Every region has their hometown grocery store. Be it Kroger, H-E-B, Safeway, or Publix. The same store sales at these establishments are always quite strong and it is easy to understand why: familiar branding, familiar environment, the perceived value of their membership cards, and vast selection of items.
Now, we are going to throw that out the window. Why? We want to retire early.
Food Can Be Expensive
For the average American household, food tends to rank in the top three family expenditures along with housing and transportation. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics found that the average household spent $12,350 on food in 2015, an increase of 6.5% from the prior year. I believe most of this is attributed to convenience foods and less emphasis being put on families having meals together – something I take issue with. The statistics back this up as the food-away-from-home expenditures increased 8.7%. These are staggering numbers and most certainly ones that can be hacked by those with the wherewithal to do it. So, what are your options?
Wholesale stores like Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club are great options as long as your family can justify the wholesale-sized quantities. After being members, I would not recommend membership unless you are a family of 5 or more. Our experience as members taught us that we do not need a 90 count of granola bars or a two pack of 64oz peanut butter jars for a family of three (almost 4). What typically ended up happening is we would eat meals with the same 3-4 ingredients over and over because we had such high quantities of those items. Things began to get bland. We cancelled our membership before the end of our first year and haven’t looked back.*
I know many that will cringe at this suggestion, but dollar stores are great places to stock up on household products. You may not want to buy your fresh foods from dollar stores, but they offer great value on things like paper products, dish soaps, and other sanitary products.
Aldi is a discount supermarket chain headquartered in Germany. Stores in the United States are owned by Aldi Süd while Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe’s. Aldi offers a very similar feel to Costco: pallets of items, industrial wholesale vibe, and limited staff. The store also carries less SKUs than a standard grocery store in order to streamline operations and shelf space. They carry a line called AldiFinds which varies from their normal SKU list and can include specialty food items, seasonal decor, furniture, and clothing. Aldi also has three brands focused on the health-conscious: Simply Nature Organic, Fit & Active, and Live G-Free (gluten free products).
After cancelling our Costco membership, we transitioned straight to Aldi. It was like we hit the jackpot! Our food and produce options became 3-4x more diverse than they were when we were shopping at Costco. We were also able to purchase more manageable quantities for a family of three. I had shopped at Aldi in the past, but now that it serves as our primary grocer, the budget is really seeing the savings. On average our meals hover around $2/meal/person.
Cost Comparison: Aldi vs ShopRite
On our most recent trip to Aldi, I decided I wanted to actually put those numbers on paper for the blog. A few notes as you review:
- I randomly selected items based on what I thought may be popular. The broad assortment is meant to represent the overall price trending rather than specific items.
- I went to ShopRite, a grocery chain in the Northeast, to compare prices.
- These are metro-New York City prices, so your mileage may vary but the trending of prices will likely be on-par for your region.
|2% Milk Jug*||$3.89||$3.99||per gallon||2.51%|
|Greek Yogurt*||$0.945||$2.50||per lb||62.20%|
|Butter Quarters*||$2.99||$3.99||per lb||25.06%|
|Cream Cheese*||$1.58||$3.00||per lb||47.33%|
|Shredded Cheddar*||$2.49||$3.98||per lb||37.44%|
|Ground Beef 80/20*||$2.89||$3.49||per lb||17.19%|
|12 Large Grade A Eggs*||$1.09||$1.29||per dozen||15.50%|
|Chunk Tuna in Water*||$2.08||$3.81||per lb||45.41%|
|Baby Spinach (5oz)||$7.96||$9.57||per lb||16.82%|
|Spring Mix (16oz)||$3.79||$5.99||per lb||36.73%|
|12 Grain Bread Loaf||$1.20||$4.49||per lb||73.27%|
|Peanut Butter*||$1.24||$1.88||per lb||34.04%|
|BBQ Kettle Chips*||$2.62||$5.00||per lb||47.60%|
|Pine Nut Hummus*||$3.19||$6.39||per lb||50.08%|
|Mac & Cheese*||$0.73||$1.95||per lb||62.56%|
|Spring Water Jug||$0.79||$0.89||per gallon||11.24%|
|8 Roll Paper Towel||$1.44||$1.99||per 100 ct||27.64%|
|9 Mega Roll Bath Tissue||$0.25||$0.52||per 100 ct||51.92%|
|Dawn Dish Soap||$3.46||$5.03||per qt||31.21%|
|Dishwasher Detergent*||$1.07||$1.77||per qt||39.55%|
|Sandwich Bags*||$1.99||$2.40||per 100 ct||17.08%|
*Generic/Store brands used where indicated
Wow! My next grocery haul is coming from Aldi! That’s great! I hope you did find this helpful, but I do want to give a few pointers if it is your first trip to Aldi.
- You will need a quarter to “rent” a grocery cart. You get this quarter back when you return the cart at the end of your trip. Aldi does this to cut down on staff needed to maintain the premises.
- You should bring your own bags. You can purchase bags from the store, but similar to Costco, they do not pack your items for you. Again, this cuts down on staff allowing costs to remain rock-bottom.
- Boxes are available if you do not bring bags. I actually prefer to use these – the boxes they display the dry cereal in are my favorite. You can fit two of these in a cart at a time.
- Pro tip: Put the light, crushable items in the box towards the back of the cart and the boxed or heavy items in the front of the cart. This makes unloading the cart easier and also keeps your crushable items from becoming damaged when the cashier fills your cart.
- Some Aldi’s do not accept credit cards. I believe this may vary by state. Cash/debit are accepted at all locations.
- Find your nearest Aldi.
- Since Aldi has limited SKUs, you may need to go to your general grocer to get a few remaining items. This second trip will be worth it as long as you are maximizing your Aldi haul.
We utilize Personal Capital to track all of our spending and investments.
*We still shop at Costco (even though we are not members) in order to purchase their Kirkland brand diapers. They are by far the best dollar-for-dollar diaper we have tried.