Monday 27th May 2024

The joy of budget supermarkets

shopping on a budget

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!! 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, so I’m counting down the days until they’re back in stock! 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…

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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!!

Rosie Earl

Uber-geek and tv addict. Keen writer and professional trainer in the financial sector. Rubbish at maths

  1. I love a rummage round Aldi and Lidl; the food equivalent of TKMaxx. However i could never shop there on a weekly basis as they don’t do “free from” ranges, drinkable soya milk or organic veg. The chocolate is lovely though and cheap! BTW they sell Baklava in Sainsburys in the cake aisle.

  2. I love Aldi and Lidl too and I get the concept of ” buying something that I didn’t know I ‘needed’.” My husband gets ecstatic about the huge range of tools which are regularly on offer and of course that gets me excited because once he has bought a new product, he wants try it out by fixing or making something. And of course to ” justify” the cost! It’s brilliant!
    The frustrating thing of course is, as you point out, that when you try new things you like and start to buy them regularly, they then are no longer availble. Zena is right about the amazing chocolate they sell – my favourites are Moser Roth plain dark chocolate 85% cocoa and Mousse au Chocolat Sour Cherry -Chilli. But.. the plain chocolate is often difficult to get, so I suspect that other afficionados do as we do and stock up when it is on the shelves. It becomes a game of who gets in first wins!”
    I supect that Aldi and Lidl have a brilliant team of shoppo – psychologist experts, who totally understand our retail habits, who can therefore anticipate our behaviour and thus are triggering off every move we hapless yet joyful shoppers make by dangling these treats before us and then whipping them away, just as we get addicted to them. As Rosie points out, you begin looking for them on the shelves in the hopes that they will turn up. Imagine the frisson of delight when they do. I’ve been there; I’ve felt it It is a briliiant feeling after all of those weeks of unrequited longing ! We are puppets in their artful hands and we love it!

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