Experiments in Frugality: Aldi & Ibotta

Today we have the inaugural post for a series I’m calling “Experiments in Frugality.” These attempts may be successful, or they may be dismal. I’ll report the results as they come in. Be on the lookout for further experiments.

This past weekend I decided to try two things I’ve been hearing everyone talk about. The Ibotta app and an Aldi market. They’re not connected, I was just feeling particularly curious this weekend. My grocery bill has been a huge struggle for me and both of these seemed like an opportunity to cut my spending.

Ibotta: My First Attempt

First I downloaded Ibotta. Ibotta is a cash back coupon app. I’ve been seeing it praised by bloggers and social media figures for a few months now.

For me? The jury’s still out. I’m not quite ready to jump on the bandwagon and call this a success. I’m going to need to keep experimenting with the app to decide if it’s for me. It seems fair, as I’ve only used it once so far.

I used Ibotta in Target. I don’t spend much time in Target in general, so maybe that was a poor choice. I managed enough Ibotta earnings to come pretty close to redeeming my $10 bonus. Basically, if you redeem $10 worth of offers within a certain amount of time, then you get a bonus $10 on top of that. That’s my goal right now.

I had a few issues, the list of offers isn’t terribly well suited to my normal shopping habits. I don’t mind trying a new brand, but I don’t need/want for many of the things advertised at all. Needless to say, the list of offers I went in to get wasn’t terribly long. Then the problem became that I couldn’t find many of items I planned to buy. It needed to be a certain brand and the store I was in didn’t seem to carry that brand. A few times I found items, but they were so “high end” (read expensive) that even with the cash back I wasn’t willing to pay for them.

That said, I’m still curious about it. I’ve never been a coupon person, so shopping in this way is new to me. I think it’s worth trying the app in a different store and maybe trying it’s online shopping cashback feature. I think I’ll be able to meet the bonus threshold without doing outrageous spending. When I’m done experimenting I’ll report back.

After Target, I headed over to Aldi, where I now want to shop forever and ever and ever.

Aldi: My New Favorite Place

I need to confess now that I’ve known about Aldi for a long time. Years. An old roommate of mine shopped there and I mocked him for his penny pinching. I assumed you couldn’t save enough to warrant the fact that he drove 6 miles through city traffic to get there. One way! After all, it’s just a grocery store. The prices are surely only a few cents different, right? And they don’t even have bags for your groceries? Anyway, there’s no way all that off-brand nonsense he brought home was any good.

I was so, so wrong.

My opinion has been slowly ebbed away by the many people in my life who discovered Aldi before me. That same roommate’s lovely wife later introduced me to the glories of Aldi’s cheese selection. A coworker brought in delicious pumpkin scones she had baked from an Aldi’s box mix. While visiting my grandparents, we ran into an Aldi in Vermont. I discovered what happens when you put an Aldi in a state with more reasonable liquor laws. It’s enough to make me want to move.

I had actually wandered in previously myself, but under less than ideal circumstances. I didn’t have a quarter to free-up a cart, I had no bags with which to carry my haul, and I walked in hungry and miserable at the beginning of a juice cleanse. (I had gone in for more produce to juice.) Needless to say it wasn’t my favorite shopping day ever.

Today, I was prepared. I had a quarter in hand for my cart. I had my reusable bags. I had breakfast in my belly and a basic idea of what I might make to eat this week.

I bought everything.

All the things. Bear in mind when you look at this photo that I’m single, no kids or roommates, and not planning any dinner parties this week… My First Aldi Haul! <$60!

Perhaps I got a little excited. This was an experiment in frugality after all, not a masters level move. I’m confident future trips can be much more focused.

Aldi's Find: Potting Mix

What a place to go overboard in though! Every item I bought is something I absolutely love. I even got a bag of potting mix which I was running out of. So what was the damage? $59.08

Yup. Including the potting mix. Including the chicken breast and fresh strawberries, the wild-caught salmon filets, the organic greens and avocados. Including the spices and crumbly cheese. I went hog wild and spent less than $60.

Part of the reason I went a little crazy this weekend is because it’s not super convenient to my house. I felt like I wouldn’t be back for ages and I needed to take advantage. By the time I got home and unpacked though, I had devised a plan. While it’s a bit out of the way, I plan to make once or twice a month pilgrimages to Aldi to stock up on pantry items, frozen salmon, cheese, and whatever wonderful finds they’re featuring that week. On the off weeks I’ll get produce at my neighborhood market.

I had been trying to sort out a new grocery plan ever since my normal routine stopped bringing me near a Trader Joe’s. The Acme near my house is expensive and I have no affection for the place. My neighborhood market has amazing produce and a great bulk section but the pantry items are pricey.

Even with all the financial changes I’ve made, I have struggled hard to get my grocery spending under control. It’s down from what it used to be, but that means it’s now only mildly absurd. Lately, I spent several weeks eating rice & bean lunches to try and combat this. They were good little dishes with veggies and great seasoning, but I’m not trying to do that every week.

I love good food. I keep hearing that it doesn’t need to break the bank. I have a ways to go, but I think Aldi may be the inspiration I needed to challenge myself in this area once again.

For the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to tackling this.

Oh, and a fun little extra? My friend that introduced me to Aldi’s cheese? I mentioned I was writing up my amazing trip to Aldi and she sent this over:

Amanda's Aldi Haul! <$115!!“As the older, wiser sister of the bride, I was recently in charge of grocery shopping for a bachelorette party for 14 people. For $114.79, I was able to feed 14 people six meals each, plus tons of snacks.

That’s six meals for just over $10 a person! You can’t beat it. And we didn’t eat like paupers either – we’re talking omelets with every veggie filling imaginable, bacon and sausage, grilled chicken, caesar salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, ham/turkey/roast beef sandwiches with all the fixin’s… the list goes on.”


Any great tips for managing your grocery shopping? Please, share them below! Or if this is an area you’re working on as well, let me know!

Comments (6)

  1. This is awesome! We don’t have Aldi in Canada but I’ve been to one just over the border in Buffalo, and I can definitely see why everyone loves it so much.
    Keep up the Frugal Experiments! That sounds like a great segment.

    1. Maybe Aldi will expand into Canada? They’re a European based company to begin with, not American. We can hope! And thanks! There’s a few more things I’ve been trying/learning that I’m excited to write about. Got a used bike on craigslist and I’m starting to learn to ride in the city. Also just signed up for my first travel rewards credit card today. I’m on a roll!

  2. Aldi is the most amazing place ever! Unfortunately, there are none west of Kansas. It is by far, the best place to buy all your essentials! Happy you discovered it!

    On the Ibotta note, I like it, but it makes me want to buy things I don’t need, like all the fancy shampoos and brands I never try. I have to be REALLY careful! LOL

    1. Yea Liz! I was walking around with this Ibotta app reaching for $8 almond butter. With a $1 cash back coupon. That’s still $7 almond butter! What was I thinking?! I kept my cool, got to Aldi’s, and got it for $4. I still plan on using the app again to see if it’ll be valuable to me, but my first experience was just like you described.

      I’m so sorry about the lack of Aldi’s in your area! Any good alternatives?

  3. ACME you must live in the North East, I love Aldi it’s my go to grocery store, I just wish they would carry whole wheat flour. Instead of using those cash back APPS I buy discount gift cards on Raise or Cardpool for things I need to purchase.

  4. The grocery/restaurant part of my budget is the single biggest struggle for me as a single person. The past month or so I’ve been trying to tweak it to be enough money so that I’m not only eating rice and beans, but also a reasonable # for my overall budget. It’s landing around $300 including toiletries and paper goods. I see people post that their budget is $100 for a whole month, and I just don’t know how they do it. Just as I was moving and selling my house they put in an Also and Walmart Neighborhood Market. I was so sad I wouldn’t get to take advantage of those places being so close.

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