It can seem a little daunting if you have never shopped at Aldi before. Are there rules about bringing grocery bags? Is it a club? Why do people leave the store with furniture if it’s a discount grocer?
The truth is, Aldi does march to the beat of its drummer, but if you know the quirks beforehand, you should have an easy, enjoyable shopping experience. Here is how to shop at Aldi, the complete essential guide.
How To Shop At Aldi
Before You Leave
You can do a little pre-shopping prep to ensure a smooth trip to the store. Here are some tips:
Know Your Aldi Lingo
“Everyday low prices” or “Everyday item” (capital “E”) refers to the constant Aldi products that populate the shelves, which aren’t Finds, Savers or Red Hot Deals.
They may not be “on sale,” but they are still priced ultra-low – even cheaper than some grocery stores’ sales prices – and you can always count on them sticking around. These are your typical pantry, fridge, and freezer staples.
Aldi Finds are items like the aforementioned furniture, but they’re also so much more: apparel for adults and kids, pet gear, outdoor gear, deck furniture, home décor, office supplies, tools, specialty food items, car accessories, and even electronics.
Aldi Finds are shipped in limited quantities to each store and are only shipped once. Once they run out, they are gone, and you’re out of luck (unless you can find them on eBay or Amazon from a reseller).
Aldi Savers is the “sale” item for each week. Aldi chooses items from each department and slashes prices lower than usual. Some popular Savers include $1 avocados, pineapples, or 99 cent-per-pound chicken thighs.
Red Hot Deals are former Aldi Finds that haven’t sold and are being steeply discounted to move them out. Sometimes you can find Red Hot Deals for as much as 70 percent off!
Choose Your Day
The day of the week you choose to shop can make a big difference in what is available, especially when it comes to Aldi Finds.
Aldi shoppers in the know cite Wednesdays as the best day to get in there because that’s when the new Aldi Savers begin and the new Aldi Finds hit shelves.
If you really love a bargain, try going on Sundays. That’s the day new Red Hot Deals get marked down. To learn more, you can see our full guide on the best time to shop at Aldi and also when Aldi restocks.
Plan Your Time
Time of day matters, too! If you’re not locked into a certain time when you visit Aldi, consider these points:
- Early mornings on Wednesdays are considered the best times to shop; the newest merchandise has hit the floors.
- Often one of the best times to shop when you want to avoid crowds is about an hour before store closing (half-hour if you are only getting a few things and can be fast).
- Otherwise, stores tend to be pretty crowded and busy, and aisles can be quite congested with the carts and any stocking going on.
Peruse The Weekly Ad
Before you head out, it’s a good idea to check out the weekly ad. You can do this one of two ways: First, Aldi sends out their ads in the mail a day or two before the new week starts. Or, you can look at the current week’s ad online here.
If you’re looking online, make sure the location is set to the right zip code so that you’re seeing the information for your area.
Gather Bags (Or Bring Laundry Baskets)
Gather some bags before you go; otherwise, you will have to pay for them in-store. Aldi sells a variety of bags near the check-out area, but to help them continue their mission of sustainability, bring your shopping totes along.
A grocery shopping hack that works especially well at Aldi is the laundry basket method: Keep however many lower-sided plastic laundry baskets you need in the trunk of your car. Then you can push your cart out to the car after check-out and fill up the baskets.
If you have neither bags nor laundry baskets, most stores have extra cardboard packaging bins lying around. You can use those to get your groceries from cart, to car, to house – and don’t forget to recycle them!
Bring Your Quarter
And don’t forget to bring a quarter! Yes, Aldi has a cart “rental” system in place so they don’t have to hire additional staff to tend carts in the parking lot.
If you forget your quarter, some nice stranger (or perhaps even a store employee) might give you one.
If not, people often leave carts “unlocked” out of kindness. Or you’re just stuck carrying everything as best you can. You can see our full guide on carts at Aldi to learn more.
Don’t Call Ahead
You cannot call your Aldi store ahead of time to ask them anything or request a hold.
Stores’ individual numbers are unlisted to cut back on the number of time employees spend on the phone (and increase the amount of time they can do their jobs!).
In The Store
Grabbing A Cart
Getting a cart is easy, as it is located right at the store’s entrance. Simply insert your quarter (you didn’t forget it, did you?) into the slot on the right side.
As you push it in, you will hear a click; that’s the lock releasing.
Also cart-related: check-out is a little different at Aldi, so putting things in the cart’s back basket (the kid’s seat) isn’t always efficient.
Fill up the front of the cart instead and keep rolling items (cans, jars, etc.) in place with heavier items behind them. You’ll see why later.
General Store Layout
Aldi stores are all laid out just about the same way. And while some departments might be switched around a bit (or slightly different with the addition of alcohol), the Aldi Finds aisles are sandwiched in the middle section of the store, with all the other departments surrounding it.
You might be surprised at the variety of items Aldi carries; for all they bill themselves as purveyors of “the essentials” (chocolate-covered espresso beans are essential).
Aldi has a solid selection; you just won’t find 20 types/brands of each item, like at Walmart.
It’s worth bearing in mind: Aldi rotates their stock, so the oldest product is moved to the front and the newest is placed in the back. Or in the case of some products, the oldest is moved to the top of the bin and the new placed under.
If nature calls while you’re shopping, Aldi does have public restrooms! In my experience, they are located near the front of the store, on the far end (away from the entrance), and near the frozen section.
Try and leave your cart in an unobtrusive location, though, because chances are good you won’t be able to take your unpaid groceries beyond a certain point.
Check-out at Aldi works a little differently than at other grocery stores.
Cart Position At Check-Out
You probably never thought about whether to stand in front of or behind your shopping cart during check-out before, but you will now.
The way “traffic flow” works is that your items will go in the cart used by the person before you. (Likewise, the cart you used will then contain the groceries of the person behind you.)
So it makes sense to stand in front of your cart while loading items on the belt and then pull your cart along behind you. And since you put everything in the front of the cart, you’ll have no problems reaching everything, right?
Be prepared to check out faster than you ever have before. Aldi employees are actually timed on how fast they ring up things (and it’s also why they get to sit down at the registers).
Don’t forget to grab your bags and stick them in the “new” cart.
Acceptable Forms Of Payment
Aldi accepts cash, debit cards, major credit cards, EBT and SNAP benefits, Apple Pay and Google Pay and gift cards. They do not accept personal checks or WIC.
Having customers bag their groceries helps keep prices low at Aldi, so once everything is loaded up and you’re all paid, head to the bagging shelves.
Try and spread out, because too many people clustered in one place can create a big clog for people trying to leave.
Returning Your Cart
After you have loaded your groceries into the car, wheel the cart back so you can relock it and get that 25-cent deposit back!
You wouldn’t think this method could be quite so compelling, but I have never seen a stray cart in an Aldi parking lot.
Now that you know about Aldi, you may also see our related posts on some Aldi tips and hacks, why Aldi is so cheap, and some interesting Aldi statistics.
Shopping at Aldi is a little different, from the cart rental system to the self-bagging area, but once you get the hang of it, the amount you will save on your weekly grocery bill makes all these quirks well worth it!
Try it out, don’t be shy – Aldi employees are some of the nicest and most helpful you’ll find anywhere!