Friday, 23 April 2010

I Admit It. I Shop At Aldi.

It was my family that got me started on Aldi.  Every time I complimented some foodstuff they brought out, there was an intake of breath, and a smug "Aldi: 69p".  By extension:  Gillian, you are paying too much for your food with this fancy Tesco of yours.

So I tried it.  I went to Aldi in Camberley. I even went to Lidl, opposite, and Lidl, I can confirm, is rubbish.  But Aldi was the Thai curry kit that got me.  In the veg section, in a little plastic bag, a fresh chilli, garlic, lemon grass, fresh coriander root and fresh galangal.  69p.  Bloody hell.  Bloody marvellous.  

Aldi is a German company and perhaps because of this they are very strong on continental cured meats and continental style chocolate - all for bargain prices.  Their fruit and veg is always excellent quality because if it isn't in season they don't stock it - because it wouldn't be cheap.

Shopping at Aldi can be frustrating - they don't feel obliged to stock everything - so I have to go elsewhere for my nappies, my herbs, my strong white flour.  But it can be an adventure - you never know what they are going to stock next - in the frozen section I am addicted to their huge juicy scallops, their 4 inch shell on raw prawns, but I've steered clear of their three bird roast (a humming-bird inside a swan inside an ostrich or some such like). Today in their non food section, which changes at a bewildering pace, you can kit yourself out with everything you would need for a weekend hiking in the rainy Lake District.  From the waterproofs to the boots to the Kendal Mint Cake.  Another week it's wet-suits.  Another, sewing machines.

So I was delighted when the Waitrose in Birch Hill was replaced with Aldi.  I'm not allowed to shop in Waitrose because I get over-enthusiastic and once spent £200 on one meal.  For four.  I go to Waitrose Wokingham occasionally because it's the only place that sells Cachaca, that Brazilian rum for caiparhinas and see here a list of my favourite cocktails.  

But back to Aldi.  I like that their senior staff can do all tasks.  So if the tills get busy, their (cute) store manager will open up another one and start scanning the bar codes himself.  If it's quiet, he'll stack shelves or pick up a mop.  I think this must be excellent for process improvement.  If the chairs are the wrong height for the tills or whatever, you can bet that will be sorted out pretty quick if the store managers have to sit at them.

So Aldi, I salute you.  I love that I can find unusual and exotic ingredients, fling them into my trolley on a whim, and still spend half of what I would have at Tesco.  We'll never be monogamous, but you'll always have a place in my heart.

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