How to survive a visit to an Irish supermarket

Written by Alice Recchia

As you may already know there are many supermarkets you can find in Dublin’s fair city but you may not be fully aware of the differences in styles, prices, services, and products they sell. Whether you live close to or far from the city center, you should be able to reach at least a couple of different shopping spots and choose between their range of products.

Apart from the famous Tesco, Spar, Londis, Supervalu, Centra, Dunnes, there are several good discount supermarket chains such as Aldi and Lidl. They are totally affordable and the latter is particularly known among the non-locals for its international week, which is a sort of “themed selling week” with traditional food from various countries that take turns being sold in store.

So the cool thing is, if you are going to stay in Dublin for a long period of time, you could potentially bump into the Mexican week, the Italian week, the French week, the Greek week and the like. As a matter of fact, you could even be able to find food from your own country!

At Lidl you also have the chance to get further discounted prices of up to 50% off selected items every weekend, which is a good opportunity for those who prefer to shop at weekends.

If you are into sweet things and that kind of junk food we all need sometimes but agree we should not eat, then I would suggest popping into one of the Dealz discount supermarkets, they are scattered all over the city and have real bargains. So if you really can’t help tasting some chocolate, that’s the right place to fall into temptation.

However, if you’re looking for larger spaces and a wide range of food, near the school you can easily find big stores with mainly UK brands like the very well-stocked Tesco and Dunnes. They sell all kind of things, not only food and household wares but also clothes (Dunnes) and mobile phone plans (Tesco). Since we all know that the life of a student can be very busy and a bit overwhelming at times, you’re not going to be judged by anyone if you choose to take advantage of the great selection of ready meals they have in store.

Also, you should take into consideration the option to buy foreign food and products in supermarkets like the Polish Polonez and the many Asian Markets disseminated throughout the streets of Dublin. My personal impression is that Irish people really love Asian food… so why not give it a chance? You’re from China, South Korea, Taiwan, or Japan? Even better, there you have exactly what you need!

Anyways, if you are looking for more specialist and higher quality products, take a look at the following supermarkets: Fallon&Byrne, Mark&Spencer, Donnybrook fair, Nolans (N.B. high prices alert!).

Sometimes, you’re not accustomed to some peculiarities of the mysterious world of Irish grocery shopping but there are two things that I consider to be very useful while undertaking your daily shopping.

The first one is the fast track, which is an effective way to skip the queue at the cashiers (or avoid the longest one!), as you might have realized that supermarkets can get very crowded during rush hours. The only thing that you have to remember while using the fast track machines is that you always have to scan each item separately and you have to pay attention to put each of them on the designated area, one by one, after you have scanned it, to give the machine time to “count” every item of your purchase. Don’t worry, it’s much easier than it looks.

Secondly, a very helpful instrument you can encounter in many supermarkets here in Dublin is the cash back. I’ve found it to be incredibly useful, and this is how it works: whenever you pay by card you will be asked if you want cash back. In that moment the cashier will work as an ATM and you’ll be able to withdraw cash. So, let’s say, for example, that you need to pay €5 and you ask for €20, you’ll pay €25 in total and the cashier will give you the difference in cash. Isn’t it great?

Moreover, I would like to recommend always bringing your own bag with you to the supermarket. Why? Because in Ireland you will always get charged for a paper or plastic bag and, on top of that, it is a lot more environmentally friendly. A fabric bag would do perfectly since it’s strong and it won’t get ruined by the persistent Irish rain… and you can keep it folded in your backpack.

Speaking of the weather, winter has come and now it rains often. Fear not, for you have reliable allies like hot tea and coffee! When having hard time dealing with the cold outside, just drop into a supermarket and they will surely have a refreshment corner with hot beverages on the go.

Another thing that I want to inform you about is that supermarkets here are allowed to sell some kind of medicines. Obviously they are drugs with minimal risk to the public, like paracetamol and ibuprofen. So if you just need something to relieve the symptoms of a fever or headache, you can avoid going to the pharmacy with the understanding that you’ll need to visit your General Practitioner in case of experiencing more serious issues.

To conclude, although now the world of Irish supermarkets seems to have no more secrets for you and the only thing left is just to go and see, you still need to be told that this world can also be explored while comfortably sitting on your sofa. That’s because a lot of supermarkets offer the possibility to shop online on their website or mobile app. Lazy people, you are welcome.

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