aisle of shame.

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Aldi shoppers are not birds, but they sometimes sound like they are.

meet the proud shoppers of aldi’s ‘aisle of shame.’ this aisle has its own subculture and fan club.
(the ‘caw’ sound you may hear is one fan calling to another)

The “Aisle of Shame” is the unofficial name Aldi enthusiasts have given the store’s middle aisle, home to a weekly rotation of curious edible and non-edible products available only while supplies last. We’re talking everything from vegan lasagna made from lentils to a churro maker and apple cinnamon latte-flavored dog biscuits. The recipe for the Aisle of Shame’s surprising cult status combines the joy of a bargain, the thrill of discovery, the allure of the unusual, and the satisfaction of snapping up a limited-time offer.

“It’s something that you can use to express yourself and add fun and joy to your grocery shopping,” says enthusiastic  shopper Brenna Bazemore of its odd assortment of products. “I hate grocery shopping, but I love to go to Aldi and shop, because I know I’m at least going to get something that I can use outside of food and that’s always exciting to me.”

Plus, she can share her excitement with a million other AOS fans in the Facebook group where members share more than recipes, reviews, and Insta-worthy pics. With an evolving lingo, hashtag trends, and a propensity for random acts of kindness, the Aisle of Shame community is a unique food culture inspired by a grocery store. The Aisle of Shame’s edible advent calendars contain beer, cheese, and more. “It started as a fan group and it has become so much more,” writes Stefanie Fleming, the creator of the  Aisle of Shame website and Facebook group.

While each week’s AOS items can often seem like a compilation of randomness, a method exists. Since Aldi keeps prices low by stocking about 1,400 products (mostly staples) compared to a conventional grocery store’s 40,000, the AOS introduces more excitement and variety for shoppers. The aisle, which each week is split 50-50 between edible and non-edible items, often has a theme, whether seasonal (pumpkin foods in the fall; pool products in the summer) or regional (many AOS enthusiasts plan meals of schnitzel, spätzle, and strudel around the aisle’s German Week). Nils Brandes, a retail consultant who has co-written a book on Aldi’s business strategies, estimates that 20 percent of all yearly sales come from these products.

The Aisle of Shame is also where the grocers test new products to gauge their popularity—the vegetarian and vegan Earth Grown and gluten-free LiveGfree product lines, for instance, advanced from the AOS to the main aisles. “It’s crazy to think this is a grocery-store community,” Bazemore says.

After some thought, McKillip observes that Aldi shoppers might be more down-to-earth, their need to make a dollar stretch giving them both a healthier perspective about the products and more joy when they have room in their carts and budgets for the AOS’s more quirky products. Ultimately, though, she offers a simpler explanation: “It’s fun.”

“you’ve got bad eating habits if you use a grocery cart in 7-eleven.”

-dennis miller

credits: gastro obscura, sara murphy, photo: stella murphy

81 responses »

    • aldi’s and trader joe’s are owned by german brothers, each with a different approach to grocery shopping, though some things are similar. aldi’s is pretty bare bones, bring your own bags or use their boxes or buy a cheap bag there, rent a cart for 25cents and not glam at all. but – it is fun to visit, as it often has very quirky items and the prices are pretty cheap, very friendly, rare to find a name brand unless it is a euro brand, and something about it is always an adventure. hard to describe but something about it…

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I’ve never been inside an Aldi’s store. I enjoy grocery shopping and occasionally make a trip to Grocery Outlet for the fun of looking at everything and finding something unique at a good price. However, since I enjoy the task, I end up buying more than I need simply because the price is spectacular. It’s a good thing though, since the next time I go back, the product is no longer available!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What first caught my eye in an Aldis was the way the brand names were a letter or two off from what I was accustomed to in the other stores, Beth. Such as, Del Monte gave way to Dal Minto, with a similar-looking but not exact log. Or something like that.

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  3. Pingback: aisle of shame. — I didn’t have my glasses on…. – johnrieber

  4. I had no idea this Aldi aisle had a name. Thank you for sharing this story. I will never view this aisle in the same way. Just a few days ago, I bought a hyacinth bulb there. It’s in a tiny vase, growing roots as the plant grows. In a week or so, I should have a lovely blooming pink flower. Last year I bought one for my son and he loved it. This adds a bit of spring to a cold January in Minnesota.

    Aldi is my primary grocery shopping store. Prices are so much lower than other stores in town. However, because stock is limited, I always end up at another grocer to pick up the items I can’t find at Aldi. And recently Aldi has been low or out of stocks on some staples…like kleenex and dairy products.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We have the Lidl stores here, another German-owned competitor along lines of Aldi. At least, we love that center aisle! I’ve bought everything from spices to sweats to sewing machine from that aisle. And of course, the most fun is the sheer surprise of what shows up there each time I go. Now that we live on an island, I’m not a frequent center-aisle shopper, but I try to pop in when I’m in Glasgow.

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  6. Aldi is special. I have been there for the first time during the first lockdown to check it out. There is one item we keep buying from them since. It is one coffee brand that is inexpensive and really good.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Beth I shop at Aldi occasionally. However in Florida, the store is like a walk in freezer and even though I wear a down jacket (I keep in my car) I need to rush in and out. I’ve seen the “Isle of shame” and will hopefully the store will be less freezing and I can check the items out. Claudia

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This is a new one on me—The Aisle of Shame. It sounds like a daytime soap opera.🤣 I don’t particularly like shopping, but I would walk down this aisle for the mere experience of seeing what’s there.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. No Aldi’s here… where I lived before they had a “Super Cheap” which was like an Aladdin’s Cave and you never knew what you would find…nothing like that here though…Sounds just the same…I love quirk 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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