Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Aldi Can Cut Your Grocery Costs

First of all - this is my first Frugal Fairy post in a long time. Pretty much since before Christmas. Which is sad.

However it is probably because I am pregnant! So I've had other things on my mind besides writing blogs.

But don't worry - with being a mom comes more opportunities for me to blog about things. And I promise I won't ONLY blog about mommy things.

So, onto my post....

The other day while I was shopping at Aldi, I thought to myself "gee, why don't more people shop here?". Then I also thought "gee, why don't more grocery stores adopt the Aldi model?"

So here is a user's guide to Aldi, for those of you who have never been:

  1. Bring a quarter: The first thing you'll notice when you arrive at Aldi is that you have to lend a quarter to get your shopping cart. Actually, because of this one of the first things you may notice at Aldi is that there are no rogue buggies roaming the parking lot searching for cars to dent. In order to get a cart, you must deposit a quarter into a little contraption. But don't worry, when you return your cart you will get a quarter back...not your same quarter, but a quarter still.
  2. BYOB (Bring your own bags): Aldi was green before green was trendy. To keep costs down for you, Aldi does not provide you or supply you with any bags. Whatever you put into your cart will ultimately end back up in your cart, just like that. It is up to you, the customer, to provide bags and bag your own groceries. Yes, you are cutting out the "luxury" of a bag boy/girl - but then you can package your groceries any way you want to! I bring my own bags from home. However Aldi does have paper bags (for 5 cents I believe) and sturdy, reusable plastic bags (for 10 cents). You can also often find leftover packing boxes up front that are there for your use as well.
  3. No fancy shelves: Just to properly forewarn you, Aldi has no frills once inside. Most of the products are placed on a few shelves or are merely in boxes on pallets on the floor. You may get more of a discount/warehouse vibe from Aldi - but that's fine for me!
  4. Limited selection: Let me also forewarn you that you probably will not be able to buy all of your groceries at Aldi. Aldi has a limited selection of items. Mostly what I would consider staples. You can purchase things like flour, sugar, cooking oil, milk, eggs, etc. at Aldi. Most products tend to be of an off brand (Aldi brand) but are of good quality. Every once in a while they will have "special purchase" items that might be of a brand (lately I saw Easter candy, including Cadbury and Nestle, just to name some brands). But I wouldn't count on it every time.
  5. Bonus Perk 1: Since Aldi is a Europeon based company, some of the foods they carry are actually imported. Aldi has some AWESOME chocolate there. Some of the stuff is ridiculously cheap but comporable to many imported chocolates I've found for much more money!
  6. Bonus Perk 2: I tend to think that people (shoppers and staff) are actually a lot more friendly at Aldi. Almost every time that I have been to Aldi, someone in the parking lot has offered to trade me a quarter for my buggy so I didn't have to return it and they didn't have to "check one out". Other shoppers pretty much always slide down/provide/place the courtesy bar/divider between groceries. At other stores I generally have to ask. But at Aldi, most of the time someone will pass it down. I also think most Aldi's allow their check out clerks to sit on stools instead of standing on their feet all day. I personally know that would make me a happier employee - so I'm assuming that's why I encounter so many happy ones!
  7. Best Perk: The prices are incredible. I went the other day and bought and entire cart filled to the top with staples such as cereal, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, milk, eggs, bread, english muffins, fresh veggies, canned veggies, juice, cheese, cream cheese, biscuits, hamburger patties, roasting meat, frozen pizzas, sherbert, microwave meals, soups, and more and spent a total of $93! No coupons necessary either. I know for a fact that had I shopped for these items, even at a discount place like Walmart, I would have paid at least $140 for the same items.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Frugality = Compromise

Happy New Year!

As you are making your New Year's Resolutions (I try not to make any because I never keep them), you may be making one to be more frugal this year.

As someone who lives a pretty frugal lifestyle already, I have one piece of advice for those who are looking to spend less: You HAVE to be willing to compromise.

There is a simple equation here: The pickier you are, the more something is going to cost you (both in time and money).

For example, let's say you're going on vacation. You need to book a flight. If you say "I want to leave at exactly this time on exactly this day and have no connecting flights" you are going to pay an arm and a leg. However if you say, "I can leave at ANY time on this day or maybe leave a day earlier, and don't mind an extra connecting flight" your price can drop dramatically. In making travel plans myself, I've seen my airline ticket fee drop $1,000 just by being flexible with my arrival, departure, and specifics.

Let's say you want to get a dog. You can be very specific and say "I want a tea cup yorkie that is AKC" and pay an arm and a leg from a "breeder" or you can say "I want a small dog" and get one at a rescue for a small adoption fee (and my local rescue actually includes the first set of shots AND getting spayed or neutered). You'll pay much more for your specific breed of dog than a rescue dog. Or you can have the best of both worlds and get your dog from a specific breed rescue! (Getting on my soap box here: I encourage everyone to look at rescues first. There are so many wonderful dogs sitting in rescues or in the pound that are loving and just need a place to go. All of my pets have been from rescues and they are phenomenal! Breeders only contribute to the current cat/dog overpopulation situation. Stepping down from soap box.)

Let's say you want to try out a new restaurant. You can go on a Friday night and order off their dinner menu and get some drinks and pay out the wazoo. Or you can maybe go at lunch (if they serve) and order something at a cheaper price and maybe forego the drinks! Bonus: It probably isn't as crowded at lunch.

Money aside, learning to be flexible can also win you brownie points in the customer service area. Many times when something doesn't go exactly as planned at a hotel, restaurant, etc. the staff approaches you as if they expect you to get mad and be furious and demand things. Recently I went to lunch with a friend. She ordered a chicken ceaser salad. When she got the salad, it didn't have any chicken on it. She politely asked the waiter if it was supposed to have chicken on it. He sort of freaked out and apologized profusely and said he'd get the chicken. Well, he forgot it and she went ahead and started eating the salad. When she was almost done, he came back and apologized again. She wasn't angry, just said "I'm ok. It's no problem as long I am not charged for it." He then went to his boss and got them to take off the entire entree. She wasn't mean, she wasn't demanding. She was sweet and flexible. And because of that, they took off the entree and then came back and offered dessert and extra service on the house.

Learning to compromise on certain issues will help you spend less over time.