10 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Lidl for the First Time
There are few things that fill me with as much glee as visiting a brand new (or new-to-me) grocery store. For months I eagerly peered through the windows of a West Side Market waiting for it to open. I am embarrassingly ecstatic in anticipation of the Wegmans arriving in my neighborhood next year. And when I heard they were opening a Lidl (pronounced LEE-dl) where I live, I knew I needed to investigate!
Family-owned since 1973, Lidl originated in Ludwigshafen, Germany with just three employees. Since then, the company has expanded to more than 11,000 stores, eventually making its way to the states in 2017. (There are now more than 100 locations, and counting, in the Eastern United States.) It should be noted that, although Lidl shares strategies with Aldi (products sold out of shipping boxes instead of on shelves, streamlined inventory) and though they were both founded in Germany, they are not the same company and are, in fact, competitors.
As I made my way to the newly opened location, 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.
1. The vibe is familiar.
Minimalist in aesthetic, with clean, efficient aisles and European touches, Lidl’s vibe brings to mind fellow four-letter stores like Aldi and IKEA. Sunny yellow signage, high ceilings, and faux brick give the space a bright and cheery feel. Lidl is pristine (possibly partly owing to the shiny-new location) 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.
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. And 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 that 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.)
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 açaÍ, and, appropriately, German bratwurst for sale at deep discounts. You can also search the weekly circular online 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 spicy guacamole. Upon checking out, the clerk also handed me a coupon for $10 off my next purchase. (Another difference between the stores: unlike Aldi, Lidl issues coupons.)
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 has added a Save Water label to its products, linking customers to tips on how to reduce water consumption at home.
5. The grocer specializes in private-label products.
While you’re likely to find familiar brand names at Lidl, private-label products represent approximately 80% of their wares. 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. And while the stores are smaller than mainstream grocery stores, picking particular products guided by a high standard helps keep costs down, with the immediate benefit of lower prices for, us, the shoppers.
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, pharmacy, 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.
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 even sell wine (depending on state law) hand-picked by Lidl sommelier and “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, and while the hot sauce collection was not extensive at my location, the Huy Fong Sriracha was much less expensive than in some of my local shops, so naturally I had to add a bottle to my basket.
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 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!