For those who have never been inside of an Aldi store before, the German grocer’s way of doing things might come off as strange and mysterious. Using quarters to borrow a cart. Workers who do just about everything. Private label house brands everywhere. And a checkout process whose speed borders on ridiculous.
The Aldi bag scene is another novel component of the Aldi shopping experience. Unlike most American grocers, Aldi workers do not bag customers’ groceries. In fact, Aldi doesn’t give away bags at all. Where Walmart or Dollar General hand out plastic shopping bags like candy, Aldi offers no such convenience, primarily because it allows the supermarket to keep grocery prices low.
So do you have to bring your own bags to Aldi? Technically, no. You certainly can bring your own bags, and it will probably make your life easier if you do, but you don’t have to. There are other options.
The Easy Option: Buy Bags from Aldi
Not the cheapest option, but hey, it’s simple enough. Aldi may not give away bags, but it certainly sells them. Aldi offers several options at different prices, including paper bags, reusable insulated bags, or more deluxe bags from handy locations at or near the checkout aisle. Aldi also occasionally sells more robust bag options as Aldi Finds.
There’s no shame in this option, and on occasion we’re known to do it. Helpfully, these bags, even the paper ones, can typically be reused, so we do feel like we’re getting more out of them than just one trip.
The Cheapskate-With-No-Planning Option: No Bags
I’ve done this. It’s not the best option, but I’ve done it. I’ve pushed my unbagged groceries out to my car, set them in my trunk, and listened to them jostling around in the back as I’ve driven home. It’s not exactly elegant, and I don’t recommend it when anything fragile or round is involved, but it can work in a pinch, especially if you only have a few items.
The Cheapskate-With-Planning Option: No Bags, But Options in the Car
This is an underrated approach to Aldi shopping, and one we’re known to use from time to time. You fill up the grocery cart with unbagged stuff, take it out to the car … and put it in something more organized than an empty trunk. You can use a dedicated trunk organizer, which Aldi sometimes sells. You can also use something else. We’ve used laundry baskets, which do a pretty good job keeping things contained but have the drawback of being fairly heavy when full. You can also keep a stash of paper grocery bags or other reusable bags in your trunk and bag your groceries at your vehicle .
The Cheapskate Opportunist Option: Aldi Cardboard Cartons
For the most part, Aldi doesn’t do the set-the-products-on-the-shelf thing the way other stores do. Instead, Aldi rolls out all of its stuff in packaging that can be opened and set out with a minimum of fuss. That’s where you can see, say, chips or chicken fillets sitting in the cardboard cartons they were hauled into the store on.
Eventually those cardboard cartons empty out. In many stores, workers will take those cartons and toss them in a big bin, where they’ll eventually be trashed. But before then, they’re fair game, including for customers. If you find such a bin — or if you see empty cartons on the shelf — you’re welcome to them.
They come in different shapes and sizes, so there’s no guarantee you’ll find exactly what you need. You can often find something, though, that will at least help you get by. (In my experience, the gold mine are the big, deep ones that don’t have big holes in one side.)
This option is less helpful if you’re buying a lot of stuff, but for small-to-medium-sized shopping runs this can plug the gap.
What If I Want to Bring My Own Bags?
Then you can definitely do that, too. You’ll find many shoppers do just that, and there’s nothing that says they have to be Aldi bags, although many people do use Aldi bags. We’re personally not above using those amazing Trader Joe’s paper bags to pack our Aldi purchases, but you could use just about any kind of bag.
Of course, if you forget those bags, or find yourself in an unplanned Aldi trip where you didn’t pack ahead, you have plenty of options available to you!