Adventures in British food shopping

7 Oct

I don’t have a lot of experience with this, yet, but I’m enjoying the many differences I’m seeing in the kinds of foods available at the local groceries.  Since I’m limited to walking to stores — for now — shopping must be focused and not too heavy.  (Because I’m a bit of a wimp.)

On our first day here, we stepped out to a local Co-operative.  Apparently this company is taking over the world, one form of commercial enterprise at a time.  You can shop, travel, find household goods, purchase a car, and even die (will-writing and funeral arrangements) under the Co-operative umbrella.  The one near is us small and I have a feeling the prices are exorbitant.   I also don’t think anyone should ever ever offer for sale ‘half price cooked shrimp salad’.  Blurg.  But we found some snacks to tide us over. Crumpets are my favorite for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (of course) but the kids think the “Friji” shakes and chocolates are “brilliant, mummy” (said with an assumed accent).

So we were making do with random snacks from the Co-op shop and eating out, and then the Continental Market arrived down the street.  For a few days, vendors offer fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, cheeses, olives, paella, thai curries, dried and candied fruits, fresh made crepes, and other  market items to the pedestrians strolling the Promenade.  I was thrilled with my share of the bounty — I went out for crepes and came back with red curry, a baguette and a baguette dijonnais, a fresh and an aged goat cheese, and two types of beautiful plums.  I don’t know if my kids realized how fabulous their after-school snack was that day.

Today I can be proud of myself for doing some real shopping at the local Sainsbury.  I think Sainsbury is something like a Safeway or Giant, but the larger stores also offer electronics and large household goods and other items I wouldn’t expect to see at my local American grocery.  (Including the wine and beer that I wish we would see at our regular American groceries.)  It was mouth-watering to see all the Indian-style foods offered in the prepared foods section, including a fairly wide variety of one-pot meals.  And I think I found three separate aisles, in different parts of the store, each devoted to puddings/dessert/cookies/sweets.  I wandered in a bit of a daze — what in the world is “Gu”?  I don’t know, but I’m eating it later — but the kids will be happy with their ridiculous jelly treats and I’m sure the British Cheddar will make a marvelous homemade macaroni and cheese.

Oh, and the British grocery self-checkout lanes?  They hate me, just as much as the American ones.  I needed assistance three times to ring out.  My big downfall was the bananas, which are rung up not by weight but by number — wonder why? — but the staff person who helped me only looked like she wanted to hit me over the head with the bananas — she didn’t actually do it.  So, success!


8 Responses to “Adventures in British food shopping”

  1. Sarah October 7, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    A note about the co-op – they have the BEST cheese curls ever. If you’re desperate for a taste of home, run there and get some. Get two bags – one for you and one for the other people in your house. Also, I find British butter to have a distinct flavor I haven’t been able to get used to (I can tolerate it, and I don’t notice it in cooking or baking), but the co-op usually has the Kerrygold Irish Butter, which to me most closely resembles butter from the States.

    I refuse to comment about your “open-air market”, but only because I’m insanely jealous. 🙂

    • Monique October 7, 2011 at 11:42 am #

      Are those the ‘Wotsits’? My youngest chose a bag of those for a snack and is now crack-addicted to them. Interesting about the butter, my husband said he thought the taste was odd but I thought he was just being crazy. I’ll look for the Kerrygold because we often bought that at home and it will make him happy. =)

      • Sarah October 9, 2011 at 10:07 am #

        I don’t think they are Wotsits – they are just the generic co-op cheese (curls?) somethings(?). But equally crack addictive. Now that you say it, you are the second person to tell me they sell Kerrygold in the States, but I always just bought generic butter there. lol! The strange butter flavor also pops up in sausages and cheese (sometimes), but for some odd reason, I don’t mind it then. It’s just the butter. Call me crazy, too. 🙂 And promise me next time you go somewhere other than the co-op you will pick up a jar of TRUE evil. Then eat it on everything, but especially crumpets and pancakes and french toast and by the spoonfuls. ❤

  2. christy October 24, 2011 at 12:21 am #

    Nice. Shopping in British grocery stores can be a challenge, but it’s fun too!

  3. Tesni December 1, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    wotsits are effectively cheetos I believe. I do love wotsits but they are too tasty and I’ll eat a whole multipack in a day, hence why I never buy them. I was wondering how long it took you to find eggs in a UK supermarket, as it seems a common problem from Americans in England.

    • Monique December 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

      Not in the ‘dairy’ case as we Americans are used to seeing, eh? The eggs weren’t a problem (especially now that I have them delivered!) but other unexpected things were — like finding oil for baking — not where I expected it — and the spices were with the soups (?) not the baking goods. It’s the little things/ =)


  1. And the winner is … « Crumpets in Camelot - March 10, 2012

    […] started the British grocery shopping adventure way back when we first arrived.  Almost six months in, I may not know too much more — aside […]

  2. Full circle « Crumpets in Camelot - October 4, 2012

    […] and I found myself walking down through the Promenade in town feeling the same joy of discovery I experienced last year when I stumbled upon an outdoor international food […]

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