I was driving home today thinking about topics that were not yet covered on the blog when it struck me that the website was missing one of the most basic elements of day-to-day life: where to do your grocery shopping in Ireland. If you've never been to Ireland, or if you've been away in another country for a long time, you may not know what types of options are available to you. I figured it'd be useful to share what I know about grocery shopping, so with that in mind I'll break down the various options available to you, and hopefully cover most of the choices that are out there.

Mainstream grocery stores
There are a number of mainstream grocery stores that you will find in almost all cities, and most towns, in Ireland. Tesco and Dunnes Stores are 2 of the longer standing chains in existence in Ireland, and are probably the 2 that you would go to if you're looking for brand name items. Competitors to these two giants include Marks and Spencers and SuperValu (no 'e'), but generally speaking these 2 are smaller in square footage, and have a smaller selection of items, although pretty substantial still.

Tesco grocery shopping in Ireland
Tesco sign - lit up at night

Personally speaking I find both Tesco and Dunnes to be more or less equal when it comes to cost. An item might cost more in one store over the other, but over the course of an entire grocery bill I find it generally works itself out to about even. It's not very unlike shopping in Vons one week in California, and the next at an Albertsons outlet. Dunnes, Tesco and SuperValu all offer a loyalty program (I'm not sure if M&S do), and there are benefits to each. Discounts, cashback, various promotions etc are the norm. They're all worth looking in to. I'm signed up to each, and receive a savings voucher every now and again, which brings a little smile to my face 🙂

Next up in the mainstream list are 2 relatively new chains in Ireland, both headquartered in Germany: Aldi and Lidl. These 2 came on the scene in the last 10 or 15 years, and have really shaken up the competition. I would class their food (at least the fresh food) to be of pretty high standard, and almost everything in their stores are priced quite low. They both sell random, impulse-buy-type, goods, which, more often than not, I find to be low-quality junk! e.g. one-time use tools, garden equipment that's good for one season, skiing gear (I'll let Tommy Tiernan, a popular Irish comedian, explain. Caution - if you don't appreciate colourful language (very colourful!), don't click the link - here it is). I buy some of this 'junk' from time-to-time, mostly just to get a one-time DIY project done.

If you're willing to settle for no-name brands and a reduction in product selection, then I don't think you will find anybody to argue the fact that Aldi and Lidl will make your grocery-budgeting an easier task. Neither store runs a loyalty program (at least not that I'm aware of).

Convenience/grab-and-go stores
Not quite like a US 7-eleven store, but far removed from the category of grocery store, are a bunch of chains that sell a little of everything, and are very convenient to have nearby, especially when you need to grab a bottle of milk on the way home. Spar, Mace, Centra, Gala and Londis all fall in to this category. You'll often find them physically attached to a petrol/gas station, and are often frequented by construction workers looking for a hot breakfast roll, a half decent lunch, or a pack of cigarettes. You won't find yourself doing a weekly shop in any of these places, but if you're on your way home and need to grab a few things, they're perfect. Many of these shops even have a bakery and/or small deli, so if you're looking for a scone or deli sandwich, they may be worth a visit.

Corner Shops/Mom and Pop
In the neighbourhood I grew up in, we had 3 (actually 4 at one point) corner shops within a half mile radius of each other. They were perfect for off-loading your weekly allowance in, and in between visits to the mainstream supermarkets were the go-to places for milk, bread, fruit etc. These little shops were usually ran by the owner and their children, but like many things in modern Ireland the corner shop is a dying breed. Outside of rural towns you're very unlikely to find many of these kinds of shops turning a good business. They've been undercut so badly by the big chains, that the owners have just had to cash out and turn their hand to something new.

Wholesale/warehouse shops
COSTCO!!! One of the things American's will miss most when they emigrate to Ireland. We just don't have anything like it in Ireland. There is a similar-style store in Ireland, Musgrave's Cash 'n Carry, however, you need to own a business to shop there.
I have seen a couple of smaller scale wholesale shops pop up here and there, in particular a Polish store, selling mostly imported goods. Polonez is their name. Let's hope they're starting a trend in Ireland, and people will catch on to the idea of wholesale buying.

Farmer's markets
Delicious. Fresh. Tasty. Aromatic. Eye-catching. How do you describe your local fresh-food market? Maybe I'm biased, but Ireland's will almost certainly capture your every sense.
Meats. Seafood. Fruit. Vegetables. Arts. Crafts. These farmer's markets have it all. What better way to shop?

English Market Cork
English Market Cork

I'm going to send you over to bordbia.ie for this one. They have an extensive listing of markets across Ireland on this page.
You'll also find a few well-established indoor and outdoor markets such as the English Market in Cork (which by the way is a wonderful place to get fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish).

There's not a lot of choice for online grocery shopping in Ireland (hint hint! an invest-in-Ireland idea). Tesco does provide this service, however I can't vouch for how well they do it (I've never used it). It also provides a delivery service, so if you're within their service area, you could shop online and receive your groceries without every getting off your living room sofa.
Also, my local SuperValu, does deliver groceries to my doorstep, however I need to do the shopping part myself. This is a useful service for anyone who uses public transportation to get around, but whose grocery shopping exceeds more than what they can carry.

While not necessarily a leader (by any means) in the online grocery shopping world, everyone's favourite online store, Amazon, does provide a delivery service to Ireland via it's .co.uk site. You can order basic weekly needs such as cleaning supplies, paper products, ziplock bags, tinfoil, etc via their site, and have it delivered straight to you.

Store/loyalty cards
Almost every shop these days has some sort of loyalty program which they try to get you to sign up to. Even my local barber wants my phone number, email address, and place of employment details these days! They all want to reward us (or at least make us think they are) by giving us a wallet card (or keychain card) to rack up points on. I sign up to these programs for places I regularly shop, but I don't go out of my way just to pick up, or try out, a new loyalty program. In my wallet I have a Tesco, SuperValu and a Dunnes loyalty card. If you like to feel rewarded for your continued custom, then you have plenty of choice in Ireland for these programs.

As always I love to hear from you if you'd like to add something to this post. The comments are restricted to member accounts (sign up for free here), but if you'd prefer not to sign up, you can always add your voice by sending my a message via this form.

Tesco image credit: Flickr/loopzilla
English Market image credit: Flickr/infomatique