Everyone has his or her shopping habits. You like to shop at certain stores so when you move to a different city, in a different country, on the other side of the world, you need to completely forget about your favourite shops and find a new set of them! When there’s no more Woolies, Coles, Target, Kmart, Myer, David Jones or Wittner (obviously the most important) where do you go?!?
I’ve put together a little list of stores that I buy my groceries and general stuff at as a bit of a how to guide on everyday shopping in the UK and more specifically Manchester.
What I’ve found over here is that there is A LOT of choice. Unlike home where there are two majors dominating the industry, the UK market allows for a number of larger companies to get a piece of the pie! There is however a clever way to shop between them in order to guarantee yourself the best value for money and quality of product. You also need to take convenience into account, as you can’t find every supermarket in every suburb.
As a newcomer to the UK, I would put these three supermarkets on the same level. Some locals may disagree! I would consider these your standard, run of the mill, supermarkets that you can get everything and anything. The thing about these stores over here is that they are a lot larger and offer a much wider range of products than your Coles or Woolworths – they’re more of a department store, but to find these stores on that large scale you need to get out of the city. What you’ll find closer to the city center is a scaled down version that is much like our stores at home plus even smaller Express stores stocking the essentials. We have a Morrisons store and a Tesco Express within walking distance so between the two we can find everything we need.
Ok bargain shoppers – assemble! Like home, Aldi is definitely a strong contender for the top spot of the bargain supermarkets. Unlike home, there is a lot more competition. What we’ve found since moving over is that more and more people are opting to shop at these bargains stores and with new branches opening up constantly, the convenience makes it a no brainer! As we don’t have any of these stores close to home, we found a new love for online supermarket shopping! The Brits have been doing it a lot longer than us and they’re really nailing it. Our large monthly shop is done through Asda. It’s decently priced and you can choose a two hour window for delivery – bliss! As a glu-tard, I’m always keen to try new GF products and want to shop somewhere with a large-ish variety. Asda delivers the goods!
Aldi is pretty much the same as what you would expect at home so if you have one nearby that should definitely be your go to! I haven’t yet had the opportunity to shop at a Lidl but from all accounts it is Aldi’s biggest competition so I would say if you have one of their stores closer it would be a definite option.
Marks & Spencer
Want to get a little bit fancy? Head into M & S for a higher quality (and higher price tag) product. The price difference here is noticeable when you compare to the above stores but you will get some much nicer fresh produce. I think what M & S do really well is the illusion of bringing luxury eating into your own home. Their cleverly marketed dinner deals definitely hook you! They have a great variety if you want to grab something quick for lunch too however for me I wouldn’t consider this store a weekly shop destination.
Typically these are items you would lump in with your supermarket shop, however with a huge variety of discount stores in the UK, there is a much smarter way to buy these goods. This is where you need to get your price comparison hat on and look for the most competitive deals.
Quality Save/B & M
These are two stores I have practically on my doorstep so I am most familiar with these. Quality Save (affectionately known by me as Savers, which I legitimately thought was its name until not long ago) is my definite go to! Cleaning products, soaps, loo paper, toothpaste, batteries - all those things you always need will always be competitively priced with a decent variety available. B & M is also a great variety store that has all those household items you need. I personally find Savers to usually be cheaper but it’s definitely worth a comparison as they can sometimes surprise, I mean Christmas trees for £10, win!
Unlike the fatal decline of Diamaru in 2002, leaving behind only two major department stores in Australia, the UK market has allowed for more players to hit the field. If you’re like me, shopping at a department store really only happens during the end of season sale and when it’s the only place to purchase a specific product. Just some of the UK’s top stores are Debenhams, Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer’s. These aren’t including the stand alones that are still dominating the London market. I would put these all on relatively the same level, some obviously more expensive than others but all with that quintessential department store feel – luxurious but not always necessary.
Ok, so for many people this isn’t a necessity, you just buy clothing to have clothing, but let’s be honest, when those brand new Reebok Classic’s in metallic hit the market, yeah you really want them. The UK has an abundance of choice when it comes to shopping for the latest fashions and if you’re like me and NEED everything, you’re in luck! Walk through any main shopping district and you’ll be greeted with an abundance of stores to indulge your love for fashion, or addiction, but who needs labels! Some of my favourites have to be H&M, Urban Outfitters, Top Shop, Zara and Primark (for the real bargains). To be honest, my list goes on - I confess I'm a bit of an addict! I think when it comes to fashion it’s all about personal preference so you’ll really need to get out there and explore the market! In terms of a shoe store to rival my one and only Wittner, no joy as of yet but I will keep you updated!
As a long time lover of Mrs Flannery’s, I knew finding a store that could offer me my health goodness was a must! I can’t say I’ve found anything quite as good but one that comes close has to be Holland & Barrett. For all my vitamins, skincare, GF snacks and friendly advice, this store is my weekly go to! There’s no Refuel Depot offering serious Acai deliciousness but for now, I can deal with their great prices, abundance of variety and their stocking of Byron Bay Cookies!
My online shopping when at home consisted of booking flights, accommodation and buying cheap iPhone cases that you’d wait a month and a half to receive. The great thing about being in the northern hemisphere is that everything you order is never far away! Amazon is now a staple when it comes to buying, well pretty much anything! Bedheads, earphones, record players, literally everything you need is online and will never take more that a few days to arrive! Embrace the online shop I say! The best part is, if you want something specific that isn’t in stores you will almost always find it online – happy days!
So what I’ve found here is that we have two majors and a number of minor chemists across the UK. Boots and Superdrug and most certainly the go too that are dominating the market. You could compare them to a Priceline store just bigger! Like the supermarkets they are large scale stores that often have smaller branches. Large Boots stores offer a counter service (Myer style) for their cosmetics and beauty ranges whereas Superdrug have more of a Priceline or Giant Chemist layout. These two are always worth comparing when you are purchasing beauty goods but remember if it were something quite standard like sunscreen or cotton balls, I’d be heading to your variety stores for the best bargains!
There’s my little insight onto shopping in the UK as a newcomer! If you know some locals however, it is always worth an ask, as I’m sure there are even more sneaky stores I haven’t yet come across!