Aldi currently boasts more than 2,000 stores in 37 states (as well as locations all over the world), which could make it the third-largest grocery store in the U.S. by the end of 2022. And there's a good reason why the German discount supermarket chain is expanding—people love it. The big draw is the savings; Aldi keeps prices low by offering exclusive, private-label brands. And each week, almost 100 unique "Aldi Finds" are available for a limited time. But even with all of these special offerings, there are still some things devoted shoppers should be aware of. Read on to hear from ex-Aldi employees about the shopping warnings you should heed the next time you're grocery shopping.
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Be prepared to move quickly at checkout.
One of the ways Aldi maintains its low prices is by keeping overhead down, and that includes how many employees are on the payroll at a given time. Where this might affect your shopping experience is at checkout.
In a Reddit posting, an employee said, "We are timed, we have to go quick." In a follow-up response, they explain that the reason cashiers sit in chairs is that Aldi has figured out that they can ring items up fastest when seated. "All of the small things add up in regards to efficiency," they explain.
Believe it or not, employees have an IPM (items per minute) score they're expected to reach by the end of their shift. Employee @jennabenna51498 said on TikTok, "at my store it's 80%."
And if you're not quick putting your items on the belt, you'll slow the process down. This is also the reason you'll be asked to insert your credit card at the beginning of the transaction and why you're told to step to the side to bag your groceries (Aldi famously does not have bags).
Don't be surprised if you can't find help.
While the staff is trained to move as quickly as possible, the business model does have its downsides. "Every store typically works on a skeleton crew," a former store associate explained on Indeed. "Around 2-3 people start by stocking the shelves before being assigned a daily task, and are later joined after the store opens by around 2 other associates."
The employees switch off throughout the day on cleaning and checkout duties, but several other former employees complained on Indeed about being "short staffed" and finding it "hard to meet business demands."
What this means for customers is that, on busy days, it can be difficult to flag down an associate if you have a question or need help. If this happens to you, keep in mind that employees are just doing their best to keep up with an incredibly fast-paced job.
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It's hard to tell the difference between Aldi products and name brands.
Unlike most grocery stores, you won't find major brands like General Mills and Pepsi at Aldi. According to a CNN article, "At Aldi, about 90% of packaged goods are private-label." But don't let this statistic fool you into thinking the groceries are sub-par.
"I used to be a hidden valley only person until I worked at Aldi and tried their ranch. It's really good so now I'll only buy Aldi's brand or hidden valley. I also like the Aldi mayo as much as Hellman's. I really can't tell a difference," @emilybaby1420 said on Twitter. "I worked at aldi and everything with the aldi brand is so quality for so cheap," Twitter user @noebody777 concurred.
Don't be deterred by "wonky" produce.
Just like the lack of brand names may alarm you at first, so might the imperfect produce—but this is a good thing.
"I used to work at an Aldi for 2 years, and they had great programs where they would sell 'wonky' veg like potatoes and peppers that wouldn't go to the traditional shops, who only wanted perfectly shaped produce," explained Silverxtreme123 on Reddit. "By doing so they were able to sell it for cheaper and massively reduce food waste."
In a separate Reddit thread, a former employee said the produce shipments come in every day, "so the earlier you can come in, the better."
By shopping at Aldi, not only are you keeping your grocery bill low, but you're supporting a company that doesn't simply throw out items that aren't perfect-looking.
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You're probably shopping on the wrong days.
For optimal savings, you'll want to head to Aldi on Wednesday or Sunday mornings, depending on where you live (you can enter your store's zip code on the site to find out). It's on these days that the store releases their new Aldi Finds, which are limited-time products and deals.
In a Reddit thread, many shoppers say they go to Aldi on Tuesday or Saturday night to try to snag the deals early. But an employee responded that they heard managers get in trouble for putting things out ahead of time and selling out. "I think Wednesdays(some sundays) are still the way to go."
If you're specifically looking for deals on meat, Monday might be your best bet, as an employee said on Reddit that it gets marked down "usually on Sunday nights." However, they also note that all meat gets marked down the day before the sell-buy date. "So if a meat is expiring on the 20th for example, we mark it down half price on the 18 and pull it on the 19th for donation."