Friends, parents, countrymen, lend me your reusable shopping bags. We need to talk about grocery shopping. Prices have been going up since the pandemic, and as a fiscally responsible parent, I could no longer justify blindly spending my entire grocery budget at Publix without checking out some alternatives. I know there are other reasons not to shop at Publix: the Jenkins family’s major support of a little rally that turned into an insurrection, and their refusal to join WalMart and Taco Bell in paying a fair wage to Florida tomato pickers. But my gripe is their prices.
A while back I started buying anything I could at ALDI and to a lesser extent, Sam’s. I simply can’t go to Publix for things like butter, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, and certain vegetables, knowing what ALDI charges about half price for identical items. Sam’s is a little bit of a challenge, because their inventory is constantly changing and I really don’t need ranch dressing by the gallon.
But ALDI has gained a place in my heart, even if they’re small and out of the way.
The recent news that ALDI is buying Winn Dixie could be a game changer. During my quest for a better price on boiled peanuts, I went to Winn Dixie and it made me sad. Here was this store that could be just as bright and cheery as Publix, with a similar wide selection, but they’ve seemingly chosen to be drab. It’s like wondering why my daughter can’t just keep her room nice all the time.
Well, the Germans are here to fix that (the stores, not my daughter’s room). This has the potential to bring a full-size grocery store with ALDI’s prices and sensibility. And I’m fine with it if I have to deposit a quarter for a shopping cart and put my own groceries in a paper bag that I paid for.
If you’re a Trader Joe’s person, this news means nothing to you (and I’m guessing you don’t have kids and your grocery budget doesn’t rival your mortgage.)
But let me blow your mind: ALDI owns Trader Joe’s. Yes, Aldi Nord bought Trader Joe’s back in 1979 when it was a handful of stores in Southern California. Aldi Sud is buying Winn Dixie. What’s the difference? Brothers and ALDI founders Karl and Theo Albrecht disagreed over carrying cigarettes and split their stores into north and south. Germans know this division as the ALDI Equator—a German version of the Mason-Dixon line. ALDI’s northern faction (the smoking section) ran all of the ALDIs in Northern Germany and communist East Germany. This explains why Trader Joe’s parking lots feel so Eastern Bloc.
There’s obviously plenty of room in the grocery scene for a bigger ALDI. Despite Publix’s grip on the Florida psyche, we’ve got Kroger trucks circling the neighborhood, Whole Foods coming to St. Pete, and, if you’re really desperate, WalMart has one checkout lane open. I’m excited to see if the Albrechts can split the difference between the Jenkins and Waltons, because shopping isn’t a pleasure if my bank account is empty.