Aldi Anxiety: It's Real And You're Not Alone

Shopping at Aldi is the greatest thing since wax-wrapped cheese, or so you've heard from approximately 10 trillion people by now. Your coworkers rave about it, people are sharing their Aldi finds all over your social media, and even your mom's making regular Aldi runs. You know you're missing out, and yet ... Somehow, you just can't.

While Aldi is known for its close to rock-bottom prices and for a wide range of unique products, kind of like a discount, Eurocentric Trader Joes, there's no denying that there is a learning curve to shopping there. Perhaps you tried visiting once or twice, only to find yourself confused, disoriented, and with no idea how to actually shop for groceries despite the fact that you've been successfully navigating the aisles of Safeway and Kroger for years. You may feel as if you're the only one in the world that hasn't figured out this whole Aldi thing, but take heart! Many other people also share this Aldi anxiety.

The deal with the carts

As soon as you walk through the doors at Aldi, you're suddenly hit with that uh-oh feeling as you look around for a cart, only to find that there are none in sight. Where do they keep them? Oh yeah, weren't there some by the door? Back outside you go, only to realize they're all hooked together by this weird chain thing. And wait, what, it costs a quarter? Do you even have any change on you? When's the last time you actually used coins for anything other than scratching off lottery tickets?

Yes, there are some super-organized people that have their own dedicated Aldi quarter keepers, so they'll never be without the wherewithal to rent a cart. Those are also the people who have no trouble whatsoever figuring out where to insert said quarter and unhook the cart. You see them calmly and quickly going about their whole cart-renting business — although technically it's not really a rental, since you do get the quarter back as long as you also know how to navigate this part of the transaction. Unfortunately, you're way too embarrassed to stand close enough to see how they're doing it, and you're pretty sure you won't come up with a quarter no matter how deeply you delve into your pockets. At this point, having failed to clear this first hurdle, you may feel like giving up and driving to your usual supermarket.

It's hard to find anything on your list

Assuming you do manage to navigate the whole cart issue, or else you decide to shop cart-free, you're still likely to run into quite a bit of confusion in Aldi's aisles. Unlike most larger supermarkets, as well as the more upmarket Trader Joe's, Aldi doesn't waste much time or money on product displays. Nor are their products as well organized as you might have come to expect. What's more, Aldi can get crowded to the point of chaos, and as one Cooking Light contributor points out, experienced Aldi shoppers tend to race their carts around the store like it's "Guy's Grocery Games" meets the Indy 500.

The really disorienting part, however, may be the fact that you won't recognize too many of the brand names. The majority of the products stocked by Aldi are their own generic versions, and only true Aldi fans are well-versed in which knockoff items rival or even outdo the originals and which ones are best avoided. As an Aldi newbie, you may have absolutely no idea what's worth buying, what's worth trying, and what's best left on the shelf. It may also be difficult for you to knock off your entire shopping list in one trip, as well. While Aldi has a pretty decent selection for a store its size, it's still nowhere near the size of most major supermarket chains and there may be certain items on your list that they just don't carry.

It's nearly impossible to keep up with the checkers

If there's one thing Aldi checkers are known for, it's being super-speedy, which is one of the factors contributing to the store's low prices. If you want to know their secret, it's practice, practice, practice, and also the fact that Aldi items tend to have multiple barcodes, so the checkers don't have to waste time hunting for the proper place to scan. Turbo-charged checkers are great as long as you're the second or third person in line, but once it's your turn, it can be pretty darn stressful having them ring up all your items while you're still fumbling to get your Visa out of your wallet. (As Aldi Reviewer reveals, things used to be even worse a decade ago when Aldi didn't even accept credit cards).

It seems that keeping up with Aldi checkers isn't just stressing out shoppers in the U.S. According to The New Daily, customers in the U.K. and Australia also have trouble with this, although no-one can seem to agree on just how to deal with the problem. Some have suggested simply asking the checkers to slow down, while others say it's better to wait until they're done, then wheel your cart out of the way to bag up your groceries. Of course, this can only be done if you've managed to snag a cart in the first place, and then there's the whole issue of the bags.

The deal with the bags

Oh yes, the bags. Did we forget to mention that Aldi is also a bag-free zone? Or at least a free bag-free zone. Regular Aldi customers, those super-organized ones with their own quarter holders, would never dream of forgetting their reusable bags. If you're new to the game, though, there's a good chance you never even remembered that bags (or lack of bags) would be a problem until you were all checked out and ready to go.

Sure, you probably have a few reusable bags somewhere, we all do. They're something we buy when we see cute and/or cheap ones for sale, and then promptly forget all about them and leave them at home where they can helpfully gather dust. Even if, by some miracle, you do remember to bring a few bags with you, there's a good chance you'll leave them in the car. In this case, if you do have a cart (or the Aldi checkers take pity on you and let you borrow a spare), you can just roll your groceries out to the parking lot and load up those forgotten bags. If your bags are at home, though, you have two choices — either let your groceries bump around un-bagged for a rough ride home, or slink back through the checkout line to buy a few of the plastic bags Aldi sells for 10 cents apiece.

Overcome your Aldi issues by taking baby steps

Are all these Aldi issues hitting close to home? If you're nodding and saying, "Yes, that's why I'll never go back," Aldi Reviewer begs you to reconsider. Despite their name, they, too, were Aldi newbies once and they feel your pain. There's so much you'll be missing out on, though, if you never return to Aldi. There's the fun and festivity of German Week, there are all those amazing Special Buys, and there are new limited-time goodies introduced every week.

If you're friends with an old Aldi hand, ask them to take you shopping to show you the ropes. If this isn't possible, go on a solo expedition to scope out the territory without planning to do any shopping. On this trip, take the necessary time to figure out how the carts work, where they keep those 10-cent bags, and how the store is laid out. After this scouting trip, go home and read up on the Aldi review sites to get a feel for the best products. Then plan a time to go back when the store won't be too crowded, and remember, you can always ask the staff for help should you require assistance. Now go forth and shop — and don't forget to pick up a bottle of Winking Owl so you can celebrate taking that first step towards overcoming your Aldi anxiety!