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August 6, 2011


To be honest, before moving to Portugal, the only food item that I thought I couldn't possibly live without was peanut butter.  Staple of my life, perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it has protein to boot!  I knew there would be things I would miss, but nothing as much as peanut butter.  Upon arrival, I searched the grocery stores and found that Portugal does, in fact, have American peanut butter... sung to the tune of about $5.75 per small jar... but they have it!  I will, indeed, survive.

What more could I want?  I have peanut butter, pasta, chocolate, Diet Coke (and Pepsi!), ground turkey, fruit… just about the only thing I was missing was Wheat Thins, and I decided I could live without them, so everything was running well grocery-wise.

During our few weeks together preparing for the wedding, Luis and I began to fall in love with Chick-Fil-A’s breakfast burritos...

...and have since invented a few of our own with flour tortillas, eggs, ground beef, and all the fixins, all in the name of saving money, of course!  Before we moved, I would have told you that I could live without flour tortillas (much unlike my Mexican colleagues that I left behind), and if I didn’t eat them for a while, I would be ok.  Shortly after arriving, I proved myself wrong, and craving breakfast burritos for dinner, I headed to the grocery store.  Not surprisingly, they were ridiculously expensive too… about $5.00 for an 8-pack of regular white, flour tortillas.  No high-fives occurred that day as I tried to explain to my Portuguese husband why it was necessary to spend $5.00 on tortillas, which he clearly viewed as only a international luxury in a place like Portugal. So we passed.  I have plenty of other things that I “need” here and I was not about to die on that mountain.

Those who know me well might know of my love for finding a bargain, and specifically my penny pinching skills when it comes to saving money for travel, especially now. I grew up shopping sale racks and discount stores, and I grew to love always being able to buy what I wanted (well… almost) because I could almost always find a slightly cheaper alternative that was affordable. 

What some may not know about me, though, though, is that I have met my match through marriage!  I haven’t known anyone more concerned about saving money than my dear husband Luis Miguel.  We are quite a team when it comes to bargain shopping, especially when there is our version of Aldi (a discount German grocery mini-mart) right across the street from our condo!  Lidl (correctly pronounced “LEED-l”, as explained by one of our German volunteers at the Rehab Center last week) is our go-to place when it comes to any groceries that we need last minute.  (To experience it for yourself, check out the British site in English here!)  Here is a shot of the "little Lidl" from the entrance...

Those who have shopped at Aldi in Wisconsin and Georgia also know that they have a small promo aisle in the middle of the store that has everything from socks to bookshelves to ice cream makers… and Lidl has the same!  We are constantly getting crazy deals on things like shower doors, fun multi-packs of markers, wrapping paper and ribbons, and I even got swim shoes super cheap for our rafting trip we just took down the Mondego river.  We look forward to the treasures we will find each week… and Luis is desperately waiting for that ice cream maker to return!

So… peanut butter… tortillas… ice cream makers… you got it… ALL available at LIDL!  We were absolutely thrilled some time around November when we discovered that Lidl has international food weeks every two months or so, featuring particular foods from specific countries.  We have since experienced Italian week, French week, and, much to my delight, Mexican week!  There, we found an 8-pack of tortillas for 1€59, about $2.25.   

I am not lying when I say that we bought 12 packages… 8 normal, 2 garlic, and 2 tomato!  We froze them and used them regularly, starting a tradition of breakfast burritos for brunch on Saturday morning.  Additionally, Mexican week had corn tortilla chips, which didn’t care to disguise themselves and just looked like regular Doritos (which, when combining a few of our small packages here to equal the quantity of an American-sized bag, would be about $4.50) so we stocked up on those too, in addition to taco sauce and a jar of tomato salsa, which ended up not being as good as from scratch, as I expected.  

They also had some crazy things like prickly pear juice, which I thought only existed in the movies, but I guess not!

Mexican week was then shortly followed by… you guessed it… American week!  They had things like Chips Ahoy style chocolate chip cookies, chips called “Texas Style Chili”...

...pre-made frozen hamburgers, ice cream sundaes, popcorn shrimp, chicken nuggets...

and ranch and honey mustard salad dressings.  The real surprise, though, were super large bottles of what was called “Hamburger Sauce”, which looked and smelled like Thousand Island dressing… not to be confused with the actual smaller bottle of “1000 Islands” dressing.  Along with the hamburger sauce in bottles larger than I’ve ever seen in Europe, was “Ketchup” with the specific flavor Barbeque, complete with the tagline "Made from an American recipe with a typical smoky flavor". This, folks, is the real deal!  And last but not least, a monster bottle of mayonnaise. Available in Portugal on a regular basis in any store you walk into?  Yes.  Available in jumbo size?  No.  

Other “classically American” things were dry pancake mix (in a bottle where you can just add water and shake), and Crunchy Clusters, a granola type of cereal with the German name Knusper-Müesli , complete with a picture of the Canadian flag as well (click on the picture and check out the front of the maple syrup bottle), to represent the authentic maple syrup taste. Go figure. 

Of course we couldn’t forget microwave popcorn, which IS available in large chain Portuguese grocery stores, in case you’re wondering, and some unidentifiable chips that were labeled with a nacho cheese flavor.  Awesome.

This is the second time in a year that I have experienced American week, and this one brought with it the treat of all treats… jelly beans!   

 My dear cousin Krista sent me some authentic American jelly beans around Easter this year after I searched store after store to no avail… and now, to find them right outside my front door!  The thrill!  I didn’t think it could get much better than this until I put one in my mouth and found that they weren’t mock Brach’s… they were mock Jelly Bellies!!!  I had no words… but I didn’t need many, because I was so busy chewing!  They had me sold when the very patriotic packaging said “13 Fabulous Flavors”, but then to find that I enjoyed all of them except for one… well, let’s just say I had a little party for myself, finished the bag in two days, and will be going back tonight for more!  (Also of note is that I enjoyed the maple syrup cinnamony granola for breakfast twice this week already, and will be buying more of that as well.)  Here you can really see how giddy I am about my jelly beans... and you can see most of the products in the background too.  Can you find the jumbo bottles of sauce? :)

Lidl carries a few of these American products regularly... usually the cookies (with a ridiculous markup in price), and also peanuts, which we usually only eat while watching soccer.  Check out how much more festive I am watching soccer in Europe! (Note: all Europeans bring their team's scarf to the game, no matter what the weather!)  Força Benfica!  (Also worth knowing is that this photo was taken in fall, before I was aware of "American week" at Lidl, so the super-squinty-eyed smile was brought on by finding that my package of peanuts had the Statue of Liberty on it).

Other notable purchases from Lidl also include my folding shower doors…

(Please note the fabulous 50 cent mirror that I have hanging there on the middle panel, on the slightest, most perfect angle so that I can see the back of my stacked hairstyle in the mirror in the morning when I am trying to dry it with a roundbrush.  Brilliant?  Yes, I think so too).

Also, my favorite set of marker pens, which come in handy various times per week when correcting my Portuguese homework… 

… and this supersweetawesome expandable cookie sheet for our teeny little oven.  See the line near the left side?  It expands with a simple pull. Love it.

I know it’s not really appropriate to end this post without something extremely absurd (as I aim for this in all of my posts), so here you go:

That’s right, it’s a Desperate Housewives BRAND of appliances, available only in the promo aisle of Lidl.  Seriously?  Seriously.  Hair dryers, curling irons, and flat irons.  It is notable that these did not, in fact, show up during American week, but near Christmas time, with other gift-able promotional items like fruit baskets with wine and paint sets for kids.  Are these even available in the States?  Dare I say they marketed these just for Europe??  But if so, why would the title be in English when it’s not in English on our cable menu here?  And completely aside from that, what crazy person would choose to buy this product just because it says Desperate Housewives?  It wasn’t even cheap!!!! I digress.

And there you go.  An entire post about a small discount grocery store near and dear to my heart.  Why this and not, say, photos of some trip we took to a beautiful region of this fine country?  Well, mostly because I shoot so many photos that it takes me forever to decide which ones to use in a blog. Secondly, though, it's because living here isn't as "glamorous" as some people may think, and frankly, this little store is a normal part of our every day lives.  And isn't that was this blog is for, anyway?  Documenting the every day?  Yes, I will get better at posting about our travels.  For the past few days, though, these jelly beans have made me pretty darn content.  And that's worth writing about, right?  Right.  The End.


  1. I LOVE this post!! SO GREAT! Thank you for sharing! I hope to come and visit your 'Leed-l' store some day!! :)

  2. LIDL!!!! Thank you for writing about my favorite German grocery store. I miss Lidl and all the varieties of Aldis that I used to frequent back in my stint in Europe. The "American" products were the best. I think my fave was the bag of "barbeque marshmallows" I discovered one day. I guess they figured that anything cooked over a fire must be "barbeque"? In any case, they were as delicious as they were entertaining! =)