When we were first laying the groundwork for Aldi Reviewer years ago, I did a lot of research into the Aldi blogging landscape. At the time, I was most struck by the fact that nearly all of the talk about Aldi either came from 1) mom blogs, 2) foodie blogs, 3) obscure international message boards, or 4) Aldi itself. That landscape has expanded since then, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that the first two groups still love to produce a certain kind of list.
I’m talking about “best of” lists or “worst of” lists. And there are a million of them. Sometimes they’re all about love, other times they’re all about hate … or, more often than not, they sprinkle in a little bit of both. They have titles like “20 Best and Worst Things to Buy at Aldi” or “10 Things to Buy at Aldi, And 5 Things to Avoid.”
And yes, that includes here. We’ve written our own pieces, like My 25 Favorite Things to Buy at Aldi, or 17 ALDI Find (Special Buy) Items I Love to Stock Up On, or 10 Things I Don’t Buy at Aldi. We write them, too.
Why? Well, for one, lists are fun: we all love rankings. Two, it’s a chance to think back on the whole of your experience. And three, a lot of sites do it purely for clickbait purposes. (We try hard not to make that our motivation, but we do confess that it often works.) You might be surprised how popular, in particular, the “worst of” lists can be, be it from people who don’t like Aldi (and they do exist) or Aldi fans who hate-read the piece (which also exist).
But even as a site that comes up with these lists, we believe that readers should approach those with a lot of caution. They’re fun, but they also have some drawbacks. Here are four of them.
Blogger Tastes are Subjective
This should be obvious, but when a blogger speaks with authority it can be easy to forget. Every blogger has a different set of tastes and interests that shapes what they like and don’t like, and what is good to one person might be terrible to another, or the other way around.
This is especially true if a blogger comes from a different background than you do. Some bloggers, for example, come from more upscale or eclectic food taste backgrounds. They might prefer, say, hummus over fried chicken. That’s not to say you can’t like both, but if your food blogger is a fan of a specific niche of food, it might color what they think about the products Aldi carries.
I am also mindful of regional differences: people who grow up on the tastes of New York food may not have the same taste buds as someone from Alabama or Washington state.
Even if that’s not the case, you can have two people from the same background who think differently about the same food. When we did a head-to-head of Aldi versus Campbell’s soups, our own family was sometimes divided on which soup was better … and we all live together.
Some Lists Are Just Trying to Stir the Pot
I’ve read enough Aldi lists that I’ve sometimes questioned whether the writer is really serious about his or her list. I tend to feel this way the most when someone is trying to come up with a really long list and it seems like some of the items are a stretch. It leaves me wondering, “Are you just throwing this out there to put fuel on the fire, or do you really believe this?” I’m not going to cite any specific examples because I can’t be 100% sure, but there have definitely been lists that have left me skeptical.
Some Lists Are Just Not Very Good
Every once in a while, I come across a list that is so bad I wonder how it got made. These seem most likely to come from large corporate sites that treat Aldi as a tiny novelty among their galaxy of subjects.
And here I am going to call a piece out. It’s this article, which ran in August 2019 on CNBC. It was entitled “3 groceries you should always buy at Trader Joe’s instead of Aldi.” This was a piece that tried to argue that 1) Trader Joe’s had fancy cheeses while conceding Aldi cheeses were cheaper, 2) Trader Joe’s had better nuts because their organic raw almonds and organic raw cashews were cheaper, and 3) Trader Joe’s was a better place to get olive oil because TJ’s oil won a competition Aldi wasn’t in and also has a dozen varieties of olive oil.
If all you care about is 1) getting fancy cheeses, 2) eating no other nuts except organic raw almonds and organic raw cashews, and 3) want a massive olive oil selection, sure, this article might make you feel good. But the article’s narrow arguments were baffling. We do write about Trader Joe’s, and if we think TJ’s does something better than Aldi we’ll say it, but this was a pretty flawed piece.
I’m sure it was also a piece that got a lot of clicks, since it’s CNBC. But I wonder how many people found it remotely useful.
Aldi Regularly Tweaks and Resources its Products
This is a thoroughly underrated problem with Aldi lists: Aldi regularly changes its product formulations. We’ve seen it time and time again, from produce to processed foods. Sometimes those changes are for the better, while other times they are not. Regardless, Aldi is constantly in a state of change, and not just in its ALDI Finds section. Everyday Regular Buys are also prone to changing. What might have made a worst of list when the list was published might now make a best of list.
Case in point: our own piece on My 25 Favorite Things to Buy at Aldi. When we wrote it in 2017, we included bacon on our list. We’ve even subsequently reviewed bacon as a separate post. In both cases, we loved it. However, if you look at the comments on our bacon piece, you’ll note a growing chorus of people who haven’t been happy with Aldi bacon at all, and in some of our recent Aldi bacon purchases we’ve had similar experiences.
How Do You Avoid This?
Those are a lot of traps to deal with. As an Aldi-focused review site, we face them every time we write. We try our hardest to offer as much context as we can, but at the end of the day, we think that one important defense against some of these traps is to allow for users to chime in.
Many sites — big ones, particularly — publish Aldi lists but leave no place for users to comment. It’s not hard to guess why: comments can be a lot to moderate for sites, especially big ones, and at worst they can become cesspools of things that may or may not have anything to do with the story. Many major corporations have instead decided to relegate their comments to social media, which can be really hard to seek out if you come upon the article by way of search.
Obviously, we have comments. Our basic guidelines call for civility, but otherwise we have no problem with dissenting opinions. And we do get them from time to time.
Another defense, I think, is to update the lists. Many sites don’t update their Aldi lists — they write the piece, revel in their page views, and move on to other subjects. I find that notable because, in areas like technology, best of lists do often get updates. Granted, Aldi products don’t change as fast as laptops, but there is still something to be said for occasionally revisiting one’s rankings.
After all, you never know what might be different.