Even a fan like me has to admit there are a few drawbacks to shopping at Aldi. For the most part, they are pretty minor but I think they are worth mentioning.
- There are some limits to how you can pay. Aldi accepts payment via cash, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, most debit cards, EBT, Link cards, Apple Pay and Android Pay. However, they do not accept checks or WIC.
- Like Trader Joe’s (which, BTW, is owned by the brother of the founder of Aldi) Aldi’s stock rotates so what you bought one week might not be there the next and 99% of the items are store-brand. When I find a product I love that I can freeze or that has a long shelf life, I stock up on it just in case. For example, I bought a year’s worth of spätzle last year because they only sell it during the late fall/winter. However, in over a year of shopping at Aldi, I will say the inventory is pretty steady outside of the Aldi Finds (special sales and items) products. Plus, a lot of the Aldi Finds items eventually find their way back into the store even if it may take a few months. I’m still waiting for that frozen mango salsa to come back to Trader Joe’s.
- Aldi isn’t one-stop shopping. While I get most of my meat, produce, canned goods, dairy, eggs, frozen veggies and baking items at Aldi I still have to go to other stores to get all that I need. I generally go to Costco for better prices/quality things like toilet paper, paper towels, coconut water, jumbo spices, bacon and my favorite popcorn. I still frequent my local Indian, Italian, German, Filipino, Thai and Korean grocery stores for spices, noodles, harder to find produce, flours and snacks. I go to “regular” grocery stores for things that Aldi doesn’t carry or offer like for example, a large variety of fresh seafood, certain cuts of meat, specialty produce or specific name brand products. However, my trips to these other stores are much quicker than they used to be because I get what I want and leave, and I don’t waste time wandering the aisles. I only have to make these trips once or twice a month vs the once or twice a week I was averaging before Aldi.
- Aldi doesn’t accept coupons. Personally, this isn’t a huge deal for me because I don’t find I buy a huge amount of items that have coupons available but I know this is a major drawback to some super couponers. Personally, I find that Aldi is so much cheaper than other stores that even if I used a coupon at a traditional store I’d be paying more for it than I would be buying it at full price at Aldi.
- The look and ambiance. Aldi is not a store you go to if you want to browse at beautiful displays. People come to shop and get out. It isn’t a pretty store, everything is out on the floor in packing boxes and while neat and clean, it is much more of warehouse feel than say a Whole Foods or a high-end grocery store. This is pretty common in German/European grocery stores, where Aldi originated. I’m willing to accept this as a cost-cutting measure on their part (and I actually don’t love grocery shopping at all so the quicker I am done, the better) but I know to some people, including my own mother, this is really off-putting.
- You have to bring your own bags and a quarter to rent the cart. I try to keep bags in my car and a quarter in my wallet for impromptu Aldi trips after that one trip where I walked around the store with tuna, raw chicken, butter, and eggs in my hands.
- You have to bag your own groceries. Personally, I like this. The cashiers are super fast at checking people out and there is a space near the exit where you can bag out of the way other customers. I like to separate my groceries into easy ways to put them away so when I do it, it is right each time and unloading my car and putting things away is more efficient. No more forgetting a pound of cheese in a bag that was otherwise filled with boxes of pasta. However, if you cannot or do not want to bag your own groceries, Aldi is probably not the store for you.