Some people may think a grocery shopping is a chore. When you shop in a foreign store I think they are wrong, I adore it! I love going into grocery stores and markets all over the world. It’s a fascinating Aladdin’s Cave, with better lighting. Markets give you a view of local life far from the “must-see sites”. Are there supermarkets or individual shops for vegetables and fruits vs breads vs meats? Is it like the Soviet Union in the 80’s?
I challenge you to find a Soviet immigrant who wasn’t stunned the first time they went to an American supermarket. (Why we need 40 kinds of toothpaste is beyond me.)
Side Note: Some markets are “must-see sites“.
In Japan, I couldn’t pass a 7 Eleven without going in. I couldn’t read any Japanese but the packaging fascinated me. Anime, cartoons and bright colors ruled their labels. It’s not just the packaging that I find interesting, it’s the items that are available. What may be normal in Japan (bag of seaweed), is not normal in India (15 brands of ghee), is not normal in Peru (30 kinds of potatoes), is not normal in Canada (milk bags?!). I collected (and shared) many a baby bottle of Japanese whisky from my various 7 Elevens and markets.
Even different areas in the US stock different items. New England has Marshmallow Fluff. The South has grits (I’ve been told cheese grits are the best). The West has Dungeness crab. The Midwest has St Louis Gooey Butter Cake.
My preferred corner vegetable stand in Germany was run by a very nice Turkish family and stocked good halloumi cheese! Try it grilled/fried with a raclette tool. (I picked up a raclette while visiting Keukenhof Flower Show, melty, crispy goodness, now I’m hungry.)
I thought it was odd that the stand closed for the month of August to take their holiday. To me, it would make more sense for a vegetable stand to close in winter, but that’s one of the things you learn while traveling.
One of the supermarkets I frequented in Kuwait has Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream. But it’s almost $10 a pint. Sorry guys, I’m not going to pay $10 for a pint. Maybe if there wasn’t another option. That’s another great thing about grocery shopping in a new place. Maybe you can’t find what the recipe calls for, but maybe you find a better substitute. I’ve had PB&J on Israeli pita (thick), Arabic pita (paper thin), Afghan flatbread, Indian naan, flour tortillas and don’t think I’d ever go back to white or wheat bread for PB&Js. (Full disclosure I’ve also had Fluffernutters on Israeli pita and Afghan flatbread.)
There’s a whole genre of travel tips/posts on how to cook in a hotel room. I’ve never tried cooking on an iron or in a coffee pot. But you should try my microwaved egg frittata. Or my reheated leftovers.
Grocery shopping isn’t just fun, it’s a fabulous way to save money. Eating every meal out can get expensive and sometimes you just want something quick or simple. To date, my longest stay in a single hotel was 8 months!! And my “kitchenette” was a microwave, baby fridge, and bathroom sink. I travel with a Sistema utensil set, Kuuk Reusable Containers, Itzy Ritzy Reusable Bags and a Contigo Mug. They can’t handle every scenario but have paid for themselves many times over. Sometimes for work trips, I’ll add a Sea to Summit X Plate and bowl, both of which can double as cutting boards.
TIP: Save money, buy some food so you don’t have to eat out every meal.
TRICK: Buy some local wine, whiskey, coffee, chocolate, spices, tea or something at a grocery as gifts for back home. It’ll be much cheaper than at the airport. (But you don’t have to tell them that!)
WARNING: Don’t buy fresh fruit, meat or cheese, you aren’t supposed to bring it into the US. And officially you’re allowed one (1) liter of alcohol duty-free
Bottom Line: Just do it! I highly recommend checking out a grocery store on your next trip.
For more photos check out this Youtube Video Slideshow – Global Grocery Stores we did.