You asked for it. Here it is. The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart. After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices. So what’s your guess on the savings?
Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores. On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more. The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi. On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more. Here’s where the Walmart savings come in. Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places. This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes. I’m going to label these a little differently. Let’s call these stores by type.
conventional grocery store – discount grocery store – superstore – convenience store
All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes. Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison:
Discount store size.
The first thing I tell people is that the discount grocery store has 4 aisles, and yet they have almost everything a regular grocery store has. Don’t believe me? Go see for yourself. This just goes to show how the larger selections take up much more space in a store, those overhead costs being passed on to you. Not only is it smaller, but the aisles aren’t stacked to the ceiling either. It feels much more like an open market, not a maze of food items.
Have you ever asked where to find an item in a superstore? Not only is it impossible for all employees to know where everything is, but it takes a long time to walk the whole store to get the few items you might need. The nice thing about the discount store size is it works on all occasions. Let’s say I need a gallon of milk. Nothing else. To go into the grocery store or a superstore to get one simple thing would take a long time. Big parking lot, big store, my one item is in the back, longer checkout lines and back to the big parking lot. My other option is the convenience store. I can easily get my milk, but it’s going to cost up to 300% more! No thanks. The discount store is easy in, easy out, even for that one item.
Off brands versus name brands.
I wondered if these brands were going to be good, as the discount store carries almost all of their own brands. Most of these are made by the same manufactures and suppliers as the name brands. Not sure? Buy one of everything you normally buy, try everything and see what you like. Most of the products, I couldn’t tell the difference. Some were different, but still very good and there’s one or two I didn’t care for as much. I will still go to the regular grocery store for my Zapp’s potato chips, flaming hot Cheeto’s for my kids and my Doña Paula wine, but I’ll take the off brands or generic brands for the majority of my shopping.
The discount store has a limited selection on individual items, but not necessarily on the whole shopping experience. Let’s take mustard for instance. I need to go buy a container of it. At a conventional grocery store or superstore, I will have at least 5 different brands, maybe 3 or 4 different types, in 3 to 5 different sizes. As for the whole store, yes, the superstores and regular grocery stores will have more selection, and on some things, that’s a nice thing. The discount store is limited on individual selections, but they seem to have a little bit of everything in the store. The produce area is much smaller, but they have the basics. For the selection they have, discount stores are the best for getting your staples, allowing you to shop at the conventional grocery store more wisely, getting only the specialty things you may want. Aldi’s website even says their average customer buys 90% of what they need there, and the other 10% elsewhere.
There also seems to be much less stress in shopping at a store with less products. I don’t feel overwhelmed by having to stop and educate myself every 3 steps. Shopping? Stressful? I never thought of it, but yes. It’s a stress I didn’t even realize I had until the discount store came along and took it away.
One stop shopping.
Superstores are designed for one stop shopping. Need groceries, a plunger to fix the toilet, a gift for Timmy’s friend’s birthday party, a new outfit, cleaning supplies, a new lamp, paper clips, a cooking magazine and a partridge in a pear tree? The superstore has it all! And we wonder why we can’t keep the house picked up. The disadvantages of shopping at a superstore for groceries outweigh the advantages. Yes, you will save money on your groceries over the conventional grocery store, but in most cases, the other stuff you purchase along with your groceries make it more expensive to shop there. A good portion of the things purchased with your groceries are impulse items, marketed to the superstore grocery shoppers.
A lot of the groceries are a loss leaders, but if you pick up some clothing, a DVD or a new television, the superstore has accomplished their mission of selling you more than you came for. Walmart’s slogan of “Save money. Live better.” suggests we are going to save our money by shopping there and we will have a better life for doing it, assuming we think a better life means we can get more stuff for less money. If I have $150 to spend on groceries, but the things I need cost $110, I have $40 left to play with. How many people walk out of a superstore without spending the extra $40? Target’s slogan of “Expect more. Pay less.” is a very accurate picture of our society. We do expect more and we want to pay less. If we spent the $150, even if we got some really good deals, we’ve still spent the same amount of money, we didn’t save money or pay less, we accumulated more stuff.
I’m not saying that superstores are evil and not to shop there, but if you are going to shop there, be smart about it. Don’t fall into their grand plan of having you spend all of your available money there on cleverly merchandised stuff. Go in with a list of needs, come out with only the things on your list. If you happen to remember something you saw at the megastore, go back and get it on your next shopping trip. When I do this, 95% of the time I forget about it.
As I mentioned earlier, the produce selection is small in the discount stores. One down side is that much of it is packaged. I really don’t care for my produce on a styrofoam tray, wrapped in plastic. Not all of it is, but more than I care to see. If you have a farmer’s market close by, buy produce from your local growers. It’s fresher, less transportation costs and supports local business.
I’m sure the discount store probably doesn’t take coupons. I’m not a huge fan of coupons, as I would rather not have to spend the time to look for them, clip them out, remember to have them with me when I’m shopping and use all that unnecessary paper. I would rather retailers give the lowest possible prices, without the hassle. That’s what the discount store does. I don’t need a coupon to get a lower price. Many people that grocery shop with coupons end up spending the same or more, as they get more expensive brands to save the money or buy things they don’t normally buy just to use the coupon. Coupons are good at conventional grocery stores, but using only coupons for things you would purchase anyway.
Marketing and advertising.
All of the store types use marketing and advertising to draw us in and make us spend our hard earned money. These are all businesses and are doing business to make money. Educating yourself about marketing and advertising gimmicks is a good idea. Placing toys on low shelves, high markup items near the registers, loss leaders at the back of the store and carefully arranged impulse items on endcaps are just a few of the ways they capture our hearts with stuff. I’ve fallen for it, I’m not exempt from being lured in by this visual display of pretty clutter. When shopping, we tend to think in the present. Yes, that cute little basket will look good in the foyer today, but in 3 months, it will be falling apart or in 6 months, replaced with a different and better basket. I try to think long term when buying anything. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I’ve made purchases and in less than a year, they’re being donated to a thrift store. I work in the visual arts and marketing world, and yet I still get sucked into this ploy sometimes.
I like to frequent places that have good customer service. The smaller stores seem to have friendlier people, making it feel less like a production line and more like a personal shopping experience. Maybe I’m getting old, but I like the feel of the smaller stores and it’s easier to find someone if you have a question.
Many places are being more environmentally friendly these days. I know not everyone is into saving the planet, but I’m pretty sure we are not going to sustain this fast-paced wastefulness forever. Discount stores typically charge for bags, encouraging people to bring their own green, reusable bags. Some of the superstores have build environmentally friendly stores with skylights, lighting with sensors, renewable energy. It’s a good start. Support the places going good.
The time it takes to shop in a discount store is substantially less than in a superstore or a regular grocery store. Let’s go back to the mustard. To carefully choose the best deal, I have to decide what size, what brand, what type and then figure out the price per ounce to make sure I’m making the best purchase possible. That’s a lot of time to select a bottle of mustard. Now multiply that times the 63 items you will be buying. Ouch! There’s 4 hours gone. And we wonder why we have no time to do anything.
This is a no brainer right here. I know 99.9999% of people would never take this price comparison thing to the level I have, but you don’t need to. I do that so we can all benefit. Saving money is great, but the key thing here is value. What are you getting for your money? If you save $3 on a box of crackers at the discount store, but you don’t like the way they taste, does it matter that you saved $3? No, because you won’t eat them and they’ll end up in the trash. If you saved money, you like what you bought and you did not buy more stuff with the money you saved, then you have actually saved money. Put it in a savings account. Track it over a few months. Budgets are great, and I have a budget, but sometimes I neglect to look at it and see if I’m following it.
The shopping experience.
Society tells us we need more. More of everything. More money, more time, more stuff. I’ve had a few people tell me they won’t even try to shop at a discount store because they like variety and they like the big stores. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think shopping in these different store types should be a balance, and be done in a way that is the least wasteful. Yes, that’s an opinion. We all have them.