Reasons Aldi Is Actually Better Than Trader Joe's

When Aldi announced their plans to pour $3.4 billion into opening stores in the American market, it was a huge deal. According to Reuters, the plan was partially to open new stores, partially to remodel old ones, and 100 percent to take on the well-established big guys.

What does that mean for other budget supermarkets? Business Insider says Aldi's main competitor, Lidl, slowed their projected growth in the face of this huge news. And what about cult favorite Trader Joe's? There's an even weirder thing going on here.

In Europe, Aldi is divided into two companies: Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, or North and South, and each services certain countries. Go to Ireland and the UK, you'll find Aldi Sud. Jump the Channel into France, and it's Aldi Nord. The US is the only country that has both stores, but you might not recognize them both. Aldi is Aldi Sud, while Aldi Nord goes by the name Trader Joe's in the United States. Their version of a grocery store is a little more Americanized for the consumer, and they've earned themselves a massive following. So, now that you know that, it brings us to a very important question: Why is Aldi better than Trader Joe's?

Aldi is cheaper

Getting the most of your trip to Aldi is a bit of a science. While there are some things you can get cheaper elsewhere — like meat — there are plenty of good deals there. How many? Enough that it's considerably cheaper than Trader Joe's.

Numerous places have done a side-by-side comparison of just how much a shopping trip at each place is going to cost you, and there's really no contest. Clark picked up essentials like bananas, bread, coffee, vegetables, cheese, and snacks, and when they cashed out, Aldi cost them $31.42 while Trader Joe's set them back $40.36. When Refinery 29 did the same thing, they picked out 24 items (including salted caramels, almond biscotti, and quinoa). At Aldi, their final bill was $66.96. At Trader Joe's, they forked over $91.56.

That's a big difference! They — along with Real Simple, who also did a price comparison — found that not only are Aldi products cheaper (with a few exceptions), but they're just as good a quality as what you'd expect to find on the shelves of Trader Joe's. Looking to budget a little better? Head to Aldi.

Aldi gives you a quiet shopping experience

If you're the type that just wants to get into the store, get what you need, and get out with minimal hassle, you need to go to Aldi and we'll tell you why. When OnMilwaukee headed to Trader Joe's and Aldi for a head-to-toe comparison, they were approached by no less than four Trader Joe's employees while they were there. Four! That's an introvert's nightmare, and the complete opposite of what you'll find in Aldi.

To save on overhead costs, Aldi typically only keeps a few employees on the clock at any given time. That means they're always busy, and don't have time to follow you around and pass judgement on what's in your cart. They are, however, still available if you need them, and sometimes, that's all you want.

Trader Joe's, on the other hand, purposely over-staffs their stores. They want their employees to go up and chat with customers, ask if there's anything you're looking for, and compare notes on the best way to fix quinoa. That's great for some people, but if you're not looking for a conversation and a new friend, Aldi's is where you need to be.

You'll get out faster at Aldi

When Business Insider looked at the ins and outs of shopping at Trader Joe's, one of the first things they commented on were the lines. You know the lines, the ones so long you start to worry if your phone's got less than half a charge, because you know you'll need to keep yourself occupied during the long wait somehow. They warn that if you want to be in and out, you should time your shopping trips based on when it's less busy, but that's not necessarily convenient. Where you don't need to worry about lines is Aldi, and it's not because they have a lot of slow times.

Forbes estimates that checkout lines at Aldi move about 40 percent faster than any of their retail competitors. That's because most items have multiple barcodes, making it easier for cashiers to scan them, and it's also because of their super-long conveyor belts. An entire shopping cart full of groceries can be unloaded at one time, and that cuts down on the wait, too. So skip the lines, your time is valuable.

Aldi's wine is a serious competitor

Sure, there are a lot of wine options at Trader Joe's, and there's also their infamous Two-Buck Chuck. It's not terrible but it's also not great, and price counts for something, doesn't it? But if you're looking for something more — like wine you're not afraid to put on the table at a dinner party — you can absolutely head to Aldi for some award-winning bottles at a price that isn't going to break the bank.

Aldi's wine list has pages of awards their wines have won, from organizations like the Beverage Testing Institute, the San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge, and Progressive Grocer. Aldi puts so much effort into their wines that they caused an international incident when one of their rosés took home top honors in the International Wine Challenge (via The Independent). You'll have to be quick to find that one in the US — it's not available all the time, but Refinery 29 says it's going to be a mainstay of the summer months. At only $7.99 a bottle, it's not too much more than you'll spend on Two-Buck Chuck... and you'll be getting something you'll actually look forward to drinking. 

Aldi's Special Buys are unbeatable

Grocery shopping can get a little tedious, but Aldi has an entire section of each store devoted to something that makes it potentially awesome: their Special Buys section. It's a big deal, too, and it absolutely gives them an advantage over their wayward brother.

It's hard to tell what you're going to find there, and it can be anything from garden furniture to tools, inflatable hot tubs, unicycles, and ski gear. Finds are loosely based on the season and there's a ton of market research that's done behind the scenes, but that all means they know exactly what's going to sell and when — and that's what you'll find on the shelves alongside all the regular stock.  

Aside from a vague sort of direction, there's no telling what you'll find. It's whatever Aldi stumbles across, and even they define it as "weird and wacky stuff." It's entirely possible you'll get home to unpack your shopping and find you've also bought a dart board, a meat slicer, and a garden shed, but that's all part of the excitement and the mystery you don't get at Trader Joe's. 

You'll find better produce

Trader Joe's produce is notoriously bad, so bad that people have taken to Quora looking for answers. It's not just quality, either, and The Kitchn says TJ's problems also include a lack of any real variety, their weird pricing, and their tendency to over package everything. Do you know how to get better produce? Go to Aldi.

In 2016, Aldi overhauled their entire organic line, and that included fresh produce. According to Business Insider, produce was, at the time, Aldi's biggest fault. They did such a good job revamping their line that it ended up even threatening Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's didn't have a chance. If you're worried about produce going bad, they've also got a ton of frozen and canned produce, too. Until TJ's figures out how to fix their fruit and veggies problem, Aldi has you covered.

It's super simplified, and that's a good thing

Aldi has a whole bunch of ways they pinch their pennies so they can help you do the same thing, and one of the ways they cut back on their overhead is by stocking a limited number of products. While many of their competitors stock upwards of 30,000 items, Aldi only has a core stock of 1,400 products. And that's a good thing.

Trader Joe's has an almost overwhelming amount of choices, and there's no real need for a lot of it. Sure, choice is good, but according to Slate, there's such a thing as too much choice — and TJ's has it.

Look at it this way. You know what your family likes, you know what the staples are, and Aldi stocks those core products because they've done the research to know what's in your kitchen cabinet all the time. You can go there and get everything without needing a strategic plan, or falling victim to what's called the Paradox of Choice. That's the stress we feel when we're presented with too many choices, and ironically, The Guardian says it led to UK supermarket giant Tesco downsizing, because people were fed up with — for example — their 28 versions of ketchup. Aldi? One kind of ketchup, and honestly, that's all you need. Let's make life easy where we can, right?

Your car is probably safer

Another one of Aldi's cost-saving methods has an unexpected benefit for you. How many times have you come out of a store only to find some idiot left their shopping cart in the parking lot, and it's been pushed into the side of your car? You've worked hard for that car, and it's beyond annoying, it's disrespectful.

You're probably not going to find many stray carts at Aldi, because in order to use their carts, you'll need to deposit a coin. You get the coin back when you return the cart, and while Aldi implemented that to avoid paying employees to do what customers should be doing themselves anyway, it also means you're less likely to have you car dented by a wayward cart. That's a win, and it's really not as much of an inconvenience as you might think. You have a ton of loose change in your car anyway, right?

There are some tangible environmental benefits

If you're concerned about the environment, you should head to Aldi — and here's why.

Trader Joe's branded themselves as a responsible store, but when EcoSalon took a closer look at their practices, they found there was a lot of secrecy going on there — they're notoriously mum on their sourcing info. Many of their products are just repackaged brand names, so what does that really mean for the environment?

That brings us to Aldi, where their cost-saving measures serve to also make them super environmentally-friendly. Their stores are highly energy-efficient, as they're run on state-of-the-art energy management systems that monitor their heating and cooling systems. They're even running a massive heat recovery system, and it cuts down on their heating costs — and environmental impact — by about 30 percent. Their delivery trucks are specially designed and super-efficient, too, from their aerodynamic shape to extra light tires. And, since they cut down on packaging, they also cut down on fuel, emissions, and more. It's a domino effect you can feel good about.

Aldi's return policy is twice as good… literally

A company is only as good as their return policy; after all, it says loads about how confident they are in what they're selling. When Business Insider named some of the best return policies out there, Trader Joe's was on the list. They'll give you a full refund on anything you don't like, and that's a good thing. Aldi does even better with a return policy that's so nuts it's easy think it sounds like just bad business.

They're so sure you're going to like everything you get there that they have a return policy called the Aldi Double Guarantee. Take back anything you're not absolutely thrilled with, and they'll both replace the product and give you your money back. Don't have the receipt? In some stores, that doesn't matter. In other stores, it just means you'll be getting a gift card instead of cash back, and that's still ridiculously good.