The topic that got the most discussion and comments during my first Facebook Live session on the Frugal Dare to Millionaire Facebook Group was on the topic of supermarkets. Specifically – which is cheaper? ALDI or Costco? And is the annual $60 Costco membership worth it?
I shop at both ALDI and Costco. I am at heart an ALDI girl. I love my ALDI shop. But I also shop at Costco, and love the bargains there as well. I don’t shop at Costco as often, and that is mainly because a trip there is a bit of an expedition – especially if I have my kids with me. Being a wholesaler the size of products is also huge (if you want one you usually have to buy at least six). In theory, I like to split with other people, but in practice, I have not had any takers when I have asked. (Who wants to go on a Costco shop with me? Who wants to split a pack of 48 rolls of toilet paper, or two chickens, or a bulk pack of minced meat?)
But back to the question of which is better. As a frugalista, I shop where I get the best deal and that depends on what is being offered by each shop on the products I want. So I buy some things at ALDI, and others at Costo. (Sometimes I even shop at Coles and Woolies if I need certain products.) Here is a breakdown of what I buy from each:
- Petrol – I usually save around $10 compared with filling up elsewhere. It is worth the membership just for the petrol savings (although now that I am cycling to work several times a week I am using less petrol). The downside is the wait in the queue – on weekends it is very long. I will only go if I have the time to drive there and to wait. If not, I visit a Woolworths/Caltex and use an e-Wish card (5% savings with my Entertainment Book membership).
- Toilet paper – I once read this is their top-selling item, and I understand why
- Eggs – unless you score from a friend who has free range, I find these the best value
- Milk – 3c cheaper for 3 litres at Costco than ALDI, but of course I wouldn’t trek across town to save 3c a week
- Perisher and Thredbo two-day ski passes – prices vary but from memory, it was around $249 for two days at Perisher that included lifts, ski hire and a 3 hour lesson
- Hoyts movie tickets – cheaper than any other deal I have come across
- Nappies – not something my kids need anymore but was the catalyst for us joining in the first place
- Electronic items – I renewed my membership just to buy a vacuum cleaner. So long as your membership remains valid, they will replace no questions asked. No, I haven’t bought a big screen TV from them but they intrigue me. (Note: I once had a bad experience trying to get a TV that I bought at ALDI fixed, so I put a premium on good customer service for problems with electronic items. I have never heard a bad thing about Costco and failure to replace electronics.)
- Roast chickens – a favourite with my boys, which I stretch for several meals and then soup
- Wine and alcohol – they stock my favourite Dal Zotto Prosecco, which is on special from time to time, and also some very good Australian and international labels
- Bulk beef and pork mince – pork mince, in particular, is some of the best I can buy in Canberra. I place in plastic zip lock bags and freeze
- Bulk chicken drumsticks – in little pouches of three, which makes it easy to freeze and use as needed. Chicken drumsticks are one of my frugal secrets, and I use them in many ways.
- Cashew nuts – my Dad loves those big round containers of cashew nuts and chews through them at lightning speed when he visits
- Special seasonal buys such as mooncakes – I first joined Costco in Canberra to buy ice-cream mooncakes (oh my there were so yummy)
- Devondale butter – I do like the butter at ALDI, but I especially like this award-winning brand
- Pomelos – in season these are so fresh and very special
- Super large pizzas – you need a large freezer if you plan to eat later on, but they are exceptional quality
- Sandwich platters – these have featured at many a party that I have attended
- Bed linen – unfortunately, limited sizing (e.g. usually only Queen size) but still very good quality
- Bulk vinegar – 5 litres for only $2.79, can be used for cooking or for cleaning
- Bulk bicarbonate of soda – even cheaper than ALDI or the Asian supermarket that supplies many of Canberra’s Asian restaurants
- Flour – 5kg bulk packs work out at only 5c a kilogram cheaper than ALDI BUT I like the brand and the quality
- Cafe – I can’t take my kids without a visit to the cafe afterwards. Favourites are their ice cream cone and the (occasional) treat of a hot dog with a limitless supply of soft drink (not for my easily sugar hyped kiddies).
- Birthday cakes – absolutely huge and a bargain at $27.98.
I do the bulk of my shopping at ALDI. It used to be closer to home, although now that I have moved to inner Canberra I shop at a centre that has both ALDI and Costco so it is not really an issue re distance anymore. I still prefer ALDI because for most of my shopping because:
- It is fairly easy to get in and out of the store, especially if you only plan to buy a few things
- I find that many of their products across the board are as cheap as Costco, or only marginally more expensive. In some categories (see below) they are even cheaper.
- I love their 7-day specials – price wise I have never been able to beat what they have on offer there at Costco or indeed anywhere else (99c strawberries and $1.29 lettuce last week)
- They have more generic brands than Costco so they are able to offer competitive prices across a larger range of products
- I like their European style quality and range
- Products are available in smaller sizes, e.g. only 1kg of flour versus 5kg to 10kg
- Their alcohol is exceptionally cheap and very good quality. I really like their award-winning $5 South Point Estate Rose, and have enjoyed making limoncello from their $27.99 vodka. (Note: I am not, and never have been a big drinker and sometimes I struggle in social situations where people drink a lot. One of my best frugal tips is to only drink occasionally, and when you have special company. That said, I do enjoy good wine with good food and good company.)
- ALDI’s themed specials are amazing. They have this real knack of bringing out what a middle-class household needs even before they think they need it. Think gardening supplies in early spring, fitness products early in the year, back to school specials in January/February and ski gear as soon as the weather starts to get cold.
- Their mobile plans are extremely competitive. I was sad to have missed a one-year special they offered – apparently, it sold out in days. I will be watching for it next time.
- I have a thing for their Utz certified chocolate. (As with alcohol, one of my big frugal tips is to only buy chocolate occasionally. My new man, however, cottoned on early that my kids and I like ALDI chocolate as a special treat so he has been coming to visit well stocked up.)
- Icecream – ALDI Crowns used to be only $3 for four but at the increased price of $3.29 they are still good value. My kids like them more than Cornettos. We also like the mini Utopia, which are kind of like mini Magnums. Friday is ice-cream night in our household.
- Rolled oats – I much prefer the ALDI ones to Costco because they are Australian made (nothing against Quaker oats, just why would I buy imported from the US when I can buy ones that haven’t travelled halfway across the world).
- Christmas items – I love their Christmas specials, hard to beat and always great quality.
- Orange dishwashing liquid – love the quality.
The real trick to making an ALDI shop work for you is to only shop on the edges and avoid the middle rows as much as possible.
This month I am continuing the $50/week challenge with a spring cleaning challenge. I have all sorts of tips on how to keep your home sparkling clean on a budget. Stay tuned for more ideas and challenges. For now …
Your challenge is to think consciously about where you shop and which supermarket is cheaper. Start compiling a list of which items that you use that are cheaper – or better – at which store. If you have never been to Costco and have a store nearby, ask around and see if you can tag along with a friend.