My flatmates and I tend to buy most of our groceries at a nearby shop called Lidl. It’s a German chain where the brands are unfamiliar and not much of the packaging is in English (or even German), but it’s oh-so-cheap! If I did all my shopping at Lidl, I could probably eat for £12 a week, including vegetables.
My mistake was trying to buy a week’s worth of groceries at once. The cupboard was looking pretty empty (down to oatmeal and Strongbow) and it was really time to stock up. So I headed over to Lidl after lectures one afternoon and happily filled my basket—they don’t have shopping carts there, which something I really should have paid attention to.
My basket was getting kind of heavy, but I wasn’t phased. I’ve done student living before. I’ve trekked back to campus with groceries in the snow. I can do this no problem.
But then it was time to pay. One by one I unloaded my twenty items onto the belt, becoming very aware that Lidl doesn’t bag groceries. Also, they don’t have any lanes to bag groceries in like North American supermarkets do. All they have is a little counter-top beside the cashier that is definitely not large enough to fit a week’s worth of food. It was up to me to stuff all of my items into my two bags as quickly as possible while the irritated cashier waited for me to pay the £9.37 and the irritated people behind me waited with their three items each, unable to pay because I was taking up all of the space.
It was a relief to finally get through the checkout and out of Lidl onto Nicholson Street. The walk home was fine and thankfully short, but then came my second challenge of the afternoon.
The fridge in our university flat is the size of a large Canadian beer fridge. To be fair, the freezer that sits below it is the same size, but I have seen fridges this big in North American dorm rooms—and there are four of us living here. Putting away a bag or two of groceries alongside everyone else’s food is akin to playing tetris.
As I was studying the contents of our fridge and planning my strategy, my German flatmate came into the kitchen. I explained my whole dilemma: the irritated queue at Lidl, the race to bag my groceries, and the tiny size of our fridge.
“It isn’t small,” she said. “My parents’ fridge is that size. We think North American ones are hilarious because they’re so big.”
“But how do you fit all your food in?”
“Oh, I only buy enough for a few days at a time.”
Lesson learned. When living abroad, small is completely relative.