The Aldi Way

I have a lot of friends who have 3 or 4 kids.  I have many friends who have 6-11 kids.  I even have a handful of friends who have between 12-22 kids.  Yes, I said 22.

And what is one of the first phrases blurted out to parents when others hear about a family having a lot of kids? (A big family seems to now be considered 3 or more kids.)

“How do you feed them all?!?”

If you shop at most grocery stores with a few kids in tow you’ll eventually be privy to the remark.  “How do you afford to feed them ALL?” (ALL being 3 or more)  And then you might get the stink eye because clearly no one in history has ever been able to have 3 (or more) kids without relying on government aid and here you are flaunting your unwashed horde in their face; they are basically watching their tax dollars fill up your cart. Or not, because you budget, but people seem to have forgotten that’s a thing.

But at my grocery store I’ll never have to worry about that because I shop at Aldi, where food is so affordable that we could have at least a dozen more kids before our single-income wallet feels tight.

Okay, maybe not a dozen, maybe one or two more kids…

For my currently family of 6 I budget $400 t $450 per month for food which would not get us all that far at most grocery stores, but thankfully I shop at Aldi.  And if Aldi doesn’t have something on the list that week, I figure something else out from the Aldi isle because there is no way I’m going somewhere else.  And in case you figure we eat only rice and beans, I can tell you we eat like kings, kings who primarily live off of eggs, bananas, and whole milk vanilla yogurt.

Other than the medical bills of adding two kids with special needs to the family, one of the biggest expenses I was anticipating after the adoption was diapers. Now that we’ve gone from 1 kid in diapers to 3 kids in diapers that cost went up significantly.  And Aldi, as always, anticipated the need and added a whole new baby section with inexpensive diapers, wipes, baby wash, the whole kaboodle! Whoop!!! (Aldi isn’t paying me to say any of this, Aldi probably doesn’t even know I exist; I’m just this excited about their new baby section.)  And Aldi, it would be nice if you could do overnight pulls for big kids too, just sayin.

Aldi does this whole seasonal thing too where one small, manageable section of an isle is constantly rotating out each week with season-specific goods.  That means that not only do I get food from Aldi, our pillows, totes, broom, socks, outdoor toddler swing, rug, fans, space heaters, laundry detergent, dish soap, house plants, outdoor furniture, and baby blankets are all from Aldi too.

I’ve noticed that my local Aldi has been pretty busy all the time recently.  I’m a Monday or Wedneday mid-morning shopper, not a busy time anywhere usually, but my Aldi seems to always be milling about with newcomers who are figuring out the Aldi way.  As a second generation Aldi-er, here’s a quick rundown of the Aldi way:

  1. Take a quarter, otherwise you don’t use a cart.  Find a special spot in the car and reserve it for your Aldi quarter. Woe,woe to the person who takes the quarter and does not replace it!
  2. If you forgot your quarter, grab an empty box as soon as you get inside and fill it up, that works too.
  3. Be patient in the isles, the isles are relatively close together, that saves you money by saving the store space, but it also means two carts close to each other does clog up the isle. Aldi doesn’t sell chill pills, you’ll need to take one before you come if you are the inpatient type.
  4. Going off #3, go with the flow of the store.  When you walk in, at least at my Aldi, you really have one way to go, so go with it.  If you need to turn around to go back and get dried crasins or that cherry pie filling, be prepared to go upstream.  (It’s best to leave your cart at the end of the isle and walk back)
  5. If you have kids, go with the scavenger hunt method.  I only take one child at a time with me for shopping trips if at all possible.  That makes it a special “mommy and me” time AND I don’t juggle 4 kids.  Della is a pro at Aldi now and is legitimately helpful.  She can seek and retrieve graham crackers, kefir, cheese, fruit, veg, and any family treat in a matter of seconds, all while staying within my sight in the store.
  6. At checkout, if you have an overflowing cart and the person behind you has a handful of items, ask them to go before you.  Seriously, you’ll make their day and the Aldi cashiers are so fast you might lose 1 or 2 minutes tops out of your entire day, that’s a pretty incredible trade off for a happy act of kindness.
  7. Load your stuff on the conveyor as fast as possible. I like to load heaviest to lightest, but that might just be me.  The Aldi cashiers do not bag anything, they scan it and place it into a waiting cart; it’s part of the genius of Aldi really.
  8. Take your own grocery bags.  If you don’t have any yet or forgot them, Aldi sells bags and they are pretty inexpensive.  You can also gather up empty boxes as you go through the store and use those to stash your food till you get home.  Pro tip: compliment other people on their bags.
  9. After you’ve paid, take your cart over to the bagging zone.  It’s this long wide shelf against the wall, you can’t miss it.  There you can bag your own items in the way that you like and that makes sense to you.  Ahhhhhh, this is without a doubt my favorite part.  I love bagging my own groceries in my own system, it significantly simplifies the unloading time at home.
  10. Load up your car and return it to the cart area to retrieve your quarter.  If you see someone heading towards the carts you can do the Aldi Cart Hand Off where they hand you a quarter and you hand them your cart. For whatever reason at my Aldi when someone hands me their cart they always, ALWAYS say “all warmed up for you!”  Is that just a Wisconsin nice thing? Who knows, but I say it too as I hand off a cart to someone.  And final pro tip: you make someone’s day when you hand off your cart to them and refuse to take the quarter.  I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me and how many times I’ve been able to do this for others.  It is a small simple little thing, twenty-five cents, but it really such a happy gesture and to me it sums up the Aldi way.

where to go from here

I’ve been thinking about this little blog here.

It started out as such a simple hobby a few years ago and grew into a platform to advocate for orphans with special needs which led to documenting our own family’s adoption journey.  What once was a place where I shared pictures and stories for my family and friends (hi mom and geneva) has become a place where people from all over the world come to read.

Here we are today, home and in a new chapter of life.  I know many adoptive families go silent after they arrive home; if they kept up a blog during the adoption process they might post an update every 6 months that usually goes something like this: “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh adoption is beautiful and painful and ugly and we will write when things calm down.” Six months later, another post comes up that says the same thing again.   Living that life now, I totally understand those posts because yeah, adoption is beautiful and painful and ugly and it’s nice to imagine that someday out there things will calm down and I can write happy little posts about these days but not when they are so raw.

So I was all ready to shelve this blog for a few months (or years), work through hard things, and come back.  Yesterday something changed my mind.

My cousin Allison has been blogging about life in the aftermath of her husband suffering major injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, after being hit by a truck.  Yesterday she shared the news that they have come to a new chapter in this journey, the hospice chapter, which will most likely be pretty short.  Reading her blog is hard, it’s beautiful and painful and ugly, just like adoption, just like life.  Few people can take their day to day life, filter it into words, and share with others the way Allison can.  And the fact that she has shared their story has been a gift for many people.  For family members scattered around the world it’s been a way to keep in touch and keep in prayer.  For people who have lost loved ones in similar scenarios it has been a way to work through grief and feel less isolated.  For everyone who has read it, it is a glimpse into a family’ life that is working through grief, pain, healing, hope and faith.

I come from a family of musicians, artists, and storytellers.  While I am not a musician or an artists, I am a storyteller and I can tell a story of my own family living our daily lives which is beautiful and painful and ugly because in the grief and pain there is healing, hope, faith and love.  The greatest of these is love.