Our opinion – Discount Supermarkets

I was chatting with Lou over on Living the Good Life in Wales and I was telling her about a couple of conversations I had and have overheard recently about shopping, specifically at the cheaper supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.  It reminded me how far we have come on the journey we wanted and how many people have a very different mind set to us.  
We are also underway with our Food Challenge (see previous post) so it feels like a good time to talk about where we shop and why.  
Now before I get in to this, I want to put a disclaimer out there – we have 2 children in school, both work full time, have good incomes, 2 cars, a house that has a central heating option (note the operative word) and have clothes on our backs.  We are lucky enough to not claim to be poverty struck nor to compare ourselves to people AT ALL.  We can talk from our experience and opinions only.  We are not proposing what we choose to do is right for anyone other than us, we only want to share and hopefully help provoke thoughts that lead to helping in some way, shape or form.
Back to it.
We converted to using a discount supermarket, specifically Aldi, many years ago and looking back I do remember it being a big change.  Truthfully we picked Aldi as it was closet.  If Lidl was, I would have probably used them.  
Like we were, if you are used to going in to a shop like Tesco and enjoy being able to buy a vast assortment ready made, branded or world foods for example, then converting to a discount supermarket like Aldi or Lidl is a bit of a shock to the system and does require planning and adjusting.  We found we needed to be flexible and able to adapt, but if you are considering shopping in the cheaper supermarkets anyway, then maybe you are financially trying to cut back and feel you have to make that compromise.  
We have found the interior of Aldi to be very similar throughout the UK, they keep things in the same place and stores that we have visited seem to have the same layout which although doesn’t impact us very often, sits well with me as I hate it when you go in to Tesco/Asda/Sainsburys etc and they have changed everything round.  Yes this is meant to make you see other things you hadn’t thought of buying, but when you are adamant on buying that one item you went in for, it’s just frustrating!
I found that I came to prefer not being given a wide variety of options to choose from – if I have mayo on my list, I don’t get the 4/5/6 whatever options the big supermarkets offer, I get trusty Bramwells and move on.  Personally, I like the taste.  If I didn’t, we probably wouldn’t bother, it’s not a staple part of the diet.
We use their shampoo, cleaning products, dog food, frozen and fresh food.  I’d say we get 95% of our items from Aldi.  There are some things which we choose not to buy from there which is soap and they don’t do a Ready Brek or equivalent which my kids have frequently, so we do go to Tesco for these, but rarely anything else.
The tills are crazy though, when I first started shopping there the till operators used to remember the codes for each item and type them in manually, no bar code scanning then.  It still didn’t give you much time to get your items put back in to your trolley though, they fly through scanning and you’re expected to put the items in your trolley and bag them at the separate counter.  When Ste and I go, we have the bags ready in the trolley and do it together so we do manage to keep up.  Took us a few times to master the art!
Aldi offers a wide variety of food that we feel has actually increased our family’s healthy eating options as by removing some of the crap, you can get to focus on what’s important.  We cook 95% of our meals from scratch, even more now I think about it.  There’s the odd chicken kiev makes it in to the basket as the kids love those and on a Friday night, they get to pick their meals.
A lot of people seem to comment that Aldi’s fresh fruit and veg doesn’t stay fresh for very long.  I would say we have had maybe 15% of ours go off sooner than I would like, however planning our meals and prepping appropriately mitigates this if really needed.  As we cook from scratch we buy a lot of fresh things, plus frozen fruit and veg which I have never had a problem with and it makes life so much easier sometimes.
Does it make our money go further – hell yes is my answer to that.  Our grocery budget is £300 a month for the 4 of us and we eat healthily with a few treats, such as alcohol or the odd Chicken Kiev (if you can call that a treat).
So when people snub Aldi as a sub standard or lower class supermarket, I don’t agree, it gives us a healthy, nutritional diet and saves us spending money every month and whatever your situation in life is, surely that isn’t a bad thing.

Supermarket thoughts

During this time of not actually having a home to call our own, it’s got me thinking about where to shop once we move.  Of course the whole point about moving is so we can start to live a more thoughtful, self sufficient and healthier lifestyle.  It will take us a while to get that established and in the mean time I will be reliant on the shops as per the majority of the population.

I’ve shopped at Aldi almost exclusively for the last 5+ years and I love it.  I don’t love it in the sense that I rave about it, but I love it in the sense that I know where I stand.  It had the basic foods every week that we use and doesn’t flash 20 of the same food in my face to make me choose.  I can be in and out in 20 minutes with a weekly shop in toe.  However I’ve often wondered if I would like to try Tesco and co, but on those few occasions that I have ventured in there, it’s left me feeling stressed and skint!  2 ‘s’ that I don’t like putting together.

However yesterday I nipped in to Sainsbury’s to pick some flowers up for my Mum on my way to hers as it was her birthday and I took the opportunity to be very naughty and pick something easy up for tea.  The shop was well laid out and didn’t leave me feeling seriously stressed. 

Weighing everything up, I will continue to shop at Aldi but every couple of months I might have a wander around Sainsbury’s if I have the time.

The shopping budget per month on the farmhouse (starting end Jan) will be £300 per month, regardless of how many weeks.