The Surprise of Aldi

If there was a single activity that Connie and I used to enjoy the most each week together as a couple outside, out there, in the real world, it was going to the shops. Grocery shopping was something we did as an exploratory thing whilst in Texas, discovering Kroger, H-E-B and then Whole Foods Market, before moving back to Aberdeen and trying out Asda and Sainsbury’s and such. We had a terrible habit of buying far too much for far too long, and it took Joni and her birth to really disrupt that – when she was first born, I ventured out alone to the shops, sticking to a regimented list.

This regimented list idea was our saviour really. Weekly we’d drop mad deep £££ in Sainsbury’s on the most basic items, easily breaking three figures most weeks. It wasn’t for the lack of trying to curtail the costs – our short lived run as vegetarian saved more money than I thought it would, by around 40% or so, but I couldn’t keep it up (and Joni’s diet needs the fat and protein of meat for growth and such, which is easier to deliver that way rather than other ways that I know some readers will be ready to comment on). I don’t pretend that we are 100% in favour meat eating – in fact, most of our meals can be adapted for veggie options and for the most part we have changed our diet due to the need to reduce the amount of meat we buy and we eat. We have bean burgers, veggie lasagne, and a few other things like that. I know there are social and ethical reasons to stop eating meat, but that is for a very different blog post.

We’ve gone off track here.

Anyway, since moving down south we’ve changed our shopping habits entirely, all thanks to my sister and mostly due to the convenience. We started buying stuff from Aldi.

A few years ago Connie and I (mostly myself) started buying certain things on the “saver” brands at Tesco and I commented how the money we saved was adding up. We also stopped buying so much meat, which had a good impact as I already mentioned, but after we came back from Canada in the summer I went along with my sister, who showed me the ropes, and I bought a raft of goods from Aldi. The cost actually left me astonished - £13. For what would have easily been £30 at Sainsbury’s. I exclaimed this to Connie and she was sceptical as I was actually, but once we went and she saw the cost drop and the quality not drop we were quickly converts.

Now not everything works – there are a few branded things that we’ve been unable to find analogues for at Aldi. We still get Joni some branded yoghurts, and so do I actually, but most of the things we have bought have been pretty good. I bought 12 packs of baby wipes at Aldi on a whim (at £6 it wasn’t too much of a gamble) and they are a million times better than the branded ones. We’ve only just recently switched to the nappies despite Mumsnet shouting loud about how good they are. We’re still to formally cancel the subscription from Amazon Family, but it’s looking likely in these early days.

Other things that are passable but not amazing are the crisps and the bread, which is great as toast but a bit tasteless as bread. The meat is great too, with the whole chickens coming up and cooking better than other shop’s ones. The big boon is how cheap and how fresh the fruit and veg seems to be. We’ve only been let down by some of the pre-cut fruit, like mango, running out too soon, but otherwise the stuff we’ve bought has all been of an excellent quality, at least comparable to the brand versions and in some areas better – the Titan bars, Aldi’s rip off of Mars bars, are better than the branded model. As is the cream cheese, and the eggs are great too. Speaking of the cheese, we were buying a massive block of Cathedral City at £5 a pop but the mild Aldi stuff is excellent!

The other thing it has meant is that we’re buying more fresh stuff. Each meal in the week is something slightly different; bean burgers on brioche buns, salmon in a maple syrup glaze, or full veggie lasagne. These little quirks costs pounds and pounds less than normal.

The big test was for this year’s Christmas baking, and Aldi on failed on the peanut butter and the pecans, but otherwise had everything else we needed. In fact, the cost of last year’s baking was near £50 – this year we spent £40 in Aldi on four full meals and all the baking we needed. Quite astonishing really. One other quirk is the middle aisles of Aldi where they have huge binges of tat that is amazingly priced and one-ofs. We missed out on a cheap door mat, but have picked up Himalayan salt and other random things in the middle ailses. It is almost worth it just for a wee wander in those hallowed random aisles.

And I've not even explained that another thing I love (that I imagine some folk would hate) is the speed of check out. I can no longer stand the slowness of Asda or Sainsbury's anymore.  

Now I don’t want this to seem like a paid-for-gush as Aldi. The range fluctuates and the quality is a little varied (the strawberries recently have been pretty rubbish compared to the excellent ones in September, for example). But the cost difference and the lack of a discernable quality difference has meant we have full scale moved over to Aldi.