The Ultimate Aldi vs. Trader Joe’s Showdown: Which Store Is Cheaper?

Coffee, bananas and bread were bought for a price comparison between Aldi and Trader Joe's.
In a price comparison between Trader Joe's and Aldi for some common items, we found Aldi was cheaper. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we love a good showdown between grocery stores.

You may have read about when I made the switch from Winn-Dixie to Trader Joe’s after comparing my grocery list at both places. In the long run, this switch saved me big.

I’ve shopped at Trader Joe’s ever since. But with Aldi taking America by storm, it’s time for another duel: Aldi vs. Trader Joe’s.

Which one is cheaper for everyday grocery shopping? Let’s find out.

Here’s How Much I Spent at Trader Joe’s

If you’re a fan of novelty snacks like pumpkin butter and mochi rice nuggets, you may be a Trader Joe’s superfan. While Trader Joe’s snacks usually carry the labels of the store’s own brands, recent reports claim larger companies, like PepsiCo and Frito-Lay, manufacture them.

Aside from its delicious and wacky treats, the grocery chain is also known for its excellent customer service, paying its employees well (with potential 7-10% annual pay increases — woah!) and being affordable.

When it comes to a plain ol’ grocery list, though, is the Joe actually cheap?

These bananas, coffee and bread were bought from Trader Joe’s for a price comparison against Aldi. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Below is a sample grocery list filled with everyday items based off what I normally purchase for myself every two weeks. (Prices listed for both Aldi and Trader Joe’s are for our local stores in Florida and will vary by location.)

  • Half gallon whole milk: $2.49
  • Loaf of whole-wheat bread: $2.79
  • 1 dozen eggs: $1.19
  • One tomato: 69 cents
  • 3-ounce container ground coffee: $4.99
  • 2.35 pounds organic chicken breasts: $17.60
  • Head of cauliflower: $2.49
  • White mushrooms: $1.99
  • One jumbo red onion: 99 cents
  • Four potatoes: $1.96
  • Four bananas: 76 cents
  • Light sliced provolone cheese: $4.49
  • Coffee creamer: $3.49
  • TJ’s nonfat greek yogurt: $4.99
  • Light cheese stick: $2.99
  • Frozen mixed fruit: $2.99
  • Organic frozen broccoli: $2.49
  • Butter croissants: $2.69
  • Six thinkThin protein bars: $10.74

Pretax total at Trader Joe’s: $72.81

… and Here’s What I Spent at Aldi

Aldi is best described as a no-frills grocery store. You have to bring your own bags or pay for them at the store, bag your own groceries and pay a refundable 25-cent deposit for a grocery cart. Because Aldi’s labor and supply costs are low, it can keep its prices incredibly low for consumers.

Keeping the no-frills concept in mind, Aldi doesn’t have many brand-name items (or mochi rice nuggets) to my knowledge. It does, however, claim that its products “are made of the same, or even higher, quality than national brands.”

Here’s how much it cost to buy (almost) the same items at Aldi:

  • Half gallon whole milk: $1.09
  • Loaf of whole-wheat bread: $1.29
  • 1 dozen eggs: 67 cents
  • 1 pound tomatoes: $1.59
  • Ground coffee: $3.99
  • Two packages of organic chicken breasts with rib meat: $11.25
  • Head of cauliflower: $1.99
  • White mushrooms: $1.29
  • 2 pounds jumbo red onions: $1.69
  • 5 pounds potatoes: $2.69
  • 1 pound organic bananas: $1.38
  • Sliced provolone cheese: $1.79
  • Coffee creamer: $1.89
  • Tub of nonfat Greek yogurt: $3.49
  • Light cheese sticks: $2.29
  • Frozen mixed fruit: $2.09
  • Non-organic frozen broccoli:$1.19
  • Butter croissants: $2.69
  • Six Fit & Active protein bars: $4.29

Pretax total: $48.64

Aldi vs. Trader Joe’s Verdict: Aldi Is Cheaper, but…

This coffee from Aldi cost $3.99. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

At first glance, it’s obvious that Aldi was significantly cheaper than Trader Joe’s. However, that lower grocery bill came at a price.

For example, I couldn’t find a large package of chicken breasts to compare to the one at Trader Joe’s, so I would have to buy two of them to last me two weeks.

I also couldn’t find any cauliflower heads or white mushrooms on my first trip to Aldi. I  had to go back another day to get them.

The produce I could find, though, was a tad scary looking — OK, REALLY scary looking. All the tomatoes were either bruised or smooshed, the bananas were already turning brown, and fruit flies were buzzing around the produce section.

Additionally, the onions and potatoes were only available in 2- and 5-pound packaging, respectively. Considering I was shopping for myself, I’m not sure if I could eat all those before they went bad.

So, who is the real winner here?

This bread was bought from Trader Joe's.
This whole wheat bread from Trader Joe’s cost $2.79. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

I guess the best I can say is it depends.

Hear me out. I enjoy fresh produce, and the closest store to me doesn’t have the most ideal produce section, so Aldi may not be my first choice for fruits and veggies. But that may vary by store.

If you have a family, though, buying produce in the big bags Aldi offers would be beneficial.

There also wasn’t a light cheese option at Aldi, which is important to me. But hey, you can’t win them all.

For those who aren’t so picky about their groceries, Aldi could be the way to go. If you are picky, consider buying specific items at Trader Joe’s and the rest at Aldi.

So, what do you think? Are Aldi’s cheaper prices enough to make you switch?

Kelly Smith is a junior writer and engagement specialist at The Penny Hoarder. Catch her on Twitter at @keywordkelly.