A Lidl peek into our newest grocery store

AUGUSTA, GA. – So, in case you have been living under a rock, Augusta’s River Region (shout out, CVB) has a new player in the grocery game. Germany-based Lidl, a direct competitor with Aldi, opened two new stores. One is in Augusta on Alexander Drive, and one is on Martintown Road in North Augusta.

I’m a fan of Aldi. They’re cheap, efficient, and have an awesome double-your-money-back guarantee that says if you don’t like a product, they’ll give you your money back and a replacement. I didn’t believe it until I grumpily tweeted about a frozen lasagna and they tweeted me back, asked for my address, and sent me a check! I also love that at Aldi I don’t have to mean mug all you lazybones out there who refuse to return your shopping carts. Really? Are your legs broken? No? Then walk them back.

Anyway, when I heard Lidl was coming, I thought, “Yes! PRICE WAR!”

I went to the store on opening day, because that is the kind of excitement I go for in my life, and they gifted me a lovely cloth grocery tote. They asked me to download their app, which apparently saves you even more money, but I have a Windows phone and no one develops apps for that. Like, how much Powerpoint do you think I’m doing on my phone, Microsoft? Get your app store in gear, already. Also, Lidl, no fair, I want equal discounts as fancy phone users!

Unlike Aldi, Lidl doesn’t require you to deposit a quarter to get a shopping cart – which probably explains all the shopping carts that littered the parking lot. Seriously, people, get it together. Also unlike Aldi, the store is spacious and bright, with a working bakery and sometimes even folks handing out samples.

What neither store has, however, is a guy with a big hook to pull aside folks who have apparently never lived in civilization before, and stop right inside the entrance. I don’t know why Augusta gets so confused about etiquette at grocery stores. If we combined our lack of grocery store etiquette with our lack of driving skills, and someone created a drive-thru grocery store, we would all die.

Once I entered the store (grabbing an 89-cent pineapple from the display in the atrium as I walked in), I realized what was happening: Right inside the entrance, some fool put the working, self-serve bakery right next to the produce section, which sits at canted angles to the rest of the store traffic, and all I can say about that plan is that they must have hired the person who designed spaghetti junction in Atlanta. Everyone gets all bunched up right there and I got to play a fun game of “Can I reach over and grab that sweet potato, or am I going to get elbowed in the lip by the person wandering confusedly in front of me?”

Once you navigate the entrance, however, it gets better. The aisles are wider and the store is better lit than Aldi, but the prices – except on specials – are more expensive. I spent about $5 more there than I would have at Aldi, and Aldi is closer to me. I am cheap. I want that $5 in my account, not Lidl’s. But, there are some things that are priced a bit better – yogurt ($.35 at Aldi, $.29 at Lidl) and tofu ($2.29 at Aldi, $1.99 at Lidl), for example. But their fish and chicken are way more expensive, and their non-food offerings are a bit weird. Clothes from Heidi Klum involving a great deal of leopard print and looking like knockoff Kardashian Kollection for Sears? Uhhmm… nothanks! Knockoff Sears already exists and it is called Goodwill.

Speaking of knockoffs, be aware that few items in this store are “name brand” items. They carry a few recognizable options – Coca-Cola, some wines, Tide detergent, etc. – but most are Lidl-specific offerings. And they’re fiiiiine. Put away your brand consciousness (I’m talking to you, Columbia County) and you’ll find that the cheese tastes the same as other cheese. It’s cheese. It’s all delicious.

Like Aldi, you bring your own bags to the store for checkout, or you purchase bags at the counter. There were baggers the first two days, but I’ve been back twice (sick kids have very specific requests, and I also wanted to see how things went, because my life is a laugh riot) and there hasn’t been anyone there to bag my groceries, so I guess that was a grand opening thing. But there is a very long counter along the front windows that gives you ample space to get your groceries situated.

Overall, I was pleased with the experience, and I certainly will go back. But it will be for convenience, not to make special trip. And it won’t replace Aldi for me. I recommend you give it a try.

Things that make it worth the trip:

  • Lower prices than regular grocery stores (except Aldi)
  • Light and airy
  • Fresh bakery items reasonably priced, but they do run out of things
  • Produce is plentiful and well organized (step it up, Aldi)
  • Convenient location for a lot of neighborhoods and commuters
  • Some non-food offerings are super great, like the $6.99 pair of headphones Emerson picked up.
  • Fun German chocolates and cookies, and lots more tea options than Aldi. Emerson likes their chai. I think if I want cinnamon in something, it’s going to be a pie.
  • Two words: Cauliflower. Burgers. No joke, they’re delicious and I’m going back to get another box. Product review coming soon.

Things that won’t make it my primary grocery store:

  • Freaking carts all in my way both when walking in and out of the grocery store and driving in the parking lot. Yeah, people, this is my number one reason. That’s just how I am.
  • Higher prices than Aldi, which is my primary grocery store
  • Further away from me
  • I don’t really need bakery items, although the kalamata olive bread and the jam and chocolate doughnuts that we tried were… fine. Nothing very special.
  • I am irritated that the perfectly fine zucchini that I bought on Monday was soft and unusable by Thursday. It is a squash. It should last at least a week. So I question their produce sourcing.
  • No liquid dishwasher detergent. Only powered or tablets.
  • Kitty litter that only comes in a bottle. What is that about? Where’s the bag? Weird.
  • No flavored sparkling waters (store brand La Croix), which is Emerson’s new jam
  • Aldi is right across the street from Jin Long, where we also shop, and I can get both stores done in 30-40 minutes.
  • The name of the store is pronounced “leedle” and I think their marketing department missed an opportunity to use the phrase, “Say hallo to my Lidl friend.”

UPDATE: Turns out someone already made my joke!