So, What is Lidl Anyway?
Lidl (pronounced: lee-duhl) is an international grocery powerhouse with over 10,000 stores across 27 countries, and is in process of a rapid expansion into the United States market, starting with the east coast. Since 2017, over 100 Lidl stores have opened from New York down to Georgia - with many more to follow. In fact, Lidl just opened two locations in Baltimore County this week, one in Catonsville and the other in Perry Hall.
Like it's fellow German transplant Aldi, Lidl is disrupting the US supermarket business with rock-bottom prices on household grocery staples. In fact, Lidl seems a near clone of Aldi. Both are similarly sized (about ~20,000 sq feet; half the size of a typical Giant or Whole Foods), have just six aisles of merchandise, primarily sell their own private brand label, and stock only one or two varieties of any given item instead of fifty different types of everything like you would find elsewhere. They both require customers to bag their own groceries and also both sell items out of the same cardboard boxes that they were shipped in instead of unpacking and arranging produce into an elaborate perfectly stacked display. In addition to groceries, both stores have a random aisle in the middle of the store that sells an eclectic assortment of non-food items including seasonal décor, toys, kitchen appliances, and even clothing. The brands seem so similar that one of the only differences I could find is that Lidl does not require customers to deposit a quarter into a shopping cart to unlock it, which my kids will certainly find disappointing.
And the fact that it’s nearly identical to Aldi is a good thing! Our family are regulars at Aldi because we can buy a week’s worth of high quality groceries for ~$100 when the same cart of items at a Giant, Safeway, or Harris Teeter could cost north of $150. We have found most of the Aldi private label items to be as good or better than name-brand items, and it takes significantly less time to get in and out of the store than it would a larger grocery store. Plus, it's one of those stores in which the layout is the same no matter which location you shop at so after a few visits, you know where to find anything even if you have never stepped foot in a location before.
Lidl will open in the former Sears location at the Mall. While the mall seems like an odd location for a grocery store given the parking issues, the parking lot outside the vacant Sears space that Lidl will occupy is normally always empty. In fact, secret tip, I always park down in this lot and walk up the steps if I’m going to Barnes and Nobles or any of the restaurants along the outdoor pedestrian promenade instead of fighting the masses to find a spot in the lot above, but I imagine this practice will have to end once the Lidl opens and this lot becomes full.
Despite our love of Aldi, I have never heard of, let alone stepped foot into Lidl, before I first learned of its existence when the news broke it would be coming to Columbia a few months ago. So, as your new faithful blogger, I did a little reconnaissance and stopped into the College Park Lidl the other day. As the attached pictures show, the prices were indeed cheap ($2.99 for a half gallon of organic milk and $0.89 for a dozen eggs!), the produce was abundant and fresh, and signage at the bakery indicated they bake fresh bread several times a day. So, with Lidl soon to be in our neighborhood, there will no more driving 15 minutes to the Columbia Aldi for this family, unless of course, we pair a visit to Aldi with our other favorite grocery stop, Costco!