Shopping at Aldi is a great way to save on your grocery bill. Until you hit the centre aisle and start buying boat winches and velvet poufs along with the tinned tomatoes you came in for.
Here are 10 thoughts that go through your head when you try to sneak into Aldi for basics.
1. OK, I'm just going to buy the cheap pasta and some of that fancy chocolate.
Famous last words. The Aldi aisles are a reverse mirage: it looks like there's nothing in there you want to buy and then before you know it, you've wandered into the centre aisle and bought a fold-out picnic table with conveniently attached seats and a carry handle.
2. Where's my gold coin?!
You also don't have any change and you've lost the Aldi trolley coin thing that you bought when you came in last time. I mean, would it kill them to make the trolleys free to use?
Aldi's fabled centre aisle – famous for bargains and bunfights over ski gear.
3. I am not going into the centre aisle. I am not going into the centre aisle…
The centre aisle is a double-edge sword. On the one hand you might come out with a cotton sheet set and some stainless steel baking trays.
On the other, you might also come out with a sorbet maker that spits out dribbles of strawberry icicles and ruins Christmas. All I'm saying is, the stuff that came out of it did not look like the jaunty coronet of sorbet pictured on the box.
Before you know it, you've bought a fold-out picnic table with conveniently attached seats and a carry handle
4. Well, maybe just a little waft through the centre aisle. Hang on, what's with the brouhaha? Why is everyone punching on?
The centre aisle, while wonderful, also brings out the worst in people. If you see a bunfight going on in there, don't assume it's because there's something in there you want or need. Do not go in and join the frenzy. It's most probably ski season and they all need cheap ski gear. Remember, you don't ski. Ever.
5. If I speed up my walking, without looking like I'm speeding up my walking, can I get to that Merino waterfall cardigan before that lady does?
The Merino clothing, in fact all of the clothing in Aldi, is a misnomer. It looks like clothing, but it's really just a weird German imitation of clothing. I once bought a 'waterfall' cardigan that didn't so much waterfall down in gentle folds as terrace its way down in jagged creases. The shoulders also puckered up in weird spikes like a Star Trek costume.
6. What are all those people lining up at the front for?
Is there a great Special Buy on offer that I don't know about? There is a particular breed of Aldi shopper who really does their research. They're the people who will nab one of the three available broadcast-quality podcast microphones for $35 that are kept in the glass cabinets at the front of the store.
To succeed at this game, you have to a) read the catalogue religiously every week and b) be shameless enough to make the checkout guy leave his post – midway through someone else's grocery haul – to open the cabinet for you.
7. That Choco Rice monkey looks just like the Coco Pops monkey … do you think my kids will notice?
Yes. Your kids will notice. Do not under any circumstances think you will get away with the cheaper faux cereal imposters. Fruit Rounds are not the same as Froot Loops. Choco Rice thingies are not Coco Pops.
8. Hello, frozen produce aisle!
The next best thing to the centre aisle. And similarly, there are many wonderful-looking things in there that can be a bit hit and miss. A box of chocolate-covered boysenberry ice creams for $4? Why wouldn't you? Well, because they taste a bit like … savings.
The frozen aisle... as wonderful and weird as the centre aisle, just colder.
9. Slide me up a spacer!
It's amazing how those grocery spacer bars at the checkout offer a calming placebo of conveyor belt law and order. If you get to a checkout that's run out of them or if someone won't slide the next one up to you, it really does feel like your head is going to explode.
10. Oh that's right, I DO need a trolley
Once you've made it to the checkout with your arms overflowing with groceries and a Make Your Own Birdhouse Kit, you'll remember the real reason you should have forked out $2 for a trolley: if you don't provide a receptacle at the empty end of the checkout, the checkout guy is just going to just sweep your stuff through the scanner and straight onto the floor.
Either that, or you'll have to try to catch it all in the bags you forgot to bring.