While running errands a while back, I stopped at an Aldi store in a different part of town, and it brought back memories from a different time. It might sound strange to give so much credit to a grocery store, but Aldi always seems to be there in the background when I mark various milestones in life. Whether it’s going on shopping trips with my mom when I was a kid, making ends meet while raising my own young children, finding entertainment during a pandemic, or buying supplies for cooking meals on vacation, it seems like Aldi has always been around.
Mom’s Gone Aldi-ing
I don’t remember when Aldi opened in my childhood hometown, but I remember my mom shopping there often during the years before Aldi was the cool place to buy groceries.
One of my earliest memories of Aldi involves a price war on iceberg lettuce between the discount grocer and a new big box retailer in town, Meijer. Aldi and Meijer were located next to each other in a busy shopping district in my hometown. For a while, both stores’ marquees advertised heads of iceberg lettuce at ridiculously low prices. Every time we drove past Aldi and Meijer, my mom (who was usually on Team Aldi, although there is plenty to like about Meijer as well) joked about the dueling billboards.
As a teen, I knew Aldi as the home of cheap snacks. One of my high school friends once remarked, after we discovered several bags of Clancy’s chips while searching his kitchen for an after-school snack, that “Mom’s gone Aldi-ing.”
I was especially fond of the large bags of name-brand Twizzlers Aldi sold. They were just the motivational boost I needed while typing up English papers or writing my weekly column for the local newspaper, where I was employed as a student columnist.
I also knew Aldi as the grocery store that paid its workers competitive wages, and I sometimes spotted one of our neighbors perched hard at work on a stool at one of the checkout lanes.
Shopping as a Newlywed and New Mom
Fast forward several years, and Aldi became my go-to grocery store when my husband and I were newlyweds. He had some experience with Aldi before I met him, but he was put off by its quirks like the quarter cart rental thing and the fact that you have to bag your own groceries. I reintroduced him to Aldi, helped to demystify some of its eccentricities, and eventually converted him into a fan.
Our budget was tight after we bought our house and our first child was born, when I quit working for a paycheck for a few years. We relied on Aldi, which helped us eat well. I could still buy shrimp as a treat occasionally, or ice cream. Aldi allowed us to subsist on more than basic beans and rice or PB and J.
When our children came along, I discovered that shopping with babies and toddlers is always interesting. I learned to get in and out of the store quickly, and to keep soft items like bread out of reach of children sitting in the cart seat. One time, we spilled a plastic clamshell of blueberries in the checkout aisle, and the dark spheres rolled across the tiled floor like marbles. The cashier was unfazed, calmly calling for help and remarking that I wasn’t the first person to spill blueberries that day. Have I mentioned how amazing Aldi employees are?
I was expecting my second child when pregnancy brain fog struck while I was at Aldi. I temporarily forgot my debit card PIN while attempting to pay for a cartload of groceries. I was mortified, but the cashier was patient. Thankfully, Aldi now takes credit cards.
A few months after our second baby was born, I was again reminded of why I like shopping at Aldi. I was putting groceries on the conveyor belt at the checkout, with my infant strapped to my chest in a carrier while my preschool-aged firstborn helped load groceries onto the belt. A pair of older women in line behind us spoke quietly to each other: “Her baby is adorable.” “And her older girl is cute and helpful.” Aldi is like that, often bringing out the best in people.
Story Time, Aldi Time
I mentioned earlier that I recently visited a specific Aldi store that sparked some memories. It’s a location where I used to shop at on a weekly basis when my children were very young because it’s near the library branch where we used to attend story time.
After story time, we’d grab packed lunches out of the car and head to a park next door for a picnic with other moms and kids. Once we ate our sandwiches or Lunchables, the preschool-aged children would play on the playground while we mothers sat on blankets and chatted while nursing infants. It was a golden time spent making friends and enjoying simple, pleasant things — free entertainment at the library, sunshine and fresh breezes, and food (from Aldi, of course) that tasted better because we ate it outdoors with companions.
When things wrapped up at the park, I’d bundle my kids into the car and we’d make a stop at Aldi for groceries before driving home for an afternoon nap. Sometimes I’d run into other moms from story time at Aldi, their children holding onto the side of the cart or perched in the baby seat. We might exchange easy dinner ideas or recommend products to try, or we might exchange contact information so we could schedule playdates.
Aldi for All Seasons of Life
These days, my kids are a little older, and they sometimes roll their eyes at the enthusiasm my husband and I share for Aldi. I now do most of my shopping at other Aldi locations that are a little more convenient to get to than the Aldi near the library, and most of the time I make my Aldi runs while the kids are at school.
Not only does this grocery store still feed us well. It’s also a source of entertainment, with a middle aisle that is like Christmas every week with its new and unexpected specials. We even make a point of shopping at Aldi while we’re on vacation or on a road trip when we’re in an area where Aldi is located, especially if we’re planning to cook some of our own meals.
In addition, Aldi has become a part of my writing career, as well as my husband’s. Through all seasons of life, Aldi continues to delight, whether through lettuce price wars, affordable after-school snacks for hungry kids, cheap sugar highs for students, budget-conscious meals for families, or a steady stream of curiosities like ping pong tables and exercise bikes in that quirky middle aisle. This little store is truly a gem, and I look forward to shopping here for many years to come.
How long have you been shopping at Aldi? Do you have any unique memories associated with Aldi? Let us know in the comments.