Friday, April 11, 2008


Where did this come from?

The only other time I shopped at Aldi was my summer in Germany, Mainz to be specific. They had very low prices, a decent selection and you had to deposit one deutsch mark(no longer German's currency thanks to the Euro) to use a shopping cart which you got back assuming you returned your shopping cart.

I finally got the chance to shop at Aldi again on Wednesday. There is one in Anderson, SC, just a 15 minute drive away. Let me tell you, this is no ordinary grocery store. For starters, you have to deposit a quarter to get a cart. The carts are all chained together and the quarter releases the chain on your cart and then you're free to use it. Once you're done loading your groceries into your car, you have to decide if it's worth $0.25 to return the cart and get your quarter back, or let someone else do it and make earn your money. I wanted my quarter back, after all, isn't that why you shop at Aldi in the first place, to save money?

So there are no stray carts in the parking lot and no teenagers shagging carts all over the place. I'm amazed that hasn't caught on at other grocery stores. Then you enter the store and there aren't traditional shelves. It's more like Sam's or Costco where the products are kept stacked in their boxes to reduce the time workers spend stocking shelves. Second you notice that you've never heard of these brands before. Fit 'n' Active? Appleton? Happy Farms? WTF mate? And if you are trying to figure out where this stuff came from, good luck, all the box says is that it's distributed by Aldi in Batavia, IL. But it's hard to argue with the prices. 16 oz. of cashews for $4, wheat crackers for $1.79, 3 lbs. of apples for $2.49. The lunch meat had way too many scary words like pressed, chopped, cooked on it, so I stayed away from the super processed lunch meat, but got some of their cheese to try. Not too much fresh produce. Costa Rican bananas at $0.44/lb., NY apples, at least 5 different types of apples, 1 type of pears, those and the bread were the only "fresh" produce in the store. Everything else is in a box or bag. Even the fruit was in bags. I wanted to ask where all this food came from but I figure I'll wait until my next trip to see if any of their products are local or if every single item in the store is trucked in from Batavia, IL, and before that who knows?

They did have some cool German products from the brand "Duetsche Kuche" which means German kitchen. I haven't tried the Bavarian sweet mustard but the pumpernickel with whole rye kernels is the most serious bread I've ever eaten in my entire life. No wonder there are only 6 wide slices in a package. I'm sure that's more than enough whole grains to give your colon a good cleansing.

I only saw 3 employees in the store. It isn't a big store but I think that's all they need. The check out lady (my receipt said her name was Rachel) was a blur. She pulled a cart around to the end of the aisle and flew through my groceries. Out came the debit card and $53 later I was on my way. Luckily I had a debit card because the lady behind me was trying to write a check(I'm still amazed people try to pay with checks, it's the 21st century!) and was informed that they only take cash, debit cards and food stamps. Damn, dodged a bullet there, I only had maybe 2 dollars on me and as I am poor, not poor enough for food stamps. But as I'm checking out I saw that they sell grocery bags. 5 cents for a super duty paper bag, 10 cents for a super duty plastic bag and 99 cents for a frozen items bag. Fortunately I'm trying to save the planet 1 grocery bag at a time, so I had our 3 reuseable grocery bags and put all my groceries in that, returned the cart and walked back to my car flipping that shiny quarter on my thumb, saving it for another day.

I just checked Aldi's website and I didn't even see an email address so it looks like I'll have to actually write a letter to get answers to my questions. Can the manager of the local store sell local food or is that against company policy?

On the same topic of local food, we've been enjoying Happy Cow Creamery milk for a few months now. J won't drink regular store bought milk but because this milk is chemical free and super fresh and local, she can't drink enough. They say even lactose intolerant people can drink this milk because it still has the good enzymes that milk is supposed to have. We also just picked up some of their butter (sold in a 2 lb. slab) and it is by far the best butter to ever grace our vegetables and frying pans. J told me that they also sell sour cream, cream cheese and cottage cheese at their store. Whoa, I'm sold. It's supposed to be nasty and rainy on Sat. morning so maybe that will scare some people away and the store won't be as jam packed as it is usually supposed to be on Saturdays.

Now it's your turn! Take some initiative, found out if there is a farm near your house or a farmer's market and go check it out! I'm sure you will be pleasantly surprised and better yet, you'll be keeping your money in the community instead of sending it to, say, Batavia, IL or China!

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