In the UK, there is a strict social categorisation of supermarkets. You can tell a lot about people from where they shop. Admitting to shopping at Waitrose could be social suicide in certain circles.
Here, I have not found the same social segregation but maybe that’s because I just can’t notice these things yet. There’s a code that I have yet to break. For me, the most frustrating thing is that most supermarkets don’t seem to have everything I need at a reasonable price. I end up traipsing around three or four before finally having all my goods. The outcome of all this wandering is I now feel I can share some wisdom about Austria’s supermarkets.
- Keep an eye on all that spam mail that comes into your mailbox. It will tell you where that week’s offers are the best and can contain coupons. This is especially useful for meat products.
- Fresh products are very seasonal here. We are spoilt in the UK that whatever we want, we can usually find regardless of the time of year. Want strawberries in December? Sure, if you pay for them. Here, it’s not the same: try finding a butternut squash in April if you want to go a little crazy. I haven’t decided what I think about this yet: I like that it means you notice the turn of seasons (we’ve just entered pumpkin season and I’m so excited for vats of soup), that some things are so cheap when they are in season (stand up asparagus) and that you aren’t increasing your food miles just because of strange cravings. On the other hand, sometimes I just want what I want and get frustrated that “I could get this in England!”
- Farmers’ markets are fun but expensive. In Salzburg, there is a market at Mirabelplatz on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and the Grünmarkt in Universitätsplatz every day (not holidays or Sundays), best in the mornings. I use these to buy larger baking potatoes and as a reliable source of fresh spinach.
- Healthfood stores are good for “free from” products, for example Reformstark Martin
- It is extremely worthwhile to shop in specialist shops for Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Lebanese, any other non-Austrian foodstuffs. My local Turkish store has the best, cheapest spices. The Syrian store has the best tahini paste (controversial, I know!). See my other post about this.
- For us in Salzburg, we do also have the luxury of nipping over the border into Germany where there are giant hypermarkets full of Austrians stocking up on all sorts.
Time for another table:
|Norma||German discount||Nothing||Have only managed one visit, can’t quite make myself to have another.
Disorganised; chaotic; not really sure why I would go there again.
|PENNY-Markt||German discount||Storecupboard staples
|This was actually a major surprise for me!
The fruit and vegetables are of an acceptable quality and sometimes last longer than Spar’s.
You can also find them selling off some of Billa’s products cheap as the stores are owned by the same parent company.
Good for cheap branded products as well, e.g. Kellogg’s cereals.
|Hofer||Aldi in disguise,
|Wine and prosecco
|My problem with both Hofer and Lidl is that you can’t be sure they will have all you need, especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Something simple like a leek suddenly won’t be there for an unknown reason.
So go there for all the basics and for wine. Their prosecco is great.
|Lidl||German discount||Meat||Austrians would consider Lidl one rung lower down than Aldi’s. I’m not convinced. I’ve found Lidl’s meat to be the best balance of quality/price.|
|Spar/Eurospar/Interspar||Officially a partnership/franchise based in Amsterdam.
Operates in 48 countries so if you don’t know it, you’re probably American.
|It amused us when we arrived that Spar is a fancier supermarket here as it’s known for running terrible, dark corner shops in the UK.
The bigger, the better is the rule with Spar. The biggest have a greater selection of products (I finally found orzo in an Interspar!) and therefore the cheapest.
Most reliable store for baking ingredients.
|Billa||Austrian but part of German Rewe Group
|The fancy things in life, like ready-made guacamole
|On the same level as Spar: if you can’t find the vegetable you’re looking for in Spar, try here next.
Their own-brand is comparative price-wise with Spar Budget sometimes. There is a wider selection of goods.
They have good recipe cards instore and online.
|Merkur||Austrian but another member of the Rewe Group||Treats when you feel rich
|Very upmarket feeling and lots of branded products.
I haven’t explored this one as much but love the huge deli counter in my local branch and their commitment to buy locally. I just wouldn’t do the weekly shop here.
|Denn’s Biomarkt||Organic supermarket
|Giant tubs of coconut oil, teas||I’m lucky to have one of these very close to our house because it’s a joy to have a wander round. Like all organic supermarkets, you are going to pay a lot more but given the poor selection of organic products in the mainstream supermarkets, if that’s what you want, this is the place for you.
Has organic beauty products, washing products and toiletries along with groceries.