Is this Russia or something?

I shop at Aldi, and I don’t really mind that any more. It’s one of those places you drive by, you hear other people talking about, it has a reputation. You have to use a quarter to unlock a shopping cart – you get the quarter back when you return the cart and click the chain lock to it. You have to bag your own groceries. There aren’t anything special about the shelves, and boxes on top of pallets that are hauled out from the back as needed. They don’t take credit cards. Talk to people and you’ll hear about all of the goods being from foreign countries and not being regulated,  to it being unAmerican, etc.

Maybe things have changed, but the majority of items I buy say Product of America on them, or Made in America, etc. A few have said Poland (I think my raspberry preserves were from Poland), and maybe the chocolate chips. I look at the ingredient lists on my packages and there’s nothing weird listed there.

But the make you bag your own groceries and deposit a quarter to take a shopping cart out of the rack. Isn’t that something you should expect in some backwater country like Russia or Sweden?

No, it’s lower-middle class America.  Where a box of peanut butter bars for my kid’s lunch costs $1.4o at Giant Eagle, but only $.99 at Aldi, you go to Aldi. Instead of paying $3.30 for a gallon of milk, I pay $2.89 at Aldi. Hams are sold at ninety-nine cents a pound. Last week I picked up butternut squash for seventy-nine cents a piece. I have to feed my family and I can’t blow $1.20 a pound on a squash. It sounds like a small amount but add fifty cents to a buck onto every product I buy ad suddenly my grocery bill goes from $30 to $55. Do I have to get peanut butter bars for my kid’s lunch? Strictly speaking, no, I don’t. But I do need to get eggs and milk and bread. I don’t buy pre-made frozen meals, the vast majority of my meals are made from scratch. There isn’t a lot of waste in the food budget.

So, where am I going with this? I’m not sure. But it needs to be published or it never will be. I know that there is a whiff of apology to this, that I would shop at a more acceptable place if given the means, and that’s probably true. I don’t mind the Aldi products, I don’t see a huge difference in the vast majority of them. Often when I do sense a difference, it’s a positive one.  There’s something about the familar, though. And the looks on people’s faces. There’s the perception of shopping somewhere and why and what that says about you and your standing in society.  I hate that part of shopping at Aldi’s. Their swiss rolls are damn good, though. I prefer them to Li’l Debbie’s. It might be worth it for the swiss rolls alone.

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