Trader Joe’s and Aldi have been the discount grocery equivalent of step cousins since 1979, when the Germany-based Aldi acquired TJ's and, presumably, its giant closet full of Hawaiian shirts. The details are complicated... basically, Aldi bosses Karl and Theo Albrect split their empire into two companies -- Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd -- to avoid cannibalizing themselves on expansion. Long story short, got cookie butter out of it, so it's all good.
But while Trader Joe’s is certainly the more noticeable grocery chain, Aldi itself has quietly expanded to more than 1,750 US locations. Even despite the prevalence, Aldi is a mystery to many, starting with its $.25 cart deposit and extending throughout the store, where shelves are stocked deep with unfamiliar brands at rock-bottom prices.
To the uninitiated -- including this writer -- entering an Aldi can be overwhelming, and choosing what to buy can be a crapshoot. But to those in the know, there’s gold to be (self) bagged at the end of the Aldi rainbow. To figure out what to buy, we chatted with superfans, scoured blogs, and did a little shopping of our own. No Hawaiian shirt required. Just bring a quarter, unless you want to carry everything with you -- that cart deposit is no joke.