For many years I avoided going to supermarkets in actual person, favouring the virtual reality world of online shopping (as previously covered here) but something has come along that has made me u-turn on my very clear position. That temptress is Aldi.
Aldi offers a very different shopping experience to other supermarkets, and let me be completely upfront about it; it’s not for the faint hearted, but as long as you are prepared and understand the nature of the beast, it is truly a game changer.
It’s super-cheap, it’s small so you can be around it in less than 45 minutes (30 if you’re a next level shopper), it keeps it real – own brand baked beans or nothing, and who knows what delights you may find in the special buy aisle: a sewing machine?; a wetsuit?; an inflatable canoe?
But don’t assume it’s all plain sailing, you can’t just stroll in unprepared: you’ll be eaten alive. What you need is PMA: Positive, Mental Aldi-tude. This is what you need to know:
Do not get attached to specific products
Just like drug pushers operate, Aldi likes to hook you in to certain products, wait until you feel like you can’t live without them and then cut you off with no warning or explanation. When they ask at the checkout if you managed to find everything you wanted, that’s just their sneaky way of checking their dirty tricks are working and how desperate you’ve become. Sometimes, just to mess with your mind, they put your craved items back on the shelf for one week only and then it’s gone again. Don’t let them inside your head.
If you see something you fancy, buy it immediately
Just as they withdraw your favourite items, sometimes they put things out for mere minutes at a time and then it’s gone, never to be seen again. Seize the moment because the next time you go it will be as if it never existed and staff will deny all knowledge. You will question your own sanity.
Channel your inner hunter gatherer
Buying fruit and veg is very different in Aldi; you can’t just pick up a bag of apples and put it in your trolley like some kind of privileged elite. In Aldi it is necessary to forage, just as our forefathers did. Every pack must be examined for the random squashed, manky piece of fruit that is placed in 90% of multipacks as a kind of fruit Russian roulette. You must also dig deep; the good stuff will be hidden in the trays below those on display. It requires strength and stealth but you will feel as though you have earned it.
Brace yourself for the checkout
Under no circumstances approach the checkout unprepared. This is where Aldi will make or break you. Firstly, when you are queueing, be like a coiled spring ready to pounce should a new checkout suddenly open. You have to move fast and take no prisoners. There is no room for sentiment here; if you manage to nose your trolley in first – even if the person behind you only has 3 items – the checkout is yours. You’re not in Sainsbury’s anymore Toto.
Secondly, beware of conveyor encroachers. These are people who are behind you but will start to unload their shopping onto the conveyor BEFORE YOU HAVE FINISHED PUTTING YOUR STUFF ON! They don’t know how much space you need and they don’t care. To ward off these conveyor stealers I recommend taking a wingman so that one can unload the trolley from the front while the other guards the rear against those who covet your conveyor. Unpack from the back of the belt upwards until you meet in the middle, placing ‘holding’ items at the start each time the belt moves and creates more space. A generous helping of shit-eye directed at the would-be invader also helps for good measure. Show no weakness.
And lastly, and this is the one where you really discover whether you can cut it as an Aldi shopper, is checking your shopping through the till. Staff at Aldi feel the need, the need for speed. They will fling your shopping through at a pace that can barely be detected by the human eye. Whatever you do, do not attempt to bag your items at the till as you will fail. Understand this and move on. The process is you fill you trolley, you unpack your trolley onto the checkout, you put the items back in the trolley then you take it to the packing area where you take it all out again, put it in bags and then put it back into the trolley. It’s done this way for efficiency. Obviously. While waiting for you to pay, the till will beep like the Countdown clock in order to make you pay faster. If you do not pay in time, your shopping will explode.
You will be rewarded for your efforts by the money you save and the liberating feeling of no longer being a brand slave plus the skills you develop will equip you to face anything in life; should we ever go to war again, it won’t be soldiers we send, it will be mums who shop in Aldi at the vanguard.