Up until now I have boycotted discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl on the reasoning that if they are even cheaper than Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Morrisons then their farmer suppliers are bound to be under the cosh.

But this is the time of year when my other half disappears into hedgerows for days on end to reappear laden with wild berries and hips of various sorts. Such a harvest requires industrial quantities of sugar and spirits to turn it into delicious night caps to be supped in front of winter fires. So it was that I was dispatched to the newly opened local Aldi to “find out what they charge for a litre of gin.”

Even before I made it through the doors my preconceptions about what the “Lidl experience” would be like were being challenged. The automatic doors displayed Union Jacks in the shape of love hearts, and the first aisle of fruit and vegetables displayed an impressive degree of UK provenance, with “honest British produce” written on their plastic wrappers. It was weirdly unsettling to have this German owned recent interloper to our already very competitive supermarket scene play such a blatant British patriotic card on me.

From the isle of honest Britishness I sashayed to the centre aisle for which both Lidl and Aldi are famous. Friends have waxed lyrical about how great this is for picking up everything from screwdriver sets to Christmas crackers to work socks. But to my eyes it all looked like rather depressing poorly made tat that ought to go straight to land fill rather than end up there via Lidl customers’ houses.

But on I went in search of discount gin. The longer I trolleyed, the more I was overcome by an unexpected feeling of deep nostalgia. This was more like the supermarket of my childhood. Lots of basic generic packaging and no nonsense raw ingredients. Largely absent were the long rows of chilled ready meals that have become such a huge part of the “big four” food offer. It was like the rise in average living standards that has occurred over my adult life had suddenly never happened.

There were genuine points of pleasant surprise to be stumbled upon during my quest for cheap spirits. “Outdoor bred British pork sausages.” A “two kilogram free range British chicken for £5.50,” Red Tractor and RSPCA assured. Really? For that price? But then I tried to imagine what profit margin Aldi’s free range chicken farmers must be on to allow them to sell a free range chicken at that price.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. A text informed me: “Thanks but just bought gin in Waitrose – get back to cattle lookering.” But by now I had already succumbed to a “Caesar salad kit with caesar dressing, parmigiano reggiano and croutons. Origin – mix of European Union and non EU produce, packed in the UK” for little more than £1.

To purchase this I had to stand in a long queue at the checkout. When I got near the front of the queue I was struck by the speed with which the Lidl employee was putting the items across the bar code reader. “Bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep” went the machine in a striking rapid pulse that I had never heard before.
When it came to my turn to be checked out I greeted the man with a standard but polite “Good evening, how are you?” Without establishing eye contact with me he replied: “Tired and at work – how are you paying?”

I fled the store, almost running, back, back, back to the welcoming bosom of Waitrose and the John Lewis Partnership – and their warming, intoxicating “fairly priced” gin.