Tag Archives: lidl

Free soap samples and my first visit to Asda in Sketchyville, UK

4 Aug

There’s this store on New Bond St that gives out little samples of bar soap when you walk by. Except they don’t tell you it’s soap when they hand it to you, they simply say, “Don’t eat it!” It’s obvious many people have tried to eat it — it looks exactly like Turkish delight or a Jolly Rancher, and when people hand out samples on the street, typically they’re edible. But it seems like the whole misunderstanding could be avoided if they just said, “Would you like to try a sample of our soap?” instead of “Try this, don’t eat it!” I don’t get it.

asda old kent road london

I went to Asda for the first time today. Asda is owned by Walmart, and as it turns out, it’s exactly like an American Walmart, sketchy people and all. I was only 3 miles from central London, but it felt like I was in a different world. There was even a drive-thru McDonald’s next door! I was completely overwhelmed and amazed by the selection — there wasn’t just one variety, scent and flavor of everything like at my usual Tesco Metro. I am always lamenting about how there aren’t enough cheap grocery stores in central London and I can’t always find everything I need at Tesco, yet here I was, surrounded by every food (or household) item I could ever want, and I had no idea what to buy. I also knew everything I got I’d have to schlep home on the bus in my giant DSW tote (the best free bag ever).

So naturally I went for tea. I had to try the new Tetley’s Indulgence line — Cookies and Cream and Gingerbread teas? Yes, please! (Even though my tea cupboard is overflowing and I promised myself I would not buy any more tea until my collection fit in one cupboard. But pretty soon we’ll be remodeling the kitchen and getting bigger cupboards, so perhaps that won’t be a problem anymore :-P) I also bought stevia tablets to go with the tea, and Japanese BBQ sauce because it was on clearance. And instant protein porridge packs to take on our upcoming holiday, even though they probably sell instant oatmeal in Italy. I had planned to walk the whole way home, but I was getting sketchy vibes from the neighborhood and didn’t want to risk my phone (or new legendary Pokemon!) to some moped thief, so I hopped back on the bus, only to get off when I spotted a Lidl. Lidl and Aldi are always located in Dodgy McDodgyville, but the bargains are too good to pass up. They had giant cherries less than half the price of Tesco. And Belgian chocolate! And skyr! And sesame oil, coconut oil spray, corn, nuts… Needless to say, my shoulder is killing me. And I wasn’t even done! I had one more stop on my discount shop bus journey — Iceland. Where, of course, today’s special was cherries — 400g for 50p! That’s practically free. (The normal price is 400g for £3. Tesco sells 200g for £2.) People were going nuts adding them to their baskets. I only bought one pack since I already bought cherries at Lidl, but looking back on it I probably should have bought more and froze them for smoothies. Then again adding just 400g more to my tote bag may have caused my shoulder (or the bag itself) to give out.


It’s Too Hot Out and The Siren Call of The Little Baker Frogs

13 Jun

One of the few things I miss about living in St. John’s Wood is being close to Camden Town. I used to walk there every other week or so to check out the 99p Store and Lidl, Aldi’s fellow cheapo German supermarket. Every time I would pass by The Little Baker and stop to gaze at the frogs in the window.

camden little baker(Image courtesy Google)

frog treats(Image courtesy CamdenPeople)

But over four years I never caved and went inside the bakery… until today. Now that Lidl is 2.5 miles away, going there is a big production. There are no direct bus or tube routes and walking there takes too long, so I usually run there (with a reusable tote bag stuffed in my back pocket, as Lidl charges for bags), then walk back with my bag full of chocolate, fruit and nuts (the necessities, of course). Today I made the mistake of leaving too late, so by the time I ran to Lidl and made my purchases, it was past lunchtime and I was hungry.

Pro tip: don’t walk by a bakery when you’re hungry and 2.5 miles from home. The frogs were staring back at me cross-eyed.

frog cakes(Image courtesy Yelp)

I needed to know if they tasted as good as they looked — for science. It would also be nice to support a local business, right? So I marched in and ordered a frog. The Little Baker offers a variety of cakes and pastries baked on site for ridiculously low prices, but since I am a child at heart who eats with her eyes, I needed to have the bright green thing with eyeballs.

little baker frog

I think frogs might actually be like sorority girls who look more attractive in a group — this is one sorry-looking amphibian cake. His “It’s not easy being green” looks more like “Eat me now and put me out of my misery!”

Or maybe he was just overheated (I really should stop personifying something I devoured). It was ridiculously hot today. I don’t know why 75 degrees (24 C) in London feels heat stroke-inducing, but it does. I was really struggling on my run, which may be partly why I thought I deserved a frog treat. (Because when you run 2.5 miles to get cake, then eat the cake as you walk 2.5 miles home, you break even, right?) When I finally made it back, the porter and I chatted about the weather, as you do in England.

“Do you like this warm weather?” He asked.

“No!” I replied. “It’s too hot and miserable inside without air conditioning.”

“I know!” he said. It felt good to finally hear someone share my sentiment — I’m tired of the “This weather is amazing!” camp. He said he actually hoped it would rain so it would cool off. I agreed. I’d like to have a proper English summer with highs of 20 C (68 F), please.

I went upstairs and put the remaining half of my frog in the refrigerator since he was starting to melt. The verdict is still out on the frog cake — it was good, especially for 90 pence (apparently the price has gone up since the photos above). But it’s been a while since I’ve had sweets other than chocolate and it tasted almost too sweet. It was better cold. I’m glad I can put the mystery of the bakery frog taste behind me, but I’m not sure I’d buy another one. It’s a sad realization when your healthy eating makes the bad food you used to enjoy not taste as good and even gives you a minor sugar headache, but I guess it’s for the best. I’ll stick to my Lidl dark chocolate.

American infestations, slimy noodles and the price of eggs in London

22 Jun

London is infested with Americans lately. I don’t know what it is — probably a combination of regular tourists, school groups, and study abroad students — but I can’t turn a corner without hearing an “Oh my god, dude, that’s awesome!” in a glorious American accent. I probably can’t complain, since I’m contributing to the “infestation,” but it’s weird. I walked by a cafe today and saw a guy hand over a New Jersey drivers license when ordering wine. When I took the Tube last night a group of American teenagers snickered when they announced “This train terminates at Cockfosters” (OK, I still laugh at that). This city is starting to feel like the nude beach in “EuroTrip,” except instead of a bunch of naked guys looking for nude girls, it’s a bunch of Americans looking for real live British people. You definitely won’t find them in Covent Garden this time of year.

But I’m getting sidetracked from what I sat down to write about way too many days ago — slimy noodles and the price of eggs in London. After my failed French pastry experiment, I couldn’t quite shake the cooking bug, but decided I should switch to dinner options. So while eating pad see ew at a Thai restaurant, I got a great idea — “I’m going to make pad see ew.” If you’re not familiar with the dish, it looks like this:

It’s basically wide rice noodles, meat, vegetables and an egg stir fried in a sweet soy sauce. It sounded much easier than beating egg whites. So I found an easy recipe and set out finding my ingredients. And, of course, immediately hit a road bump. No normal grocery store sells wide rice noodles. Just as I was about to give up, I googled “Thai supermarket London.” That’s what I love about living in a big city — things like Thai supermarkets exist. And, even better, there was one within walking distance. So one bright afternoon I set off to the Thai supermarket. It was a tiny store, but they had the noodles. I was the only person in the store and excitedly grabbed them… only to find they were slimy. That’s what you’d expect if you grabbed fresh noodles, but these were in a plastic package. I put the package back and grabbed another, but with the same result. I brought my slimy noodles to the cashier and kept rubbing my fingers together. I certainly didn’t want to wipe them on my shirt or bag because I’m pretty sure it was some kind of oil. Whatever it was, it got on my wallet when I pulled it out. The cashier saw me struggling and asked if I wanted a tissue. He then pushed a roll of toilet paper at me. It helped, but I still felt a residue as I continued my shopping along the high street. I needed eggs for my pad see ew. When I bought eggs for my macaroons I bought them at Tesco Express. It cost me £1.78 for half a dozen — six eggs. That’s almost $3. It’s been awhile since I’ve bought eggs in the US, but I’m pretty sure six don’t cost $3. I started using the eggs as an example to friends of the crazy cost of living in London. And then I stumbled upon Lidl (“Where quality is cheaper!”). I have no idea how to pronounce it (is it “liddle?”), but it was a small supermarket and they had eggs. Ten eggs for 85p (about $1.30). That seemed much more reasonable. They were even laid in Britain by British chickens, which is apparently important. I’m just happy that they were cheap. Unfortunately Lidl is over a mile away from my apartment, so I walked back carrying the carton like it was my child, for fear of breaking the eggs if I put them in my bag.

And in case you were wondering, my pad see ew turned out halfway decent. It wasn’t a disaster worthy of its own picture-post, but it wasn’t restaurant-quality. I’ve got one more package of noodles left to experiment with. Then I must decide if the noodles and cheap eggs are worth the walk again (which also depends on whether this rain ever stops! Seriously, I know it’s London, but it’s summer now, and summers in London are supposed to make up for the crappy rainy days the rest of the year).