'Just a mum' Caroline Eyles has given up her 12-year career to become a traditional, stay-at-home housewife. With limited cooking skills, no previous experience with kids and currently learning how to displace dust, she's dumped her P45 into the bin and is winging it with a one-year-old…
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With my Statutory Maternity Pay coming to a sorry end, this self-confessed snob was as surprised as you to find herself waiting for the ALDI doors to open at 7:53am. But along with all the other people hoping not to be seen by anyone they know, I wasn't alone with this idea as I found myself in a queue. Surprised by the popularity of this early morning activity I soon realised to my horror I was in fact in the wrong queue and was lining up for the car boot sale taking place in the field nearby, something I have since vowed to frequent following today's success!
So moving forward to my destination where I incorrectly believed dreams went to die, on arrival I proudly cashed in on my Parent and Toddler parking space and was impressed by the facility to pull up right outside, a significant plus point in comparison to my usual supermarket with limited room for Mum manoeuvrings.
First impressions? Despite my dashed hopes of having the store to myself at 8am, i was feeling positive since the gathering of savoury looking people at the door painted the picture that it must be worth the early morning wake up call.
But oh no, a slight dip in this false start as not only did i spot the yocals performing their routine and looking confident as they placed the £1 in the trolley, the £1 no one warned me I needed when encouraging me to give Aldi a try, but furthermore these natives all had their re-usable shopping bags with the Aldi logo emblazoned on the side reminding me of my amateur status. This was a rehearsed and committed hobby that a newcomer like me was not going to be welcomed into lightly; I am a potential threat to their aisle space on future mornings at 8am.
But alas, my 'without-a-£1-panic' subsided when I thankfully remembered the beauty of having a baby, no not the cooing and cuddles, but that in instances such as this you don't need to admit your lack of Aldi experience and can in fact pull out your pram as intended all along.
So the doors are open, a minute early i might add, and here I am venturing into new territory and yes, you guessed it, I can feel a Facebook post coming on!
First up? Corn Flakes. Yes, a whole £1 cheaper than my usual haunt along with a number of other products, both branded or otherwise. Suddenly that third child is looking possible after all, particularly if the wide ranging list of Aldi products extends to an own brand 5 seater car too!
I pick up my usuals including ALDI's take on Maryland cookies and what appears to look like standard fruit and veg. Why yes! That's right! resembling those available and as edible, as those you would find at other stores, would you Adam and Eve it? But again, I reiterate, a whole lot cheaper. I am slowly becoming converted thinking of the £ signs going up in my bank balance, or at least not going down quite so quickly. In fact, I feel as though I'm making money.
I swoop on past the clothing bins that despite always being attracted to a low price bargain that I quite often get home and realise that I have been brainwashed by, maternity leggings and nursing bras would find my husband even more surprised than me by my purchases at Aldi, but noted for the future.
The array of products available at Aldi spreads surprisingly far and wide, and while I came, I consumed and I conquered, the merchandising manager certainly saw me a mile off as not only did i leave with my usual weekly purchases, they were joined by a new George Foreman grill, a high chair, a cordless carpet cleaner, a barbecue, a six seater garden furniture set and a toilet seat and I still managed to spend less than my weekly shop at Waitrose! A toilet seat you say? Well, i told you I was brainwashed into a bargain. I'll be taking that back tomorrow, can you return toilet seats if you keep your underwear on?
In less than half an hour there I was at the check out feeling as though I had performed, (and won!) my own episode of supermarket sweep with all these products in my trolley, or my pram that is. If it wasn't clear I was a newcomer before, my overexcitement and overspending had now definitely given it away.
So I'm at the checkout and it became apparent this cashier had little or in fact absolutely no time for small talk whatsoever. Customer service evidently got cut in the budget. So, not wanting to add further irritation to this Aldi employee's mood, I watched the lady ahead of me preparing for my turn on what resembled the gauntlet.
Hoping to appeal to her softer side I informed the cashier it was indeed my first time. Expecting the usual polite natter that at Waitrose would lead onto the weather, I was instead met with a frosty 'oh and here's another stray' silence. She won't be receiving her invite to my new barbecue and garden furniture party anytime soon, that was for certain.
And then it started. This was something else. Supermarket Sweep took a whole new turn to what I can only describe as something from Pat Sharp's Fun House, except this wasn't fun. This felt like I was fighting for my life, or the grand prize of the cheap six piece garden furniture I would pick up at the door should I pass the final round of the evil cashier's vicious attack.
Attempting to pack my products that were being spat at me at the speed of light while I looked like i was dodging bullets, for a moment it looked as though my apparent virginity might have almost been taken advantage of. But no! If there is one thing i have learnt to do in the past six months since having a baby, it's multi-task. Make way ultimate-evil-character-in-the-final-round lady, I am on this like a machine. With my butterfly net comprising of a 3p Aldi plastic bag (since once again no one warned me to take my own!) I was diving, swooping and catching like you wouldn't believe and before she could even ask me 'cash or card?' which I noted with the lady previous, I got there first and informed her 'card' and handed over my plastic before she had even managed to hit 'subtotal'. Take that Bowzer.
With a vast amount of pride, and my six piece garden furniture set, i made my way back to my car and packed it up and got on my way. I had survived. Excited to tell my husband of my experience, I suddenly panicked for a second and had to look behind me to ensure I had placed my pride and joy in the back of the car; yes and phew, the barbecue was there, oh and of course my daughter.
Will I be returning to Aldi you ask? Yes I think I might, firstly to not only return a toilet seat but also to earn me back some more money with the pounds I save! Who knows, having enjoyed this experience so much I may even stop off at that Car Boot Sale on the way home next time as it appears I now have a lot I could sell - maybe Aldi really could make me some money. Toilet seat anyone? I kept my knickers on I swear.