Thrift becomes chic again

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Shopping at discount supermarkets is becoming hip in the UK.

I was very interested to read a story in today’s Telegraph about the rise and rise of discount stores in the UK.

It’s because of the credit crunch, apparently.

They’re mainly looking at Aldi and Lidl – both German, and both privately-owned companies with no shareholders to please – whose growth is burgeoning in the UK. A profound change, according to the Telegraph, where "Until recently, Britain had the most class-conscious shopping habits in Europe. Where you shopped traditionally spoke volumes about your social status".

I’d kind of forgotten that, thank God, having lived in France for nearly a decade. Britain IS a screamingly class conscious society and it affects every level of life. I remember being delighted when I could afford to shop at Marks and Spencer instead of Tesco’s, an attitude of mind that now strikes me as unbelievably daft, along with the £100 a month I used to waste on a Vidal Sassoon haircut, silly arse that I was. 

However, these days I am far too old and cynical, and also far too intellectually arrogant to fall for bollocks like the idea that because Lidl is a discount store I shouldn’t be seen dead in it. Apart from anything else, the DH and I were introduced to Lidl by our Swedish lodgers, who were delighted to find familiar brands in the UK and we’d shopped there for quite a while before I cottoned on to the fact that the prices were also much cheaper than Tesco’s. Doh.

British supermarkets typically load up to 40 per cent onto the price of goods, which, as the Telegraph points out, leaves discount retailers a huge margin on which to make a profit but still offer low prices – all you have to do is not be as greedy as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose et al. The quality of the food is no different – in fact, Lidl’s fruit and veg are often fresher than those at my other local supermarket.

The only downside is that the range is very limited, so if you don’t, for instance, like the brand of dried dates they stock, you have to go elsewhere. I do the main shop at Lidl (meat, fish, fruit n veg, bread etc) and then get back in the car and do the top-up shop at our local SuperU in order to buy organic milk, eggs and yoghurt, and routine household things such as cleaning alcohol and washing soda. However, that top-up-shop costs the same as, if not more than, the basic shop, which is illuminating to say the least.

Nevertheless, I am continually surprised at how many of my friends (most of whom are downshifters and survive on about £8,000 a year) still won’t shop at Lidl because it means going to two supermarkets. The supermarkets are at either side of my small town, about 3km apart, so yes, it’s a bit of a pain to have to drive to both, but on the other hand, it’s cut my expenditure by about a quarter. 

I am very grateful for Lidl having fetched up in my town, but another friend, who is always trying to find a way to save a buck or two, has now suggested that I try out Mutant. I have to admit, the name has always put me off somewhat(!), but she says the quality is actually very good, so next time I’m in Domfront, I’ll pay it a visit. 

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