Shortly after I graduated high school, a group of seniors went on a missions trip to Germany and France, which I was a part of. On our way out of Germany, several of us wanted to by chocolate to take home for souvenirs. Assuring us that he knew of a great place to buy candy, our chaperon led us to a nondescript store practically on the border of Germany. I scoffed with the others over its generic looking merchandise and "plain Jane" appearance, but bought my chocolate anyway, at quite a good price. Little did I know that I had been introduced to ALDI, a chain of grocery stores that originated in Germany, founded and initially operated by brothers.
Since its beginning, the company has split into "north" and "south" divisions in Europe, with the "south" division opening stores in the US in the 70s. The full story of the company is quite interesting, and a pretty comprehensive history can be found here, if you're interested in that type of thing. Basically, the brother's philosophy was to sell a limited inventory with little money spent on advertising costs. The principles that the stores have come to operate by are kind of unique in the United States, but not that uncommon in Europe, such as having to enter and exit the store a certain way (there's pretty much a "one way" flow to Aldi stores), bring your own or pay for grocery bags, sack your own groceries, and limited options for paying (cash, debit, or food stamps--and I hear some stores in the US only take cash!).
Aldi has very few name brand items, most of which are "special buys," which means that they are not a part of their regular inventory, and usually only available for a limited time. They do have a few name brand items that are regularly available, like a few brands of candy bars at the check out registers, but off the top of my head, that's about all I can think of! Almost everything in the store is an Aldi "store brand." Aldi claims that they have the same suppliers as many national brands (you can check out the US home page here) and I wouldn't doubt that; almost every product I've bought from Aldi has been as good or better than its name brand counterpart.
There's a lot of things I really love about Aldi, but one of the most important reasons it has become my main grocery store is the convenience factor of shopping there. With a limited number of products, I don't have the distraction of choosing something! For example, if I'm looking for saltine crackers, there is only ONE kind of saltine crackers. There's not low fat, low salt, fat free, whole wheat, mini, mega, etc, etc, there's just saltine crackers. Or canned tomatoes. Aldi has tomato sauce, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes. That's it. Not a hundred different kinds of canned tomatoes that I need to search through and agonize over what to buy. With a list in hand, and even with three children in tow, I can be in and out of Aldi in less than an hour. Without kids, it's easily an half hour trip.
Don't worry, there will be more to come on the gloriousness that is Aldi in the near future, but for now, if you've never been to Aldi before, give it a try. Go in and buy milk and bread, and try it out. Instead of spending $7, you'll spend $4. And for your first trip, you won't even have to worry about a quarter for your shopping cart or bagging your own groceries. Now that's worth it, in my opinion!!!
Next up....my Aldi Adventure RULES!!!!