Grandma Diehl loved going to Aldi. She and my grandpa would drive over an hour to go shopping, and she would come back singing praises about the store’s prices. However, to be honest, I never really paid much attention besides enjoying how she was so thrilled about the store. First, I was young when she was alive, and driving over an hour for groceries was not a high priority for me at that time. For that matter, buying groceries in general was not really on my radar for the most part. Second, after living through the Great Depression, she was extremely frugal. Although she had more money later in life, my grandparents would often go to KFC for the dinner buffet, pay the senior discount, and sit around the corner so she could fill up her purse with extra food to take home for future meals. I may have tied Aldi to these kind of things she would do. Third, she never would let food go to waste. I still remember one Diehl family Christmas dinner when we were all sitting around her house eating something she made. Someone mentioned how great it tasted, which may or may not have been the truth, and she then told us that the recipe didn’t call for one ingredient she used, but it was about to go bad so she threw it in to replace another she didn’t have. “About to go bad,” a phrase she also seemed to use often, usually meant it was long past its shelf life. This may be one of the reasons even today I tend to avoid potluck dinners. However, she did grow up during a time when food and money were scarce, and even later when she was raising her kids, she still had to make ends meet by working many, many long hours doing extremely hard work, and she continued her hardworking ways pretty much for the rest of her life.
She passed away in 2002; however, whenever I see an Aldi, I smile and think of her. With that said, for the longest time, never did I go in despite one always seeming to be wherever I lived. There was one a little off the beaten path in Emporia. I still remember the opening of one in Melbourne, and I even recommended the place to a fellow college student in need of groceries that were economically friendly (which went something like this: “I haven’t been in there myself, but my grandmother always raved about Aldi, and there is one just a few blocks from here. Surely, their having great prices would be an international thing.” This obviously demonstrated my lack of knowing the supermarket chain is based out of Germany), and then the one in Hutchinson was prominently placed on 17th street, which I take often to go to Target or head in and out of town. Thousands upon thousands of times, I have driven by it during my decade of living here, and finally this summer I stepped inside the doors and came to understand my grandmother’s praise and love for the place.
First, the prices are unbelievable. Honestly, my first question was what was wrong with their groceries that they could sell them for as low as they do. The answer is nothing. Aldi has this great structure that allows for them to sell great items at a fantastic cost. However, you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read all about it in this great comparison of Whole Food’s new prices with Walmart, Publix, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market, and Aldi. The items for Doreen’s shopping experiment cost her $32.12 at Whole Foods, $28.29 at Wal-Mart, $28.13 at Trader Joe’s, and $24.77 at Aldi. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, Aldi is its sister store with Aldi falling under Aldi Süd while Trader Joe’s is under Aldi Nord.
The store’s prices are great for many reasons. For starters, they allow people to buy actually healthy items at a very friendly cost, which so often is not the case. Last week, I even bought a bag full of honey crisp apples for under $2 thanks to their being one of the featured Produce of the Week, and just one or two of these tasty apples can cost that much at some stores. They even have an organic section in the produce area too. Needless to say, Aldi has been helping me greatly with my taking on Whole 30 for this month’s theme.
Two of the ways Aldi saves money is by tackling two of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to shopping. First, people have to buy bags if they want to use them. The cost is not much, but it is enough to inspire many to bring their own reusable bags with them when they go shopping.
Given that there is an estimated 1 trillion bags are used and thrown away each year, this is fantastic. Anyone who has gone shopping with me knows full well how I despise plastic bags for how much waste they cause. I would much rather, and I have done it way too many times because I had left my reusable bags at home, attempt to carry a tower of items starting in my hands and climbing to my chin out to my car rather than grab one. Finding a method to cut down on this waste that can last from 20 to 1000 years and kill thousands of animals of all sorts is a huge point for Aldi.
Then a person has to use a quarter to get a shopping cart, and that quarter is returned after the shopping cart is returned to its rightful place once it is no longer needed.
Probably one of my biggest pet peeves would be people who do not return shopping carts. This especially goes for those people who will work extremely hard to put a shopping cart up on a little raised island of grass and maybe a tree that was added to the parking lot to make it look a little nicer. Those free-range carts have a tendency to roll across parking lots and right into cars just because the previous user was lazy. There have been too many times I have had to throw my car into park, jump out my door, and take off sprinting to try to grab one the wind had caught and directed right towards someone else’s vehicle (after I was almost hit by a car the last time I did this, I am trying to use a bit more sense about doing this on a side note). Thanks to the quarter set up, Aldi is safe from having these carts with so much potential for damage just randomly hanging out all over the parking lot, and that is another massively huge point for Aldi.
The great groceries at great prices, the deterring of adding more plastic bags to the landfill, and the quarter-in-quarter-back set up for a cart are all great reasons to love Aldi; however, my true love for the place has actually been caused by the people I have seen time and again who redeem my faith in humanity.
Let’s start with the carts. I have seen repeatedly a person leaving exchange a cart for a quarter from another person coming in to shop. It saves the latter person from having to get the cart out of the stall, but it also leads to this nifty connection. It’s brief, but there is always a smile on both people’s faces when it happens. Plus, there have been more times than I can count a person has simply given a cart to someone with no quarter-exchange occurring. A quarter may be small, but it is indeed a great random act of kindness.
Then there is the line to check out. There are often times people fill their carts with tons of groceries, and often those people will barely beat me to the cash register line. The same thing has happened time and again with so many different people; they look at me, see the few items in my hands, and then say, “You only have a few things. Please go ahead of me.” I ask if they are sure, and that second offer is taken. I have talked to many others who shop there, and they too have had these same types of experiences at Aldi. Time is the most valuable treasure all of us have and the most valuable thing one can give to another, and these people with carts filled with quality goods have given their time to wait a little longer to others who then have been given a few extra minutes to add to their own lives. Sure a few minutes may not seem like much, but when you think about all the different life-changing things that can happen in only a few seconds, they truly are a fantastic gift to receive.
Finally, another reason I have loved the place is because I have run into so many people who are just friendly at Aldi. After all, people are what make a place. There are the smiles from one another as we make it by each other in an aisle. There are so many of my favorite people in Hutchinson I have run into while shopping there. Then there are the conversations I have had while standing in line.
Today, for an example, I had this great talk with this 85-year-old woman who honestly looked like she was at least ten years younger than that. She was getting ready to drive to Fort Riley to see her great granddaughters although she hated to drive such long distances out of town, especially once the road becomes a four lane. However, she was excited, and she told me about her car being filled with all sorts of things she had for them. The huge smile on her face as she talked a bit about her upcoming road trip was infectious, and it made me think of my own grandmother and the potential pleasant conversations she may have had with strangers while she was shopping at her favorite grocery store which has also now become mine as well thanks to my finally heeding her great advice and becoming an Aldi shopper as well.