I’m totally not surprised that you've never heard of Aldi. It’s a German discount grocery chain and it’s essentially the Jan Brady of supermarkets, overshadowed by the more famous Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Or in this case, Trader Joe's. Yeah, that.
Quick history: Karl and Theo Albrecht, two brothers, founded the stores in Europe in the 1940s and when the sibs, now-deceased, parted ways a couple decades later, the markets did likewise. Aldi’s been in the U.S. since the '70s, with nearly 1,500 stores in 30-plus states today. Plans are afoot to boost that number by 33% by the end of 2018. A new one arrives in Selden, Long Island, in the fall, raising the number there to six.
New York City boasts seven of these relatively small warehouse-style stores. The first NYC Aldi opened in Queens in 2011. Today there's one in Manhattan (my go-to store, at 117th St. and the East River), two in Brooklyn, and three in the Bronx.
Trader Joe’s is America’s favorite grocery store: survey
You might wonder, while most of my friends have food delivered by Fresh Direct or Peapod or some other service, I go clear across town — yes, on the bus — for a store specializing in high-quality house brands (haus brands?) that account for 90% of the 1,300-item inventory (a typical supermarket has 30,000). Three words: Lacura face cream.
Wide open spaces are part of the experience at Aldi.
My partner and I specifically hauled ourselves to Aldi for it in the first place. It’s good stuff. Even better, it’s less than $4. Take that Kiehl’s. Actually Aldi has pretty much everything amazing, along with a no-frills vibe — items are still in cardboard boxes — and a whiff of Euro with cashiers seated in swivel chairs while they check you out. In the end, lack of choice is actually liberating. There are more than enough reasons to keep going back.
1. Basics. A typical NYC market practically requires a second mortgage — and that's just for toilet paper. At Aldi, basics are a total bargain. Figure 40-50% off staples and everyday items, and fruits and veggies too.
2. Canned stuff. Black beans are around half a buck. Enough said.
3. Great organics. Check my cupboard — the SimplyNature low-sodium chicken broth may land me on “Hoarders.” The tortilla chips and crackers, even more.
Snacks are one of the options in Aldi organics.
4. User-friendliness. Between the wide aisles and no crowds it’s a pleasure to shop, not a pain. And you don't have to buy like you’re feeding an army — yeah, you, Costco. But bring a quarter — you need one to get a shopping cart — and be ready to bag your own buys.
5. It’s an adventure. Something new always pops up. Blue cheese-stuffed olives? Chipotle-lime salsa? Yes, and yes.
6. Aldi evolves. Like the brand new baby line of wipes, wash, formula and organic purees. I don’t have kids, but others do — and the store listens.
7. It’s not just about food. Meet my fondue pot, which I bought there before Valentine's Day.
8. The face goop — again. You have to fight smile lines from saving money on groceries.