This post was sponsored by ALDI as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I love when a new grocery store comes to town! ALDI has expanded in to the West Coast and I couldn't be more excited. There has been a quiet anticipation for months as opening dates were leaked and articles began appearing in the papers explaining why this store is different from the others. While my closest store is about 25 minutes away, it happens to be right around the corner from my mom's house which means I will have tons of opportunity to shop there. So you know I had to check it out. The stores are much smaller than most grocery stores. I was worried that they would only carry the very basics and you'd be forced to finish your shopping somewhere else. But that was not the case at all! Since I entertain often, I decided to see if I could put together a nice spread for having friends over. There is nothing worse than picking up most of your items and having to make an extra stop for those last few things. That wasn't the case at all!
I was able to put together a delicious, easy menu with the great items I found at ALDI. They have a mix of brand names and private label products. I mostly tried to grab their private label items so I could taste test them. But I was SUPER excited to find my favorite party drinks, like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc and Winking Owl Chardonnay, on the shelves as well! And for less!
The thing about ALDI stores is that they save you money. By doing things a little bit differently than the other stores, they are able to keep costs low. But it also doesn't feel like a “budget” store. Here are a few things you should know before you go:
•Bring a quarter to get a shopping cart. To encourage shoppers to put the carts back after they take their groceries to the car, and therefore not have to pay an employee to do that, you must bring a quarter. The quarter unlocks the cart so you can use one during your shopping trip. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This is not a big deal except, if you are like me and use pretty much only my debit card for shopping, quarters may not be easy to find. Just plan ahead and make sure you have one or keep a few in the car!
•Bring your own bags. The store doesn't have bags. So unless you want all your groceries rolling around the back of you car, bring your own bags. I had forgotten to bring some from home so luckily I was able to swing by my mom's house and borrow some from her. I brought 4 and didn't quite fit everything in. Again, leave them in your car so you don't end up with apples all over your car!
•It isn't stocked like the other stores. When I first heard about the store they talked about how the shelves wouldn't be stocked. In my head I pictured boxes stacked on boxes on the ground and it felt really yucky. But that is not the case at all. You can see from the photo above that although the shelves aren't “stocked” like a usual grocery store, it is still nice looking and easy to shop from. By buying from this easy-to-shop food market, you can save up to 50% on your grocery bill with high quality products (based on a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores).
•Shop the private label. I know some people have a block against buying off brand items. But all of the private label items we've tried have been amazing. Slightly different from the original, but fantastic. Maybe even better! My youngest loves their store brand Toaster Tarts better than the original brand. And their Clancy's Crispy Corn Chips are a little lighter and flakier. Yum! 90% of the groceries ALDI sells are ALDI-exclusive brands plus they offer the SimplyNature® line which includes USDA Certified organic and Non-GMO verified items, liveGfree® gluten-free products, USDA Choice meats and NeverAny! Products that are free from added antibiotics, hormones and animal by-products.
•No frills. The focus of the ALDI stores is not on elaborate in-store displays or a ton of flashy sales. All of those things drive up the cost of the foods in the store. To pass along the savings to their customers, they keep things low-key and focus on quality products that everyone can afford. This doesn't mean the store won't look good. In fact, I really liked the design and thought the store looked really nice. They offer weekly specials which you can check out prior to your trip on their website or pick up a flyer in store. While each department isn't huge, they have all the basics and a few extras. The cheese department had all the convenience, pre-shredded cheeses plus blocks and specialty types. I picked up a Priano Parmesan (because, yum) and a Happy Farms Pepper Jack since I knew my little guy would like it. They have a bunch of other, more interesting options, to choose from too. They even had Happy Farms Cheese Curds! They have a nice selection of lunch meat and other packaged meats like this Lunch Mate Salami. If you don't make it to any other department prior to having guests over, the refrigerated cheese and meat area is your best bet. You can create a great charcuterie board for not a lot of money at all. I also found Simm's Teriyaki Beef Jerky (OMG so good!) elsewhere in the store so I picked that up too. It was the perfect sweetness to pair with the salty parmesan. I picked up 3 kinds of crackers to serve with the cheeses. One version I picked up were Specially Selected French Baguette so it would have been really easy to make them in to another kind of appetizer or even serve bruschetta. They tasted homemade!
Savoritz Crackers – $1.99, Specially Selected Pita Crackers – $1.99, Specially Selected French Baguette – $1.99, Happy Farms Pepper Jack Cheese – $2.79, Priano Parmesan Cheese – $3.79, Lunch Mate Salami – $3.49, Simm's Teriyaki Beef Jerky – $3.99, Simply Nature® Blueberries – $1.49, Simply Nature® Strawberries – $3.78
The cashier told me that not all stores have a wine department, but luckily the California stores do. AND THEY CARRY MY FAVORITE BRAND, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc! For about $4 cheaper than the grocery store by my house! Sorry to yell at you but I was not expecting to find it there and it was a decent price! I buy Tejava Premium Iced Tea pretty frequently as well. I LOVE iced tea and like to sip it while working on warm afternoons. But I also like to keep it on hand for entertaining. While making your own is great, it's just another thing to have on your to-do list before guests arrive. Tejava is delicious and super easy.
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc – $12.49, Tejava – $1.29
Fresh flowers are a great way to welcome guests to your home. ALDI had some pretty arrangements but I was sold on this pretty pink color. This rose bouquet was $8.99. I added the perfect touch to the table. I browsed the store for things that would satisfy my sweet tooth. There is a great ice cream section in the freezer area which I will be checking out further in the future. There is plenty of fresh fruit, at great prices, (I served fresh strawberries and blueberries as part of my snack spread) that I could have turned in to something yummy. But I came across these specialty cookies and couldn't resist. Pizzelle cookies are kind of like waffle cone cookies and are SO GOOD and nobody can resist a speculoos cookies (also known as cookie butter…). Not many people know about them but everyone loves them so they are a great treat to have for your guests.
Specially Selected Vanilla Pizzelle Cookies – $2.99, Benton's Speculoos Cookies – $1.89
ALDI stores make summer entertaining so easy but also affordable. I was able to put this spread together for under $60. And I'm pretty sure that no one would turn their nose up at these snacks. I couldn't help but pick up a few extra things while I was in the store. I grabbed a bottle of Specialty Selected 100% pure Maple Syrup because it was a great price at $6.49. I got a Stonemill Essentials Spice Grinder for seasoning steaks for $1.89 and picked up gallon and quart size Boulder Storage Bags for $1.99 each. We were also out of Belmont Premium Popsicles so I got a box of 24 for $2.49.
My cashier was super friendly and nice. To check out, you unload your groceries as you would in any grocery store. But once the groceries have been rung up, they are put right back in to your cart. From there, you move over to a counter area to bag your own groceries. This is no biggie at all but I can imagine on a super busy day it might get a little crowded. I bagged my yummy finds, loaded them in my car and returned my cart to be reunited with my quarter again.
I can't wait to go back soon! But for now I'm all set for my easy summer entertaining thanks to ALDI! ALDI has opened 25 stores in Southern California. Check out the ALDI site and Facebook page to see the latest updates on grand openings! Do you have a store close to you? What are your favorite things to buy there?