This post is about a very mundane experience that most of us have to do at least once a week! Supermarket shopping.
When you’re at home this is just one of the many chores we have to find time for every week. To be honest if we’re not too busy I quite like the simplicity of getting organised, planning our meals, creating the shopping list and then doing the shopping. It feels like quite an achievement when the cupboards are full and we come in under budget – we usually blow the windfall on a coffee 😉
When we were travelling around Australia, the process wasn’t that different except we had to first ‘find’ the local supermarkets and second ‘orientate’ ourselves around the supermarket to find the things on our list. All quite achievable, just a little slower.
Since September we’ve been in 5 different counties which all speak a different language and eat different food. This has created a few more challenges to the weekly shop – which is more like every 2-3 days at the moment. Again we need to find the supermarkets, but this time we need to make sure they’re supermarkets that sell the kind of food we eat, prepared in a way thats acceptable to us.
Google has been very useful for this purpose by directing us to ex-pat forums and ex-pat Facebook groups. In fact the ex-pat community is a very useful resource and if you’re staying put in a spot for more than a few days it may be worth finding them online and asking a few questions.
Back to the supermarkets – in most of the communities we’ve found ourselves in there have been supermarkets that provide products that appeal to the western world. But be prepared to pay more for the things that are not used very much by the local community.
The food which we’ve either not purchased or always pay more for, include – milk, yogurt, cereal, butter, cream, cheese, apples, good chocolate, good tea, tampons (also very hard to find), peanut butter, corn cakes (very hard to find), any gluten free items like flour, pasta, biscuits etc. (poor Simon), good wine, natural almonds (our go to snack food at home), cup a soup etc.
On the other hand there are loads of very cheap things like 2 minute noodles, sweet bikkies, crisps, bakery items, tropical fruit, chicken, rice and of course water which we have to pay for! I can barely remember drinking out of a tap 🙂
On the occasion that I’m in a position to cook for the family and can do it for less that meals outside – usually between $1 – $2 – I’ve found I could either get most of the ingredients or some kind of substitution. Its particular brands that you’re used to at home – mixes and spices etc. that are not always available.
Our experiences in asian supermarkets has made us reflect on the experience foreigners and people who immigrate to Australia must have in our supermarkets.. It must all seem so strange and even frustrating when you can’t find that one product you’ve used all your life! I remember an American friend looking for some thing called half and half in our Aussie supermarkets – we don’t have it. What is it? Half milk and half cream – solution – buy some milk and some cream and mix away 🙂 We never really thought we’d miss certain products, but we do, can’t wait to get to France and get stuck into some delicious cheese, wine and pastries! And I won’t bore you with how long we’ve been looking for Simon’s rice cakes (his gluten free bread alternative!). On a positive note we found some recently after checking 6 big supermarkets in Bangkok, so he’s a happy glutard right now 🙂
One a funny note – I couldn’t find grated (desiccated) coconut any where in Lombok, Indonesia and when I asked a local why I couldn’t buy it in the supermarket when there are so many coconuts on the island, she said, “we just grate it ourselves” – doh!
We actually enjoy the challenge of wandering around the supermarkets looking for things and finding things we didn’t even know existed and many we still have no idea what they are! We even use our Google translator app to work out if some thing is salt or sugar! Although it doesn’t work that well in Cambodia or Thailand where their written characters are not latin in origin. We’ve also learnt that there are areas you move through quickly because the smell is not too good – generally fish or meat areas.
So when you’re next travelling make sure you visit a local supermarket to get a bit more understanding of how the locals live and eat – at least what they eat!
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