Aldi and extreme couponing reshape the grocery field


Saving money on groceries is both easier and more difficult than it’s ever been before, thanks to the popularity of hard discounters like Aldi on the one hand and the traditional supermarket clampdown on extreme couponing on the other.

As I was driving to Fleming’s Steakhouse in Greensboro, N.C., for this broadcast, I passed one of my motherships — Aldi.

The German-based hard discount grocery chain is one of the most polarizing retailers in America. Aldi will save you 40% on your groceries over traditional supermarket prices without requiring you to do any couponing. (They mostly carry store brands, making most coupons useless anyway.)

But Aldi’s selection is limited, their store size is small, they don’t accept credit cards and you have to rent a cart when you go there. Want a bag to put your groceries in? You’ve got to pay for that too at Aldi!

It’s definitely an acquired taste. But if money is tight, I think Aldi offers a great way to save without having to think about the whole saving process. If you have a family member or friend who’s really stretched, you can try Aldi in more than 30 states. It’s the easiest way I know to save money on groceries.

It’s funny because in my family, we’re currently having a debate about naming our next dog. I’ve always named our dogs, which means that we had two now-departed pooches named Costco Wholesale (after the national warehouse club chain) and QT (after the multi-state gas station convenience store chain).

Now that we’re getting a new dog, I wanted to name it Vanguard, in honor of the discount investment house. But my family nixed that idea. So I put up a shortlist of other names and Aldi seemed to be the one that caught on with my family.

Of course, Aldi might not be your thing — either for dog names or for the shopping experience! In that case, it’s both easier and more difficult to save elsewhere than it has been in the past. It’s easier because of sites like that do a lot of the coupon crunching for you, but more difficult because extreme couponing is a market disruptor and stores are tightening their coupon redemption policies as a result.

Another alternative to Aldi would be Wal-Mart, which will still save you 20% on your grocery bill on average vs. traditional supermarket prices. Again, it may not be the experience you want, but it will save you.

I love shopping warehouse clubs for groceries too. But very often, a deal is not a deal if something is too big and goes stale before its time.


And on the dog name thing, I’m holding out for Vanguard, but we’ll see! Another alternative is calling the dog John Bogle, after the founder of Vanguard, though I don’t think my family likes that as much as Aldi.

Editor’s note: Today’s broadcast originated from Greensboro, N.C., as Clark was on book tour for his New York Times No. 1 bestselling book, Clark Howard’s Living Large in Lean Times. Special thanks to FM Talk 101.1 WZTK for hosting Clark during the event.

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