Are you a diehard Dollar Tree shopper? I used to be, as well. I’d buy everything from paper goods and seasonal decorations to school supplies and, often, groceries and cleaning products. Depending on where you live, Dollar Tree has a surprising amount of fresh and shelf-stable groceries for just $1.25 up to $5.
Then Aldi and Lidl opened up just a stone’s throw from my home and they became my go-to markets for virtually everything on my grocery list. Of course, prices range much higher than $1 at these affordable grocery stores. But you can find everything you need — including fresh meats, poultry, and produce — which saves gas and time. Sometimes, saving money is also about shopping more efficiently.
I have some tips to help you toss away that “Aldi anxiety” and become a pro Aldi or Lidl shopper to maximize your savings.
Be Willing To Experiment
Although you can find certain name brand items, including Arizona Iced Tea, Doritos chips and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise at Lidl, both stores specialize in private-label brands. Don’t be afraid to try Lidl and Aldi brand merchandise.
Know Your Brands
It helps to know the private label brands at each store. Lidl markets most of its items, including frozen vegetables, butter, condiments and spices under the Lidl name. But it also sells Peak Harvest brand fresh fruits and vegetables. You’ll find premium products like extra virgin olive oil and Marcona almonds under the Preferred Selection line.
Aldi sells L’oven Fresh breads and Happy Farms dairy products, including a legendary selection of cheese, and Clancy’s snack products. Aldi also carries their own Simply Nature line of organic and/or non-GMO groceries.
Keep Track of Family Favorites
Some of the private label products are just as good as — or even better than — their name brand counterparts. For instance, I stock up on Lidl butter when it’s on sale, and we go through a few bags of almonds and macadamia nuts each week in my house. My picky daughter loves Lidl pasta. But my son takes a hard pass on the Lidl macaroni and cheese. Fortunately, Lidl also carries the classic Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for just a little more per box than the store brand.
Check Dates on Meat and Dairy
Many people shy away from meat, poultry and seafood at Lidl or Aldi. But I’ve gotten some incredible deals and found the quality to be as good as you’ll find at other stores. I especially love the Lidl grass-fed ground beef, usually $5.99 a pound or less, and the sirloin steaks.
I have accidentally purchased expired bacon from Aldi, but that can happen at any store. It’s just a good idea to always check dates on meat and dairy before you buy. Grab products from the back of the case, when possible, since they are likely to be fresher.
Shop on Wednesday
Both Lidl and Aldi release their sales and re-stock non-food merchandise on Wednesday, so that’s the best day to shop. Ideally, you’ll want to get there as early as possible to avoid crowds.
You can also use Google Maps to discover when the store is most crowded or least crowded. Shopping in an empty store is less stressful so you’re likely to take more time to check prices and avoid impulse purchases.
Use the Lidl App
You can stack the savings when you use your Lidl app. The app lets you browse the weekly ad right on your phone, create a grocery list and ad store coupons to the app. You’ll earn rewards the more you spend. For instance, right now I have 20% off select nuts and cashews (which will be helpful for restocking our macadamia supply) for spending $50 in two visits this week.
If I reach $100 and three visits before Wednesday, I’ll earn two more rewards that I can use on my next trip or save for a future visit. These rewards do expire, so make sure to check the app each time you shop.
Avoid the ‘Aisle of Shame’ (Except if You Have a Purpose in Mind)
Aldi’s “Aisle of Shame,” that section in the center of the store with home décor items, children’s toys, and even clothing, is famous, with Facebook groups devoted to the deals. Lidl has a similar section, typically located near the back of the store across from the dairy section on the back wall.
It’s best to avoid this section if you want to keep your list focused on groceries and avoid impulse buys. But, if you are looking for something specific, you might be surprised by the deals you’ll find, from patio furniture to pajamas.
Know the Differences Between the Two Stores
As much as people compare these competing stores – which are not owned by the same parent company – there are significant differences. Understanding the differences can help you decide where to shop.
Lidl has a cold cut counter with fresh sandwich meats at bargain prices and also a bakery with an extensive collection of fresh-baked breads, pretzels and legendary croissants. Lidl also sells beer and hard seltzer, including craft and German beers you won’t find in other places alongside mainstream choices.
In certain areas, Aldi is known for its Winking Owl wine, but in some regions, you won’t find any alcohol on the shelves.
Lidl’s meat and produce sections are larger than Aldi’s, akin to what you’d find in a regular grocery store.
Neither store provides bags. And, of course, you’ll need to bring a quarter if you want a cart at Aldi, which is not the case at Lidl.
Do All Your Shopping at One Place
The key selling point to these stores over Dollar Tree is that they are a one-stop shop for all your household and grocery needs. You can buy personal care items, fresh meat and produce, beverages, and more. If you try to do your grocery shopping at Dollar Tree, you’ll probably need to make at least one more stop at a traditional grocery store.
Aldi and Lidl can even replace some of your Target stops with the merchandise they sell.
My favorite recent Lidl find? Back-to-school supplies are cheaper than Target, Walmart, or Staples, with 15-cent folders and 24-count boxes of Crayola Crayons for just 25 cents.
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