Aldi Anxiety Is Real. Here’s How to Overcome It.

Aldi anxiety

So it begins.

Imagine you’re a first-time shopper to Aldi in, say, 2010. This is what your experience might have been like.

You arrive at the store and park in the lot. You approach the store to grab a cart, but you realize the carts are all hooked together by odd red devices you’ve never seen before. Eventually you notice that people are putting quarters into the devices, but you didn’t bring any quarters, so you enter the store without a cart.

You find yourself in the first aisle, and you look around. None of the brands look familiar. There are no Doritos, no General Mills. Instead, you see Clancy’s, Millville, and a host of other names you’ve never heard of. Are they any good? You have no idea.

You start looking for the things on your list. (You can’t carry much, because you don’t have a cart.) The aisles don’t have markers, so you don’t know where anything is located. Even though the store is small, you roam around aimlessly, because you’re not sure where to start. You grab a few things — again, you don’t know if they’re any good because you’ve never heard of them — and head for the checkout, where people are paying up.

When you reach the cashier, you realize that the cashier is not only not bagging your groceries, but you don’t see any bags at all. You look around frantically and notice there are some under the checkout conveyor, but they have price tags. Do you pay for them or not? You don’t have much time to decide, because the cashier is so fast that you have to move, and you can feel the pressure of everyone behind you. So you pass on buying bags, figuring you can drop it all in your trunk.

You reach for your credit card to pay … and the cashier apologetically notes that they don’t take credit. You rummage through your wallet, wondering if you have enough cash on hand. (You’re in such a hurry that you don’t think to ask if they take debit.) You pay up and drift out of the store in a daze.

As you get to the car, you feel like you’ve just been to another planet, and it wasn’t fun. In fact, the thought of going back in there feels like enough of a chore that you’re not sure you need to do that again. Walmart will work just fine.

It’s important to note that a couple of things have changed since 2010. Aldi now accepts credit cards, for example, and in remodeled stores aisles are more likely to have some markers. But some of Aldi’s other unspoken rules remain, from the quarter system at the beginning to the lack of free bags at the end. If you’ve never shopped at Aldi before, it’s just different enough that you might decide it’s not worth the bother.

Now, chances are, there are going to be some readers who say, “Seriously? Aldi is just like any other grocery store except that you need a quarter for the cart, and you get your quarter back when you bring the cart back. Plus you have to bag your own stuff. It is really that simple. Why does anyone think it is complicated?”

If that’s you — if you think Aldi anxiety isn’t a thing, and you think anyone who suffers from it is silly or stupid — feel free to stop reading right now. This article isn’t for you.

But if you have been to Aldi, and you decided the experience was too weird or stressful and you decided you weren’t coming back, read on. Because I have good news: although Aldi is a little weird, it’s very possible to overcome the weirdness and become an Aldi pro.

I know. Because, long before I helped to co-found Aldi Reviewer, I was one of those people who vowed never to set foot in an Aldi again.

My First Trip

I remember the first time I visited an Aldi store. It was back in the early 2000s, and my local regional grocery chains were in the middle of a bitter labor dispute with their workers. Employees picketed outside the stores and replacement workers struggled inside. It was a messy situation, and for a number of reasons I decided to avoid it. So I went to an Aldi just down the street from my apartment.

It was like landing on Mars. From the moment I walked up to the locked carts, to the moment I tossed my mysteriously labeled foods into the trunk, everything about the experience was foreign and stressful, not unlike the scenario I described above. It was bad enough that I determined, then and there, that I’d rather deal with the labor dispute.

So what changed? How did I go from being a guy who walked out of Aldi for the first and last time to the guy who writes about Aldi?

A few things. And I think those things offer a roadmap to anyone who is looking to overcome any potential Aldi anxieties.

Tip #1: Get a Guide

In the mid-2000s, I met a girl, and we got married. She was an Aldi shopper, like her mother before her. When she went to Aldi, she took me in tow, and that made all the difference. I watched her pack bags into the trunk, pop a quarter into the cart, steer to the aisles she needed, and pay with a debit card at the end. She knew what Aldi brands she liked and didn’t, and she knew what the store stocked and didn’t stock. We were in and out with a minimum of fuss.

If you’re dealing with Aldi anxiety, there is no better remedy than to tag along with an Aldi pro. I know it might feel a little strange asking someone to help you out, but if you come at it from the perspective of, “I’ve never been to Aldi, could you show me the ropes,” a good friend isn’t going to hassle you about it. This is the first, best way to do it.

Tip #2: Go on a Scouting Expedition

If you don’t have a friend to walk you through Aldi — or even if you do — a second option is to take a scouting trip to Aldi. By scouting trip, I mean this: don’t buy anything. Seriously. Just wander around the store. Look at things. Poke around. No one is going to care, I promise you. Aldi employees are way too busy — and Aldi shoppers way to occupied with their lists — to give you trouble. Getting the lay of the land is a surefire way to make the unfamiliar more familiar.

Tip #3: Read Up

The core of our work here at Aldi Reviewer is to provide a comprehensive look at all things Aldi, from shopping tips to product reviews. If you want a guide to going to Aldi for the first time, we’ve got that. If you want some general dos and don’ts for Aldi, we’ve got those. We can help you figure out what payment types Aldi accepts, or how to deal with the checkout line, or what products we like and don’t like, or how to make sense of the Aldi ads.

And if you still have questions, our articles have places for comments.

Tip #4: Ask for Help

If you’re in the store and you’re confused, don’t panic. There is help. In my experience, Aldi workers are helpful people, and they’ll answer your questions. I’ve also found other Aldi shoppers to be friendly and helpful: they can assist you in finding what you’re looking for, and they may even be able to tell you if they have experience with a product. I’ve done my share of asking — and my share of answering, too — and that makes everyone’s lives a little easier.

Final Thoughts

I can understand why a first-time trip to Aldi can lead to some anxiety. It’s different than other stores. But I hope this post offers some useful tools on how to make you feel less anxious. And if you have any positive advice of your own, feel free to leave it in the comments.

About Joshua

Joshua is the Co-founder of Aldi Reviewer. He is also a writer and novelist. You can learn more about him at


  1. I find very few items that we do not like. Most notably being the knockoff Cheesits. Also disappointed with the apple cider donuts currently on the shelves. Oddly enough I find many items in the aisles for kitchen and clothing items that change weekly. Also love the variety of cheeses in the dairy area.

    • I think the Savoritz Baked Cheese White Cheddar crackers have excellent flavor. The box states they are made with real cheese. There are two other flavors that in my opinion are not as tasty. Unfortunately, it only comes in a large 21 ounce box, so there is no option to buy a small box to try it out.

  2. I also love the variety of cheeses, and their eggs and bacon are also good. Sometimes they have grass-fed, grass-finished meat at a good price and organic butter is a better price than most stores. The cauliflower crust pizza is great. After you shop in Aldi’s for a while, you do find some favorites and it’s a neat store to walk around in.

  3. Aldi pro here, now happily orienting a relative to the Aldi in her (now my new) neighborhood. Like others, I am delighted with the variety of cheeses. Other favorites: chocolate, wild-caught salmon frozen into individual portions. She likes organic food, so I’m glad to see free-range eggs. My only gripe (and it’s a small one) is that my new Aldi hustles away the empty cartons as soon as they are vacated, so I have to remember to bring shopping bags and can’t count on a wide choice of cartons to sort my groceries into.

  4. LOL.. you should have seen it in the 1990’s… it was so awful. Like a Soviet era clearinghouse. Thankfully, those days are gone, and we can enjoy the AOS and all of the other goodies Aldi has to offer. Love that I can purchase good quality cheeses and meats for my holiday charcuterie boards without spending a hundred dollars.

  5. I love the fact that many items are imported from Germany and other countries. The chocolate selection is excellent and the chocolate ice cream flavor “Make Fudge, Not War”, is the best I’ve found anywhere. Also, very good are the butter cookies with chocolate covering. (You can probably tell I’m a chocoholic!). One thing I’m missing is the German desert item, quark. I’ve read some stores carry it but ours doesn’t. Oh, well, I’ll keep hoping………

  6. Back in the Aldi’s earliest years in the U.S.A., the stores had primitive cash registers without a product scanner. There were no price tags on the merchandise items, so the cashiers had to enter their prices from memory. You got an approximately two inch wide receipt that gave very little information about what a given purchase item was. The stores were much smaller than their current size.

  7. Yes indeed – it does take a bit to get used to! My first shopping trip was maybe back in the early 2000’s. Very odd store concept and I really didn’t like the food I purchased. First and last time! Last year my son’s wife actually talked me into trying it again and I did. Still an odd concept but I shopped with an open mind. Now after a year I’m a Aldi shopper. Even talked my younger brother into going – and he loves going as well. The staff is always friendly and other shoppers seem to be easy going and courteous. Never ever too crowded. And I enjoy their brands and definitely save money. This website is full of useful information. I read it almost every week. Great advice for the new shopper. Thanks for all you do!

  8. I laughed out loud when I rad Josh’s description of a first trip to Aldi circa 2010. Spot on! I can add two other memories from my first encounter of the wierd kind: Just about everything in the store was peeking out of cardboard boxes stacked up shoulder high from the floor. Several varieties of the same product might be jammed into each box… so finding the exact version of something you wanted was really a challenge. And right in the middle of the store was this wide aisle of… you name it, everything from kitchen gadgets to socks to lawn planters. Truly a wtf moment. After this first trauma, it was several years before I returned to Aldi. But then the old one closed and a brand new one was built within walking dustance from our house. I decided to give them another chance, and suddenly, Aldi became our Go To store. It’s been years now and we don’t know what we’d do without Aldi, quirkiness and all.

  9. My local Aldi’s is beyond wonderful.

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