So we got one of these places in my area. It opened up almost 10 days ago. The newspaper showed a line of people waiting in the parking lot to get in the place when it first opened. I refrained from jumping into the fray. Over the last year or so as this German chain of places to buy food (I’d say ‘supermarket’ but it really doesn’t qualify) I’ve heard great things and I’ve heard not-so-great things about the place.
This morning, on our way home from breakfast, we decided to stop in and check it out. I didn’t bring any bags with me–luckily hubby had one rather small reusable bag in the truck– and I had to dig in my purse to find a quarter so I get a cart. Yes, one ‘rents’ a cart for a quarter which one gets back (supposedly) when one returns the cart. However, on my trip, since I purchased so few items and didn’t need to take the cart back, I didn’t get my quarter back. I imagine that happens frequently enough that the company makes a few bucks a day on that alone.
The place is small, I think it has 5 aisles plus the perimeter of the store. If you’re looking for variety or anything by a company you recognize for that matter this is not the place for you. It’s all ‘off’ brands, mostly European, so you won’t find much of anything that’s made in America. All of your money is going from your pocket, to their register, and then straight across the Atlantic. Kinda like Walmart and China but this is Aldis and Germany. It was sort of like wandering around in Alternative Universe in that nearly all of the packages are designed to look like the name brands you’d find in a larger store–right down to the fonts and placement of the brand name itself. It was a little disconcerting to tell you the truth. Even then they didn’t have much variety. There were four different flavors of cake mix all by some company I didn’t recognize but she wanted to be Betty Crocker when it grew up one day. There were about the same number of cereal flavors by a company that really wants to be General Mills one day too. If you’re anything like me and you’re loyal to certain brands this may not be the place for you. However, we did manage to find Ghirardelli brownies (a European company) for about a dollar and change less than what I usually pay. We picked up two boxes. We picked up a small jar of Brand X peanut butter for a tiny bit less than what I would usually pay. We got a tin of the Danish butter cookies that I love, I can often get them for around two bucks but paid just over three. We did manage to get a package of English muffins for ninety-nine cents, that’s a really awesome deal. We picked up a loaf of what bread for another ninety-nine cents, another good deal. We picked up a small bag salad for a few cents less than what I’d pay for the Stop & Shop brand. We picked up a bottle of Brand X Bacon & Ranch dressing for about what I’d pay for the Stop & Shop brand equivalent.
If you’re looking for neatly kept shelves this is not the place for you. Everything’s still in their boxes and stacked on shelves that are not more than five feet high (if that much). The shelves probably only have three levels each. Which is nice for a short person like myself, not only did I not have to climb on a bottom shelf to reach a top shelf I could actually see over all of them to the rest of the store.
If you’re looking for fresh produce that’s reasonably priced this is the place for you but not if you’re looking for anything beyond the staples of fresh fruits and vegetables. Picked up a pint of strawberries for a dollar and change and rather large package of red grapes for another dollar and change. Those are really good prices. The grapes at Stop & Shop would have easily been about four bucks and another three for the strawberries.
If you’re looking for good meat prices you may be in luck however the meat case is not very large at all and, again, nothing beyond the average staples with the exception of some vacuum packed ity-bity filet mignon wrapped in a strip of bacon. Not actually sure they are filets but that’s what the package said. However, that was all they had for steak.
The frozen section is…um….well…they do have a lot of cases but there was barely anything in them. Weird. What they did have had good prices. The box of Banquet Fried chicken knock-off caught my eye, it appeared to be the same size, and was about two dollars cheaper. One day I might give that product a shot. The cold foods section was pretty much the same but it was better stocked. The prices were ok but the only thing to really ‘write home about’ was fifty-nine cents for a dozen eggs. That’s cheap, I’ll give ’em that much. That’s cheap. We picked up a tub of spreadable butter for something like two dollars and change. The Land-O-Lakes that I always buy is about three dollars and change. Also picked up a quart of half & half for about the same price I usually pay. Managed to get a package of Nathan’s hot dogs for about a dollar less than I would usually pay.
I looked around for coffee but I am very picky on that subject. I always buy Colombian coffee and it’s always either Maxwell House or Folger’s. They didn’t have either brand. They didn’t even have Colombian coffee. They had coffee from Nicaragua. They had Fair Trade coffee. They had something called Donut Shop Coffee. So I passed on that.
All of our purchases fit neatly into the seat of the cart.
Grand Total: $22.26 (plus the quarter I never got back).
Over the coming few days we’ll discover the quality of the items we just purchased.
Yes, it’s true that their cashiers sit. They do. They have to. There was only one line open. Thankfully the store wasn’t exactly packed at 11am on a rainy Saturday.
If you don’t bring your own bags you can pay for bags at the checkout counter where your items are automatically put into an empty cart. See, there’s where they kept my quarter; you switch your cart w/ your quarter for theirs which is supposed to have a quarter in it. Then you take it outside, lock it back up in the cart storage area and out pops your quarter. (Well, someone else’s quarter). As the cashier put everything into the second cart, hubby bagged it. It all fit in that one bag. The cashier slid our cart behind her for the next customer. If your order is larger than that, there’s a nifty Bagging Counter where you take all of your stuff and bag it. That doesn’t sit well with me. Give me the checkout counter with two conveyor belts, I’ll bag my groceries as they come down and I’ll put them in the cart. Better yet, give someone a job, and a hire a bagger. Anyway, you stand over there–probably with two carts. You bag your stuff from one cart, put it in the other cart (which probably has a quarter in it that nobody got back), then you proceed as usual; take your stuff to your car, load it up, take the cart you have now back and get a quarter, and then you go home to put it away.
I don’t know how long the place will last, lots of “No Frills” stores like this have come and gone from this area over the years. Aldi might last longer because it’s a large chain store. Might even last longer than Big Y did–it was like 500 yards away from the new Aldi but now is an Ocean State Job Lot, which has lasted a lot longer than the Big Y.
In the end, Aldi is…meh. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. I wouldn’t necessarily knock it. It has its uses especially if you’re on a tight budget you could do fairly well there. For a wide variety of reasons (including the fact that it’s a Union Shop) I’ll stick with Stop & Shop for the bulk of my needs and maybe shoot across the street to Aldi for some cheap fruits, eggs and hot dogs or something.