Budgeting: Aldi vs. Name Brand Grocery Comparison

The last couple of weeks I have shown you how to cut your grocery budget without couponing, then I showed you my process by taking you grocery shopping with me. If I haven’t already convinced you, I’m going to kick it up a notch (as my spin instructor would say. P.S. – I’ve recently gotten hooked on spin, does anyone else love it?)! Anyways, I went around my local Aldi and my local grocery store, Hannaford, to show you the difference in price for some staple items. If you’re wondering how awkward it was to take pictures while grocery shopping, the answer is very, very awkward. But, it’s worth it to save you guys some money!

You’ll find that a lot of these prices aren’t that different – what’s 50 cents on a carton of milk, right? Wrong! Think about a cart full of groceries and then multiply each item by 50 cents. Those cents add up to dollars pretty quickly in the checkout line.

I started with an essential: milk. Matt and I rarely ever buy regular milk anymore, it’s almost always almond milk. Here’s what we’re saving by buying from Aldi:
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Aldi = $2.49
Almond Breeze = $2.99

Savings = 51 cents.

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Take a look at those berry prices. They are SO expensive this time of year. But, the prices at Aldi are still cheaper than the sale prices at Hannaford. I know you might be put-off by the idea of buying berries form Aldi, but they are just as good. On this particular day I bought blackberries to put in my yogurt and they lasted me all week.

Blackberries: Aldi = $1.99, Hannaford = $2.50, savings = 51 cents
Raspberries: Aldi = $1.99, Hannaford = $2.50, savings = 51 cents
Blueberries: Aldi = $2.29, Hannaford = $3.99, savings = $1.70

Really, the savings on blueberries – you cannot beat that!

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These blocks o’ cheese show that even Aldi has sales sometimes. Keep in mind, I also priced this against Hanford’s own brand – the cheapest cheese block they have in the store!

Aldi also has fancy cheese like gouda, brie, and goat cheese. Imagine the amazingly cheap cheese tray you could have at your next dinner party. Bonus points if you eat it with your pinky out.

Aldi = $1.79
Hannaford = $2.39

Savings = 60 cents

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Okay guys, Aldi only has organic spring mix–but it’s still cheaper than Hannaford’s non-organic, store-brand spring mix. I wonder how the prices are different when you compare organic to organic … hmm …

Aldi = $2.49
Hannaford = $2.99

Savings = 51 cents

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Yogurt can be a huge money suck if you’re not careful. If you were to buy one Chobani for, let’s say, six days of the week, that’s $6.54 just on yogurt for one person. No thank you. Here’s how Aldi’s greek yogurt compares.

Aldi = 75 cents
Chobani = $1.09

Savings = 34 cents per cup.

If I bought six cups of greek yogurt from Aldi, it would cost me only $4.50. That’s what I was talking about when I said those cents add up! That’s a savings of $2.50 for the week–mind blowing.

So there you have it. I hope by now I’ve convinced you that you can save money on groceries without couponing. Getting yourself organized and on track doesn’t have to be harder, just smarter. If you plan out your meals, shop at off-brand grocery stores and watch for sales you can slash away at your budget and have more money to spend on other things–like vacation. If you live in the northeast like I do, you probably need one. Get on on that, I know I am!Signature

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Save Money on Groceries: Come grocery shopping with me!

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Last week, I gave you some tips on how to cut your grocery budget without couponing. Today, I’m going to show you how I use all of those tips to make an easy and successful grocery shopping trip. I hope this helps you learn more about shoppingg at Aldi and how you can plan out your shopping trips to save time, and money. Let’s get right into it.

First, we start by making our list using my free meal planning printable. We stand in our kitchen and look through the pantry and fridge to figure out what we need for lunches to take to work and for the meals we have planned for the week. Many times, we’ll plan our dinners based on what we have in the fridge or pantry for last week that we can reuse for upcoming meals or if it’s a particularly rough week, we’ll figure out what’s cheapest based off of non-parishables we already have. Then, we grab our grocery bags and hit the road.

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Matt has impeccable handwriting.

Our first stop is always, always, always Aldi. The groceries there are so much cheaper than our local grocery store. We put a quarter in to grab a cart and we start our shopping trip.

unnamed-10We zig-zag through the isles and grab all the things on our list as fast as we can. Seriously, as fast as we can.

Here is our basket full of our weekly Aldi’s regulars.

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Our favorite items include: greek yogurt: 75 cents per cup, chicken: $7.11 for three HUGE breasts, baby spinach or spring mix: $2.49, blackberries (when they have them): $1.99, almond milk: $2.49, feta cheese crumbles: $1.99, whole grain spaghetti: 89 cents, flour tortillas: $1.19, among other things.

Have these prices swayed you yet? They should! It might seem like marginal savings compared to what you’re used to, but it all adds up. Another thing to keep in mind is that Albany has a pretty high cost of living compared to other cities I’ve lived in like Rochester, for example. The prices I’ve listed here may be lower or higher depending on your area, but Aldi is seriously worth it!

There are a lot of products that I actually like more than name brand. Friendly Farms Greek Yogurt is one example. Also, Fit n’ Active brown rice and  whole grain pasta are weekly purchases. There are so many products you can get for much less than the typical grocery store.

Once we’re done checking out and high five-ing from all the moolah we saved, Matt bags all of our groceries for us–just kidding, sometimes I help out a little, too.

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Sundays are our lazy days (other than our shopping and laundry). I’m glad he’s a trooper, because I most certainly would not let someone take a pic of me in my grocery shopping outfit and put it online. HA!

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This is Hannaford, where grocery budgets go to die. Our strategy for the local grocery store is easy: get in, get what we need and get the hell out. If you tend to linger and shop around in the grocery store, you’re going to kill your budget. It’s that simple.

It’s like going into Target for vitamins but just taking a “quick browse” by the clothes. You know it’s gonna be hard to control yourself! My biggest problem is lingering by the fancy cheeses. Fancy cheese, unless served at a fancy dinner party, is a waste of money, but for some reason, when I see the brie I start thinking of fancy salad creations that can make my lunches so much more enjoyable and probably will turn me into a more interesting person. I seriously just have to walk. a. way.

However, there are exceptions to the “no straying from your grocery list rule.”

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On this particular day, I went into the store thinking I was going to get celery and carrots for snacks at work. Then, I saw that the broccoli was on sale. So, I opted for the raw broccoli instead of the celery. No, I didn’t just buy it because it was on sale, I happen to actually really enjoy raw broccoli. YUM.

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Same thing with these tomatoes. For awhile we were buying cherry tomatoes because they were easier than cutting up whole ones and came in around the same price. But when I saw these hot house tomatoes (Does anyone know if the type of tomato makes any difference?) I got them instead because they were on sale.

Between the two of us, Matt and I have a $100 per week grocery budget, and we very very rarely spend it all–even with a 6’4″ giant to feed. Aldi can be intimidating, and it might be a pain to make two stops, but I promise you that with a little pre-planning, your wallet will thank you later.

How do you guys grocery shop to save money? I would love to hear your tips and tricks for meal planning and budgeting. Let me know in the comments or tweet me @qqquimby016 See you next time!

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Cut your grocery budget WITHOUT couponing, plus a free printable

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Okay, so I’ve come to the unpopular conclusion that couponing to save money at the grocery store is a total and complete pain in the ass. If you’ve tried and been unsuccessful, then you know how time consuming it is to collect inserts, clip, sort and then remember to take them to the store and figure out all the loopholes and math associated with being a really good couponer. For, me it just didn’t happen.

So, for about a year now Matt and I have been working on keeping our grocery budget on a “dirt cheap” status, while still eating healthy. We have got this system down to a science and it only takes us about an hour to an hour and a half per week. Total. How do we do it? Read on for six proven tips to shrink your budget, your waistline and overall grocery shopping time.

1. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan.

For real. If you’re not meal planning then you need to be. I’m not talking 100 croc-pot meals in one Sunday. I’m talking about sitting down for about 20 minutes on Sunday (or any other day of the week you choose) to figure out what you’re having for dinner each night of the week. Write it down. Then write the groceries you need in a list on the same piece of paper. This will help you realize those last minute ingredients you’ve run out of, but forgot you needed for a meal.

We have been using these meal planning sheets for the past year. Last year when I created my planning binder, this simple fix was one of the few things that stuck–because it really works. Here’s an updated version I’ll be using for 2015.

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Click to download for free!

Side note: Meal planning also keeps you from going out to eat or getting fast food at the last second. You should have everything you need for the whole week after your shopping trip, so there’s no excuse why you can’t go home and cook.

2. Make sure you have a base of go-to meals.

My parents have always told me that if I learn anything from them, it’s “live below your means.” So, listen to my parents (they’re frickin’ smart) and don’t plan meals you can’t afford. If rent is due this week or you had to make unexpected repairs to the car or the house or had to buy a bridesmaids dress for your best friend’s wedding, take this week to plan staple, go-to meals that you can make with mainly ingredients you already have. For us, that usually means pasta, general tso’s chicken (with homemade sauce), fajitas or grilled chicken and veggies. We almost always have frozen veggies, chicken, pasta and brown rice. Those are our staples. Find yours and be prepared for hell weeks. Side note: this also works for weeks when you’re busy and don’t have much time to cook.

3. Shop at your local discount store first.

Every single time we go grocery shopping, we go first to Aldi, then to our regular local grocery store, Hannaford (I’m still learning to cope without a Wegmans, sigh). Okay, so I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t you say these tips were supposed to save time? Yes, yes I did. You will save time if you meal plan ahead of time. Seriously guys, meal planning rocks.

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Aldi can be a scary place if you walk in not knowing what you’re getting yourself into. You have to pay a quarter for your cart, pull things out of boxes and off shelves (see image above), and then bag your own groceries in bags you brought yourself. But seriously, you can get groceries for half the price, and it’s not just crap either. Aldi has their own brands of health, gluten-free and natural foods. It’s rare to find name brands there, but when you do it’s a gem and the item will likely cost half of it’s regular price. Side note: Don’t be skeptical of off-brand food. I promise you, it’s the exact same thing. It really is. It’s all in your head that it tastes funny. I promise that if you give it a shot, by the time you get to check out you will not care that your tortilla chips aren’t Tostito brand.

Buy everything you possibly can on your list from your local discount store first and save what they don’t have for the more expensive store. Just be sure to double check produce and check expiration dates, it’s usually okay but sometimes you won’t get the freshest stuff.

4. Only buy what’s on your list.

Since you’ve planned out your week and know exactly what’s required for each meal, you shouldn’t need to buy anything that’s not on your list unless it’s an ingredient you missed. Period. No exceptions. Stick to the list and your wallet will thank you.

5. Eat before you grocery shop.

This is the oldest trick in the book, but it really makes a difference. If you go into the store on an empty stomach, you’re likely to grab the first thing you see that you can easily stuff your face with the second you get home. That would be breaking rule #4, so just don’t do it.

6. Don’t buy something if it’s too expensive.

Shop for groceries like you shop for clothes. If you really want it, but it costs way more than it should, just don’t get it. It’s January, but you really want it to be July, so you’re really craving that $6 container of strawberries. Don’t do it, girl. Wait for a special or for your coveted item to pop up in your local discount store (Aldi has off-season produce every few weeks or so). Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and sing “Let It Go” to yourself quietly. You’re not going to die without it.

Follow these six simple rules and you’ll be one step closer to financial fitness in the new year. I hope you find it helpful! Let me know! Is there anything I missed? Tell me in the comments below or tweet me @qqquimby016. Also, let me know if you’d like to learn more about Aldi, their products and how I meal plan with my favorite Aldi items. Until next time!Signature