Central West Shopping Plaza, West Footscray.
Recollections of my only visit to an Aldi outlet – soon after the company set up shop in Australia – are all negative.
They are of a cheapness far beyond the admirably low prices, produce on palates, produce strewn on the floor and rock-hard dried fruit in the muesli.
Haven’t been back since.
But so many friends continue to frequent their local Aldi that I figure it’s time for another look.
Perhaps my memory is playing a few tricks on me, for the Central West Aldi is spick, span and ultra neat.
What I find a little disturbing, though, is the utter quietness, so conditioned am I to hearing piped music in supermarkets and shopping malls.
This place is bright, silent and a little creepy.
I feel like an extra in The Stepford Wives.
My shopping needs are modest, so much so that I don’t even wield a list as I set off with my $2 shopping trolley.
I am disappointed to find no simple rolled oats, but grab a 99-cent bag of the crushed variety.
Grandessa raspberry jam is beaut at $1.39. The label says “made in Australia” and carries Aldi details, so I guess it’s the house brand.
I figure just about the entire the stock range is likewise.
The Carloni diced, tinned tomatoes, for instance, at 69 cents – the labels says they’re from Argentina! I buy two just to check ’em out.
Also with Aldi markings on the packaging is the made-in-Italy Remano pasta at 79 cents a 500 gram bag.
Ocean Rise 185-gram tuna in “springwater” is another Aldi product, this time listed as being from Thailand. I buy two for $1.99 each. Thai springwater?
A 125-gram bar of German Mosser Roth chocolate costs $2.49, a litre bottle of Unamat dishwashing detergent 99 cents and a 250-gram bag of Fair Trade coffee $4.99.
As on my long-ago previous visit, the fresh produce situation is skimpy. No herbs to be seen at all, but they do have bananas for just under the $10 mark – cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen recently. I grab a kilo bag of mandarins for $2.25.
The Deli Originals kilo bottle of giardinera mix looks good for $2.99 – bizarrely, this is a product of India!
My dijon mustard (190 grams for $1.39) and The Olive Tree EVOO (500ml for $5.49) are both marked as being Australian products.
I go up and down each aisle at least twice looking for rice. And fail.
Some of the prices, for various nuts for example, seem little or no cheaper than in the competition.
And $12.99 for poor-quality cushions seems pretty steep.
Look, if our domestic situation involved more people, and if our household budget was subject to greater demands, Aldi would no doubt be a viable proposition for us.
But a big mark against it for us is the lack of a deli counter. There’s no way, in other words, of ordering a half-dozen slices of green olive mortadella or a piece of fetta just the right size for that night’s salad or a handful of olives.
Aldi remains for us not only cheap in price but just plain cheap.
Even something as potentially humdrum as household shopping deserves a richer experience than Aldi delivers.
It’s the pokies pub of supermarkets.
I believe it’s a simple matter to shop as cheaply as can be done at Aldi AND enjoy an enriching experience in doing so.
Mileage of others obviously varies.
On the way home, I stop by Sims in Barkly St for the items I failed to find in Aldi – and share a chuckle with a young mum who only moments before had been one of my fellow shoppers at Aldi.
For the record, our regular shopping haunts are – depending on our needs, time of day, day of the week and so on – the aforementioned Sims, IGA in Yarraville, various shops at The Circle in Altona. Less frequently we make it to Sunshine Plaza and its Big Fields Fresh Market and even Mediterranean Wholesalers in Sydney Rd.
More specialised, focussed adventures are regularly had at Footscray Market, Saigon Market and Vic Market.