Checkout nation: our new habits
“My own finances haven’t changed that much, but I am more aware of what I’m spending because money is tight for a lot of people at the moment. Food is one of my main expenses, along with rent, and petrol and insurance for my car.” Ciara Kenny
RATHMINES, DUBLIN 6
This small and busy branch of Lidl stocks discount clothing, household items, plants and fresh baked goods. It attracts a diverse range of students, singles and families living in Dublin 2 and Dublin 6, and its rivals include Aldi across the street as well as Dunnes, Tesco, two Polish shops, an Asian shop and a Spar, all on Lower Rathmines Road.
LUKASZ ADAMIKA, a 27-year-old chef from Poland, has lived in Dublin for two years.
“I shop in Lidl because I like the produce. They have things such as muesli and cottage cheese that other supermarkets don’t have, and everything is cheaper. Their fruits and vegetables are very good.
“I go sometimes to the Polish shops to buy yogurts and meats, but I lived in the US for a few years, so I am used to not eating Polish food.
“I spend very little money on food, about €20 a week, because I eat most days in the restaurant where I work. I cook for myself only about once a week, or if I have friends coming over. I buy my meat in the butcher’s rather than here, because you can trust the person behind the counter to tell you if it is fresh. That is the chef in me.
I have come to this Lidl for two years, so I know some of the staff. Two or three of them are Polish. I buy only food here, because I tried a snowboard jacket once and it wasn’t very good.
CATRIONA REID, a retired linguist, is 59. She is shopping with her 26-year-old daughter, Cliona, who is on a visit home from New York, where she works as an interior architect.
“I have been shopping in Lidl for about a year. I kept hearing about how cheap it was, and once I started shopping here I realised how good the prices are and what an interesting selection of produce they have.
“They have different brands, which took a bit of getting used to, but we have come around to that. Their cold meats and cheeses are very good, and the bakery is great.
“We used to do one big shop a week, but you have to shop around these days if you want the best prices. I go up to Dunnes the odd time, and to Tesco, but I do most of the shopping in Lidl.
“My husband took the early-retirement package from the public service recently, which has made a difference [to our finances]. I don’t do these huge shops where I throw everything into the basket any more. I look more closely at what I am buying.”
MARION GEARY, who is 26, and CONOR KEOGH,who is 30, have just moved to Dublin from Limerick. Keogh works as an accountant and Geary is looking for a job in hairdressing.
“Groceries would be our biggest expenditure after rent,” says Keogh. “But we buy only what we are going to use, so I don’t think we could spend much less than we do. We have an eye out for value, but we wouldn’t just buy something because it is on special offer if we didn’t need it.”
“For some things I prefer to buy the big brands, such as Dolmio sauces, because they seem to have less salt and sugar in them,” says Geary. “They sell some things like that here. For most things, though, it wouldn’t bother me what brand it is.”
“That would would bother our parents more, I think,” says Keogh. “Older generations would be more inclined to buy what they know. My parents always shopped in Dunnes and nowhere else, but they are beginning to shop around a bit more now.”
GREYSTONES, CO WICKLOW
Located on the main street in the town, SuperValu is a small community supermarket that works hard to retain customer loyalty by sponsoring local events or offering food and wine tastings in store. Local rivals include Tesco and Lidl in Greystones, and Superquinn and Aldi in Bray.
SHARON REDMOND, who is 47, is shopping with her four-year-old daughter, Francesca. They live in Greystones with Sharon’s husband and two other children, who are 12 and 17. “I normally do my big shop on a Thursday, so today I’m here just to pick up a few specials. The meal deals from the butcher’s department are great value. They are attractively presented, easy to cook and quite healthy, because they are just fresh meat and vegetables with some herbs or lemon.
“I’m much more aware of value now. I think we all are. The mothers outside the school gate talk about the special offers available in the different supermarkets, and I follow up on them sometimes, for example if washing powder was reduced in Tesco. We are more thrifty with our shopping money, because things are tougher financially.
“Our family finances have definitely changed. I am a stay-at-home mom now, so it is much harder. I had to weigh up what I would have earned working as a hairdresser and paying for childcare with staying at home. The kids are all at school, which costs a lot, so we are pinching the pennies where we can. We live week to week, day to day.”
RICHARD WHEELER, who is 78, lives with his wife in Greystones. Both are retired.
“I shop in Supervalu because it is 100 yards from my house and the staff are always very pleasant. I have got to know a lot of them: some have been here 20 years. Today I’m here to buy shredded duck.
“I spent years buying things on eBay, but I would never buy food online. The supermarket is so close to my house, and I like to be able to see what I’m buying and pick up things as I come across them that I mightn’t have thought of. My wife gets food delivered sometimes, but I like to come down, because I can go to the chemist or other shops in the town and stop and have a chat with people.
“I am more careful with my money now. The pension doesn’t go as far as it used to. It hasn’t been reduced, but the amount isn’t worth as much. I would rarely buy special offers, though. I like to be able to make up my own mind about what I buy rather than deciding what to eat because it is cheap on a particular day. I always suspect they have the second-best stuff on special.
FIONA KEANE,who is 46, is a human-resources director. She is shopping for a family of five with her 10-year-old son, Cuan MacManus.
“I come here for bread and milk and the newspaper, and on Fridays I get takeaway sandwiches for the kids. Tesco, Superquinn and Lidl are all on the outskirts of town, so I shop in all three, depending on where I think the best offers are and what is most convenient.
“I like to buy organic when I can. I try to strike a balance between value and good-quality, healthy food. I shop in the Happy Pear for organic fruit and vegetables; it is more expensive than the supermarkets but worth it for the quality.
“I am probably one of the luckier ones, in that my husband and I are both still working. But as our outgoings increase and we become more concerned about providing for our family’s future, I am definitely more conscious of saving and good value now than I was before.”