My grandma took me to this grocery store every Christmas. Now I can carry on the tradition

·5 min read

With aisles filled with British chocolates, German breads and French pastries, Aldi is a must-visit destination for me during the holidays.

Growing up in the UK, my family would make a three-hour trek to Wales at Christmastime to visit family. During the trip, my grandma would often take my sister and me to Aldi. Climbing into her tiny car, we'd roll down the steep hill to the grocery store, which was nestled into the side of the mountain. Because Wales in the winter is particularly rainy, we'd stomp across a moss-covered parking lot to reach the shopping carts.

One thick golden pound coin had to be inserted into the handle to release the Aldi shopping carts. Deciding whether my sister or I would be in charge of the pound coin, and the all-important task of remembering to get it back at the end, often caused mild arguments. All worries washed away, however, once inside the store. We were shopping with grandma, and that meant we could pick sweets and treats that usually weren't allowed.

Creamy individual trifles packaged in clear yogurt cups generally made it into the cart. We picked multiple flavors of sugar-filled bottles of fruit concentrate, which, when watered-down, resembled real juice. Chocolate was a given. And sometimes, we'd take a stroll down the gift aisle to pick out bright plastic toys that would magically reappear under the tree on Christmas morning.

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When Aldi came to metro Phoenix just before the holidays in 2020, I was delighted to resume this childhood tradition here in Arizona.

Why Aldi is the perfect holiday grocery store

An aisle of holiday goodies at Aldi in Goodyear on Nov. 30.
An aisle of holiday goodies at Aldi in Goodyear on Nov. 30.

Whether squelching through the rain in Wales or soaking up the sun in Arizona, Aldi is the perfect grocery store for the holiday season. You can come with a shopping list, get all of your groceries in the fresh produce and frozen foods aisles and then turn your attention to wandering through rows of holiday goodies.

In recent years, Aldi's non-traditional advent calendars have become extremely popular, with options that allow customers to count down to Christmas with a different cheese, wine or chocolate every day. But the popular calendars are hard to come by. They typically sell out soon after going on sale in early November.

Despite the slim chances of landing an advent calendar, the discount grocer carries a consistently great selection of European treats.

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What to expect at Aldi in metro Phoenix

Aldi first opened in Germany in 1961. The chain then expanded to the U.S. in 1976 and now has locations in 37 states. Currently, Phoenix has four stores, located in Chandler, Gilbert, Peoria and Goodyear. Two more stores, one in South Phoenix and another in Queen Creek, are scheduled to open on Dec. 10.

This week, I headed to the Goodyear store. In the U.S., the carts require a quarter deposit for use. So, I popped a coin into the cart and started surfing the aisles.

On a weekday morning, the store was refreshingly empty, allowing me to weave through with ease. Store employees worked diligently, disinfecting baskets and display cases as customers shopped.

Here's what ended up in my cart.

ALDI HOLIDAY SHOPPING LIST

Mini chocolate snowmen and bears from Aldi, a discount grocery store.
Mini chocolate snowmen and bears from Aldi, a discount grocery store.

Winter Classics Chocolates

The chocolate options at Aldi include Hershey's Kisses and Reese's Cups, but stick to the international selections, like the box of colorful chocolates called Winter Classics ($4.99) which includes British desserts reimagined in chocolate form, including a rhubarb and custard white chocolate and a Jaffa Cake chocolate and orange truffle.

German chocolate snowmen and bears

I also picked two tiny containers of German chocolate snowmen and little bears ($3.29) labeled Mini Schneemaenner and Mini Baerchen, respectively. These small chocolates are simple, but the quality of the chocolate is what you're going for here. If you happen to be filling your own advent calendar, these would make the perfect daily treat.

Make-your-own gingerbread kits

A gingerbread cookie kit to make cookie ninjas for sale at Aldi on Nov. 30.
A gingerbread cookie kit to make cookie ninjas for sale at Aldi on Nov. 30.

Cookie options include Butter Spekulatius ($3.29) and iced gingerbread called Pfeffernusse ($2.45). But if you're looking for a fun family activity this holiday season, Aldi also sells make-your-own gingerbread kits ($4.49) in the shapes of ugly sweaters and "ninjabread," karate-kicking cookies.

Gifts and festive decor

Aldi's festive non-food selections include holiday scented candles ($4.75), Tupperware with red trucks and green trees printed on the side ($2.15) and an array of toys and pet accessories. These items rotate throughout the season and change week to week, so make sure to stop in and see what's on offer.

Brioche star

The best goodie from my recent trip was a brioche star ($5.99) made of twisted brioche bread filled with creme patissiere. The package boasts an "Imported from France" and it is also available in a larger tree shape perfect for bigger families. This soft, sweet bread didn't last long at my house and we'll definitely be back for more before the holidays are over.

The Brioche Star, which the packaging says was imported from France, was one of the top finds at Aldi this holiday season.
The Brioche Star, which the packaging says was imported from France, was one of the top finds at Aldi this holiday season.

Details: Aldi, aldi.us.

Goodyear: 845 N Estrella Pkwy, Goodyear.

Peoria: 24665 N Lake Pleasant Pkwy, Peoria.

Chandler: 2844 S Alma School Rd, Chandler

Gilbert: 1801 E Pecos Rd, Gilbert

South Phoenix (Open Dec. 10): 5775 W. Baseline Road, Phoenix.

Queen Creek (Open Dec. 10): 20229 S. Ellsworth Road, Queen Creek.

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Reach the reporter at tirion.morris@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on Twitter at @tirionmorris, on Facebook at Tirion Rose and on Instagram at tirionrose.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Aldi Christmas shopping traditions travel from the Europe to Arizona

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