Monday Q&A | What’s up with Aldi? plus, a Monthly Money Document Template (sort of)

by Kristen on February 18, 2013 · 31 comments

in Aldi, Q&A

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I was wondering if you could maybe give some more details on Aldi. I’ve seen one or two in our area but never went in one. What kind of products do they sell? Are that out of date? I mentioned something about going to one and my son gave me grief and said the food there wasn’t good. What exactly is the story with Aldi stores?

-Cindy

I’m so glad you asked this! With all due respect, I think your son is wrong. ;) Aldi stores keep their prices low not by selling out-of-date products or inferior products but rather by keeping their operating costs low.

For instance, their stores have a small footprint, which reduces their rent and their utility bills. They carry private label products, they carry only products that sell consistently, and they incorporate all sorts of efficient tricks (like putting bar codes all over their packaging to help cashiers scan faster) so that they don’t have to hire a lot of employees for each store.

Aldi has a GREAT money back guarantee on their products, so if you buy something and you don’t like it, you can take it back to the store, get your money back, AND get a replacement product. It’s a risk-free shopping experience.

Check out some of the delicious food I’ve made using Aldi ingredients.

And this post is full of pictures of the great produce I get at Aldi.

I’ve been shopping at Aldi for years now, and I’ve been enthusiastically blogging about them for just about as long. You can browse through the Aldi category to see all of those posts, and I think those will help to answer any questions you still have.

I love the idea of creating a Finance Report every payday for us to review. Is there any way that a blank version of yours could be posted or shared? I would be happy to pay you for it as well…I just need to get something I can use easily so I can get started and I am not savvy enough to create one on my own.

-Jeri

Ohh, it’s really not all that special or complicated and it is most certainly not worth paying for (!), but it gets the job done.

(For those of you wondering what we’re talking about, each month, I make a money document to share with Mr. FG. You can read all about it right here.)

Basically, it’s a plain Word document that’s divided into three sections.

At the top, I list income and then take out the tithe, so we’re left with the net spendable for the month.

Next, I list our expenses for that month and our regularly withdrawn savings (for things like our vacation account, our Christmas account, our car repair account, etc.). So, that section has the total amount of money that will exit our account that month.

Then I subtract the exiting money from the incoming money and then I know exactly how much will be left over at the end of the month. Depending on the month, that amount varies, and each month Mr. FG and I discuss what we’ll do with that money. I often type up a few options in the money document itself so that we’ve got some choices to talk about.

At the bottom, I give a snapshot view of our savings accounts. I think that’s my favorite part…updating those numbers each month!

So, basically it goes like this:

Section one

Income-tithe= net spendable income.

Section two

Expenses + automatic savings deposits = net expenditures for the month.

Section three

Subtract expenses from income; list ideas for where to put any extra money.

Section four

Snapshot of savings accounts

I don’t know that my bare bones Word document method is what will work for every couple, but I think the exact method isn’t terribly important. What IS important is regularly communicating about money, and doing it in writing(followed up with a chat) each payday has been revolutionary for us.

If you’re having trouble communicating with your other half about money, I highly recommend giving this a try!

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Joshua’s 365 post: Caturday

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jean February 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

We have one Aldi in our area. It does not have everything but it does have items I use regularly at good prices. Tortilla chips were less in a larger package. Margarine was less. The other day I did notice that they do not have background music playing. (I believe this would be a cost to the store.) I find it a clean, efficient store.

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2 Amy February 18, 2013 at 10:33 am

Aldi and Trader Joe’s share the same owners and the same management philosophy, but no one bats an eye at heading to TJ’s.

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3 The Norwegian Girl February 18, 2013 at 10:35 am

Though we might not have Aldi in Norway, we do have a similiar kind of store chain called Rema, which sounds exactly like how Aldi functions. And though there are many who thinks Rema is less than the other more expensive stores, it has repeatedly been made reports on how Rema is the cheapest AND the best store to go grocery shopping. Which I of course do!

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4 Elizabeth February 18, 2013 at 10:45 am

I do a similar financial report with every pay check. The easiest way for me what to construct an excel spreadsheet. I divide my pay up by % (example 10% goes to savings) so all I have to do is plug in the amount I earned that month and all the big categories self-calculate. Then I just have to comb through and refine it.

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5 Lili@creativesavv February 18, 2013 at 11:16 am

We’re old-school with our finance reports. I write it out on paper (an old spiral notebook). I have small printing, so the budgeted amount and all our expenses actually fit on the front and back of 1 single sheet of notebook paper.

I like having it on paper, as I can update by logging in an expenditure the minute I walk in the door (before I forget!).

And my favorite section is the carryover excess budgeted amount in every category, from one month to the next! It gives me a sense of security, to know that we could totally handle multiple emergencies in one month, if need be.

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6 Mindy February 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm

I can verify that Aldi doesn’t sell out of date food.

I was at our local Aldi yesterday, and needed baby carrots. I noticed they had just gone out of date, so I asked the manager about it, and she said they would have to throw them all away. I was sad to hear they would all go in the trash – they looked perfectly fine. She told me they aren’t allowed to sell anything out of date or damaged.

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7 Barbara O February 18, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I’ve shopped at Aldi for years, and although we don’t like everything of the private labels they have, we like so much that it’s my first grocery stop, even before my double coupon store. I don’t usually get much meat at Aldi, since most of it is frozen ( I do buy whole chickens there sometimes if the price is less per lb than Sams) our store has recently begun having more fresh meat. I just bought some 90% lean hamburger, so I’ll find out tonight how I like it!
Don’t ever worry about quality, though. It’s like any other store-sometimes the broccoli looks cruddy, for example, so I pass it up. Other times, it’s fine. That happens at other places, too. In general, we buy about 50% of our groceries there. Some of their chips are our favorite, hands down!
Try Aldi! We love it!

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8 Deb February 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I agree, LOVE Aldi, wish they were in Montana. I was always disappointed when they were out of something and I had to buy it at WM for significantly more. Their checkers are amazingly efficient and hard workers.

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9 Anna@stuffedveggies February 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I was at the regular grocery the other day, and they were out of tomatoes. The produce worker brought some from the back for me, then began the laborious process of moving each tomato by hand onto the display. That’s something that Aldi doesn’t waste their (YOUR!) money 0n. They bring out the box which was shipped in a display-ready condition – and you choose from the box. Thereby saving their time, and your money : )

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10 April February 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Aldi also does not hire sackers, or provide free sacks. So, that saves money for them. You can buy fabric reusable bags there for $1 or take your own. You sack and carry out your own grocerys. Also, you will need a quarter to rent your grocery cart. After you put your cart back, you get your quarter back. This is so they don’t have to pay someone to gather up the carts.
They don’t take checks (so they have no bad check fees). Only cash or debit cards.

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11 Raye February 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm

I love my Aldi’s and stock on the fresh vegetable and fruits every week! They are the first place I do my grocery shopping and if I can’t find everything at Aldi’s I then go across the street to Wal-Mart to pick up the few items (usually cleaning items) I have left to buy.

I can relate to Aldi’s getting a bad wrap though and have to even explain to my own family that Aldi’s does not charge you 50 cents for a basket and then keep that money. Instead it is only 25 cents and you get it back when you bring back your cart. That way you keep the carts from banging into people’s cars and also save money because Aldi’s doesn’t have to pay people to bring the carts back!

Win, Win!!!

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12 EcoCatLady February 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Gosh… Aldi sounds wonderful. Too bad we don’t have one here in Denver. We do have something called Save-A-Lot, which I shop at for staples (ie when I don’t need anything fancy that they wouldn’t stock.) I wonder if it’s similar? Anybody know?

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13 nici February 18, 2013 at 4:44 pm

@ecocatlady…we have both an aldi and a savealot here in pittsburgh, and they are pretty similar-no frills and low prices. We use the savealot to get some of the meat and produce we didn’t find at aldi’s. We also got a new bottom dollar store last year too which is the same premise as aldi’s and savealot, but since they are newer and trying to break into the market (no pun intended! Lol) they often offer $10 off $20 coupons for weeks @ a time, so often I will shop there as I can save $40 a month just because of those coupons!

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14 EcoCatLady February 18, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Thanks nici… that helps to calm my Aldi jealousy! And those coupons sound like a steal of a deal! :-)

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15 Meredith February 19, 2013 at 6:29 am

EcoCatLady,

We have both Aldi and Save-A-Lot here in SC. They are both extremely similar in the way the store is set up. There are some differences that make me keep going back to Aldi: 1. The produce at Aldi is per unit while our Save-A-Lot weighs some items. I notice more bad produce when it has to be weighed out. 2. Save-A-Lot has more name branded things. I know they don’t have too much but ours has a lot more than Aldi. 3. Aldi is cheaper….just by a hair. Since Save-A-Lot is further away, I don’t bother going. I can assure you, you do have a place that is comparable.

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16 Jenny February 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm

There isn’t an Aldi really convenient to me, but we do have a couple in the area. In general, the food is fine (I actually think their version of Smacks cereal is better than actual Smacks cereal), and I certainly don’t mind the quarter cart rental or having to bring my own bags. The only issue I have is the actual shopping experience. The aisles at my local Aldi are not wide enough in most places for more than one cart, which doesn’t help when I feel like people are becoming more rude by the day. The savings, though, are seriously nice!

Both my husband and I are paid bi-weekly on alternating weeks, so I TRY to print a summary spreadsheet every week for my husband. It does help, but I still feel like the numbers on the page are not really enough for him to really grasp the big picture. I’ve often toyed with asking him to start paying all the bills to see if that would help bring us onto the same page, but I’ve done it for so long I worry some bills would get missed. Any couples out there do all their bill payment together?

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17 Liz February 18, 2013 at 7:28 pm

No personal experience, but my parents split up the bills so they (at first) ended up with roughly an equal split. Rent/mortgage, gas, electric, phone, groceries, whatever… So it’s that person’s job to pay “these three” bills, and that person’s job to pay “those three” bills (however it works out). It’s also the responsibility of the bill payer to monitor expenses in that area – e.g., turning off lights, taking shorter showers, etc. to keep the cost of heating or electric down – if s/he feels they’re paying too much in a given area. They talk every now and then about things, but otherwise it’s no big deal.

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18 Barbara O February 19, 2013 at 10:35 am

About the aisles at Aldi-we used to shop at an Aldi in a neighboring town, then stopped when gas went up. Now we have a newer Aldi in our town, and the aisles are much wider. Maybe they adjusted in the newer stores?

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19 Economies of Kale February 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm

We actually have a grocery store that sells only out-of-date food. I went there once because I’d heard it was cheap but didn’t know why. I was tempted by the less than half price wraps, but then realised the were almost a year past their use-by date. I know they were probably still edible, but bread products are not meant to last that long, so with all the chemicals added they were not appealing to me.

Aldi, on the other hand, is a bit hit and miss, but has good deals on quite a few things I buy. My local one is right near a cheap fruit and veg shop, so I usually buy fruit and veg there because their stuff is fresher than Aldi and isn’t pre-packed. I wish it was closer so I could shop there every week, but I go there every couple of months to stock up!

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20 Siobhan February 18, 2013 at 9:22 pm

What Aldi needs to do is bring back my Waffernusse! Couldn’t they have it around a few times a year so I could stock up? If anyone knows of an acceptable substitute, please let me know.

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21 Barb February 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Love Aldi! We shop there almost exclusively. Sometimes we shop at Hy-Vee (midwest grocery store) for their specials.

We were paid once a month for 40 years. Every month we sat down together with a similar method that you have but we used a spiral notebook. Our tithe came out first, then we just started paying our bills. If there was anything left, we decided what to save toward. Some months those first few years, we weren’t sure if we’d eat much more that oatmeal and tomato soup. But the good thing was that we both knew how much money we had and how much our expenses were. Never fought about money, never lived beyond our means. Now forty years later, we give our tithe, pay our bills and decide what else we can give to.

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22 Kaitlin February 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Thanks so much for outlining your monthly budget review! My other half and I were just encountering some communication snafus in regards to finances, and this will be a tremendous help!

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23 Kimberly February 19, 2013 at 3:19 am

For people who want an easy budgeting system that makes it very simple to see spending trends, keep track of savings categories, and talk with your spouse about monthly income and expenses, I very strongly recommend YNAB (YouNeedABudget). I’m in no way affiliated with the company, but I’ve been using it for 5+ years and LOVE the program and the philosophy. Yes it costs money, but it’s reasonable, and the owner gives free updates (which are substantial), and then if he does a seriously major update and makes many huge improvements, he charges a partial update fee (but you don’t have to pay it if you’re happy with your current version; however, I’ve found that the major updates have features that make it worth paying). You can do a 34-day free demo, or pay $60 for the program.

http://www.youneedabudget.com/

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24 Farmer Kim February 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

Thank you for the financial communications help. It is not really that hard to do, but for some reason, we don’t do it. I keep a spreadsheet of what is coming in and out and it makes sense to just email that to my husband, along with the totals of what random things he has put on the credit card :+)

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25 Michelle February 19, 2013 at 9:37 am

When I told my friends (who lived in Germany for a number of years) that I shopped at Aldi, they weren’t impressed. Their comments were low quality and not so nice buildings. Then one day I was shopping at Aldi and who do you think I saw browsing the aisles? Seems that the dinner I cooked for them the week prior, gave them a reason to give the American Aldi’s a chance.
There are a few items I would rather buy elsewhere, but most of my groceries come from Aldi.

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26 Sharon February 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

I live with my boyfriend and I would like to know what would be the best way to divide the bills.

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27 Maria G. February 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

I agree with the post about Aldi because I have tried shopping there already. I don’t think the products they sell are out of date and inferior. Once you shop there I doubt you would ever use the words “out-of-date” and “inferior”. As for their tricks and strategies, I didn’t know it was that practical and now that I knew about it through this post, I liked Aldi even more. Since the store uses very practical strategies, I consider it the most practical place to shop.

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28 Megan February 19, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Not all Aldi’s are great. We have two in the metro area, and both are in rough parts of town. I went a few times and left empty handed every time. The produce was always poor quality, as in bruised and overripe or wilted. The rest of the store seemed to be filled with boxed and canned items. So, I understand why Aldi’s might have a bad reputation. My favorite store is Fareway (Iowa). It has a similar concept – small store & limited options, and I love it! We cook simple meals and don’t even need all the fancy ingredients. The store owners are invested in their location, for instance last year they carried the most delicious peaches I’ve had in years. I asked where they were from and he said he special orders them from a certain orchard in Missouri. It’s the small things like that make a huge difference. One other perk that I’ve appreciated is they bag & walk your groceries to your car. Only after I had a baby do I truely appreciate this service! In summary – small grocery stores are the best. :)

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29 Amy February 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

My husband and I are completely enamoured with Aldi. We have shopped there for over a year now and save on average about $40-50 a trip! We were always buying generic brands at the supermarket, so it made sense to just go to this lovely, well-maintained, SMALL store to do our primary shopping. Aldi’s philosophy on their site suggests that you’d satisfy about 85-90% of your shopping needs there, which is about right. There are certain items that we haven’t found there (like our favorite type of veggie burger, buttermilk), BUT we do regularly buy the majority of our list there, including great produce (like someone else said, just with any other place, sometimes it’s fab, other times not-so-much), meats, and specialty items like almond milk, and their always changing “special buys” – these are like treasures, that we eagerly await each week. We have cut out eating at restaurants more – because if we’re feeling like a pizza night, we pick up one of their freshly-made pizzas, or equally delicious frozen variations, of which there are many – for a fraction of the price you’d pay out….or last week I had an asian-inspired stir-fry along with an array of delicious appetizers, with their special dipping sauces. I’m more inspired with my cooking, and feel more liberty to pick up more produce and fresh foods BECAUSE I’m saving so much money. I’ll stop there….I obviously can’t say enough about how much Aldi has changed our lives. If you haven’t checked it out – go and enjoy!

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30 Jeri February 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Thanks so much for posting this answer to my question!!! I was thrilled to see it and show it to my husband. We have finally taken the steps to create a cash based system for our non-bill expenses (groceries, personal items, and household; gifts; babysitting; clothing; personal allowances). It’s just been a few weeks, but it is drastically decreasing the amount of spending to keep track of, since the cash in the envelope is what’s left for the month…not to mention really curbing our spending in general! I am now working on creating a document with the information you include in your report, in addition to an update on our debt payoff plan. I am hoping this will increase our communication about money and help us get on the same page so we can reach some of our goals!

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31 Kristin March 4, 2013 at 11:32 am

I do something similar each month, except I use an excel document. I have one column for each week (since my husband and I get paid alternating weeks). At the top, I put the previous week’s ending balance, then I add in the paycheck for the week and subtract our expenses, donations and savings. Each month I just copy the spreadsheet and create a tab for the next month. I then link the beginning balance to the ending balance from the previous spreadsheet. It takes me a few minutes each month to update but it really helps keep us on track.

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