Aldi Expanding in the U.S.

If you had Aldi supermarkets in your home country, you were probably a member of one of two camps: those who love it for their low prices, and those who groan at the thought of having to cross half a dozen of your favorite snacks and candies off the mental shopping list.  As anyone familiar with Aldi knows: their brand product offerings are fairly small compared to the number of their own Aldi-brand items.

But when I found out about an Aldi in our neighborhood, I immediately cleared the back of the SUV in the hopes that Aldi, being a German-founded company, would offer some of those homeland treats most Europeans forage for on a daily basis. There used to be just one Aldi chain in Germany, until the brothers who founded it could no longer work together and split the company into Aldi North and Aldi South.  Aldi North actually started the better-known Trader Joe’s chain in the U.S., while Aldi South operates the Aldi U.S. stores.

For those not familiar with Aldi, a quick primer on the most notable differences between them and your average American grocery store:  in order to get a shopping cart, you have to deposit a quarter in the cart’s coin slot. Not to worry, you’ll get it back when you return the cart, although one has to wonder if, in the U.S., a quarter is really a deterrent to anyone really wanting a to own a shopping cart the size of a Mini Cooper. (Aldi carts seem to have been made for bulk shopping.)

Secondly, Aldi keeps down their prices by basically opening a box of goods, and placing it on the shelf as is. In the U.S. store I recently visited, Aldi stopped short of just parking pallets on the floor as they often do in Europe. I’m not sure whether that’s Aldi just not wanting to confuse their customers too much, or if there are some safety regulations keeping them from lining the aisles with splintery wood.

And last not least – nobody will bag your groceries for you. A convenient counter behind the registers allows you to easily do your own bagging without holding up the line, but you have to do it yourself.

One of the fun things about Aldi is that shelf in the last aisle, where random household, garden, and unidentifiable objects are up for sale at bargain prices. Whether it’s cooking spoons, a hunting blind or scented candles, it’ll be here today, gone tomorrow, replaced tomorrow with something else you never thought you may need, and probably don’t.

Into the store I went, looking to enter the European Nirvana of groceries and random knick-knacks, and for a little while, I was giddy: finding Aldi-brand items made in Europe, and even a few of those much sought-after items like Knoppers, a chocolate and milk-cream filled wafer sandwich, or Butterkaese (butter cheese), both products imported from Germany.

If you really scan every inch of the aisles, you’ll find a few Aldi-brand items that very closely resemble something European you may have been looking for, and some you just can’t un-see, like the ready-made frozen pork schnitzel. On the bright side, Aldi does have a ‘double back guarantee’ for their store-brand items, meaning you not only get the item replaced, but your money back on top of that. (On the downside, Aldi doesn’t accept manufacturer’s coupons.) If that double back guarantee doesn’t fill the stores, I don’t know what will. Well, maybe that frozen schnitzel has a lot of fans.

If you have an Aldi nearby, it’s worth checking it out to compare prices for staple items and the occasional find, (mostly German), but let’s hope Aldi starts to add more brand imports, and it definitely will be interesting to see what Aldi will offer in terms of seasonal items around Easter or Christmas. Interestingly, Aldi, now headquartered in Illinois, U.S., has actually been present in the U.S. since the ‘70s, and according to their website, they’re now at about 1600 stores nationwide, looking to expand even more.  Of course, in a country as large as the U.S., 1600 stores still don’t necessarily mean ‘around the corner’, but if you are lucky enough to have an Aldi in your neighborhood, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with their stock, and luckily, you can do that from the convenience of your couch, as Aldi lists their products on their website.

And if you search their website thoroughly, you’ll find a link for Aldi home delivery through Instacart, but as of now, only for Los Angeles, CA, and Dallas, TX, and even here only in specific zip codes

To find out if there’s an Aldi near your, go to their website at