Monday, March 30, 2009

Going native


For a long time I have been stuck in a bit of a rut with certain items I buy on a regular basis from our local supermarkets. Because in the UK I always bought Kellogs cornflakes, Kleenex tissues and Heinz tomato ketchup I carried on doing so out here, despite the increased cost of these non-homegrown products. It was an automatic thing and I never stopped to think about the fact that there were French equivalents until a little while ago when I read an article discussing the question of additives in food. It turns out that far fewer additives are allowed to be, well, added out here and it made me take stock really - it was time to explore French alternatives. I switched to La Reva cornflakes, Lotus tissues and Bouton D'or ketchup and guess what - the sauce and the cereal taste better. Really they do and they are loads cheaper.

Talking of cheaper I've also begun to have Lidl love. For a long time I didn't go to our local store thinking because of its reputation for low cost food it meant that the item would not taste as good as 'regular fare'. How wrong I was - some of their products* have now become staple items in our shopping and the freezer is packed full because once they sell out of a particular line it seems to be ages until they get stocks back in. There is an aisle of ever-changing things for the household/garden/leisure pursuits and even though I never thought I would end up as someone cruising for a bargain, that is indeed what has happened.

So if you are lucky enough to have a Lidl store near you go and embrace it - you'll be surprised and, if you already shop there, please leave your recommendations below.

*Lidl items we now make a point of buying are Bellarom CafĂ© Expresso ground coffee which is the loveliest coffee that I've ever had from a cafetiere; marinaded lamb steaks from New Zealand which are delicious cooked in the griddle pan; their Swiss muesli bars which are just €1.22 for eight bars;their locally-sourced chicken fillets at €4,40 for 600 gr and their fruit and veg which seem to be fresher than even our local market.

54 comments:

The Accidental Fan said...

You bleedin' chav!

Ian Lidster said...

It's curious how brand-loyal we can be, isn't it? Of course, that is what the companies are counting on. Good for you in your explorations.

cheshire wife said...

Not aware of a Lidl around here.

Tesco was the nearest supermarket to our first house, so I shopped there out of convenience, although I wasn't keen as they had a cheap and cheerful reputation at the time. Now I shop at Tesco from choice, as I have got to like them.

LadyFi said...

Haven't tried our local Lidl although I hear that the fruit and veg are very good. We shop at the Swedish co-operative that has lots and lots of good organic stuff.

claire p said...

I'm a Waitrose girl by choice, but we haven't got one so it's Sainsbury's. There is a Lidil at Barnstaple, might give it a try next time I've there.

A Woman Of No Importance said...

Lidl is very good, I swear by it - The cheese and eggs are also good - The chocolate is too nice, the wines aren't bad, cereal and cleaning products are as good as anywhere... Fruit juice is excellent... I am going too much into my shopping list now, FF!

To be good enough for the Germans, it's got to be top quality - I love cruising the household bargains too - Just as you say. We bought a cheap digital camera there at least 10 years ago - It's shown itself to be more than bomb-proof!

Elizabeth said...

When we lived in Morocco, I used to long for brands I recognized from home
Laughing Cow cheese, Heinz ketchup.
Most of the time we are fresh fruit, veggies and local meat but I used to get people from England to bring me Marmite and M&S Cornish cruncher cheese.
Glad you are being brave and eating the local stuff...

bindu said...

I can understand because I usually go on autopilot when I enter a grocery store. It takes extra effort to consciously think and decide what I want!

French Fancy said...

TAF - what do you call a chav in a suit? The accused!

http://lawsie.com/chav-jokes.php


Ian - I suppose people shop in a semi-daydream, just picking the same stuff off the same shelf week after week, month after month - I did.

cheshire wife - we used to go to the Tesco in Winchester and I grew quite fond of it. You seldom see BOGOF bargains out here.

ladyfi - Sweden has a very good reputation for food and shops - and dog cruelty laws (I'm delighted to say)

clairep - I've really become a Lidl convert - try it, go on.

AWONI - I might try their eggs next time then - although we've both gone off them a bit. Chocolate is out of the question though - I love it too much and tried to stick to one small cube after lunch each day but that became two, then three and now it's none.

Ayak said...

I've heard good things about Lidl. Our supermarkets leave a lot to be desired...limited choice and convenience foods almost non-existant. If I want to go to Lidl I'll have to leave the country. The nearest one for me would be a ferry ride away on the Greek island of Samos.

Brother Tobias said...

We've been Lidl fans for some years (there are two in our local town). Fruit and veg are very good, as is some of the cyclical hardware - rechargeable batteries, power tools and the like. But either they have a poor opinion of the British, or German taste is execrable, because things like rugs and curtains are quite ghastly. It's not great for wine, either.

Jelica said...

We don't have a Lidl store anywhere near but my supermarket of choice is SPAR (I thought it was an Austrian chain because in Austria you can find SPAR in literally every village but it turns out it's Dutch). They have good deals and consistent quality so I prefer to go there even other stores might be nearer and more convenient.

Bill Stankus said...

Okay Okay! Just to say I enjoyed your story and I've never heard of ANY of the stores in either your story or in the comments.

Locally, we shop at Albertson's, QFC, Top Food and Trader Joe's. So there!

Steve said...

We've had a Lidl open up in the next town a few months ago - haven't given it a go yet but after reading your post I might be motivated enough to mosey on down there and take a look...

ChrisH said...

Here in remote west Wales, where Waitrose fears to tread, we have Lidl and Aldi. Get us! can recommend cleaning products and face slap (not slapped face) - because we're worth it.

david mcmahon said...

Wot about Vegemite?

Completely Alienne said...

I am a Lidl fan too. It's like shopping abroad because all the local east european workers go there, and it's cheap and good quality. And my kids absolutely HATE it because they are a pair of little snobs. At present I usually end up in Sainsburys because it is near the school where Attila has her guitar lessons and at least that way I get someone to help with the packing - and check to make sure I have my purse with me before I leave the house. In the school holidays I have to go alone as there are no guitar lessons so then I can default to Lidl. Nearly the Easter holidays ....I am quite looking forward to it.

Veggie Carrie said...

Glad your're embracing the best of all things French (and German!) that Brittany has to offer. I have a five minute walk to Waitrose from my house, but unfortunately no Lidl nearby.

I also love eating "native" when abroad - I have my favourite French products, and my favourite Canadian ones too.

lakeviewer said...

So, you're still comparing the old and the new. How long have you lived in Brittany?

Lola said...

I love Lidl. I shop household products there, because I generally get all my food from farmer's markets and neighborhood butchers, fishmongers, bakers etc.
Lidl has a serious home improvement section that fuels my crazy lust for tools, home repair implements and other toys. When I go on a pig out binge, I get my beer and chips at Lidl, they're a gazillion times cheaper. And these days, I really have to keep an eye on the budget.

The Accidental Fan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Accidental Fan said...

Oh look I removed a post where I said something rude to someone. I must be growing up even if I do say so myself.

Stone said...

***To be good enough for the Germans, it's got to be top quality*** - LOL :)

They have loads of organic products at Lidl's - at least here in Germany :)
I'm an Aldi-shoppaholic though...I simply LOVE Aldi :-)

Dedene said...

Thanks for the review and tips on good products. Haven't been to Lidl because the closest is about 25 kms. from here.
It's fun to discover things.

French Fancy said...

Elizabeth - we more or less also eat healthily most of the time - but occasionally the odd ready prepared stuffed tortilla does find its way into the oven. This is the latest new thing I've tried from Lidl and we can thoroughly recommend the vegetable ones.Although it's a bit academic as New York is not Lidl-blessed. In fact when we were there a few years ago I marvelled, was absolutely amazed, at the variety of food in the delis. Far far better than here.(except of course for Fauchon in Paris).

bindu - that's just how I was, except when choosing the meat or fish. Glad it's not just me.

Ayak - fancy being able to go to Greece for a daytrip - how great is that. I've never been there but - with my Byron love - it is somewhere I'd really like to go to.

Re your food supplies - there must be such exotic things there.

BroTob - I've never tried their wine because the regular supermarkets have such wonderful wine for under €4 a bottle that it doesn't seem worth it.

Jelica - you also see the odd Spar around in Brittany, but not in our department (there are four departments in Brittay). I didn't know they were Dutch.

Bill - I love American supermarkets - not only are their delis superb (see above remark to Elizabeth) but the few times I've been in a North American vast food supplier I was knocked out by the array of food - although all the European fare was ever so expensive - a bit like the mark up that maple syrup gets over here.

Steve - the first couple of times I went in there I came out empty handed because I just didn't know what to try. So FF's advice is to see if your shop has the marinaded lamb steaks from NZ - they are wonderful (€5,99 for 2).

Chris H - hello there, Is it Aldi who have produced the face cream that all the fashionistas are raving about? I am a stick in the mud when it comes to my face and stick to the same products year in year out - (logo two interlocking C's back to back)

David - well we have Marmite (which I think is the same) even though the mark up here is a lot. Mr FF really likes it and I sometimes do like it on toast.

CA - your post took me back to the days when people used to help shoppers pack their goods - a simply unknown thing out here. In fact customer service is mostly rubbish in Brittany and maybe all of France (sweeping generalisation).

Hurrah for school holidays and good luck with the TMA about Hobbes.

Carrie - I used to like Waitrose and John Lewis was my favourite department store, the one in Oxford Circus was where I spent most of my lunchtimes when I worked. (nostalgic two minutes silence needed).

lakeviewer - funnily enough I didn't realise us expats had a time limit before deciding to ditch our usual makes and buy the local brands.

See profile for time out here.

Lola - it's a shame we are not blessed with farmers' markets out here but it is a largely agricultural area and the meat is always locally sourced at all the supermarkets and butchers. Fruit and veg funnily enough usually come from Spain or Morocco, but I will search high and low for French fruit and veg because of the restrictions here on crop spraying.

TAF -'stay as sweet as you are' (it's from a song).

Stone - ah, from the horse's mouth it's good to know that the Lidl veg is organic. As for Aldi - I'd have a bit of a drive to get to the nearest but you make me want to go and check it out now.

French Fancy said...

*and the meat is always locally sourced at all the supermarkets and butchers.*

Der - well except for the frozen marinaded lamb steaks from New Zealand.

petard and hoist come to mind here


Dedene - we cross posted my friend - I still feel like I am on holiday half the time out here - especially when watching French tv adverts.

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

I heard the wonderful Linda Smith (God rest her soul) tell a joke about Lidl once - it's just a joke folks...

"Lidl, where people go who have made up names for their children to learn parenting skills" Then she fish-wish screamed "Pocahontus!!!!! Get over ere and look after yer sister Anais Anais!"

Seriously though, great post. I'll get myself over there. x

Lane said...

Walnuts
Face cream and all that caboodle
Green tea
Boxes of sauteed potatoes (yes I know, not classy, but good in an emergency.
I have Lidl love too - although the 'clothes' are slightly worrying:-)

Moannie said...

We do have a Lidl near here and i went there, just once. It smelled of stale vegetables and sweat and looked like someone had turned out the stockroom and left stuff in boxes all over the place. I turned right round and went to Sainsburys

French Fancy said...

RTBC - I used to love dear Linda - what a shame, eh. No fear of any Pocohantas's in our neck of the bois - although I have to say it, the customers in Lidl that make me cringe are the British - you wouldn't believe how much some of them stand out by shouting at each other or bickering in public.

Lane - busy female writers with a family never need explain about any shortcuts to make the day run more smoothly. I've seen occasional man made fibre shirts in there but amaqzingly they are not around for long - maybe the Bretons buy them.

Moannie - what a shame you have a duff one near you. Ours got revamped recently and is bright, clean and sparkling with the freshest fruit around.

The Accidental Fan said...

Stale veg and sweat? Yummilicious!

Blu said...

French Fancy.....what has taken you so long..I discovered Lidl many years back in Dorset, we had very few stores to shop for food. So when Lidl arrived in a nearby town I couldnt wait to try it out!

It has become a major supplier for various foods and booze in this house.

Stone said...

**ah, from the horse's mouth it's good to know that the Lidl veg is organic.**

Careful! The foods have to be labeled *organic* (or 'biologisch' in German) - if they don't have said label, they're not (necessarily) organic.

BTW, Lidl has a fantastic black chocolate...and (here in Germany at least) Dallmayer coffee pads...they're the best in my book :-)

A Super Dilettante said...

Hi, I've been to Lidl once but there is only one till open and the queue was so long and the trolleys were full of stuff. I gave up and I went to vintage clothing shop next door instead!! When it comes to shopping, I don't like supermarket, I prefer traditional market in the open air or like the one in Kensington (London) or Stroud (near Gloucester), they sell the best food and vegetable! No wonder why people look so healthy in Stroud! I'd like to live in Stroud one day, it's so stylish, artistic, healthy (because of the diet) and French!

Lulu LaBonne said...

I've heard great stuff about Lidl but there isn't one near us.

Great on your latest score I'm sure you fully merited.


BTW -I'm ashamed to admit that I only discovered about Ada L vry recently.

nikkicrumpet said...

I bet that's a hard thing to get used to. I know just moving from Utah to Massachusetts I had to rethink my shopping. Most of the brands I was used to buying for 2o years were suddenly nowhere to be found. I can't imagine the shocking change you'd find when you switch countries!

Mrs Pouncer said...

Good heavens, I simply can't believe that you would degrade yourself in such a thoroughgoing manner. In the Thames Valley, it is Waitrose or nothing and this evening on Channel Four, a brazen woman presented an hour-long programme about penises. During the discourse, she revealed that Durex Silky Menthol Lube is now available at all branches. Some people might be grateful for this information.

Malloc Internal said...

I buy honey from local manufacturer (by this i mean manufactured in my city). I always experienced a a good value for money.

In India, most of us buy vegetables from smaller stores, since such stores have small inventory and good inventory control which keeps the vegetables fresh.

Mama said...

Hello FF, never heard of Lidl but good for you, experimenting. I used to bring suitcase loads of my fave food back here but soon got fed up with that. I always loved and ate kellogs bran flakes in the UK, Vanni made me buy Tesco's own brand once, false economy coz I think the box would have been tastier and they went in the bin yuck. hugs, Kathy.

david mcmahon said...

Thanks for letting me know about Arija's link. Have fixed it now ....

Phil Lowe said...

Ich muss dorthin gehen!

Look at me, Mr Foodie and game for a giggle and I haven't been to Lidl. Today is the day. I will report back later this afternoon.

French Fancy said...

TAF - now now :)

Blu - ooo - perhaps you could point me in new Lidl directions

Stone - I bet you get all the first class stuff in Lidl's native land and all the seconds come to France(or maybe to Moannie's shop in Kent)

ASD - yes, that is the downside - the lack of tills and sometimes I do have to wait in line for longer than in most other supermarkets. If I were in the UK I would be patronising all the farmers' markets but we just don't have them here - a lot of the 'fresh' produce on the market stall is not as good as Lidls. I love Glocs but I've never been to Stroud (good title for something or other)

Lulu -
Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
ADA! sole daughter of my house and heart?

Poor Ada - if only she had known her wonderful (and outrageous) father

nikki - the first few months I felt like I was on a perpetual holiday, so different were the things. Now I feel like a veteran.

Mrs Pouncer - I know, I have come down in the world since leaving North London but do you know what - I'm happier than I have ever been. My London airs are history now - although in my heart there is a little sophistication still remaining.

Malloc - hello there, I was very surprised when we first moved to our town to find a lack of local food shops. The supermarkets reign supreme unfortunately.

Mama - Tesco own brand cornflakes are ghastly, aren't they? the French ones are yummy - lighter and crisper

david - off to 'check her out'

Phil - oh you linguist! Have a good shop..

Arija said...

My daughter gave me a little book that decodes allthose numbers on the ingredients list. Since then, like Hillaire Belloc's Sara Bing, I steer clear of any lable with numbers.
I hardly buy anything in the supermarket these days, it is either home grown, from the local farmers' market or from a Greek grocer in a huge shed where you can get restaurant quantities of flour, sugar or anything else.
Thank you for your kind comment, no, my memory of spring is just an other of my photos.

Lew said...

It is funny that we hold on so tightly to old habits and tastes. Kellogs still works for me (Lidl has not expanded to our corner of the USA). My wife checks out a lot of online food sites, so we have been enjoying an expanded set of foods and spices the last few years.

Phil Lowe said...

I have been to Lidl. Well actually I first ended up at Aldi thinking that it was Lidl. Doh! Or is that ach doh! Any strasse up, undaunted, I got out my free bus pass and headed north of the city to the nearest Lidl. Yep there are some bargains there. If I lived closer I would endeavour to visit them more. I was pleased with my purchases today. I got a pack of pastrami slices for 99p and eight large and flavoursome tomatoes on the vine for £1.35. The bright coloured carrier bag cost me 9p.

French Fancy said...

Arija - it seems that stuck here in the French countryside we are amazingly poorly served in terms of farmers' markets. I wouldn't mind but every other person round here is a farmer but they don't really do direct sales.

Lew - hi there; we also do an online expat shop every few months and I buy lots of things in bulk, namely tea bags and chinese spices.

Phil - glad you got there; shame you can't cadge a lift from a mate and bulk buy - you'll have to work on it. Mr FF really likes their 1% lager as well.

Jennysmith said...

FF,my dear friend, why am i coming on so late to comment on people's posts.

Have been meaning to go to a Lidell, there are a few nearby. I think they[re doing very well now what with this credit munch thing and that.

42 comments! How do you answer them all?

hope you are well. xxxxx

Katie @ makingthishome.com said...

Oh cool! I just found your blog from This Romantic Life, and I think I have about ten tabs open that I'm wanting to read on your blog now. I'm an American in Berlin. It always feels really weird shopping at Lidl, and I probably can't add much from what I've been reading everyone else say in the comments. Except spaghetti sauce. I can't get over how cheap it is and still containing so few ingredients and no additives/preservatives like I'd expect.
Glad to find your blog!
Katie

Phil Lowe said...

1% lager? Ooooh,tempting. Best not, with my currently limited funds I already spend too much on bottled Czech lager from the local Co-op store. Just finished my third of the evening and aready gagging for another.If Mr FF has any going spare my address is .....

marc aurel said...

I've left you an award on my blog!

Metropolitan Mum said...

Good for you that you discovered Lidl! I woudl ove to have one close by. Or a really nice Aldi. The ones here are not at all comparable to the ones in Germany or the 'Hofer' in Austria.
Regarding the additives in UK foods - standards are much stricter in continental Europe; maybe this is why all my friends (me included) gained a few kilos when moving to the UK. It is what we call the channel effect.
I mean, where else would you find sugar in canned vegetables?

French Fancy said...

Hi Jen - np about late arrivals on this blog. It's just nice to see you here. As for answering comments - little and often is the answer - only my little is not everyone's version of little. I just like chatting to people on here.

Hiya Katie - you reminded me how much I like the LIDL bolognaise sauce. It is almost as good as my homemade one and in fact I sometimes (very often) cheat and add it to my own version for that extra oomph

Phil - lucky you being near a Co-op, a good ethical shopping chain. He like the 1% one because he doesn't drink it to get merry, just because he likes the taste as a refreshing drink.

marc - thanks matey

metropolitan mum - hello to another new face. Nearly everyone in the UK is putting on weight I think, except for anorexic fashionistas.

Sydney said...

I lived in Paris for a little while, and when I didn't I went there on little trips by myself about 3 times a year for several years. I loved it and definitely miss some of the products I could buy in their stores. And yes, nothing every tasted better -- fresh meats, cheeses, breads, eggs.. I'm so glad to have stumbled across your blog. you commented on someone's that I follow. Please stop by mine if you have a chance... I keep three, all with a different flavor.

French Fancy said...

Hello again S. How lovely to have actually lived in Paris. I don't know it very well but all the time we say 'we must go to Paris more often' - and we really should.