False Things You Believe About Shopping At Aldi

Aldi is the discount grocery store that everyone either loves, or loves to hate. With shockingly low prices and a minimalist, no-frills approach to food shopping, it's no wonder that the supermarket chain stirs up such strong opinions from consumers.

The German brand has been steadily expanding its reach in the United States since 1976, when it opened its first U.S. shop in Iowa. Now, Aldi has very much settled into the American grocery scene, with over 2,300 locations across 38 states. Odds are, if you haven't shopped at an Aldi by now, you've heard friends or family gush over how much they saved on their last grocery run.

Whether you're brand new to the store or you've been going there for years, shoppers across the aisle (see what we did there?) are bound to have a misconception or two about the Aldi experience. It's time to dispel some of these myths and set the record straight on the popular Aldi rumors you've seen floating around the internet.

Everything in the store is cheap

Aldi is known and loved for its wallet-friendly products, which are sometimes so cheap that you find yourself asking how it's even a viable business option. The general inexpensiveness of the store can fool customers into thinking that everything at Aldi must be a better deal than competing chains.

In reality, there are actually quite a few Aldi products that tend to be on the more expensive side, as Reader's Digest points out. Most brand name items are in low supply at Aldi, so you'll find yourself paying a bit more for those items. And if you were considering buying toiletries or meat on your next trip to Aldi, it might be wise to hold off and grab those items elsewhere.

Despite a couple of pricey items here and there, you'll generally save big at Aldi. Shelf staples like canned goods, baking items, and bread are almost always the cheapest at Aldi and are a safe bet to keep on your list.

Low prices mean low quality

Often, low prices can cause customers to worry they aren't getting the greatest quality products. Let's face it, a $2 gas station burrito has a very different connotation than a $12 burrito from a popular restaurant.

Scanning the aisles at Aldi and finding products several dollars cheaper than other supermarkets can seem way too good to be true, but there's no need to fret. All of the products at Aldi are carefully vetted and go through a pretty rigorous testing process.

Aldi first allowed The Telegraph to visit its corporate headquarters in 2013 for a behind-the-scenes look at its test kitchens, and the verdict was that the chain's quality check process is quite thorough. The Aldi quality assurance team regularly samples and analyzes all of the products, and the company further assesses the safety of its food with analyses from independent laboratories.

The produce is a great deal

Okay, so most things at Aldi offer the best bang for your buck, but there are exceptions to every rule. Yes, the Aldi produce prices are almost unbelievably cheap. That's because the company saves on transportation costs by buying local and selling bulk, pre-packaged produce items, according to The Grocery Store Guy.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but shoppers tend to agree that Aldi produce doesn't stay fresh for nearly as long as items from competing grocery stores. In one Reddit thread, countless die-hard Aldi fans admitted to buying produce elsewhere, with many saying the low prices don't mean much if they're just throwing it all out a few days after bringing it home.

The bottom line? If you don't plan to eat the fruits and vegetables you purchase right away, steer clear of the Aldi produce aisle and buy those bananas elsewhere.

You should buy its meat products

In general, you'll want to skip the meat section when shopping at Aldi. Its chicken, beef, and other meat products leave something to be desired when it comes to quality.

This might be understandable if Aldi was consistently the cheapest option, but that's not actually the case. Kiplinger conducted a price comparison between Aldi and Walmart on lean ground beef and chicken breasts and found that Walmart offered better prices on both items. However, Aldi does offer weekly specials that may sway this price difference.

On top of the expense, customers are fairly unanimous that Aldi meat isn't worth the price tag. For the most part, shoppers on Reddit agree that Aldi meat products don't really deliver in terms of tenderness and flavor. If you're going to pay the typical meat price, you might as well splurge on meat at your local butcher shop or a different grocery store.

You can only buy food at Aldi

The uninitiated may learn about Aldi and think, understandably, that they can only purchase food items on their trip. But once you've made your first visit, you may just find yourself heading home with a new suitcase, a fun accent chair, or some exciting new kitchen gadgets in tow.

Aldi fanatics know that the store sneakily sells some amazing home decor, and Apartment Therapy concurs. If you're hoping to spruce up your space on a budget, don't turn up your nose at Aldi's selection of furniture and home goods.

Pro tip: If you're really on the search for some bargain furniture, check out Aldi Finds on your next visit. It's a wonderland of specialty food and home goods products that are only offered for a limited time. There will often be some more unexpected items in the mix, like patio equipment and pet accessories. If you see something you like, be sure to snag it before it's gone!

You have to pay to use the shopping carts

This is a pretty widespread myth about Aldi. When you head to the store for the first time, odds are you'll spend at least 10 minutes trying to figure out how on earth to get a shopping cart. The carts are all locked together outside of the store, and each one has a slot for quarters.

People are usually confused after hearing about this quarter system and think they are required to pay for temporary use of a shopping cart – which feels like a bit much. In reality, shoppers need only put a quarter in the cart upon arrival. They will get the quarter back once the cart is returned.

The reasoning behind this system is twofold — it keeps carts from being left scattered around the parking lot, and it saves Aldi from the financial responsibility of having employees spend their day rounding up rogue carts.

If you really want to master the Aldi cart system, you can even buy your very own Aldi quarter keeper. You'll never have to rummage desperately through your bag for a quarter again!

There are zero name brand products

Look around the shelves at Aldi, and you'll notice that the brand of cereal you always grab at Stop and Shop or your favorite frozen meals from Whole Foods are nowhere in sight. You'll quickly learn that most items at Aldi actually come from its own private brand label, and this is no error on the chain's part.

The strategy behind selling its own products is so that the company has control over the taste and quality of the food it sells. Plus, Aldi can avoid paying for and stocking multiple different brands, and instead buy its own products in bulk.

While the majority of the products you see are Aldi's exclusive label, its stores do carry a few external brand items (about 10% of its stock). After sampling some fan favorite Aldi brand items, though, you probably won't mind this so much!

It doesn't carry specialty foods or organic options

Once you discover that Aldi mainly carries its own exclusive brands, it's natural to worry that it won't stock some specific items on your list, or that it doesn't offer any specialty food items. Luckily, this isn't the case.

Aldi Specially Selected includes a pretty decent range of premium meats, cheeses, coffees, pastas, and more. If you have dietary restrictions, Aldi may actually have more ingredients for you than you'd expect. It carries milk alternatives, gluten-free items and sugar-free options.

In the same vein, you may have made the assumption that Aldi doesn't carry many organic options, since it's decidedly minimalist with its selection. You'll be pleased to find out that Aldi sells various Simply Nature items, from bread to cereal to chicken breasts — many of which are organic.

Not only does Aldi carry organic products, but it's also one of the best places to buy them. CNBC determined the average national cost of organic items at various grocers, and found that Aldi pulled ahead of the competition, offering the broadest range of price-competitive organics.

Aldi and Trader Joe's are owned by the same company

If you're a Trader Joe's regular and you expect your first Aldi trip to be more or less the same experience, you're definitely in for a shock. While you may have heard vague rumors about the two grocery store chains operating under the same ownership, it's actually not true. There is no joint ownership between the brands, and the stores run entirely independently of each other. However, the two companies do have a pretty interesting connection, as reported by The Kitchn

Decades after Aldi took first root in Germany, the owner's two sons began expanding the chain together. The siblings ultimately had a business disagreement and decided to divide the company into Aldi Nord (North) and Aldi Süd (South).

So, where does Trader Joe's come into play here? Aldi Nord acquired all Trader Joe's in the United States in 1979, while allowing the company to operate independently. This means that Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe's in the U.S., while Aldi Süd runs the Aldi stores in the states.

You don't need to bring your own shopping bags

Heading to Aldi (or really any grocery store) without a reusable shopping bag is a rookie mistake. At Aldi, customers are charged a small fee at checkout for plastic, paper, or reusable bags. As The Aldi Nerd points out, this helps Aldi save both the expense and responsibility of supplying free bags for customers.

The routine cost of shopping bags can really add up, and it is relatively easy to avoid by buying reusable totes ahead of time. You can also purchase some reusable plastic bags for any future shopping at the Aldi checkout lane.

Of course, there are those days where you slip up and leave your shopping totes at home, or even just in the trunk of your car — we've all been there! The good news is that you're not required to bring your own bags to Aldi, just highly encouraged.

Employees will bag your groceries for you

If you hate the pressure of having to bag your own groceries, Aldi may not be the best option for your grocery needs. Plenty of shoppers become frazzled when they first shop at Aldi and realize that the employees don't bag the groceries at checkout.

Some customers are big fans of this method and appreciate the ability to organize their products in a way that makes sense for them. This way, you can make sure your frozen items don't accidentally meander over to your pantry section.

One Aldi customer shared their favorite hack for the Aldi checkout line on Reddit — rather than spending time bagging groceries in the store, just let the cashier place them back in the cart and then unload them into baskets or bins in the trunk of your car. It certainly makes the already efficient checkout process even faster, and saves you the hassle of trying to delicately place a carton of eggs in your bag with an audience!

You can shop at Aldi any time

You may be used to your local convenience stores and supermarkets being open 24/7. If you prefer picking up your groceries late at night or super early in the morning, switching over to Aldi will be a bit of an adjustment. Though Aldi is open every day of the week, it only operates during peak hours, with most locations opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.

For early birds who like to get their grocery list checked off to start their day, this can be rather inconvenient. One customer on Reddit said the opening time of 9 a.m. was their only negative of shopping at Aldi.

It's natural to wonder why the company decided not to open up shop earlier in the morning or keep their doors open later. Well, it's yet another money saver — this way, Aldi spends less on employee wages and overhead costs — all savings it can pass on to its shoppers.

An employee will always be around if you need help

Aldi's business operations make it clear that the company goes to great lengths to keep operating costs as low as possible. You may typically shop at supermarkets where employees are constantly restocking the shelves with more products and are generally available to help customers with questions, but that likely won't be the case at your local Aldi. The company is notorious for minimal staffing in its stores, though it was announced in 2021 that Aldi planned to hire 20,000 more employees as part of its coast-to-coast expansion.

After learning about the low staff numbers, it starts to make sense why some employees give mixed reviews about their experiences working for Aldi. Workers often have to wear multiple hats and are pressured to move at an extremely fast pace to keep up with their shifting responsibilities. So if an Aldi employee seems a bit frazzled when you approach them, be sure to cut them some slack.

You can use coupons at Aldi

If you're the type of person who finds the thrill of grocery shopping isn't quite as fulfilling without using coupons, you may be disappointed to find out that Aldi does not accept coupons. But all is not lost for you savvy shoppers. Instead of forcing customs to find discounts on their own, Aldi simply offers products at affordable prices to begin with. According to the grocery store chain's FAQ page, "ALDI shoppers do not have to clip coupons to find the best deals because we offer the lowest prices on groceries every single day."

There is one exception to the rule. Aldi occasionally offers limited-time coupons in support of special events, such as a new store opening. In this case, promotional discounts will be offered in-store or mailed to those living in the area. The chain specifies that it does not offer online coupons. So, if you happen to spot digital offerings that seem legitimate, know that they are, in fact, fake.

You might be thinking, "Even if Aldi doesn't offer its own coupons, surely they accept manufacturer's coupons?" Wrong again. Discounts on brand-name products, which make up about 10% of Aldi's selections, are no good either. The chain works with suppliers to negotiate the lowest prices on such products. Because Aldi is already offering customers a discount, manufacturer's coupons are off the table.

You can't return products you're unhappy with

We saved the best for last! Let's say you finally braved your beginner's Aldi anxiety and headed to the chain near you for the first time. You were unsure of what to get, ended up arriving home with an ingredient that didn't taste quite right, and became frustrated about the sunk cost. In that case, there's an easy solution!

Aldi actually has a pretty sweet return policy. Thanks to its twice as nice guarantee, if the quality of a product you purchased at Aldi was questionable, it will both replace the item for you and refund your money. All you have to do is bring the product, its packaging, and a receipt to your local store, and you're all set!

The policy is pretty all-encompassing. The only items the policy don't apply to are non-food Aldi Finds products, alcohol, items from national brands, and products without a quality-related issue.