The joy of budget supermarkets

This article was originally posted on MouthyMoney.co.uk on 8th October. It is reposted (with some slight expansion) with the permission of the website.

My best friend Ruth and I love baklava. We could sit and eat our weight in it which is handy, because (due to the nature of them being little pastry parcels filled with almond paste and honey) the more baklava you eat, the more weight you have to match! Hooray! More baklava!! But the baklava is a treat we only enjoy occasionally because you can’t get it from one of the big four supermarkets – it’s just not there. But we can still get our sticky, pudgy hands on it because it is sometimes a featured food at Lidl. We’re both regular shoppers there and as soon as it comes in we stock up!

The novelty about shopping in Aldi and Lidl is there’s always little treasures wedged in between the staple items, just waiting to be discovered.

It’s very weird to say so casually that I’m a frequent shopper at Lidl or Aldi. When I was a kid, there was a lot of stigma attached to going to one of the ‘cheap shops’. I remember a boy in my secondary school being tortured mercilessly for months because he brought his trainers in a bright yellow Netto bag – which, in 1996, was the equivalent of bringing your trainers to school wrapped in week-old roadkill. I remember sorting through our carrier bags at home to find ones that were ‘acceptable’ for me to carry things around in unnoticed – something from one of the big four was usually fine. It was social suicide to admit your parents shopped anywhere considered ‘cheap’ by the herd – now this concept seems crazy to me.

I will frequently end up buying something that I didn’t know I ‘needed’. Last week it was bacon jam.

Aldi and Lidl, due to their sheer novelty, seem to have shattered this illusion that there’s something wrong with shopping cheap. The quality’s good, the prices are low, and they sell interesting things. Now, the great news is that the big four keep dropping their prices to compete so, as shoppers, we’re winning wherever we go. But, where Aldi and Lidl have the edge, is you can get unusual things there. Last Christmas, Aldi did gin and tonic crisps – I never got to try them though, as they were featured in a tonne of magazines and newspapers, and sold out within seconds! Gin and tonic crisps – amazing!! Update: I found G&T crisps this Christmas. They were weird tasting, but definitely worth a try!

Lidl essentially sets up a German Christmas market in November, and you can pick up all the chocolate-coated soft gingerbread you could ever need. Their cherry-topped Christmas pudding is incredible, too, and I’m always pleased to get my chops round it – nomnomnom! The only sad thing is that you can find something you really love, and then the next week it’s gone without a trace. My partner still laments about the little biscotti biscuits we got from Lidl last year, that they never got back in. Every week I look though, just in case…

Aldi and Lidl seem to have shattered this illusion that there’s something wrong with shopping cheap. The quality’s good, the prices are low, and they sell interesting things.

The other novelty about shopping in Aldi and Lidl is, although you know where the staples are – the veg, the meat, the pasta etc, there’s always little treasures wedged in between them, waiting to be discovered. For example, in one day your trolley could contain beans, bacon, a cabbage, pasta, chicken, a chainsaw, a blender, some mustard mayonnaise, a notebook with a bear on it, a Bluetooth speaker, and some craft beer. It’s like a real-life game of that ‘I went to market’ alphabet memory game.

The problem with Aldi and Lidl’s ‘every shop is an adventure’ set up is that I will frequently end up buying something that I didn’t know I ‘needed’. Last week it was bacon jam – I didn’t even know bacon jam existed but as soon as I saw it I had to have it. It’s like an extra level of skill added to your weekly shop – you have to employ all your willpower to ensure a ‘cheap supermarket’ doesn’t end up costing you a fortune!!

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