You know it can only be Lidl when you ask a member of staff if they sell lettuce and they say “Yes, they're down that aisle, next to the industrial drill bits.”
There isn't another store like it is there, really? Not only can you get your groceries at a discount price that the likes of Tesco and Sainsbury's can only dream of — including some exotic delicacies not available elsewhere — but every trip comes with that added element of surprise too. Their stock changes on a weekly basis and includes rows of quirky one-off items that may never reappear on their shelves again. So, like shopping at a market stall, if you want it, you've got to grab it when you can. Consequently, it's a common sight to find shoppers taking photographs of items and sending instant messages in the aisles at Lidl.
“Hi Luv, do u still need them mountaineering crampons? They've got them in Lidl for a fiver.” That sort of thing.
As you can probably tell, I'm a huge fan so to celebrate Lidl's 15 year anniversary in Northern Ireland, here's my top purchases from Germany's greatest export:
An ice cream maker — who knew it was so easy to make your own complete-and-utter-luxury ice cream? And who needs Häagen-Dazs, Ben & Jerry's or even Maud’s, for that matter, when you've got one? Ours was brilliant while it lasted (it broke, but only after a whole summer of perfect puddings) and cost less than £20.
Jodhpurs — no I don't own a horse, or even go riding, but the jodhpurs at Lidl were so well-made and they only cost a few quid. So until I can afford to buy a horse, or even go riding, I wear them with boots as a ‘nod’ to equestrian-inspired fashion. See what I did there? Nod? Get it?
A waffle machine — this came complete with a recipe book including several variations on the traditional German sweet waffle method. Very nice they were too, for the first week, then inevitably everyone got sick of them and the novelty wore off.
An industrial boiler suit — you know the ones I mean? White, zip-up overalls with a hood, like
forensics teams always wear when they're examining dead bodies on TV dramas? Well funnily enough my son needed one. Not for examining dead bodies, but for a part in a school play.
Snorkelling set — every home needs its own snorkelling kit and none more so than ours, as we live right next to the beach. This came complete with adjustable one-size-fits-all flippers. As yet they haven't been used, because the sea here is so cold I'm waiting for global warming to kick-in.
Ladies gardening gloves — not that I do much gardening, but these were less than a fiver. Actually, all I've managed to grow in our garden so far this year is weeds, so I really should get cracking.
A gas-fuelled weed burner — see above. For when ladies gardening gloves aren't enough.
Cycling gloves — yes, more gloves. Now I don't own a bike at present, but fingerless gloves are very fashionable. People like Madonna and Karl Lagerfeld started to wear them to disguise their wrinkly, veiny, ageing hands and the fashion caught on. I doubt Karl got his from Lidl, though, even though he is a fellow German.
Of course, Lidl also does food too, along with its forensics boiler suits and adjustable flippers. Among my more memorable grocery shops were the guinea fowl which I bought despite never having cooked, eaten or even tasted a guinea fowl before, but because they were on offer, two for the price of one. I wasn't sure how to cook them as I couldn't find any recipes, so we ended up having them roasted in the oven with chips and Bisto gravy. Move over Masterchef, they were delicious!
My other favourites hot off the shelves include smoked salmon fillets. I use it instead of tuna in salad Nicoise and it is heavenly. Then of course there's the cut-price Cava that looks and feels like proper Champagne. Well, after a couple of bottles it certainly does!
It's the perfect reward for an afternoon of heavy-duty weeding, forensic examination or sub-zero snorkelling and it’s only a fiver a bottle. Because you're worth it ...
Happy Birthday Lidl, or as they say in Germany “alles gute zum Geburtstag”.