Last year, we assembled a team of Aldi writers, photographers, and bloggers to give their thoughts on the state of the German grocer.
A lot has happened since then. Because of recent events, there’s been a spike in grocery shopping, changes in how stores do business, and state and local mandates about how and when certain businesses can operate.
In that context, we once again asked for a group of Aldi bloggers to offer their insights on the current situation.
Our contributors are:
- Rachel Singer, founder of Mashup Mom
- Betsy Steiner, founder of The Amazing Aldi on Instagram
- Rachael Johnston, co-founder and senior editor of Aldi Reviewer
So, without further fanfare, let’s begin!
Joshua: Obviously a lot is going on right now in the United States. First off — how are you doing?
Rachel: Thanks for asking! Like everyone, I’m of course struggling with social isolation and feelings of anxiety about what comes next – but, looking forward to getting through this and coming out stronger on the other side.
Betsy: So far so good. My sister came down from Kansas City so her company has really helped. We’ve been doing a lot of cooking and drinking.
Rachael: My family and I are okay. I read the warnings in the news in February and began slowly building up our supply of emergency food, and I was able to buy toilet paper while there was still plenty in stores, so we’re okay in that respect.
We are a house full of introverts, so we don’t mind staying at home, but we are greatly concerned for our world, our community, and our relatives and friends both in terms of immediate health and safety as well as long-term economic repercussions.
Joshua: What has been your general impression in recent days of the Aldi shoppers and readers you’ve interacted with? What stands out to you?
Rachel: People in my Almost All Aldi group on Facebook have been so generous in sharing recipes and suggestions with one another, and have had so many great ideas on everything from how to put together meals from pantry items to… how to keep kids from eating that entire pantry in one day.
Readers have been so supportive, and appreciative of this week’s Aldi meal plan as a spot of normalcy in turbulent times. I’m grateful that, overall, so many people are rising to the occasion and reaching out to support one another – even if that support has to be from a distance.
Betsy: I feel like for the most part Aldi shoppers have been very understanding when maybe they can’t find the item they’re wanting. Aldi employees are working as quickly as they can to take care of their customers.
It has been nice to hear about all of the feel-good stories of shoppers sharing toilet paper and just being kind to each other.
Rachael: I think Aldi shoppers are generally a good group of people. When I went to Aldi to pick up essentials, I saw people bringing their own disinfecting wipes to clean their cart handles. I noticed people trying to maintain at least six feet of space between others in the store. If someone was looking at a shelf and making a selection, others would politely stand back and wait before getting their own groceries. I heard people saying, “It’s okay. You go ahead.” With the exception of a few customers — one who was coughing a lot as he walked around the store and another who got her face right next to the cashier while questioning a charge on her receipt — most of the people I’ve seen at Aldi have been encouraging.
Joshua: Have you been in-store since the buying rush started amping up? How has it gone?
Rachel: I haven’t shopped in store since last week, but appreciated how hard everyone was working trying to get the shelves restocked, and amazed by how calm the cashiers were while dealing with the crazy lines. I did do an Aldi Instacart order yesterday, and while a few items were out of stock, I was able to restock on some badly needed fresh produce & more.
Betsy: Luckily I stocked up right before the big rush and only finally made it to Aldi a couple of days ago. Even though I know stores were having trouble keeping shelves stocked, it was still strange to see shelves so bare. Produce, bread, and meat selection were all pretty anemic.
Rachael: I visited an Aldi store on the first weekend when everyone began panic buying. I didn’t purchase anything but wanted to see what one of our local stores looked like so we could write about it on our blog. It was busy, with checkout lines stretching halfway back through the store, and the aisles were clogged with people and carts, with lots of empty spots on shelves.
I visited another Aldi store (the one mentioned in my comments above) later to buy groceries and supplies for my family. I live in a large metropolitan area with multiple Aldi stores to choose from, and I went to a store I thought might be less popular based on its location. It was not crowded, and it was easy to maintain my distance from other shoppers. Aldi had printed paper signs throughout the store reminding customers to stay six feet apart from each other. There was no toilet paper or cleaning supplies, and there were limits on some goods, but I was able to get everything I needed. I had to make some substitutions — ground beef instead of ground turkey, fat-free refried beans instead of traditional refried beans, white bread instead of whole grain white bread, chicken breasts instead of chicken drumsticks or whole chickens — but it was okay.
Joshua: What are your thoughts on how Aldi has responded to everything going on?
Rachel: I’ve been impressed by Aldi’s response, specially at how fast they’ve been able to ramp up. In just a couple short weeks they’ve: Implemented a temporary wage increase for workers, added shopping hours for seniors, are working on installing protective barriers for cashiers, and are donating an additional $1 million to community organizations.
From everything I’ve seen, Aldi has been working hard to keep in-demand items on the shelf as much as possible. I appreciate that they’ve instituted purchase limits and added additional store personnel to help restock.
I do feel that in store personnel deserve so much more for keeping the stores going, however!
Betsy: I feel like Aldi has handled this situation the best they could have. They’ve hired lots of temporary employees, given employees a temporary $2 an hour raise, and changed some store policies in order to keep employees and shoppers safe during this crazy time.
Rachael: I appreciate that Aldi appears to be looking out for its employees, giving them raises and making sure they’re fed. I’ve seen where Aldi is starting to install Plexiglass barriers in some stores to further protect cashiers and customers. Even during normal times, Aldi asks a lot of its employees but also takes better care of them than a lot of its competitors in terms of pay and benefits. I think we might be seeing that commitment at a higher level now.
Joshua: What advice would you give to shoppers as they think about navigating Aldi right now?
Rachel: Much as I love Aldi, I’d say: Limit your trips as much as possible right now; practice as much social distancing as possible and only venture out as necessary to stock up. Be mindful of other people’s space while shopping, be respectful of posted limits on in-demand items, be patient with shortages and lines, and be kind to cashiers and other employees.
Before you shop, also be mindful that your local Aldi will likely not have everything on your list in stock. What might you be willing to substitute? How can you think creatively about putting together meals for your family, when your shopping patterns and usual purchases may need to change?
Betsy: The main advice I would give to Aldi shoppers right now, and this goes for all grocery stores and really everywhere, is remember that while so many of us are safe at home, these people are keeping us fed and putting their health at risk. Be kind.
Rachael: Cut down on the number of shopping trips you make. If you can, leave the store’s first hour of daily operations on Tuesdays and Thursdays open for elderly and high-risk customers. Pack some disinfecting wipes in a baggy in your purse or pocket so you can clean your cart handles. Try to leave space between yourself and other customers. Don’t pick up random items in the store and take pictures of them to post on social media like we all used to do. Bag your groceries at your car trunk rather than using the in-store bagging counter. Maybe take a break from the Aldi tradition of passing your cart to another shopper, or at least give that person a disinfecting wipe if they don’t have one themselves. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash your hands.