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This spring I have been trying to not only purge the girls’ closets and rotate through one season and size of clothing for the next, but I’ve been trying to do the same with some of our finances. We aren’t super extravagant, but like many other families we get into spending habits that could probably be reviewed and improved from time to time.
I already mentioned how I am being much more diligent about tracking many of our purchases via the Citi Price Rewind tool to get back some cash if the price drops within 60 days of an eligible purchase. But one other big spending area I’ve been tinkering with recently is groceries. I love my trips to Whole Foods for some otherwise hard to get items, but the nickname Whole Paycheck can ring true if you do the bulk of your shopping there. After serendipitously finding myself in the middle of a discussion about the organic foods available at Aldi just days prior, over the weekend I made my first trip to Aldi since the first week it opened here years ago.
Aldi is a low cost grocery store that originated from Germany and is related to Trader Joe’s. I kind of hated my first trip to Aldi, and thus had decided years ago to make it my only visit. They didn’t take credit cards, didn’t have the brands I was used to, you had to put a deposit for a shopping cart, and it was hard for me to find everything I wanted. In retrospect, a big part of my dislike for the experience was simply not knowing what to expect and not being used to the process. To prevent those problems this time I did some online research to brush up on the Aldi shopping experience ahead of time, and in the process learned that they now accept credit cards!
Saving Money on Groceries Thanks to Rewards Credit Cards
The fact that Aldi now accepted credit cards was great news since cost savings was my #1 driver in heading back to Aldi, and rewards credit cards make that even more possible since the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express gives 6% back at US supermarkets (up to the first $6,000 per year), The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express awards 3x points at US supermarkets that can bump to 4.5 points per dollar with 30 transactions in a billing cycle (up to first $6,000 per year), and the Chase Freedom right now is awarding 5x points at US supermarkets (up to $1,500 per quarter).
Eight Things to Know Before Shopping at Aldi
In case you are also looking to reduce grocery expenses, here are eight things to know before shopping at Aldi.
1. Aldi does now accept credit cards. I mentioned that already, but if you were turned off by the cash or debit cards only policy in the past, know that major credit cards are now accepted.
2. Bring a quarter to get a shopping cart. I’ll admit, this really feels odd, but isn’t a big deal if you are prepared for it. The quarter physically pops the lock to release the cart from the next tethered cart. When you re-secure your cart at the end of your shopping trip the quarter is then popped back out. If you think about it, not having stray carts loose in the lot is actually really a very good thing.
3. You won’t see most of your usual brands at Aldi, but many of the SimplyNature branded products are organic.
4. Some of the products are still in bins or crates instead of the store spending extra money on stocking and shelving items. It looks a little different, but of course is no big deal.
5. There are no deli counters, meat counters, etc. There are just pre-packaged products that are priced lower than most other stores around.
6. Aldi is physically smaller than any other US grocery store I’ve been in outside of NYC. Aldi does not carry everything I will want, but the fact that the store was physically smaller made it a very time efficient trip, so I see this is a positive.
7. Bags cost extra, so bring your own if you can. Of course it is good to bring your own bags regardless of whether or not the store charges, but at Aldi you will pay extra for each bag you require. The charge was only 6 cents per paper bag and 11 cents per plastic bag when I visited, but no reason to spend extra money when you don’t have to.
8. You bag your own groceries. The Aldi cashier will scan your items and then deposit them back into a cart or similar, and they will not spend their time bagging your groceries, even if you have purchased or brought bags along to be used. After you pay for your groceries (with a rewards credit card!) you can go over to a bagging area and load them into the bags however you deem best.
Again, I gotta admit I sort of liked being able to control which items went together into which bag because it made it easier when I got home to put the groceries away in an efficient manner. There really is something to the German efficiency that Aldi adheres to!
Changing habits and patterns can be hard at first, but it is rare that I waltz out of Whole Foods spending much less than $200, and my trip to Aldi was only $60. Now that I am a little more prepared for the Aldi shopping experience I fully intend on returning to keep the grocery savings rolling for my family. We won’t do all of our shopping at Aldi, but if it helps us save a few hundred a month then I’m more than happy to bring a quarter for the shopping cart.
I’m sure some of you are much more ahead in the Aldi game than I am, so I’d love to hear your grocery savings tips!
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.