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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Food shopping: Aldi opens in Hackensack, but market doesn't stand out in the crowd

At the new Aldi Food Market, which opened today near Sears in Hackensack, seated cashiers scan your items and return them to your cart, above.
That means customers must bag their own groceries at a counter facing Main Street. If you don't bring your own, Aldi will sell you bags for 10 cents each.



I came, I saw, I shrugged.

After 30 minutes or so inside the new Aldi Food Market, I left without buying anything, wondering what all the fuss is about.

In fact, I had a $10-off coupon on a purchase of $40 that I clipped out of a newspaper flier, but doubt I'll be able to use it before it expires on May 27.

Apartment dwellers who live nearby are probably happy that Aldi opened as an alternative to buying groceries at Target, Hackensack Market on Passaic Street or the shabby Giant Farmers Market downtown. 

The nearest full-service supermarkets are the ShopRite a few miles away on South River Street, and the aging H Mart in Little Ferry, where the parking lot is filled with potholes and a heavy rain leaves behind large puddles.

Aldi is far from the biggest market around.

Not that big

For one thing, the Aldi Food Market is not that big -- only a half-dozen aisles in total, and the selection is limited.

If you're looking for fresh fish, the shrink-wrapped fillets are farmed, not wild (tilapia or salmon).

I saw organic produce, but Aldi doesn't carry pre-washed organic spring mix, a staple in my home that I buy at Costco Wholesale.

Like many markets, Aldi boasts of low prices, but I've never heard of the private-label brands distributed by the German company, which also owns Trader Joe's.

And as a veteran shopper at Costco, ShopRite, H Mart, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, I didn't see any real bargains.

One of the private label brands at Aldi is Appleton Farms, which is uncomfortably close to Applegate Farm. Applegate sells natural and organic meats free of harmful antibiotics. But at Aldi, I didn't see any antibiotic-free cold cuts, including the prosciutto, above.

Double guarantee

Some of the other private labels at Aldi are Carlini 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from Spain and Tunisia), Simply Nature Organic Eggs (50 cents more a dozen than at Costco); Barissimo Coffee, Nature's Nectar Juice, Priano Tortellini. Pueblo Lindo Tortillas and Happy Harvest 
Leaf Spinach (in cans).

All of those items carry a double guarantee, according to Aldi: The store will replace the item and give you a refund.

I asked one woman whether she liked bagging her own groceries, and she said was used to it from the years she shopped at Aldi when she lived in Chicago.

The prices are low, she said, "because you do all the work."

When I visited the store this afternoon, the men's room was out of order.


ALDI Food Market, 492 Main St., Hackensack. Open Mondays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Website: ALDI

You need a quarter to use a shopping cart, and it will be refunded when you return the cart -- like the system at the Englewood ShopRite.

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