Our grocery shopping usually works like this:

  1. Go to Aldi and get most of the stuff for super cheap.

  2. Go somewhere else for what they don’t have at Aldi.

Aldi is a German institution. It is no frills shopping. If you can’t find it, it doesn’t really help to ask the kid stocking the shelves because he doesn’t care and probably doesn’t know where it is even though he stocked it. Everything is in a cardboard box of some sort on a pallet and when that box is empty you just grab the next one under it. There are no price tags on the items themselves, no baggers, no electronic methods of payment. As of right now in Germany they only take cash. They will supposedly introduce debit card payments in 2005. They’ve been saying that for years though. It’s like vaporware. They just got electronic scanners last year. Up until then the checkers had to memorize product codes and they would type it all in lightning fast. If you can find one of those empty cardboard boxes mentioned above, grab it because there are no free bags to put your purchases in when you are done. I have no idea what they cost because I have never bought one. “Paper or plastic,” as far as I know, is a completely unknown concept in Germany. Most people bring their own bags to the store.

Like I said, the basics are usually there and whatever they don’t have, you go somewhere else for. There are some other comparable supermarkets but in the end you really only go there to get what the don’t have at Aldi.

Aldi is also the great leveler of sorts. Everybody goes there. Ladies in fur coats, guys in suits, junkies, whores and everyone in between. Not only are the products cheap but they are of pretty good quality. I know a few people who have bought the “Aldi Computer.” It and most of the other products get pretty good reviews from various consumer products groups. I can also recommend the yogurts and frozen vegetables, the Blattspinat being my favorite. The Atlantic salmon filets are also pretty good.

Oh my God. The Golden Girls dubbed into German just came on television. I’m about to Elvis the TV set.

I remember seeing Aldi in America but the only place I remember seeing it frequently (okay, twice) was in Chicago. It basically works on the same principal of super no frills shopping experience and pass the savings on to the customer.

I went to an Aldi on Chicago’s West Side once and it was pretty scary. It looked like it had just been plundered before a natural disaster was gonna strike. Everything was dented or ripped open. Wires were hanging out of the wall and ceiling. The fluorescent lights were flickering menacingly. There had to be some serious building and health ordinance violations going on there but the prices were right on. I can’t remember exactly but I think I went there for milk. In hindsight that seems pretty stupid but I lived to tell about it.

Here is more info about the founders of Aldi, Theo and Karl Albrecht (the two richest men in Germany and third in the world). Here is the page for ALDI USA.