10 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Lidl for the First Time

updated May 31, 2024
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Lidl Supermarket Sign in Manassas, Virginia, USA, April 4, 2023
Credit: refrina/Shutterstock

There are few things that fill me with as much glee as visiting a brand-new (or new-to-me) grocery store. When I heard a new Lidl (pronounced LEE-dl) was opening where I live, I knew I needed to investigate! As I made my way to test out Lidl for the first time, I excitedly assembled a list of groceries I hoped to pick up and baked goods I wanted to sample — and the store certainly did not disappoint. Here are 10 things I learned and the things you should know before visiting the store.  

Credit: Amanda Marikar

But First, Who Owns Lidl?

Family-owned since 1973, Lidl originated in Ludwigshafen, Germany, with just three employees. Since then, the company, now owned by the Schwarz Group, has expanded to more than 12,000 stores in 31 countries, eventually making its way to the United States in 2017. As of this year, there are 174 Lidl stores, and counting, in the Eastern U.S.

Credit: Left: Patty Catalano; Right: refrina/Shutterstock

What’s the Difference Between Aldi vs. Lidl?

People often mix up Aldi and Lidl. We get it! They have a lot of similarities, including where they originated (Aldi was also founded in Germany), the size of their stores and types of items they carry, plus some near-identical store policies. Despite all that though, they are actually two totally separate companies with completely different owners. Lidl is owned by the Schwarz Group, while Aldi is owned by Albrecht Discounts.

Both retailers have a vast international presence, with Lidl operating in 31 countries and Aldi in 11. Lidl does, however, have far fewer store locations in the U.S., all of which are located on the East Coast. Aldi’s 2,381 stores are in a whopping 39 states in the East, South, and Midwest regions as well as parts of California.

One trip to either store and you’ll notice the shelves are primarily stocked with store-brand items (similar to Trader Joe’s). These items are typically priced lower than their name-brand counterparts, but are of equal or at times better quality. A staggering 90% of the items sold at Aldi and 80% of Lidl’s are store-brand items. Both retailers also carry significantly fewer items than most other grocers with Aldi typically carrying 1,300 and Lidl carrying around 4,000. In contrast, the average grocery store stocks nine times that, or roughly 36,000 items.

As discount grocery chains, both Aldi and Lidl do all sorts of things to keep the costs down. They’re famously no-frills, displaying products in the boxes they are shipped in. They have similar guarantee policies and bring new products into the stores on a weekly basis. These are specialty items, typical found in the center aisle of the stores. Neither store gives away bags, so bring your own (or be willing to pay for them). You can also use empty boxes!

Of course there are some differences and, for Lidl-curious shoppers they may be good news to your ears. Unlike Aldi, the growing grocer offers free samples in store and accepts coupons. You also don’t need to have a quarter ready to snag a cart when shopping at Lidl — but you should still make sure it gets returned when you’re done.

More to Know About Lidl Before You Visit for the First Time

Credit: Amanda Marikar

1. The vibe is familiar.

Minimalist in aesthetic, with clean, efficient aisles and European touches, the vibe is similar to that of other four-letter stores like IKEA and, yes, Aldi. Lidl’s sunny yellow signage, high ceilings, and faux brick give the space a bright and cheery feel. Lidl is pristine and intuitively organized, following a circular layout that flows from produce, to pantry, to baking needs, and household goods, rounding out with the dairy and frozen sections. Grab a cute oversized blue basket and follow the path to discover deals around every corner. 

Credit: Amanda Marikar

2. It’s worth a visit for the bakery alone.

The bakery is positioned — I suspect strategically — right by the entrance. As you walk through its doors, the store welcomes you with the wafting scent of European-style pastries and breads, which are baked daily in-store. An automatic bread slicer cuts fresh loaves to your liking. Pretty little pastéis de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts) come nestled in boxes by the half-dozen. Sugar-dusted donuts, soft pretzels, and rolls straight from the oven are ready for the taking. Simply nab a pastry bag, open the case, and choose a few (or more).

But the true showstoppers, responsible for the irresistible fragrance permeating this scene, are Lidl’s signature croissants. These perfectly curved beauties offer the tenderest interior, crispiest layers and are served warm. A true taste of continental Europe, they are transporting, and I can honestly say they are some of the best croissants I’ve had stateside. (Other varieties include hazelnut crème-filled and pain au chocolat, but the plain butter croissant truly was sensational.)

Credit: Amanda Marikar

3. The weekly deals are easy to spot.

Lidl’s promise of lower-cost quality products seems especially helpful at a time when grocery prices are on the rise. Eye-catching yellow aisle end caps feature “This Week’s Deals” in each department, with organic eggs, fire-roasted salsa, shots of acai, and appropriately, German bratwurst for sale at deep discounts. You can also search the weekly circular online or in the grocer’s myLidl app, or grab a copy at the entrance of the store to score “Fresh Deals.”

On my outing, I snagged two bags of organic Lidl-brand tortilla chips with sea salt for the price of one — a perfect pairing with the store’s private-label guacamole. Upon checking out, the clerk also handed me a coupon for $10 off my next purchase.

4. The company is focused on sustainability.

Lidl takes pride in offering organic, grass-fed, certified humane, and non-GMO groceries. Responsibly produced, sustainable proteins, and other earth-friendly products abound, including fair trade coffee and chocolate, and True-Source certified honey. The grocer also labels the origin of much of its array including ripe red tomatoes, fresh-from-the-orchard apples, seafood, and meat. Plentiful vegan and kosher options also populate the store. And the “Lidl, Love It!” guarantee makes returning items for any reason a breeze. Lidl also institutes a bring-your-own-bag policy, partners with the How2Recycle program, and added a Save Water label to its products, linking customers to tips on how to reduce water consumption at home. 

Credit: Amanda Marikar

5. The grocer specializes in private-label products.

While you’re likely to find familiar brand names at Lidl as mentioned above, the private-label product selection really does runneth over. These signature items are rigorously tested by Lidl’s taste, quality, and sensory experts. Some look amusingly similar to familiar national brands (“Lidl Thin Wheat Crackers” bear a striking resemblance to its brand-name dopplegänger). The carefully curated goods fall under the store’s Preferred Selection, Gelatelli, and Favorina lines.

6. Special new items come out on Wednesdays.

Every Wednesday, Lidl releases a new variety of items in a special section of the store dedicated to kitchen wares, clothing, and a random assortment of fun and useful finds. Why not grab a three-tiered drying rack, a gaming headset, or some Spiderman socks with your low-price produce and two-for-one canned goods? The sampling often includes kitchen gadgets (I spotted a rather retro-looking bread machine) and housewares (I came across a heavy-duty shelving unit that would work well in a pantry). 

Apart from these unique offerings, there’s a discounted health and beauty department, cleaning products, premium pet food and toys, and more to explore. As a new aunt to an adorable niece, I particularly enjoyed browsing their “Parent Tested, Parent Approved” award-winning baby section, with lots of good things for little ones. 

Credit: Amanda Marikar

7. The beer selection is worthy of a toast.

As I made my way through the store, I stumbled upon the brewery section, with a refreshing selection of quaffable beverages. According to Lidl’s website, some locations (depending on state law) sell wine handpicked by Lidl sommelier and “U.S. Master of Wine,” Adam Lapierre. I decided to channel warm weather by grabbing a variety pack of White Claw (don’t judge my love of hard seltzer), at a significantly lower price point than at my local liquor store. Prost!  

8. It’s a great place to stock up on spices and seasonings.

As an avid home cook, I spent quite a few minutes scanning the unbelievable deals on dried herbs and spices. I don’t always strictly abide by suggested shelf lives, but I try to make sure my spice cabinet is as fresh as possible. Lidl’s supply is not comprehensive; its prices on staples, however, are unbeatable. The store also has a host of seasonings, condiments, and sauces, often priced much cheaper than other stores.

Credit: Amanda Marikar

9. There’s a great flower section.

A vibrant bouquet brightens any occasion, and Lidl’s floral market overflows with a bountiful variety to beautify your table or surprise your sweetheart. With a dozen long-stem roses at a cheekily low price, why not treat yourself? The store’s “Vase Life Freshness Guarantee” (offering up to 10 days of freshness) ensures enduring enjoyment. My location also displayed a number of potted plants, bulbs, and seeds for even longer-lasting greenery.  

10. You can skip the in-store experience and order free delivery.

Good news! Lidl delivers! If you’d like to avoid the store altogether, or your busy schedule precludes you from walking the aisles, or you’re just accustomed to ordering online, you can join Lidl’s free myLidl membership program (easily accessible on its app) and take advantage of free delivery on orders totaling more than $35 with Shipt. The croissants may not arrive as warm as they are at the store, but a few moments in the oven will surely make your home smell as scrumptious as the Lidl bakery from whence they recently came.

Are you a frequent Lidl shopper? We’d love to hear your tips!