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All Contents © 2019The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By Bob Niedt, Online Editor
| December 20, 2017
Minimalist grocer Aldi, the German no-frills supermarket chain, builds its reputation one doubting first-time customer at a time.
The limited-assortment retailer, focusing on 90% store-brand products with a sprinkling of nationally known items, is big on savings in its small-footprint stores. That’s especially true during the holidays, when food consumption goes up and we’re all looking at how we can cut corners.
Check out these five ways to save big at Aldi for the holidays.
Whether it’s last-minute stocking stuffers or a concerted effort to get your kid swag the rest of the neighborhood isn’t sporting, Aldi is a surprise destination. Take that collection of retro wooden box items including a harmonica in a wooden box for $6.99. Then there are the assorted Zing Stikbot action figures for $7.99 (and very German), a toy Zing bow and arrow set (soft-tipped arrows fly 125 feet!) for $12.99, a veterinarian playset for $12.99, Goffa stackable animal pals for $3.99, a Bauhn virtual reality headset for $24.99, and much more.
And here’s a bargain: Aldi is selling a 16-inch Huffy Pro Thunder (for boys) or So Sweet (for girls) bike with training wheels for $44.99. Walmart was selling a 16-inch Huffy Pro Thunder bike for $85.87 (already reduced by $30).
Aldi wears its German roots proudly. Look no further than the strudel in the freezer case for proof. You’ll find German and other European chocolates on store shelves, too. According to Tracie Fobes, a money-saving expert at the website PennyPinchinMom.com, specialty chocolates, in general, are among the best things to buy at Aldi because they are “smooth and creamy at a much lower cost than most other stores.”
Prowl the aisles to find more European products that aren’t carried by other U.S. grocers. Keep checking back, since Aldi tends to rotate stock at a high rate. Many products are here today, gone tomorrow.
What’s in stock for the holidays? Lots of German sweets, including Winternacht solid and hollow chocolates, chocolate figurines (Santa!), Merci European chocolate, Witor’s pralines, Choceur chocolate coins (the original bitcoin), Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Rolo candies, Winternacht marzipan logs, Duca Reserva panettone, and more.
You won’t find many name brands at Aldi. Nine out of 10 items in stock are private-label products wedged into a mere 15,000 square feet of space. That’s about one-third the size of a standard supermarket.
Yet, as you walk Aldi’s aisles, a lot of the packaging will seem familiar even if the brands aren’t. That’s not by accident.
“A good majority of Aldi’s private-label products are actually name-brand products, just repackaged,” say Brent Shelton of money-saving site FatWallet.com, “so quality is high, and price is usually lower than the brands available at regular grocers.”
We recommend this with a caveat: Pick them up early in the day. And your advantage will be even greater if your Aldi is new or newly remodeled. New and revamped stores have better refrigeration and selection in Aldi’s efforts to nip at the heels of upscale competitors such as Trader Joe’s. On top of better lighting and wider aisles, Aldi’s new store format puts fresh produce center stage and includes refrigerated units for the likes of greens, perishable fruits and (shocker!) premade soups and dips. Bulk packaging still rules, but that’s a big reason why Aldi can keep produce prices so low.
If you’re produce shopping at an Aldi store that hasn’t adopted this new format – which means most of them – there are workarounds.
“Aldi’s fruit and vegetables are usually the lowest price compared to other grocers, and they rate as good quality, especially if you shop early mornings when stock is full to choose from,” says Shelton. “A good tip to improve shelf life is to make sure you wash any produce as soon as you get home.”
Aldi loyalists rave about the inexpensive, and interesting, selections of wines and beers, as well as the selections of Italian and French sodas and lemonades. Double-check to see if your local Aldi location stocks alcohol.
You may see some Bud Light in the beer case, but brew aficionados should take aim at the German and other European imported beers you won’t find at 7-11. Those include Bacher lager, Boot Tread Belgian amber ale, Broegel bock, Imperium lager, Kinroo Blue Belgian white ale, Wernesgruner pilsner and more.
If you’re more of a wine enthusiast, the values at Aldi will serve you well. The selection is broad – and inexpensive. Winking Owl wines, bottled exclusively for Aldi, are surprisingly drinkable considering the price tag: under $3 a bottle. The Winking Owl Shiraz comes highly recommended.