Saturday Night’s Alright For Shopping

4th April 2011

Do you ever worry that your life is a bit dull, when you listen to your friends regaling each other about their fantastic Saturday nights out? Do you get jealous when they go on and on about romantic dinners in amazing restaurants and evenings spent strutting their stuff on the dance floor, in time to the latest tune playing in the flashest club.

Well don’t worry, they’re lying. Perhaps that’s not fair. I’m sure they’re not all lying. But after my Saturday night visit to IKEA at the weekend, I can confirm that most of them were, in fact, partaking in a bit of home styling retail therapy.

Never have I seen so many families, couples and groups of young men and woman rammed into one furniture store on a Saturday night. Some were hanging about in the sofa department, chatting and texting on mobile phones, no doubt to their friends admiring duvet covers in the bed section.

Those with small children were sharing a bargain meal in the cafeteria, filling up their children with fizzy drinks at the free refill station, before steering them around the room settings, letting them race off all the e-numbers by spinning in office chairs and bouncing on beanbags.

Couples were oohing and aahing over the kitchen settings, designing their own dream layout on the computers provided. And just about everyone else was in the marketplace, selecting bargain frying pans, crockery, cutlery, glasses and mugs, plant pots, lamps and rugs that they really didn’t need but at those prices, who can resist.

Next came the warehouse aisles from where you pick the large items that you saw on display in the main store. If you haven’t written down the correct location reference, be prepared for a long walk retracing your steps back to where you saw the ideal bookshelf for your room. Walking against the flow of pedestrian traffic makes for a much longer journey. And when your item is too heavy to lift on to your trolley? Just keep trying because there’s no one around to help unless a fellow shopper feels sorry for you.

The queues for the tills are a testing experience and the scene of some domestics breaking out between now fraught couples, regretting the whole e-number overload at the start of their shopping experience. But eventually you fight your way through, argue with the cashier who’s charged you for 400 coat hangers instead of 4, and head out into the darkness of what feels like the world’s largest car park when you can’t remember where you parked your car.

Never fear, there’s still more fun to come. If you’re not too exhausted when you get home, you get to assemble your flat pack furniture until the early hours, giving you the appearance on Sunday that you would have had if you’d spent all night out at the club. Job done.

If I sound scathing, ignore me. I had a fantastic time and was very proud of the bookshelf I built the next day. So much so, I’m going back for another next week. I’m a glutton for punishment!

Register for an IKEA family card here before you next visit the store to make sure you can take advantage of any discounts going. Oh, and free coffee too!


The Leaning Tower of Piña

21st February 2011

Seeing that I’ve lived in Spain for nearly eight years, you would expect me to have come to terms with supermarket shopping, the Spanish way. Not so.

There are many different supermarket chains with stores near where we live. One blatantly caters to holidaymakers, inflating its prices during peak season, while another uses its French roots and international appeal to draw in shoppers of all nationalities, all year round. It’s particularly good at encouraging you to buy three of something when you only need one – at the time, you think buying 12 cans of pineapple instead of the three you went for means that you’re picking up a real bargain. Usually you just end up with a bigger bill than you anticipated and, as has happened in our house, a leaning tower of piña filling up your cupboards.

One of the other popular supermarkets here requires you to remortgage your house prior to arriving at the checkout, and then there’s the one known to be the supermarket of choice for the average Spaniard – and, of course, it’s one of the cheapest.

I hate supermarket shopping and have always avoided the cheapest option simply because of the hordes of people that flock through its doors whenever I want to go there. And while it is great value, our local branch is impossible to navigate. I like straight aisles, where you can systematically venture up one side and then back down the other, passing everything and thereby forgetting nothing. Well at this particular store, you have to wiggle around corners, and at right angles – it’s organised chaos.

But I’m overjoyed to report that this chain has opened another branch near to where we live. And, touch wood, not too many people seem to have discovered it yet. The aisles have been built in perfect straight lines, the checkout staff are friendly, the carpark has girly wide spaces and you can buy individual pieces of fruit rather than super huge packs that go off as soon as you get them home.

One oddity though – last week I bought some broccoli. That evening, while my homemade fish pie was bubbling away, I unwrapped my broccoli and was gobsmacked to find instructions explaining that I should split said vegetable into florets and cook in boiling water. Now, I’m no domestic goddess, but even I don’t need instructions on how to cook broccoli. If you do, check out this helpful (if somewhat hairy) guy on You Tube:

How to cook perfect broccoli

Finally, a word of warning: Most of the supermarkets here in Spain now charge for plastic bags so don’t forget to take your old ones with you next time you shop. We may be saving the planet but goodness me, I’m going to have to start buying bin bags now! What is the world coming to?