Lisa Williams argues for the virtues of the Big Four, as food writer Andy Richardson hunts for bargains.
Lisa is all about the splurging:
When it comes to the festive shop I like to treat myself and my other half, along with guests, to some fine food and drink.
There’s only two stores that will see the colour of my money at Christmastime: Sainsbury’s and M&S.
Every week I have a Sainsbury’s day where I do my food shop, so it makes sense I go there for my festive food. On the one hand I know and trust what I buy from the store. Also, I save up my Nectar card points so by the end of the year I’ve got a bit of wedge to pay for all the food.
Some of the reasons I go to these stores is because I’m a creature of habit, some is location and I know where everything is, and the rest is simply the range of food on offer.
I have been to and I do go to stores like Aldi and Lidl, but there never seems a big enough choice. When I go I almost always end up jostling rugby scrum style to reach the shelves for goods which ultimately will save me pence, not pounds.
And the good stuff you see advertised is almost always gone by the time I make it to the shop. For me it’s just not worth it. There are always long queues full of shoppers with trollies brimming with goods, there are never enough tills open and you get charged for carrier bags.
I lead a fairly simple life with very little extravagance. I don’t drink much, I don’t smoke, I don’t have regular beauty treatments or spend much on expensive clothes, shoes or jewellery. I don’t have any expensive hobbies or a hectic social life to finance. I don’t have children.
You could say one of my vices is spending a little bit more on food and I am lucky enough to be able to afford to do it.
I like the option of the everyday ranges and slightly posher versions supermarkets do like Taste the Difference, because in my opinion you can. They are quality items and I like to think you can believe what you read about the ingredients being British, free range or organic.
I won’t spend ridiculous amounts of cash on food items.
I do buy some things from the cheaper stores like cupboard staples.
But when it comes to a special occasion I like to splash out and spend a bit of cash. And why not? It’s a celebration, and that deserves decent food and drink as special as the people I’m sharing it with.
Andy likes to grab a bargain:
I bet you’ll all be having turkey on December 25, won’t you?
You’ll probably start with a little smoked salmon and when the main course arrives there’ll also be sprouts, roast potatoes and something fizzy.
Afterwards, it’ll be a rich, brandy-soaked pudding with lashings of custard. Or maybe you’ll be pushing the boat out. Instead of the smoked salmon you’ll be eating lobster. And you’ll be replacing the turkey with something extravagant like a red-legged partridge.
Lobster and red-legged partridge are the sort of dishes you’d expect at absurdly expensive London restaurants – not humble West Midlands tables. Right? Wrong. You can pick up a lobster and a red-legged partridge – or, for that matter, a turkey, duck or goose – at your local discount supermarket. Lobsters are £6 a pop at Lidl. At that money, I’ll buy a load, stick them in the freezer and refuse to eat anything else until February.
Cut-price supermarkets offer the last word in festive bargains. Sure, they don’t have Heston Blumenthal singing their praises. But, to be honest, who’d want him? Heston’s over-priced Waitrose offerings are as pretentious as an all-black painting on an all-black canvas in an all-black frame.
Christmas is a time for snobbery and prejudice. It’s the season of one-upmanship, of dangling more lights on your house than your neighbour or spending more on your sprouts. It’s a time for absurd prejudices, you know, of bumping into friends who take you aside, then shudder as they conspiratorially whisper: ‘Oh no, I’d never shop at Aldi’.
You won’t catch me out on the quality versus quantity argument, either. There’s just as much junk on the shelves of Sainsburys as there is at Aldi. And vice versa. In blind taste tests, the cut-price kings win just as often, if not more, than the expensive stores.
Not shopping at Aldi and Lidl is like not wearing a life jacket when the ship is going down because you don’t like the colour. It’s obtuse, curmudgeonly and stubborn. It’s like sticking your hand in your pocket, taking out a roll of fivers, dousing them in lighter fuel and striking a match.
So you’ll find me in their aisles this Christmas. There actually is a Santa, and his name is Father Lidl.