- There are a variety of grocery stores in my area of Shanghai. BLT ( it stands for Better Life Today) is quite nice and reminds me of Adam’s Fairacre Farms. They are spotlessly clean and bright. They have attentive employees, have a decent selection of western foods. But the food there costs an arm and a leg. It will be a great choice for those times I am completely homesick.
the other end are the warehouse stores which are soooo much more warehouse than BJ’s or COSCO. I almost got run over by forklifts several times and I really don’t need 35lb of rice at once anyway, so I probably won’t frequent this store either.
In the middle is the Carrefour. This is a French based company that has grocery stores all over Asia. Often they seem to be attached to a mall. They are huge and remind me of Walmart.
Anyone who knows me well knows Walmart and I are not close friends. I go into complete sensory overload in a store like that. But this is where I will be spending most of my grocery shopping time and dollars as it has a huge selection and reasonable prices.
The other day a new friend told me she had had a breakdown at carrefour and just started crying. At the time I nodded politely, now I understand so much better…..
Like Walmart, the Carrefour has an electronics section (this is where we bought our cell phones- which is an adventure I still have to tell you about!), a housewares section, a small appliance section, clothing, bedding, jewelry……Then you get to the food, and this is where any resemblance to a western grocery goes out the window. The packaged food section is HUGE but I cannot read any labels. Is it instant soup? is it a seasoning? is it something you add to a recipe? Luckily, having visited my sister in Japan previously, I do recognize a few things, and Ramen is universal – although they seem to have about 35 flavors of Ramen here.
In the middle of the store are the cold cases with dairy and the freezer section. An important piece of shopping information, if you ever find your self getting groceries in China , is that in the stores there is generally no or minimal air conditioning. And the term “cold case” should be used loosely. The butter was so warm it was soft right when I picked it up.
After hours of looking and thinking about not just what I wanted but where the hell is it in the store? What is it? If I can’t find what I want, what can I substitute? I finally had a reasonably full basket with enough food to put together at least two dinners plus some staples. I had found some beautiful apples and oranges, lettuce, garlic, potatoes, grapes, carrots in the produce section. I was feeling mighty proud of myself.
Then I went to check out……..
It turns out that the cashier not only does not have a scale, but has no interest in instructing you on how to go get things weighed. So if it is not already marked with a barcoded price, it gets abruptly set aside and I was not allowed to buy it. This meant no fruit and the only veggie I got was a hydroponic lettuce in a plastic container. I could feel the tears welling up. All my freakin’ time and effort spent trying to piece together healthy identifiable food, didn’t the cashier have any mercy for me???? apparently not.
There are fruit vendors on every corner so the fruit was a sad moment, but the veggies broke my heart. I thought about taking the things I was allowed to buy out to the car and coming back in to reclaim my produce but the butter was about to turn into a puddle and I knew it wouldn’t survive even 5 minutes outside in the heat. (western butter is a luxury item not to be wasted). So I bagged all my groceries and carefully balanced the butter on top of the eggs so it would not get squished, and said good bye to my produce piled so forlornly to one side.
I plan to go back later this week just to try to figure out produce. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the mean time my shopping did give me a great idea for a blog entry category. I will post a picture and you all have to guess what it is. Then after 3 or 4 weeks you all can pick one of the items and I will try it and let you know how it is. Please don’t be cruel!
Enjoy the pictures from this weeks shopping adventure!