ALDI, the low budget supermarket chain that has been teasing SCV residents with a coming soon sign seemingly forever (okay, a few months, but certainly felt longer) finally opened last night in the former Ralph’s spot (well half of it anyway) over in Old Orchard. As soon as word got out that they were indeed selling, many residents stopped by to check out the new market in town. Myself included.
I have been to an ALDI before, so I knew what to expect, but for those that may be new to this format, let me outline the basics so you don’t look like a newbie.
1. Bring Change
Yes, you do need to pay a quarter (literally a shiny .25 coin) to rent a cart. You slide the quarter into a designated spot on the cart and it releases. There is a metal/plastic “thing” that hangs from the cart. Once you return your cart, you use the dangling tool to release the quarter. This helps cut costs when it comes to retrieving carts from the parking lot. I’m not sure on the statistics but I’m pretty sure it reduces the % of car dings as well. You are going to find people that are willing to just pay it forward. If they are done with their cart, they’ll just let you have it. You can then choose to turn it into a .25 moneymaker by taking it back yourself or simply pass it off to someone else. That’s what I did yesterday, I simply gave my cart to a couple that was struggling to find a quarter in their wallet and went on my way.
2. Bring Bags
You have to either bring your own bags or purchase some. With recent laws passing in California, this isn’t a huge shocker anymore. However, don’t forget that you actually have to grab the bags from below the conveyer belt when you are checking out. They have paper and plastic for only a few cents or you can buy a reusable bag if that is more your style. Personally, I have a ton of reusable bags but I always forget them. Isn’t that how it usually goes? Put me down for a couple of paper bags, please!
3. Shopping Cart Etiquette
The shopping cart you use is not the same one you will walk out of the store with. This confused me the first time I ever went to ALDI because I had my purse in the cart. Once you unload your items onto the conveyer belt, you’ll notice the cashier will place your items in a shopping cart she/he already has on the side. You walk off with the new cart after replacing it with your now empty cart. Just don’t forget to transfer your purse/drink/etc. By the way, the cashiers get to sit while they scan your items. That’s pretty cool.
4. Get Ready to do Work
You have to pack your own groceries. I feel like Food4Less trained us for this. However, they do things slightly different at ALDI. At the front of the store (by the registers) there is a low counter along the whole wall. You take your cart to the counter, unload your items and pack them in your bags. If you didn’t bring bags or you don’t want to pack your items, then simply walk out. It is that simple.
5. They Sell Blenders
They sell more than just food items. ALDI sells toys, pajamas, appliances, and even holiday decorations. Late last year, they released a Vitamix knockoff that has generated a lot of comparisons (most of which have been incredibly positive). I actually own more than one Vitamix (and I use them both religiously), so I’m fully aware that the sticker shock alone has stopped some people from taking the plunge. Not only does the Ambiano Blender look like a Vitamix, the stats are very similar. I have long heard stories about it, but the truth is, not every ALDI has one and I’ve never seen one in person since they’ve gotten hard to find once word got out. So imagine my surprise when I saw our local store fully stocked. I believe it was only $70 (less if you got the $10 off coupon). I was tempted to buy one just to compare, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Do I need it? No. Am I curious and have I spent hours reading threads online regarding this blender? You betcha. Am I going to go buy one before this article is posted? Probably. Ha. They do have a really good return policy and warranty so, I mean. Why not. I really should have gotten it last night. If you are curious to learn more, google AMBIANO BLENDER or check out the various comparisons on YouTube. I am not saying it is better than the real thing (is anything better than a Vitamix, really?) but for the price, it might be worth looking into.
6. Simply Nature
Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. They have their own brands (think Trader Joe’s) which according to their website translates into 50% savings for you. The packaging/colors/logos look very similar to the regular supermarket brands (Boulder = Bounty). This doesn’t mean that everything at ALDI is their own brand, there are some regular items in stock as well. However, their SimplyNature brand is free of artificial ingredients and while they are not fully organic yet, they are moving in that direction. You can read more about it here.
7. Expect Only the Essentials
Don’t expect a full spread. Per their website a traditional grocery store stocks 30,000 items. ALDI doesn’t. They are smaller and stick to the essentials, meaning less rent, less employees which means lower operating costs. They pass these saving on to you.
8. Be Prepared to Shop Around
Don’t expect ALDI to be your only stop when it comes to doing your grocery shopping for the week. They don’t carry everything, and their produce and meat selections are somewhat limited. That isn’t saying that you couldn’t create a full meal from just shopping at Aldi, of course you can. But while I was shopping I was already planning my grocery trip for Vallarta across the street.
9. Read the Signs
Keep and eye out for the free samples and coupons! While walking through the store, there were various tables set up with friendly employees ready to talk about how great ALDI items are. There are also signs throughout the store informing you of their business practices. It isn’t a sexy place to shop, but it is cheap and sticks to the basics. It isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’m curious to see how it is received in Santa Clarita.
10. They Don’t Accept Manufacturer Coupons
It is cheap, but they run out of items and they don’t accept manufacturer coupons. But who needs coupons when you are literally paying .59 for a carton of eggs? Keep an eye out for their specials because some the prices are really low from week to week.
So there you have it. I hope this list comes in handy, and be sure to let us know what you think over in the Santa Clarita Foodies group. As for me, I think I’m going to run and get a blender before word gets out in town.
ALDI is located at 24860 Orchard Village Road in Valencia/Newhall.