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Adventure at Aldi

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Adventure at Aldi

I did two new things today.

One - I took both kids to the pool by myself (uhh...won't be doing again anytime soon if I can avoid it...).  And, two -  I went grocery shopping at Aldi (also with both kids).

If you're not familiar with Aldi, it's a discount grocery store.  I have never lived near one before, but urban legend has it that you can save a lot of money by shopping at Aldi.  So when one opened near us a few months ago, I thought, "Oh, yay, another perk to city living...I will have to try it out!"

But then I found Sprout's, and I already have a fancy Kroger nearby and my favorite grocery store ever, Central Market, is just a short drive away - so I never did make it to Aldi.

Which is just as well, really.  New grocery stores stress me out.  I can never find what I'm looking for, and I always load up the cart with tons of junk and store-brand treats I've never seen before because my impulses are on high alert (being in a new store and all!), at the same time managing to leave without ever finding the string cheese or the apple juice I was there to buy in the first place.

On Tuesday, as I was leafing through the junk mail and getting ready to toss it out, I saw the weekly ad for Aldi.  Three pounds of onions for $.75!  Giant zucchinis for $.25!  Strawberries for $1!  And suddenly I realized I could no longer avoid Aldi.  I knew that I must have those onions.

So this morning I loaded up the kids, returned a late library book, popped into Target to buy a birthday present for Charles, and then headed to Aldi.

I put Claire in the Ergo, grabbed my purse, and pulled Jack towards the shopping carts.

OK, here's where things start to go downhill.

The shopping carts were all chained together.  Like, in a row...with chains...and after trying (unsuccessfully) to pull them apart, I finally realized that I needed a quarter to do so!  That's right - they have little quarter slots, and once you deposit your money, the chain unbuckles and you are free to use a cart.

This threw me for a complete loop.  I pulled Jack back to the car.  I was not going to PAY to use a shopping cart!  Blasphemy!

But as I was preparing to load the kids back up, I thought about those damn onions.  $.75!  I would save much more than a quarter on those alone...and who knew what other surprise deals the store had to offer me?

So, I dug a quarter out of my purse and put it in the slot.  The chain dropped from the cart in front of mine.  The quarter stayed partially inserted (I tried to pull it back out, but no luck).

And into Aldi we went.

Yes, there were onions for $.75.  And generic Ritz crackers for $1.39, macaroni and cheese for $.39, lunch meat on sale for $1.

I loaded up the cart.

One a side note, I felt a little uneasy about my shopping choices.  I've been trying really, really hard to eat more plants and fewer animal products.  The bulk of our shopping comes from the produce section, and we rarely frequent the inner aisles of any grocery store.  This time, the entire store was the "inner aisles" and the produce section - which we went a little crazy in - was just a teensy little corner of the store.

Our cart was so full when I went to check out that Jack asked me who was going to help him out, because he was stuck under the bananas and potatoes (a big bag for $.99, HOLLA!).

The cashier was ridiculously fast.  I couldn't empty the cart fast enough, and he was working alone.  The second our cart was empty, he had already filled another one with all of our groceries.

Total bill?

$70.  BOOM.

As I was pushing the cart out, I noticed a long, wide shelf that ran along the back of the store, behind the cashiers.  "That's weird," I thought.  I could not for the life of me figure out what it was for.

It's hot in Texas, and today was no exception.  The very short walk to the car had us all sweating and Jack was in rare form.  "I'm hot!  I'm hot, Mommy...Mommy, I'm hot, I'm hooooooooot, MOMMY I'm hot, it's hot out, Mommy..." etc. etc.

"OK, Jack!  Just let me unload the groceries and we'll go home!"

I popped the trunk, and at this point, I realized something was amiss.

There were no bags full of groceries in my cart.  Just groceries.

In my haste to get the kids out of the store and to the car, I hadn't even noticed that the reason the cashier was so freaking speedy was because he wasn't bagging my groceries.  He was just putting them into another cart.


I looked in my trunk.  Two floaties from our day at the pool, a bag full of softball equipment from Charles' softball league, and my big (and dirty) saddle and bridle that we had brought home from my mom's place were all stuffed in the trunk.  I had been planning on shoving the bags in around all of this stuff, but that wasn't going to happen because there were no bags.

I stood there for awhile, contemplating my next move, Jack's relentless chant of "I'm hot" pushing me to make a decision.  Go back in the store and ask for bags (did they even have bags...)?  Or just throw everything in the trunk and make Charles help unload when we got home?

And so, I started tossing groceries in one-by-freaking-one.  Some frozen blueberries in the inner tube, a cucumber on top of a stirrup, some eggs under the baseball glove.

Until the trunk was full.

During this time, a friendly soul saw me and, clearly noticing an Aldi newbie from a mile away, came to offer her assistance.  She insisted she had made this same mistake her first trip, and informed me that by having customers bring bags from home, the store was able to keep costs down.  She also taught me the secret of the shopping carts.  The quarter that was half-in/half-out of the slot would be returned to me when I re-chained the cart to the other shopping carts.  But don't bother, she said - here's a quarter, and I'll just take your cart from you!  And just like that, the Aldi Angel saved me the hassle of pushing the cart and dragging Jack across a hot parking lot to wrestle with the shopping cart return.

When I got home, I told Charles to come out and help me unload the groceries.  They looked like this:

Hopefully we got them all out.

As Claire was nursing to sleep later in the day, I googled Aldi to find out what the heck kind of establishment I had been to.  They have a whole section about shopping there, which would have been helpful and explained a few things, but who thinks to see if a grocery store has instructions for shopping before going shopping, right?

It turns out that they have require a quarter to get a cart because you'll return the cart to get your quarter back - which keeps the parking lot cart-free and also reduces the need for an employee to be collecting carts.  They don't offer bags to keep costs down - and those giant shelves on the back of the store are where customers are supposed to bag their own groceries.  Doh!  If only I had known.  Or realized that the cashier wasn't bagging them for me (seriously, how did I miss that??).

But two kids in a grocery store will fry even the sharpest of brains, and I'm afraid mine is far from sharp!

So the lesson here, kids, is this - go to Aldi, get a great deal on some onions, and take your own shopping bags!

Have you ever shopped at an Aldi?  Did you know to bring your own bags (and a quarter) or did you learn the hard way, too?

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At July 5, 2012 at 9:20 PM , Blogger NeKisha said...

This is a funny story for me because I have shopped with my mother as a child at Aldi's and knew all these things. LOL I think what they do is great because it keeps the costs down. They usually have boxes on the floor under that long shelf so you can fill them yourself for free.

I shop with four children and feel lonely without them there. I must be an oddball!

At July 5, 2012 at 9:30 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

Yes, the $70 grocery bill was amazing! And I will probably go back now that I know about the whole "BYObag" thing...ha! The lady in the parking lot told me about the boxes too, but I didn't notice any...but then again, I apparently wasn't noticing much of anything today.

You are a brave woman! Every time I make it out of the house and back successfully with both kids I feel like I deserve a prize of some sort (that would be awesome). It's not that I don't want them with me, it's just that I clearly have a hard enough time as it is on my own, LOL!

At July 5, 2012 at 11:45 PM , Blogger Kasee said...

I want an Aldi's! I would be in trouble with the carts, though, because it takes 2 to get my shopping done each week, and I rarely have quarters on me. I'm totally laughing at your trunk, too, because my truck (Excursion) is pristine on the inside and I would FREAK if I had to load groceries in like that! The outside of my truck, though, is a whole different story ... living on a dirt road and all ...

At July 6, 2012 at 8:40 AM , Blogger Carrie said...

Kasee, you could probably save some serious change! he carts are actually bigger than normal carts - they're a bit wider (they have room for two kids to sit in the front, kind of like Costco carts).

Oh, and if your car is clean you would pretty much die when you saw my trunk...the fact that I had loose groceries in there is kind of horrifying.

At July 6, 2012 at 1:48 PM , Blogger Leilani @ Soleil Selene said...

I've never even heard of Aldi. But, that sounded like an experience! We always have reusable bags in the trunk of our Prius and our bags are the HUGE totes that can carry the same amount as three Target plastic bags. Since I don't carry groceries anyway (the hubs always does), I'm all for stuffing the heavy crap into one bag. Lol.

They used to do the quarter thing here in California several years back, but they scrapped those. I haven't been to another grocery store with a quarter slot for carts since I was a kid.

At July 6, 2012 at 2:48 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

We usually take reusable bags with us too, but I didn't think to grab them on our way out the door (that's a great idea though, to put them in the trunk right after unloading groceries from them...then I'd never be without).

I guess the quarter thing works, there weren't any loose carts in the parking lot!!

At July 16, 2012 at 8:34 AM , Blogger Charis's Mum said...

I have to confess I was laughing while reading your post. My mum shopped at Aldi and now I do about 2/3 of our shopping there. Yes, definitely bring a quarter and reusable bags. They sell paper bags for 5 cents.

At July 16, 2012 at 5:16 PM , Blogger Carrie said...

It would have been nice if the cashier had thought to tell me that as I was wrangling two kids and pushing my cart out the door...LOL! I actually ended up going back a few days later to buy food for a family function and I was prepared and we saved a ton of money. $.79 hot dog buns for the WIN!


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