Q: What was I doing on March 25, 2007?
A: The same thing as today–musing about grocery shopping in Spain.
Now, with a few more months of Spanish living under my belt, I can reflect on the experiences I had several years ago and update my impressions of Spanish mercados. Before I dive in, I must acknowledge that my grocery experience is different in Madrid than in León. In León, there was less variety as far as big chains go. While my apartment is close to two major chains, I have countless stores only a metro hop away.
Compared to León, I would say that there are many more alimentación stores surrounding my apartment building. These are small, mom-and-pop-esque shops that carry basic groceries. I don’t shop at these too often as these convenience stores come with convenience store price tags. The exception? I buy peanut butter at a corner store (no name?) because it is both cheaper and less processed than the brands I can find elsewhere. It may come with a film of dust on the lid, but the expiration date hasn’t failed me yet.
A view from outside the shop
I am a card-holding member of Dia, the grocery store closest to my apartment. This store is small yet packed from floor to ceiling with all the staples. The lines are long, and the compact clutter is a disaster waiting to happen. The best products are dairy ones, and I buy milk and yogurt here. While I dread the long lines and general chaos, this is my go-to spot to pick up bulky items like toilet paper and juice since I don’t have to lug the items very far.
Dia at a rare moment with no other shoppers in sight
Next I would like to introduce you to my favorite and most frequently-visited grocery store: Carrefour. This chain comes from France and thus offers French and Belgian products that can’t be found at other Spanish chains. I love the variety in this spacious store, and look forward to seeing what each week’s fruit and vegetable specials (kaki? asparagus?) will be. Besides produce, I also pick up items like tuna, olive oil, cider and wine, spices, jamón,and shampoo.
Carrefour at night
My reusable Carrefour bag reads “Give a hand to the environment” in four different languages. My kind of bag!
The last place I would like to mention is Mercado Barceló, which is, as the name implies, an actual market. It always provides a fun visit, as I can stroll among dirt-specked veggies, glassy-eyed fish, and piropo-throwing fruit vendors. This is where I come when I want interesting cheese for wine and cheese night…or if I just want to feast my eyes on something novel.
This concludes my grocery adventure. More photos of the mercado after the jump.
The cheese counter