Monday, July 18, 2016

Spanish Life {Grocery Shopping}

One of my most favorite things to do in other countries is go to the grocery store.  I feel like you can truly get a taste of the country culture by visiting the grocery store -- I love wandering the aisles and seeing the various products.  Plus it is always fun to try new things, especially sweets!

Grocery shopping in Europe is very different than in the states and Spain is no exception.  Yet even in Europe, each country seems to be different.  It is definitely a place where you to need to slow down and observe what others are doing in order to figure out the ins and outs of grocery shopping.  I was lucky enough that our friends took me to the grocery store the first time and showed me the ropes (so when I went by myself I didn't look like a total idiot).

Yet another note regarding pictures -- this post contains limited pictures because well, it is hard to get pictures in the grocery store when you are trying to be discrete!  As I am able to take pictures, I'll update this post!  In the mean time, use your imagination :)

You pay for shopping carts in Europe, including Spain.  You put in a euro coin into a slot on the handle of the cart get the cart (all carts are locked together) and when you are finished you return the cart and get your coin back.  Don't return the cart, don't get your coin.  Carts are always returned and never left in the parking lot.  Genius, I am telling you.  You can also get a hand cart that you can carry (just like in the states) or roll it behind you -- again, genius.  I have also noticed that most of the carts do not have straps for the child seats, so grocery shopping with Serafina is only possible if I use our stroller and then the poor thing is surrounded by groceries!*

Everything is laid out similar to stores in the states, like products are grouped together.  And stores here also have small sections of beauty products, cleaning products, paper products, etc.  So in general, it looks very much like a grocery store in the states.  Products are all slightly different that the states -- in the local grocery stores it is all Spanish products, nothing seems to be imported.  In the bigger stores, you can usually find items from other countries, mostly from around Europe and occasionally a small American section.  I typically buy all of our perishable items -- fruits, vegetables, diary, eggs, meats -- from the Spanish stores.  I then buy our dry goods and pantry staples from the commissary.  As I find more products that I like (and are comparable to what we used in the states), I find myself shopping more and more in the Spanish stores.  However, there are a few things that I will always buy from the commissary -- toilet paper, cleaning products and paper towels.  Paper products just seem to be better from the states (even the Spanish will say this).

The first difference you'll notice is that pretty much all of the milk is not refrigerated.  You can buy one kind of milk that is refrigerated and for our everyday milk, this is what we use (and it tastes great).  When we travel we buy the small boxed cartons for Serafina -- they taste like normal milk and don't have to be refrigerated; it's perfect for traveling!  The second difference is that eggs also aren't refrigerated, but they taste way better than the ones in the states (my opinion).

Each store has a bakery (but they really only do fresh bread and a few pastries), a butcher and a fresh fresh/seafood area.  Remember, while you can get just about any seafood item you'd ever want... you also don't just get a fillet of fish, but the whole fish!  The butcher and fish market are similar to that in higher end stores (like Whole Foods) but every store has them, no matter how small.  You can also buy jamón (Spanish ham) -- get a few slices or the whole leg (hoof included).  I am not a big fish eater, so I haven't gotten any fish at the store and I tend to stick which pre-packaged meat because of my limited Spanish, but so far it has been delicious.

Another big difference is in the fruit/vegetable section.  You need to grab a plastic bag for any item you are getting.  And then you need a plastic glove because you don't pick up the fruits/vegetables with your hands.  I typically just use the plastic bag and just turn it inside out rather than get a plastic glove.  Once you have fruit/vegetable -- you have to weigh it and get a price sticker.  This is a wonderful way to learn a whole bunch of Spanish words!  And also one of the craziest parts of the grocery store (the fish market area is usually crazy too) because everyone is grabbing, weighing and pricing their own fruits/vegetables.  I typically grab all the stuff I need and then go to the weigh machine which is touch screen!  And let me just say that these fruits and vegetables are amazing -- rich in color and flavor, fresh, and often bigger than what you'd see in the states (I swear, I buy one bell pepper and it is the same size as 2-3 peppers in the states).

Check out is also very different from the states -- mainly because you bag your own groceries.  You also need to bring your own bags.  If you forget, or need a bag, you will pay for a plastic bag (its thick and recyclable) -- no paper bags here.  You pack your own bags (which is pretty standard is Europe) and you have gotta be fast because they don't always wait for you to finish before ringing up the next person!  I have figured out a system -- I unload my stuff onto the conveyor belt thing with the products I want on the bottom of my bag first so I can bag everything faster.  Plus I often just shove stuff in the carriage compartment of our stroller which works great too!

So -- how do prices compare?  Spanish grocery stores are much cheaper than the commissary or American grocery stores.  Again, almost everything is grown here in Spain with little to none outside products, all of the fruits and vegetables are products of Spain which helps keeps prices down.  The products that aren't Spanish are more expensive.  Often the products are in smaller containers (for example -- I get liters of milk rather than gallons) so I tend to buy more each week than in the states.  So because I (like most Americans here) do a combination of shopping out in the Spanish stores and at the commissary, our grocery bills are fairly similar to that of when we lived in the states.

I love going to the grocery store!  It's a fun place to learn some more Spanish and often run into people I know.

*It is currently too hot to wear Serafina to/in the grocery store.  And very few people babywear in Spain (it is really only Americans) so I tend to either go without her or use the stroller -- helps me blend in a little bit better!

1 comment :

  1. Love this post. Going to the grocery store was one of my favorite activities too :)


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