Thursday, March 21, 2013

Grocery Shopping

Okay close your eyes ... oh wait, don't close your eyes, I need you to keep reading. Imagine the following with your eyes open please.

You walk into your favorite grocery store and 80% of the items on the shelves are brands or products you're unfamiliar with. The ones that are familiar to you are unreliable. For example, you walk in one day and your beloved Cheetos are right there on the shelf. The next week, you couldn't find a Cheeto if your life depended on it. And then, after surviving 3 months of powdered cheese covered carb withdrawal, you walk in to find a whole wall of Cheetos!

This, is where I now live; where a trip to the grocery store is an adventure because I never quite know what I'll find there. 

So, today's post is intended to give you an idea of what grocery shopping is like here in Abu Dhabi. First, there are three main places people shop for food:
  • The corner markets - small, independently owned shops that stock the essentials and are located all over the city and in most larger housing compounds.
  • Ex-pat Groceries - at least that's what I call them. These are medium sized groceries that carry lots of imported brands and have a small pork section in the back and a bottle shop (liquor store) nearby. There are probably 10-12 around the city and they are primarily used by ex-pats. You pay a premium here, but can find some of your home favourites ... like Oscar Meyer bacon and caffeine free diet coke.
  • And last are the Hypermarkets. The Hypermarket is like a Super Walmart where you can buy electronics, appliances, clothes, home furnishings and your groceries.  These are the most popular and largest and carry an assortment of local and imported goods. This is where the adventure is as the stock changes unexpectedly. One week you can find sugar free pudding and then won't see it again for 6 months. We're currently waiting for the Jennie-O turkey bologna to arrive back in the country - haven't seen them in a long time.
Inside the store itself, things are pretty much as you would expect. Aisles of goods, fridge and fresh food around the perimeter. The expat groceries and hypermarkets have a bakery, deli, fresh fish section, meat, veg & fruit - the usual. A few differences:
  • The fresh fish section consists of whole fish and shellfish that you can choose yourself. Like a meat counter, you can ask them to clean the fish for you and there's a decent variety. The only issue is the smell and all those dead fish eyes staring at you.
  • The meat counters have lots of things I either haven't heard of or have no idea how to cook like lamb hearts. Okay, actually lamb in general - just not something we're used to eating.
  • At the fruit and veg counter you have to have your items weighed by the staff before you head to the checkout, so there's a line of people waiting at the scales.
  • One really cool thing in the spice counter where you can literally buy a pinch of paprika. They are sold in bulk so you just ask for the amount you want, no matter how small and they package and ring it up for you. You can also find nuts, dried fruits and coffee in this section.
Not as different as you might imagine, but a few things we've had to get used to and certainly a few things we'll miss when we eventually move on.

1 comment:

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