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German chancellor admits to a deep-seated practice of stockpiling food and cleaning products from her communist past

She may be the most powerful woman in Europe but that does not stop her from stockpiling food and cleaning products.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who spent her first 35 years in communist East Germany, where people often queued for food, has admitted that the fear of running short of consumer goods continues to haunt her 20 years after unification.

In a magazine interview today, Merkel said that try as she might, she cannot break her hoarding habit. "I still buy something as soon as I see it, even when I don't really need it. It's a deep-seated habit stemming from the fact that in an economy where things were scarce you just used to get what you could when you could."

The leader, on an annual salary of €303,000 (£257,000), said that her diet continues to be shaped by foods with an eastern European flavour which were typical in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). "I'm particularly fond of solyanka (a meat and pickled vegetable soup), letcho (a Hungarian vegetable stew) and shashlik (a spicy kebab)," she said. Her comments came in an interview with the magazine SUPERillu - which was founded in East Germany and continues to focus on issues affecting former East Germans.

Even Merkel's vocabulary betrays her East German roots: she said that she has only just got used to the western word supermarket, preferring instead the East German term kaufhalle - literally buying hall.

"It took until the 15th or 16th year after German unification before the word supermarkt was able to pass my lips more easily," said Merkel, who was a 35-year old physicist when the wall fell.

She said she also still uses a brand of East German washing up liquid out of habit.

Merkel's candid remarks reflect just how strongly the planned economy of the GDR shaped the lives of its citizens and how hard many have found adjusting to life in a reunited country which bears little resemblance to their old lives, a theme that is fleshed out in the cult film Goodbye Lenin! The tragicomedy tells the story of a son who tries to recreate the aesthetics of the GDR in his staunch socialist mother's bedroom after she emerges from a coma following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Doctors tell the son the shock of finding out her beloved communist state has collapsed, would almost certainly kill her.

Merkel described reunification as being "all-in-all positive", but said the experience had been alienating for many. "We saw the unravelling of everyday life as we knew it - from the world of consumption, through to bureaucracy and the labour market. Adjusting to all of that since 1990 amounts to an unbelievable achievement by East Germans."