12 Things You Think Are Cheaper at Aldi but Aren’t
Shopping at Aldi is generally gentle on your wallet...but not every item on their shelves is a bargain. Here's what to buy elsewhere.
To buy or not to buy? That is the question…
From the moment Aldi opened in the United States in the mid-1970s, the German-based grocery store caught the attention of shoppers who love a great bargain and are more than happy to save a ton of money on their grocery bills. Aldi’s mission is simple: to provide the lowest prices possible on goods without compromising on quality. Boasting more than 1,600 stores across 35 states and still expanding, it is similar to Trader Joe’s in its delivery: 90 percent of its stock consists of Aldi-exclusive brands, which is just one of the reasons why Aldi’s groceries are so cheap.
But while Aldi is, indeed, pretty great, you should remember this: Every store can’t be everything to every consumer. There are plenty of reasons to shop at Aldi, but there are also times when a trip to another store is a better bet because you’ll end up spending less. These are those times.
One of Aldi’s rules? If they can’t make an item better than the name brand, they will stock the name brand, says savings expert Lauren Greutman. Unfortunately, Aldi’s brands are limited when it comes to cereal, so be ready to pay up for those corn flakes and marshmallow morning delights. “Cereal can be more than $3 per box extra,” Greutman says. “This is much more expensive than a traditional grocery store, even when the item is on sale.” Here are some more tricks frugal shoppers use to save money on groceries.
If you buy blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries at Aldi, you might be shocked to find them bruised and bad after just a few days. “Although you may pay less for berries at Aldi, their quality isn’t as great in my experience, meaning you are wasting your money,” Greutman says. “Skip the fresh berries and shop at a larger grocery store that can rotate produce at a much faster pace or go to your local farmer’s market.” More frequent deliveries means fresher produce. That said, you should definitely know the simple trick that will make your strawberries last longer.
Hair-care items, deodorant, dental products, and the like are certainly available at Aldi, but you’re only going to find established brand names—and rarely at a discount. Similar to buying name-brand cereals, you’re going to spend more money here on name-brand shampoos, conditioners, and toothpaste, says Greutman. “These items frequently go on sale at larger grocery stores,” she adds, “so skip them at Aldi and shop them on sale at other retailers.”
Aldi boasts unbelievable prices on traditionally through-the-roof-expensive diapers and formula. These items alone are well worth the trip if you have a little one you’re trying to feed and keep clean. But while you’ll save money on these essentials, as well as baby snacks like puffs (even compared to what you can find at Walmart), Aldi’s baby food selection is not a bargain. Many name-brand baby food companies offer coupons, which you can use in conjunction with a sale at a different grocery store. By the way, this is how to coupon, according to people who save thousands every year.
Aldi carries its own brand of Simply Nature snacks, like organic yellow corn tortilla chips and exotic vegetable chips. While the price is right and the chips are actually pretty tasty, if the bag isn’t filled to the brim, it ceases to be a bargain. “I frequently find their chips only filled halfway in the bag once I open it, making them more expensive per ounce,” Greutman says. “They also aren’t as good as traditional name brands that are often on sale for comparable prices at other stores.” If you’ve got a snack craving, head straight for Aldi’s chocolate selection, which includes incredible imported German chocolates. That’s definitely one of the 12 things you should always buy at Aldi.
When it comes to purchasing wine at Aldi’s, shoppers are split. The good news is obvious: It’s nearly impossible to find a single bottle of wine here that costs more than $10. But the potentially bad news, if you consider yourself a wine lover, is that Aldi in the U.K. and Europe has a larger selection of affordable wines—and, here in the States, it’s difficult to compete with Trader Joe’s larger and just as affordable wines, including its infamous “Two Buck Chuck.” Find out the types of wine you should be sipping, according to a sommelier.
Similar to toiletries, paper products like toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels are not the best value at Aldi, according to Kiplinger. One of the downsides to shopping at Aldi is that the store doesn’t accept manufacturer coupons, and you can generally find coupons on paper products, along with weekly sales, at other grocery stores. Depending on the size of your family, it may also make better financial sense to stock up on paper goods at a store like Costco. While you’re stocking up on TP and the like, check out these 15 things you’re not buying at Costco—but should.
Looking to buy turkey and ham for sandwiches? Making the switch from a name brand like Boar’s Head to Aldi’s cold cuts may not save you much money—plus, you’ll probably notice a difference in quality. “Their tubs of lunch meat are similar in price to name brands, but don’t taste as [good],” Greutman says. If you want to up your lunch game, try these 10 best sandwiches from around the world.
Aldi carries its own soda line, which is more affordable than name brands, but it’s not a suitable replacement for Coke or Pepsi in terms of taste, according to Kiplinger. And if you give in and add a few bottles of name-brand soda to your cart, you’ll likely pay more than you would elsewhere. Soda is heavily discounted in the summer months at many grocery stores, and coupons are easy to track down.
Ziploc-style freezer bags
There is an entire subreddit dedicated to all things Aldi. One product that has received a not-so-stellar mention is Aldi’s freezer bags, which observant shoppers say are now thinner than before and have also changed from double-seal to single-seal tops. In other words, these affordable bags aren’t the best value if they no longer hold up under the weight of your leftovers. Also, do you know the right way to store every type of leftover food? A plastic baggie isn’t necessarily what you need all the time.
Unlike at Trader Joe’s, where meats never go on sale, you can find discounted chicken and beef from time to time at Aldi—and when this happens, run, don’t walk, to the store and you’ll save a ton of money. Otherwise, their meat prices aren’t really a bargain compared with other grocers, and you can score them cheaper at your local grocery store. The one exception is organic ground beef, a high-quality item offered at a much lower price here, says Greutman. Find out which 14 organic foods nutritionists don’t waste their money on.
The coupon problem rears its ugly head again when it comes to buying premade cookie dough, rolls, and other baked goods at Aldi. You’ll likely find these items for less when you include coupons in your purchase at other grocery stores. That doesn’t mean you should skip a trip to Aldi when you’re about to bake, though. Purchase dough at a different store, but be sure to shop at Aldi for amazing deals on milk, cheese, and butter. You’ll just want to make sure you’re not making any of these common baking mistakes.