the aldi effect

I have the taste buds of a six-year-old.

I lived on pizza, nachos, eggs, and cereal for the last several years before I married the Picture of Health (aka Chris) who started conning me into eating things like asparagus and beef and broccoli and oranges and–what is this thing you call coffee?

I won’t divulge the details but when my sister opened my fridge last year and said, “You eat like a dude,” it might have been because the only things in my apartment were milk, bread, and a raspberry lambic.

Hey, girl’s gotta eat.

Needless to say, my palate is undoubtedly woefully underdeveloped. At the very least, I am no foodie elitist.

Which is why I am perfectly happy shopping at Aldi. I know some people can’t do this, but for those of us who are just lucky to make it through breakfast without burning our toast, Aldi is just fine by us.

It’s also the Kohls of the food world. You know how you go to Kohls and by the time you’ve finished shopping, they’re actually paying you to take their clothes?

That’s Aldi.

But with grapefruit for fifteen cents a piece.

I love wandering through the fancier grocery stores in St. Louis, looking at lobsters marching around in tanks and dreaming of dinner parties with forty-two different kinds of cheese perfectly paired with wine. And I could probably bring myself to shop at one of those stores if I really tried. I’m confident the $8 cloves of garlic would be well worth it. Eventually. But I don’t like spending money on groceries. Or gas for my car. I mean, you spend it and then you eat it (or drive it), and it’s just . . . gone.

With nothing to show for it.

If I’m going to spend $100 on something, I want it to be–oh, I don’t know–a new KitchenAid mixer attachment.

Or a goat.

Or . . . something.

But there’s another thing too: People at Aldi are considerate.

I’ve never gone more than a month of bi-weekly shopping at Aldi without witnessing someone vocation-ing it up Lutheran style and caring for their neighbor. A couple of years ago, as I approached the cashier, she plopped a bouquet of flowers in my hand. “That’s from the little old lady a couple customers ahead of you,” she said. “She saw you eyeballing them and wanted you to have them.”

Last month, as I was headed toward the quarter-operated grocery carts, a middle-aged man approached me with his cart in hand. “Got a little sister?” he asked. As I tried to determine whether or not he was a creep or just inquisitive, he said, “Keep your quarter, and give this one in your cart to your little sister to put in her piggy bank.”

This winter, a mom and her two young kids stood by the door, their groceries packed in their cart. While I bagged my groceries, three different customers stopped and asked if she needed something. She’d locked her keys in her car, and while the police were coming to help her unlock it, a mom, a 60-ish looking man, and an elderly woman all still stopped and asked if they could help.

Today, as I started to unload my cart, a young college student got in line behind me with bread and Gatorade in her hand. “Why don’t you go ahead of me?” I said. “By the time I unload all of this asparagus and beef and broccoli and oranges,  you’ll be four years older.”

The gal the next line over laughed at hearing this, and as I continued unloading my cart, I heard her turn to the grandpa behind her and say, “You go ahead too. With all this food, I’ll be here a while.”

I’m not sure what is about Aldi: whether the people who shop there are, in large part, scraping to get by and so they know the value of a helping hand better than most. Or maybe because the building itself is smaller and because everyone’s crowded in more than normal, we’re all forced to get along. Or perhaps its because . . . aw, heck if I know.

But for my hundred bucks and for the girl who really can’t tell the difference between H-E-B and Aldi, between Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, I’ll take the kind gesture of flowers and the sick college student any day.

With a plate of nachos and a raspberry lambic on the side, thankyouverymuch.

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16 thoughts on “the aldi effect

  1. I enjoy cooking good food and yes, sometimes I can be a slight food snob. That being said, Aldi is my grocery store. They have great goat cheese, duck, lamb (seasonally) and real chocolate. I think people are so nice there because we haven’t all been exhausted by trying to choose which condiments to buy since you only have one or two options. All that decision making in other stores zaps my energy and civility.

  2. Aldi is a German company. That’s how it is in Germany. Really. They’re making us into Germans. A polite, helpful, considerate and orderly society. Danke schön Aldi. (Trader Joe’s is the other Albrecht brother -an Adidas/Puma story)

  3. I would say that about 80% of the time I go to Aldi, someone offers me the cart and tells me not to worry about the quarter too. Love it there.

  4. I think you can eat well and shop Aldi, too. 🙂 Although, I do have to stop at HEB for the tortillas (they are cheaper there and better tasting). Aldi people are really nice. The cashiers often ask about my kids as they ring up my stuff. It is amazing how fast they are and how they still manage to be very polite.

    • Are goats difficult? Do they really eat tin cans? If I get a pair, will I regret it? These are the things I wonder about.

      • Lol no, they don’t eat tin cans. They do like to chew on stuff, though, like your clothing while you are trying to clean their pen, so that’s probably where they get that reputation. Actually, I do love my goats! The main challenge with them is keeping them IN but good fencing takes care of that. You just can’t cut corners. (“If it don’t hold water, it don’t hold goats!”) And you generally want separate pens for bucks and does, so you can control breeding times. If you ever want to know more, message me and I’ll tell you what I know! I started with two does several years ago. I just keep them for our own dairy use and, of course, entertainment. They are FULL of personality!

      • My experience was that goats go for the label glue on cans and so they tear at them. Not so much now a days. But that was the reason years ago.

  5. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s (never been inside either of them) better watch out. Aldi now has organic spinach. Now the only thing missing is natural peanut butter.

  6. We shopped at Aldi when I was growing up. When I moved to CO, I missed it terribly. Wish we had them in Wyoming. My mom still tells me all the stories of the people she meets there, especially when she meets a frazzled parent with a talkative 5 year old girl as she can relate 🙂

  7. I’m fairly certain there is no such thing as a part-time cashier at Aldi. I believe they’re all full-time, and believe you me, they’re the BEST cashiers in the business.

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