I am relatively new to the whole bargain store thing. The first time I went to an Aldi’s, I hated it and didn’t go back for over an year. Eventually I tried them again and to my surprise, I became hooked. Then a year later I happened to see a fantastic sale at a store called Save A Lot and stopped by. The similarities between the two stores surprised me because I had thought Aldi’s was pretty unique. Nowadays, I do probably about 80 percent of our shopping at either Aldi’s or Save A Lot and my grocery budget is almost half of what it used to be.
ALDI’s vs Save A Lot
Both stores are “bargain” stores. What this basically means is that these stores do not focus on fancy extras or being a one stop shopping store. There usually don’t have a bakery, floral or deli section because their main focus is having cheaper food items than their competitors.
They also run their stores differently than say Walmart or Safeway. Bags aren’t free and they expect you to bag your groceries yourself. Aldi’s bribes you into returning your cart by making you pony up a quarter to get a shopping cart while Save A Lot does not. However, the feel of both stores are very similar. They cut all extra frills in order to save you money. The food is often on the shelves in open boxes instead of all lined up and signs are at a minimum. It takes a while to get used them to but now I actually like it. Because they keep their selection small and their staff efficient, I can get in, get out and back home much faster than at a more traditional grocery store.
Both stores have a produce, meat, frozen, dairy and dry good sections. They carry the basics of all but often don’t have a large selection of each. If you need sour cream, they will probably have a couple sizes and a couple different fat choices but only one or maybe two brands.
Beyond the whole shopping cart thing (and isn’t it funny how a single quarter is enough for most people to walk the cart back to the store after loading up the car?) Aldi’s and Save A Lot have some differences too. The biggest difference is that ALDI’s mostly stocks their own off brands instead of the more usual brands. Of course, they do occasionally sell the Hellmans/Best Foods mayo but it’s much more common to find their own brand. Save A Lot has a much bigger selection of the brands you can get at other stores but doesn’t have as many specialty items.
Meat Sale Comparison – Tie
I used to get a little squeamish when I thought of buying meat at a “bargain” store. I assumed that if it was so much cheaper, it must not be good quality or wouldn’t be fresh. Eventually I figured out that it’s so much cheaper because they keep the other costs low and then use sales to draw in customers. It works on me.
Both stores advertise one or two cuts of meat to be on sale that week and generally they are at least 50% cheaper than I can find anywhere else. Their meat sale prices are very very similar and I can’t say that one has better deals than the other. I’ve found that both stores rotate the cuts so if you shop once a week and use your freezer, you get to a point where you rarely have to buy meat that isn’t steeply discounted. So say week one is drumsticks and pork chops, week two is ground beef and ham, week three is pork roasts and chicken breasts. And on and on it goes. If you buy enough to last you until the next time you need that cut, you are saving 50% of your meat costs and you don’t need to go to multiple stores to do so!
Related: I go into more detail in this post on how I shop the meat sales to limit my shopping time but never pay full price for meat. It’s specific to Aldi’s but the planning would be the same for Save A Lot.
Both stores start their new sales on the same day which makes it easy for me to look through the ads and decide which store to go to.
Produce – Aldi’s
When it comes to produce, I have found that Aldi’s has a much bigger selection of fruits and vegetables whereas Save A Lot is much more limited. However, sometimes (maybe once a month or so) Save A Lot has better deals on produce and it’s cheaper than Aldi’s. Since one of my main goals is to save on shopping time, if my grocery list is heavy on the produce, I tend to head to Aldi’s over Save A Lot.
Selection of canned and dry goods – Neither/Tie
This one depends on what you’re looking for. Save A Lot has the name brand goods we are used to, while Aldi’s have very few name brand goods. Both are somewhat limited in comparison to many big name grocery stores.
Household Items – Aldi’s
Aldi’s wins without a doubt on this one. I have found extremely good deals on household items from Aldi’s and have not seen anything like it at a Save A Lot. From my beloved $10 dollar cast iron skillets to vacuum cleaners to shelving, Aldi’s has a rotating selection of useful items at really cheap prices. So far, the quality has been better than the junk I could find at Walmart and I have no regrets. In fact, we recently updated our backyard seating area with Aldi’s outdoor decor. We got solar lights, planters, gardening supplies and more and most was even cheaper than Walmart because they were on sale. Boom.
I am vehemently opposed to the idea that to save money, I need to go to multiple stores each week. What I do instead is look at the sales each week and decide whether I will go to Aldi’s or Save A Lot that week. Most weeks, Aldi’s wins based on what is on my list and what I shop for but sometimes Save A Lot has the better deals. When that happens, I go there instead and as a bonus, get to stock up on the name brand items that Aldi’s doesn’t carry. Win/win.
Let’s Hear From You –
Do you shop the bargain stores? What was the biggest adjustment you had to make? For me, it was remembering to bring reusable bags.