By Liv Jackson, University of Missouri

It is a classic tale of the broke college kid. In one moment, I am complaining about how I do not have enough money to go out with my friends, see a movie, buy a new outfit, or anything that falls into the category of recreational spending. However, the next moment, I turn around and spend my money on food that I can purchase quickly.

As a senior in my final year of college, I find myself having many demands on my time. Every day of the week consists of multiple classes, multiple hours of work at my internship, and a variety of extracurricular activities. When I add up all these hours, it is incredibly difficult to find spare time to take care of miscellaneous self-care activities.

One of these practices that often falls by the wayside is grocery shopping. Taking the time to drive to the grocery store, search for the best deals, check out, drive home, and put everything away amounts to approximately two hours. I certainly don’t have two free hours during my day, and in the evenings I have too much homework (or sleeping) to do to prioritize shopping.

Additionally, the amount of money I have to pay up front to grocery shop feels too high to be worthwhile. This ignorance leads to me spending more money on food I can grab on the go throughout the week than I would have in one trip to the grocery store.

Knowing I had to reverse this bad habit, I sought the quickest option of grocer which I could also count on to provide reliably low prices. This is when I shopped at my local Aldi (a discount grocery) for the first time. Two things struck me as important — the store is very compact, has a logical flow, and allows shoppers to go in and out quickly. Second, when I checked out, I was pleasantly surprised to see the total amount was noticeably lower than more mainstream stores.

This experience prompted me to do some further research to see if I really was saving money, or if the satisfying encounter just had me seeing through rose-colored glasses. I happened upon an article by Andy Prescott for clark.com where he conducted two studies examining the pricing of Aldi products to those offered at Walmart. (Aldi offers only store brand items, while Walmart offers both national brands and store brands).

The first of the two studies compared a haul of 14 grocery items. The items purchased from Walmart were all of the name brands the store offered, and the grand total was $42.09. The items that were all Aldi’s brand totaled $24.76. This study concluded shoppers saved a total of 41%.

However, Prescott realized that the comparison of name brands against Aldi’s native brand wasn’t totally a fair experiment. So, to level the playing field, he compared the same haul of 14 groceries with Walmart generic brand.  Still, Aldi’s won with Walmart generics coming in at $30.86 and the Aldi at $24.76 This experiment resulted in 20% savings for the shopper.

Prescott’s findings explained two things. I realized that, all things considered, Aldi provides overall better prices for everyday items. Also, shopping at a store that provides almost zero name brand options forces me to make smarter decisions that save me money over time.

The time and money saving potential that Aldi presents to me has changed the way I eat throughout my week as a busy college student. This change of habit has changed many aspects of my life, including how much money I have and how I feel after eating. Aldi consistently saves me money and allows me to purchase healthier options for meals, and that is how the grocery store keeps me coming back.

Jackson is a senior at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.