Money expert Clark Howard is a big fan of Aldi because it can save you lots of money on your groceries, but there’s new competition from another supermarket chain with German roots — Lidl!
Lidl opened its first stores in the U.S. in mid-2017 and now has more than 60 locations across nine East Coast states.
Inside Lidl: How the discount grocery store can save you money
Although Lidl doesn’t have the U.S. presence of its discount competitor Aldi, traditional supermarkets are still worried and respond by lowering their prices when a Lidl supermarket opens up nearby.
We checked Lidl’s weekly circular to give you a sample of its ultra-low prices:
- Red seedless grapes: $0.79 per pound
- Honeycrisp apples: $0.99 per pound
- Boneless chicken breasts: $1.39 per pound
- Blackberries, 6 oz.: $0.99
- Ground turkey breast, 99% lean: $2.49
- Organic avocados: $0.62 each
Editor’s note: Prices were recorded in January 2019.
Clark has visited Lidl overseas (the company has 10,000 locations in Europe) and described the stores as “exceptional” — so I just had to hit the road to see it for myself!
Here’s what I learned on my first trip to the Lidl supermarket in Culpeper, Virginia:
1. Grab a cart, but keep your quarter
When I walked up to the store, I reached into my pocket for a quarter to grab a shopping cart. However, that isn’t necessary. Lidl’s U.S. stores don’t require shoppers to deposit a quarter to use a shopping cart.
Of course, that’s not the case at Aldi, which does make you deposit a quarter to rent a shopping cart.
2. Save money on “Fresh Deals”
The first thing I saw inside the store was the sign for the “Fresh 5” specials in the produce department, but Lidl confirmed to Clark.com that it has changed this promotion for the better.
Since my first visit, it started offering six or more “Fresh Deals” for a full week, with specials beginning on Wednesdays.
3. Orange signs highlight other markdowns
Lidl has bright orange signs throughout the store to highlight additional price reductions. This large meat lovers pizza is only $4.84 — 50% off its original price.
4. Look above an item to find the price
Speaking of prices, shoppers may not know where to look at first. Unlike most stores that list prices below the item, Lidl’s price tags are directly above the item.
5. Store brands dominate
Even though there are some brand names mixed in, about 90% of Lidl’s products are from its own brand, which the company says matches the quality of the big national brands.
Lidl’s peanut butter is displayed directly next to Jif in packaging that’s very similar:
6. Preferred Selection is Lidl’s premium house brand
When you see the Preferred Selection label, you’re getting Lidl’s premium house brand. The product line is inspired by European culinary traditions and offers seasonal favorites.
7. Baked goods are fresh out of the oven
Breads and pastries are baked fresh throughout the day at Lidl. The bakery is positioned at the front of the store and has a self-service machine to slice your loaf of bread.
8. Like to buy organic? Think green!
If you like to buy organic items, look for products in green boxes with the word “organic” printed on them. Lidl displays items in cardboard boxes to reduce the time it takes associates to stock the store.
9. Get a deal on foods near the “best by” date
Want an even better deal? Items that are near the “best by” date will feature orange stickers with an extra discount, like these 30% off packages of chicken legs.
10. Print your own labels to save time at checkout
There are screens throughout the store that will let you search for items, weigh them and print a label. This step is entirely optional, but it could save you time at the checkout.
11. Stop by the free sample station
You won’t be able to fill up on samples like you can at Costco, but Lidl does have a station to let you taste a featured item from one of its house brands.
12. Find “Lidl Surprises” in the middle of the store
You can find a lot more than just groceries at Lidl. The “Lidl Surprises” section in the middle aisle offers a selection of non-food products like toys, seasonal decor, kitchen appliances and clothing.
This section reminded me of Aldi’s middle aisle and the treasure hunt experience at stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.
13. Color guide and point system for easy wine buying
Lidl is trying to make it easier for you to pick a bottle of wine that you’ll love. It has a 100-point rating system, as well as color coding to help you find wines by taste — such as “fresh and fruity” and “ripe and rich.”
This $2.89 bottle of sweet red wine appears to be a hot seller. It has a 93 score, which is outstanding on Lidl’s scale.
14. Bring your own bags and bag your own groceries
To keep the line moving fast at checkout, Lidl customers need to bag their own groceries. You can save money by bringing your own bags, but they’re also available for purchase for about 10 cents each.
15. Download the app for exclusive savings
When I went to pay, I noticed a prompt to enter loyalty club information. That’s where the MyLidl app comes in. You can download it for exclusive coupons, plus the latest sale ads and store openings.
Details on upcoming grand openings can also be found on Lidl’s website.
Lidl’s modern and clean store made a good first impression. Each location is about 20,000 square feet and has only six aisles, so I found that it was easy to navigate as a newbie.
If you’re planning your first trip, this map of the store layout may be helpful:
Lidl has just 6 aisles. Here is the store layout: pic.twitter.com/lvgzCQDXsS
— Michael Saves (@MichaelSaves) November 19, 2017
Despite the fact that Lidl stores are smaller than traditional grocery stores, I think I could probably find all of the items on a typical shopping list — unless I had a recipe that called for a specific brand.