Last September the Southern California city that I live in opened it’s first Aldi Grocery Store. Since my family had lived on the East Coast for several years, I was familiar with the brand but had never shopped in one because there was no location convenient enough. So, when my husband came home from checking it out our local store and said he didn’t understand or care for their concept, I was intrigued. I guess I’m rebellious that way. What’s the deal with Aldi stores? From what I understand, Aldi offers really great deals by cutting costs in other ways. Who doesn’t want to save money? Right? For example, you need to use a quarter to get your shopping cart and when you return the cart you get your quarter back. This saves the company money by not having an employee gather them from the parking lot, and that savings is passed on to you with great food prices. You also need to bring your own bags or they will charge you a small fee (in California, you need to bring your bags anyway as this is a law to help prevent pollution and waste). Thirdly, you will be bagging your own groceries — they only have checkers, no baggers, so be prepared for that. When I went to check it out myself, I kind of went crazy. They have a really nice selection of whole, organic, and gluten-free foods. Let’s just say that as a runner who is often watching what food I put in my body, and as the CEO of my family who is on a very tight budget, I fell in love. I always leave there for less than $100 for a family of five, something that never happens at other stores. Aldi is different from other groceries because you need to do some planning ahead, but to me it’s well worth it. They offer the foods that my family and I eat at great prices. It’s a win! I know my husband wasn’t a fan, but if I need to send him to Aldi, I arm him with the things that he needs: a quarter, a list, bags, and a conversation on what to expect so he’s not thrown off guard. When entering into an Aldi for the first time here are some of the thoughts and feelings you may experience. Don’t be surprised if you say… “Is this it?” Don’t be fooled by their limited selection of items. They don’t have an over abundance of inventory and for me personally, I like this. I guess I find the regular grocery store overwhelming at times. Too many choices makes my head hurt. If you’re like me, you will find their simple store refreshing. “Why is the checker re-loading my cart and then pushing me aside?” Don’t be alarmed. At my store there are no signs or employees explaining how their store works, they just assume you know what you’re doing. The checker will immediately place your items back into your cart and move you to a counter at the front of the store where you will bag your own groceries with your personal shopping bags. “Why are the carts attached to one another?” You will need a quarter to remove and use a cart. This eliminates the need for an employee to have to gather them from the parking lot. That cost savings is passed onto you through better pricing. When you return your cart, you get your quarter back. At my store, if you forget a quarter they will lend you one. “I haven’t seen these brands before” Aldi has exclusive brands that they make on their own through trusted manufacturers. I’m guessing that this means they are not dealing with major manufacturers and this allows them to pass the savings onto you. “What is the difference between the red and white tags and the green ones?” The red and white tags are considered “Aldi finds,’ these are not items they carry all of the time, they can be seasonal, special finds, and you should get them while they’re hot because when they’re gone, they’re gone. The green tags are for their regular “carry all of the time” items. Like regular grocers, Aldi also has products that are more processed and not so great, but they also have a huge selection of whole unprocessed foods. You just need to go in as an educated shopper (read those labels). I highly recommend that runners, or anyone trying to eat less processed foods, give this store a try. One of my favorite cookbooks to use while I’m training for a big race is Run Fast Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan which also contains a meal plan. Many of the items needed for the recipes in her book can be found at Aldi Stores. *PRO TIP–for extra savings– Before you head off to do your shopping, check the weekly flyer for items on sale and for in-store Coupons. Last week I had a $10 off coupon for any purchase over $40. The ad is sent by mail and is available online. I also have many recipes on this site that are great for fueling your training. I’ve put together a basic list of essentials HERE and some pantry staples HERE. [bctt tweet=”What to Buy at Aldi for Runners plus a Free Printable Weekly Meal Planner #Runchat #Running”] My recommended list of foods you should shop for at Aldi Seeds – Pumpkin, Sunflower, Chia, Quinoa, Hemp, there are many seeds to choose from and many contain vital Micro-nutrients and Omegas. Seeds like Chia are high in fiber, protein, and Omega 3’s. Many seeds are high in Selenium and Vitamin E.