots of people although I am yet to try it. Like you said, it can be frustrating to shop at Aldi’s because you always need to go to Coles/Woolies/somewhere else. I’m working now but when I was a student, saving a few bucks here and there really made a difference – now I’m not cash strapped, I wouldn’t go out of my way to save a few dollars if it eats into my time. I like that the checkout peeps get to sit down Aldi’s though. Sorry this post is a bit all over the place – am doing it in my lunch break quickly. :)

    • http://www.mammasvida.com.au/ Kat Caravella – Mamma’s Vida

      Thank you for your comment and sorry it took this long to get back to you! (this was an old post so slipped my mind..)
      Since I wrote this I have fallen deeply in love with Aldi. I moved to Cairns for 4 months earlier in the year and was completely distraught without it up there! Thankfully I’ve moved back to NW (albeit temporarily) so thus far, Aldi and I are back together. I think once you go there a few times you get to know what is worth buying… Truthfully it’s pretty awesome and there are some high quality things. Check out the mint slices – they are BETTER than arnotts! :)

      • Sophie Anderson

        No apology necessary at all! Since reading this, I’ve discovered your other Aldi post where you listed a few of your fave things – excellent stuff!

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