Toilet paper to truffles: The ultimate guide to German supermarkets

Toilet paper to truffles: The ultimate guide to German supermarkets

When you move to Germany, a trip to the supermarket is often one of your first glimpses of local life, every aisle still full of intrigue for a month or so before you become just another queuer.

Before you reach that stage, you’ll have to learn your way around German supermarkets: the biggest, the best, the smallest and the most convenient. Who sells the best value fruit and vegetables? What are the best grocery stores for vegan and vegetarian options? And where on Earth can you find baking powder? Look no further…

A brief introduction to German supermarkets

Your weekly food shop will likely be one of your biggest expenses after paying rent and utility bills, which means knowing what to get where and how to shop around in German supermarkets can save you a pretty penny each month.

These are some of your options when it comes to supermarkets in Germany, listed in order from the cheapest to the most expensive (€ - €€€€): 

Cheapest supermarkets in Germany

These discount supermarkets are more limited but are good for essentials: 

Norma (€)

Norma is one of Germany’s so-called “Lebensmittel-Discounter” (grocery discount) shops. The chain has 1.290 shops in Germany, and also operates in France, Austria and Czechia.

As one of the lower-rung discounters, Norma can be relied on for basics - pasta, rice, flour, a more modest selection of fruit and vegetables, bread and butter - but is not so promising when it comes to more specific or speciality foods, such as artichokes, pestos or high-quality meat and fish.

While vegan and vegetarian products are sold widely and are affordable in Germany, discount supermarkets are not so well stocked on this front. In Lebensmittel Discounter shops like Norma you can expect a selection of oat or soy milks and vegetarian meat substitutes, but the quality will not be so high.


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Netto Marken-Discount (€)

Another discounter supermarket in Germany where food prices are at the lowest end of the scale, Netto Marken-Discount is owned by Edeka (a larger German supermarket) and is not to be confused with Netto, which is owned by a Danish company.

Like Norma, Netto Marken-Discount can be relied upon for staples and frozen goods, but not so much for fresh fruit, vegetables and bread. Netto Marken-Discount supermarkets in densely populated areas may even be almost out of fresh vegetables and bread by the mid-evening.

When it comes to vegan, vegetarian and organic options, Netto Marken-Discount has its own “BioBio” range, which sells plant-based milks, cheeses and yoghurts, vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives, and organic cheeses and yoghurts for affordable prices, but these alternatives don’t score as high for taste factor as alternatives sold in other supermarkets.

Aldi Nord and Süd (€)

To those outside of Germany, Aldi is just plain “Aldi”. But what many do not realise is that Aldi in Germany is made up of both Aldi-Nord and Aldi-Süd, divided by a border which runs from Essen, through Hesse, south of Thuringia and Saxony, and dictates which version of the supermarket locals are offered. 

So what is the difference between Aldi Nord and Süd? Anecdotally, in Germany Aldi-Süd is considered the superior of the two when it comes to the variety of goods sold. That said, the two shops are relatively similar and like other discount supermarkets, prioritise own-brand versions of popular branded products.

Aldi Nord and Süd are a bit of a step up from Norma and Netto Marken-Discount. They can be relied upon for staples, fruit and vegetables, but Aldi is also a good place to find more specific things for affordable prices. For example, you’ll be able to get gnocchi or multiple different types of Asian noodles.

The same goes for vegan and vegetarian options; compared to Norma or Netto Marken-Discount, both Aldi Nord and Süd are better catered to vegans and vegetarians or people with other dietary requirements. 

Mid-range German supermarket chains

These mid-price-range supermarkets sell almost anything you might need:

Lidl (€€)

Another international supermarket giant. At a Lidl in Germany, newcomers can expect to find much of what they would in the 30 other countries where the company operates. 

Lidl is a go-to for fruit and vegetables, both organic and otherwise, and sells relatively good quality freshly baked bread and cakes. Lidl is also the superior supermarket when it comes to nuts, both in terms of range and affordability, or what the Germans lovingly call the Preis-Leistungsverhältnis (price-quality / performance ratio).

Omnivorous, halal, kosher, vegan, vegetarian, lactose or gluten-free, whatever kind of diet you have, you will be able to find most of what you need in Lidl, bar a few speciality goods that might be specific to a cuisine other than German. 


Image credit: Sorbis /

Penny (€€)

Owned by the more pricey REWE supermarket chain, Penny is another German discounter which is somewhat equal to Lidl in terms of Preis-Leistungsverhältnis, but is better than Lidl at catering to vegan and vegetarian diets.

Penny sells a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, not just apples and bananas but physalis or dried prunes. It is reliable for store cupboard staples, including those not typically found in German cuisine, like coconut milk, baked beans or sriracha, and dried goods such as raisins or tagliatelle.

Where Penny really stands out is for its vegan and vegetarian options. Since 2020 the supermarket has rapidly expanded its “Food for Future” range, with products like smoked tofu, vegan Spätzle or minced meat always available, while new vegan products like pizzas, carrot smoked “salmon” or different yoghurts are regularly trialled.

More expensive German grocery stores

These popular supermarkets are among the more expensive food shops in Germany:

REWE (€€€)

The godfather of Penny, REWE is similar to its discounter store, but more expansive and expensive. In REWE you can expect to find pretty much anything you might need for cooking; seaweed sheets, bagels (they are particularly hard to come by in Germany), pumpkin seed oil, over 50 different kinds of ice cream - you get the idea.

REWE shops can vary in size, with the smaller ones selling convenience store goods at higher prices and the larger shops also selling things like pots and pans, socks or stationery. However, given the convenience and higher quality, shopping at REWE also comes with a higher price tag for many products.


Image credit: Sorbis /

Edeka (€€€)

Edeka is the biggest supermarket chain in Germany with over 11.000 branches across the country. In terms of variety and price, Edeka is similar to REWE and focusses on selling branded products rather than its own, cheaper “Gut und Günstig” range.

For this reason, the shop layout can often be confusing. Like most supermarkets, the lowest priced items are placed on bottom shelves and far from the entrance. But what makes Edeka more confusing is that products are sometimes arranged by brand, rather than by the kind of product. For example, there can be multiple areas of the shop where taco shells are sold, one where more expensive brands are stored and another where cheaper versions can be found, which might require more hunting.

When it comes to vegan and vegetarian products, Edeka and REWE sell anything that you might need or fancy, and multiple versions of it. 

Organic supermarkets in Germany

Deeper pockets and a preference for quality over quantity keep Germany’s organic supermarkets running. Denns BioMarkt, Bio Company and Alnatura make up the three biggest chains.

Denns BioMarkt, Bio Company and Alnatura €€€€

With 340 shops across the country, Denns BioMarkt is the biggest organic supermarket chain in Germany, followed by Alnatura and Bio Company. All three of these shops sell very similar products, mostly food but also a small selection of organic make-up, toiletries and baby clothes. 

Unsurprisingly, the quality of products in Denns, Alnatura and Bio Company is higher than in regular supermarkets, and fruit and vegetables are sold more in line with the seasons. Bioläden often have a fresh cheese and meat counter and a bakery, which also sells a selection of vegan cakes and pastries. 


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Asian and Turkish supermarkets in Germany 

Like most countries, the food widely available in Germany reflects the country’s migration history. For this reason, Turkish and east Asian supermarkets are also common places to do food shopping in Germany.

From miso paste and 100 kinds of spicy sauce to vegan prawns, mochi and silken tofu, Germany’s Asiamärkte will never leave you hungry and offer more flavour than a Spätzle could ever dream of. The same goes for Turkish supermarkets: head here for any kind of spice a recipe book might throw your way, giant bundles of herbs at affordable prices, olives fresh from the deli and all kinds of tea.

For those from France or Italy who may be disappointed by the quality and flavour of fruit and vegetables in Germany, Turkish supermarkets are also a good option for your greens. Many agree that the flavour of vegetables on sale is better than what is available at supermarkets or even organic supermarkets.

Buying online groceries in Germany

If you’re lacking in time, feeling lazy or unable to get to the shop easily, there are also several grocery delivery apps operating in Germany. As well as REWE’s delivery service, Flink, Uber Eats, Getir, Gorillas and Hello Fresh will bring grocery shopping right to your doorstep.

What to know before you go to a supermarket in Germany

Now that you know what they each have to offer and how to make the most of Germany’s supermarket selection, here are some helpful tips and tricks to make sure your visit goes smoothly:

Where on Earth can I buy baking soda in Germany?

Shopping around may be a great money-saving hack, but there’s nothing worse than going to five shops and still being unable to find an ingredient you need. For internationals in Germany, there is a usual suspect that catches us off guard. How can there be so many cakes in this country and not a single ounce of baking soda? 

The word you’re looking for is Natron, and while it is not conveniently placed beside the Backpulver in supermarkets as you might expect, it is still possible to get your hands on baking soda. Toiletry and cleaning product shops, such as DM or Rossmann are the place to track down the Natron.


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Recycling bottles (Pfand) at German supermarkets

Steady on, that doesn’t belong in the bin! After moving to Germany, we all learn soon enough that an empty bottle is not rubbish, but the gift that keeps on giving.

Whether it is big plastic bottle of sparkling water, a fizzy drinks can, a beer or fruit juice bottle, almost all plastic or glass bottles and tin drinks cans can be recycled in Germany - for money! All of these bottles can be identified by the Pfand symbol on their label, which shows a black arrow wrapped around a bottle and can.

When you purchase a drink in the supermarket or corner shop, a little extra will be added to the cost as a charge for Pfand. Collect them all, take them back to the shop and deposit them into the machine for what feels like free money. Give in your “Pfandbon” (Pfand ticket) at the till and get the money off your shopping or just swap it for the cold hard cash.

According to the Pfandordnung of 2006, all supermarkets are obligated to accept Pfand bottles and cans that are made from the same material as the bottles or cans which they sell. So hypothetically, you should be able to buy any plastic water bottle or beer can in Aldi and deposit it for cash in REWE, but this system isn't always so trustworthy.

You can always rely on the Pfand machine to take the bottles you bought in that specific supermarket, but it might spit out the ones you bought in another, even though the Pfandordnung rules that it isn't allowed to do so. When it comes to less common kinds of bottles, like those for speciality beer or milkshakes, it is best to go back to the shop where you bought the drink or you a Späti, where you can exchange them for coins.

Bring your own bags 

The most boring kind of BYOB, but perhaps the most crucial. While German supermarkets do sell paper bags and long-life plastic bags at the till, any supermarket regular knows that it is best to come armed with one or two from your overflowing canvas bag of canvas bags.

Get ready to pack, fast

The fodder of endless German memes, packing your food shopping in Germany is widely known to induce fluster at best and deep embarrassment and overwhelm at worst. Employees at German supermarkets scan quickly and do not help you pack your shopping - that is all up to you.

This means that you will have to be very efficient in packing away your things in the small till area to fend off some disapproving tuts from queuers waiting their turn, or alternatively take your time and the tuts in your stride.

One nifty trick to buy yourself some time is to spread your items out on the conveyor belt so that the cashier is compelled to scan a little slower.

German supermarkets are closed on Sundays

Maybe the most important piece of information in this article is that it is all useless if it's a Sunday. German supermarkets, as well as clothes shops, bookshops and pharmacies, are all closed on Sundays. Get organised to avoid meeting a combination of the three worst states; hungry, dehydrated and hungover.

In case of emergency, central train stations or larger stations which connect busy routes for public transport in larger cities normally have a supermarket and a pharmacy which are open on Sundays, but expect the bill to be quite a lot higher than in a regular supermarket.

Which is your go-to German supermarket?

Of all the supermarkets in all the land, which is your go-to for which foods? Share your German supermarket tips and tricks with us in the comments below!

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Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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