Lidl has been the talk of my fellow mums for some time now. They enthuse about the fruit and veg you can get there, all of it tasty but cheap. Their shopping bills have never been so low, they tell me. Even my dad has begun venturing in, returning with cut price dishwasher tablets and great slabs of chocolate like it's Christmas all over again.
So when my weekly shopping bill from Tesco hit a staggering £160, I decided it was time to take a look myself.
With the little man asleep in the car, and his daddy quite happy to keep him company and grab a nap himself, I took hold of my enormous trolley and ventured into the store. It's much smaller than Tesco and there are a lot of packets and boxes with obscure names and unreadable recipe information on the side but there are some old familiars there too - HP sauce, Branston pickle, Weetabix. I thread my way down the aisles stocking up the trolley.
Most of the cereal is unfamiliar but I take a chance (it is actually all very good). The seeded batch loaf I usually get is about 70p cheaper and delicious. Hot cross buns are in stock ready for Easter and are reasonable in price and taste. I even find some 100% fruit smoothies for kids at about half the price of their Innocent equivalent, although they are watered down so I don't think I will be getting them again. Crumpets, Heinz chicken soup, chorizo, wholewheat pasta all go in. The fruit and veg is indeed very good. A whole cucumber for 79p, a large pineapple for £1, a large ripe mango for half the price of Tesco but has yet to be tried and tested. There are organic carrots and onions and A LOT of cider on sale, if that's your thing.
So you can't get everything. There are no Pampers. I couldn't get hold of cream of tartare (for playdough which is the activity of the moment but I realise that is obscure) or parmesan or risotto rice. The miniscule packing area at the till suggests this is a supermarket not designed for big shops in mind (so why the enormous trolleys?) and most of the other customers I note are buying fairly small amounts of groceries, or a job lot of extra strength beer like the two retired men in front of me. With the tight squeeze and a growing queue behind me, I struggled to keep up with the urgent processing of the friendly man scanning my shop and did feel a bit hot and bothered by the end. Oh, and they don't take credit cards.
My final bill came to £89. I hadn't bought any meat or cleaning products or nappies but still it was a vast improvement and in the future I will certainly be using a combination of Lidl and Tesco, with the local butcher for meat and Jo the Fish in the town centre for, well, fish.
If you are feeding a growing family and trying to balance the books, I recommend discovering Lidl, if you haven't already. Good food, small bills, but even smaller packing areas.
One last tip - go armed with bags as they charge for them and you don't want a
house full of Lidl bags for life - or is that the snob in me?