Grocery Shopping in Germany - Aldi's Secret Revealed!

One stop shops or specialty stores?

Let's talk about grocery shopping on the economy in Germany.  Many of us utilize the commissary, and thank goodness it's there.  My kids are obsessed with tacos, and the only option for them is the stuff directly from the U.S.A.  However, when it comes to things like produce, meats, eggs and bread, we like to hit up the German stores.  So, here's a rundown of what shopping here looks like.

 By Calgary Reviews (A Ladybug Bakery & Cafe auf flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Calgary Reviews (A Ladybug Bakery & Cafe auf flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Metzgerei, Bäckerei or Konditorei:  Many Germans prefer to shop often and visit specialty stores for particular goods.  A Metzgerei is a butcher shop, a Bäckerei is a Bakery, and a Konditorei is a pastry shop.  Many villages will have their own bakery and butcher shop, which makes for a wonderful selection and absolute freshness.  

Discount Stores: Despite being, "discount", many people shop at these stores.  You can find everything you need on your grocery list, for the lowest price.  The major players for discount stores are Aldi, Lidl and Netto.  The presentation of the store might not be great, and the produce can be lacking, but overall, these are great stores to visit.

Standard Grocery Store: The larger grocery stores such as Kaisers, Real, Rewe, Edeka, Globus and Kaufland provide a bigger selection than discount stores, may have other services such as clothing shops or hair salons within the complex.  Some people call Real the "Walmart of Germany", but it's still quite a bit smaller than the US retail giant.  You can skip all the specialty stores and just head to one of the larger grocery stores and get everything you need.

Bio Markets: These are the stores that sell goods and services that are strictly bio.  There are very strict regulations for organic products in the EU and  food producers are held to a very high standard.  

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You can often also find farms in your local area that sell directly from farm to table.  They might post a sign, "Kartoffeln" or "Eier" out front, which means you can purchase those products direct.  You can also purchase milk on the economy, direct from the farms.  Check out Sunshine Farm in Gerhardsbrunn.  This is a farm featured in the Military Moms Guide to Kaiserslautern.  Not only do they have an awesome pumpkin festival every fall, but they have a Frischmilchautomat, or a fresh milk vending machine, that is open all year round.  You can bring your own bottle or purchase one there, and the instructions are in English.  Adam-Muller Str. 11, 66894 Gerhardsbrunn.

 Magnetic cart coin or white and a plastic removable coin

Magnetic cart coin or white and a plastic removable coin

Checking out

No matter which shop you frequent, unless it's the commissary, no one is going to bag your groceries or take them to your car.  You will need to bring your own bags, or purchase them at the cash register (just be sure to put it at the front of your items).  Be sure to carry a Euro or ,50 cent piece for the grocery carts.  You'll get your money back when you return them.  You can also purchase a cart coin key chain, so you always have one with you.  The cashiers here are fast...and they don't waste time.  Be ready and prepared or expect some disapproving glances.  The fastest of them all (with the smallest bagging space) is the discount giant Aldi.

 Together, these items had 6 bar codes!  Easier to scan!

Together, these items had 6 bar codes!  Easier to scan!

ALDI Culture

Aldi is for sure the fastest, most efficient discounter around.  They are famous for their incredibly fast cashiers and it can be a bit intimidating. Once you unload your cart, be READY.  Once they start scanning, it's up to you to load your cart with the same speed and efficiency.  So, how are they so fast?  Next time you are at Aldi, check out their products.  They have a bar code on nearly every surface of the packaging, which means the cashier spends less time flipping the product around trying to find it and is typically able to scan it on the first go.  They are also timed, as most cashiers are.  They are encouraged to be fast because that speed keeps the prices for both the company and it's customers.  They also do not accept coupons, which can slow things down a bit.  Last, they only hire the best.  They treat their employees well and it shows.  If you'd like a challenge or a good laugh, check out the Aldi Checkout Challenges on social media.  Lots of people take a try at slowing down cashiers, mostly with little success.