I’ve already covered what the farmer’s markets here are like (to recap: amazing), but I’ve also been getting a few questions about what shopping in the grocery store is like.
At the particular market that we shop at regularly, there seems to be a ton of yogurt along one wall, a ton of beer along the opposite wall, and then bits and pieces of other types of food in between. It’s certainly nothing like your friendly Martin’s/Giant/Stop and Shop mega-mart, though it is a chain. At a ten minute walk, it’s also the closest store that we have, but we try to pick up other essentials at larger discount stores whenever we’re near them.
A few people warned me about this before we came to Germany, and I’m eternally thankful that they did: bring your own bags to the grocery store, and bag them yourself. We have been bringing our backpacks, and if we are at the store together, one person pays and one person grabs the food items that the cashier tosses across the scanner and tries to pack them quickly and get the hell out of the way. I certainly don’t mind bagging my own groceries (it just makes sense), but the speed at which you have to do is a little stressful if you’re not expecting it. If you’re part of a pit crew, you’ll be fine. Just like on the pit crew, you have to pack the eggs last.
If you want plastic bags, you will have to buy them at the register. Also, if you want to use a shopping cart, you’ll have to pay a euro. Really. The carts are all locked together until you insert a coin to unlock the one that you want. What’s interesting is that I’ve never felt like we couldn’t carry everything that we *needed* to get in a couple of the small carry baskets (which are free). We’re restrained by how much we can carry on our backs back to our apartment, but even if we had a car, I don’t think we would be tempted to load it up with groceries. I think that being forced to stop and think about whether you really need a huge shopping cart makes most people realize that they don’t. We go to the grocery store every few days for the essentials. Yes, it’s all very quaint – until it starts to snow here and we get the dreary northern-Germany winter that we have been promised.
As for the food: it’s a tiny market in spite of being a chain, and I don’t know if what we’ve seen there is representative of most places in Germany. Meat is more expensive than we’re used to. A pack of bratwurst can be a good deal, but prepackaged chicken or turkey breast is surprisingly expensive. Right now we have a package of turkey in the fridge that’s less than 1/4 of a kilogram and cost 3.13€. That’s a little over $4 at today’s exchange rate, but I think I could get the same amount of turkey at an American grocery store for around $2. Bananas are a little more expensive, and it seems like American-brand cereal is actually cheaper than it is in America (around 2.60€). The milk comes in non-refrigerated 1 liter-boxes. We saw something called “Eis-Spaghetti” in the freezer section (Ice Cream-Spaghetti), which maybe we will save for the holidays when we are feeling adventurous.
At the bakery, you can load up on your favorite sugar-bomb pastries, or get some brötchen (rolls) or a loaf (or half-loaf) of bread. It’s easier to get food in smaller quantities here, probably for all of the reasons that I mentioned above, and the fact that the food is all really, really fresh. We forgot about a piece of bread in our cabinet for a day or two, and by the time I found it, it had a biologically-impossible amount of mold on it. It made us realize what we are and aren’t consuming when we eat the food here. It also probably explains why the meat is a little bit more expensive: there’s less of it produced when it’s not being pumped full of hormones.
I got some eggs last week, and they still had some feathers attached. They also came with this chart and number scheme, so you know exactly where they came from:
It’s off to Münster for a math conference and then Aachen for an anniversary trip, since there’s nothing quite as romantic as abstract math combined with WWII history. Hoping to report back with lots of photos!