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5 reasons NOT to shop at Aldi — and one big reason why you should

Leslie Albrecht and

Jacob Passy

How to make the most of shopping at Aldi, which could be coming soon to your neighborhood

The avocados cost less at Aldi, but many other household staples may not be cheaper.

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Your neighborhood could soon have its own Aldi — but shopping at the popular discount grocery store doesn’t make sense for everyone.

The German grocery chain, known for its rock bottom prices, will open roughly 900 new stores in the U.S. by the end of 2022 as part of a $3.4 billion investment, the company announced Monday.

Aldi provides what can be a somewhat unusual shopping experience for U.S. consumers. The stripped down chain has a spartan interior and doesn’t try to soothe shoppers with frills such as soft lighting and mood music. The choice to forego various non-essential grocery store services “translates into big savings for our shoppers,” Scott Patton, vice president of corporate buying for Aldi U.S., said in an email.

Shoppers should be aware of a few ground rules: Customers need to bring a quarter if they want to use a shopping cart: They deposit the coin and get it back when they return their cart. Customers bag their own groceries: Bags are available for purchase at checkout or shoppers can use old boxes for free). The store was once cash-only but now accepts most credit cards and EBT cards (food stamps), but it doesn’t participate in the WIC (Women Infants Children) program for low-income moms.

“I would recommend being flexible if you’re new to Aldi,” said Amy Sheppard, a U.K. mom who is such a fan of the chain that she wrote and self-published an entire cookbook of recipes made solely with Aldi products. “It’s a new way to shop and you will need a bit of time to get used to the new products, ingredients and prices. You may have to change some of your recipes, but the savings and quality of food they offer make it well worth the effort.”

While Aldi counts many adoring fans, it’s not necessarily a slam-dunk for every consumer’s needs. MarketWatch hashed out why consumers should (and shouldn’t) head to Aldi:

When it comes to food, it’s hard to beat Aldi prices

Many products that might be a guilty pleasure if purchased at another store won’t cost consumers a bundle at Aldi. “I can get an avocado for 25 cents or 50 cents, while it’s $1.50 at my grocery store,” said Tracie Fobes, founder of the lifestyle blog Penny Pinchin’ Mom. Avocado prices have been on the rise recently, so aficionados may appreciate such a bargain.

Fobes also recommends getting canned goods, cheese and bread. “Their bread is really good,” Fobes told MarketWatch. “You can pick up bread there for a dollar a loaf. Their English muffins are my husband’s favorite.”

Cherie Lowe, who writes The Queen of Free, a blog about savings and debt, says she zeroes in on fresh meat, produce and a few select pantry staples including canned beans, oatmeal and coffee. The blog Living Well Spending Less says specialty chocolate, organic products and yogurt are among the best Aldi deals.

Sheppard also noted that the store is a good option for pantry staples like pasta and rice, as well as fresh meat (especially beef) and cheese. She’s also a fan of Aldi’s organic, gluten-free and vegan items, which have “up until now been financially inaccessible to most families,” she noted.

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But deals are spottier for non-food items

For household needs such as paper towels or diapers, consumers may be better off shopping elsewhere. “While Aldi offers impressively low prices on groceries and packaged foods, their non-food items are not always priced as competitively,” said Jon Lal, chief executive and founder of savings website BeFrugal. “Bulk paper towels, cleaning supplies and other home goods are likely to be a much better deal at a warehouse club like Costco COST, -1.80% or through Amazon Prime Pantry AMZN, -0.29% .”

Shoppers should pay particular attention to the prices per unit when comparing Aldi with warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco. For instance, store-brand plastic wrap costs 0.4 cents at Costco, versus 0.7 cents per square foot at Aldi, according to recent data collected by savings blog Passionate Penny Pincher. Warehouse clubs also beat Aldi’s pricing on items such as laundry detergent (11 cents per ounce at Sam’s Club and Costco versus 13 cents per ounce at Aldi) and toilet paper (0.1 cents per sheet at Sam’s Club and Costco versus 0.2 cents per sheet at Aldi.)

Warehouse clubs are also competitive with Aldi when it comes to the prices of other goods, from organic kale to salted butter, thanks to buying in bulk, according to personal finance website Clark.com.

Aldi doesn’t do manufacturer’s coupons

The supermarket chain eschews coupons much like it does plastic bags — as part of its effort to keep prices down. “Our simple approach to grocery shopping means customers can leave their club cards and coupons at home,” Patton said.

Savvy bargain-hunters will be able to find better deals at larger grocery stores like Kroger or big-box stores like Walmart WMT, +0.48% , in large part because Aldi doesn’t accept manufacturer’s coupons. For items like cereal, Fobes said the sales price at another store may not beat Aldi — but adding extra savings in the form of a coupon can change the game. “You really need to know current store prices and watch them,” Fobes said.

Stores like Publix in many cases will run special deals during the holiday season on pantry staples such as spices and flour that beat Aldi’s prices, Fobes added. In these cases, consumers may benefit from stocking up on these essential, shelf-stable items.

On the upside, you can use the store’s circulars to plan ahead (and save money). A mobile app lets shoppers browse deals and Aldi devotees recommend checking out the store circulars, which appear online two weeks ahead of time, to plan meals. The most recent version includes a 16-ounce jar of crunchy peanut butter for $1.99.

You may not find your favorite brand names

More than 90% of the products sold in Aldi are store-brands, according to Patton. And even when brand names are available, Aldi’s prices aren’t always the cheapest, as personal finance expert Lauren Greutman found with Crest toothpaste.

As a result the selection at Aldi may not please everyone — particularly consumers who prefer specific brands because of their taste or quality. Fobes said she buys plastic sandwich bags in bulk from warehouse stores, largely because she can collect the box tops to earn money for her children’s school through the Box Tops for Education program.

But for consumers who prefer certain brands over others out of sheer preference, Aldi’s selection may not necessarily disappoint. Many of the store-brand items sold at Aldi are supplied by the same companies that produce national brands, Patton said.

The selection of specialty and frozen food items may be better elsewhere

While Aldi’s prices and selection are extremely competitive, in some areas it is beat out by its sibling chain, Trader Joe’s. For instance, a MarketWatch analysis found in 2020 Trader Joe’s has a wider (and in some cases, cheaper) array of fresh produce and frozen food options.

But Aldi has been growing its range of gluten-free and organic offerings, Patton said. Fresh produce is the company’s fastest-growing product category, but Aldi has also been expanding its line-up of gluten-free and organic items. Since Aldi launched its SimplyNature line of organic or non-genetically modified products in 2020, the offerings have expanded from 30 to 200 products.

Aldi isn’t made for one-stop shopping

In short, shopping at Aldi is more about savings than convenience. While the lack of selection can help consumers avoid overspending on unnecessary items, it also means that devotees of certain products will have no choice but to shop elsewhere for them. “When I go to Aldi, I always have to supplemental shop at my grocery store,” Fobes said.

Besides eating up time, shopping additional stores to get whatever Aldi doesn’t carry can also cost more in fuel, reducing the potential savings generated. “Some people spend so much time and fuel to chase those savings, that they are losing their savings,” Fobes added. “If I changed the way I cooked and said I’m going to make this work, I could get everything I needed at Aldi if I wanted to.”

The gross reason why you shouldn’t wear shoes in the house

Should you take off your shoes while in the house?

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There are two kinds of people in this world: those who wear shoes in the house and those who don’t. And while each side has its pros and cons, there’s one glaring reason why you should slip off your shoes when you walk inside. We’ll just be blunt here — that reason is poop.

Dr. Charles Gerba, professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, studied the bacteria on the bottom of shoes and found that they can track all kinds of gross stuff inside homes.

“If you wear shoes for more than a month, 93 percent will have fecal bacteria on the bottom of them,” he told TODAY Home about his findings. Gerba credited things like pet waste on the ground outside and splashes from the toilet on public restroom floors for this contamination.

“We found E. coli, too,” he added. The bacteria is usually harmless but some strains can make you sick, causing diarrhea or urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses, according to the CDC.

“Shoes make microorganisms fairly mobile, and you’re tracking that all around (the house),” Gerba said, adding that the cracks on the bottoms of shoes make it more conducive for bacteria to hang around.

If you have small kids who are crawling around and sticking things into their mouths, this could definitely be an issue, he noted.

“Also, if you’re immunocompromised or have allergy issues, it’s a good idea to take your shoes off,” he said. That’s because shoes also pick up mold and allergens like pollen.

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LIVE. LAUGH. LOVE.

16 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Smoke Pot. Or Why You Should, You Decide

December 15, 2020

There’s a website where people confess to the ridiculously moronic things they did while smoking pot.

Since marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states in the U.S., this might help people unfamiliar with it learn some of the “short term” effects of the drug. For those already familiar, perhaps you can relate.

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3 Gross Reasons You Shouldn’t Wear Shoes In The House

How many times have you opened the door after being outside and walked through your house with your shoes on? Hundreds of times? Thousands? If so, here are some very good reasons you might want to take off your shoes.

1. Bacteria.

Some bacteria are good for us, some harmful. A study conducted at the University of Arizona examined germs on shoes and found an average of 421,000 bacteria on the outside of shoes, with nine different strains of bacteria. Some of the harmful strains found on shoes included Escherichia coli, otherwise known as E coli, which can give you intestinal infections, diarrhea and in rare cases, meningitis; Klebsiella pneumoniae, which can cause urinary tract infections; and Serratia ficaria, which can cause respiratory infections. Yuck.

How do the bacteria get there? “We walk through things like bird droppings, dog waste and germs on public restroom floors, all of which are sources for E coli,” says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor at University of Arizona. “The unique thing about the shoe environment is that other things you walk on like leaves and debris, can serve as food for the bacteria and help them grow.” That means potentially harmful bacteria can survive on your shoes for days or even weeks, Dr. Reynolds says. And that bacteria can be tracked onto your floors and carpets. It’s even grosser if you think about resting your shoes on a piece of furniture, or on your bed.

2. Toxins

Another potential concern: toxins. A study by the Battelle Memorial institute, a nonprofit research group found that toxins from treating your lawn can easily be tracked into the house, and a study from Baylor University found that people who live near asphalt roads sealed with coal tar have an increased risk of cancer from toxins. The toxins, they found, settled inside the house as dust particles. Those particles can be brought in on your shoes.

“Think about rain water in the street,” says Dr. Reynolds. It can have gasoline in it and chemicals, and those get on your shoes and can be brought into your home.” But, she cautions, the exposure to toxins would be long-term, and you would most likely have to be exposed many times over the course of your life in order to get sick.

3. Dirt

“Dirt isn’t harmful on its own,” says Dr. Reynolds, but you probably want to keep it at a minimum, especially if you have toddler grandchildren who play on the floor. “Kids often put their hands in their mouths, or have toys on the floor and put them in their mouths,” she says. One more plus to keeping your shoes at the door: It can cut down on how often you have to clean.

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