Aldi and Lidl, oh my! A guide to Germany’s discount grocery stores
Not all grocery stores in Berlin (and Germany, for that matter) are equal. Germans are well-known for their thrifty nature, which combined with the country’s market power has resulted in some of the lowest food prices on the continent.
Germany is well-acquainted with discount grocery stores, and is in fact the birthplace of the Aldi chain, now spreading across the US like wildfire. While the American and German shopping experiences do not coordinate 1:1, many of the money- and time-saving principles are the same:
• Limited selection: only the most essential and popular products are sold;
• Store branding: few name-brand options, though organics are often available;
• Warehouse ambiance: products are typically shelved in their delivery boxes;
• Customer inputs: self-bagging, deposit-based cart return.
For most travelers, these seeming limitations have great benefits. Stores are small and easily navigable. Restricted choice makes shopping quick and easy. Checkout is fast and efficient. And you can’t beat the prices on bottled water and produce, which help keep a traveler healthy!
Germany’s largest discount grocery store chains
Self-catering travelers without cooking facilities will appreciate the following:
• In-store bakery items: hot, fresh loaves of bread, buns, baguettes;
• Prepackaged deli-sliced meats and cheeses;
• Condiments, jams, and spreads;
• Large selection of fruits and picnic-friendly vegetables;
• Chips, pretzels, nuts, dried fruits, and other snacks;
• Breakfast cereals, granola, and fresh milk or yogurt;
• Cheapest bottled water available;
• Amazing selection of inexpensive wines!
Perfect for cheapo travelers (with kitchens)
For self-catering travelers with cooking facilities, your options are unlimited. After a long day of sightseeing, you (and your pocketbook) might find a quick meal of refrigerated tortellini and prepared sauce, scrambled eggs and toast, or a glass of wine while your frozen pizza bakes the right respite from restaurant foods. Pants optional!
These stores also serve as a handy alternative to overpriced eateries in train stations and city centers. When all you want is a drink and a pre-packaged sandwich or salad, these can be had just as quickly from a discount grocery at a fraction of the cost.
In a pinch, these stores also offer a selection of basic items also available at discount drugstores, from toothpaste to sunscreen. If you’ve been invited to dinner, this is another easy place to pick up a bottle of wine, box of chocolates, and even an inexpensive bouquet for your host.
Your Aldi, Lidl and Netto thoughts?
Have anything to add to our love-song to Germany’s discount grocery stores? Share with us in the comments section.