One of the things I like to do when I am at home in Germany is simply to go into a supermarket. As I try to find a one Euro coin to get the cart, I wonder why this particular idea never made it to the US. After all it’s such an easy solution to eliminate stray carts that are all over the parking lot.
The moment I enter the store the scent of freshly baked bread from the little bakery at the entrance hits me. Oh, how I have missed dark bread with a nice thick crust and the big selection of Brötchen (i.e., dinner rolls – only better). And all the yummy pastries for Kaffee und Kuchen in the afternoon! By the way, I never knew that coffee and cake was a German tradition until Marco asked me why all my relatives kept offering exactly that on one of our first trips as a couple to Germany Why? Well, that’s just what you do when you have visitors in the afternoon… duh. I guess only in Germany…
I enjoy that everything seems a little narrower and smaller in even the bigger German supermarkets. Every little bit of space is taken up with displays of Kaffee, Salami, Müsli, … As I squeeze my cart through the aisles trying to get by other people I notice… silence… Not the constant excuse me ‘s I hear in Texas all the time. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. It’s just what it is.
The cheese counter is totally irresistible with all of the foreign and local cheeses just laying there ready for me to grab them and fill my cart – and unlike in my little high-end supermarket in Texas, it’s affordable as well. Fresh Gouda, small pieces of Brie and Camembert, … it’s all so good when it’s fresh! The butcher’s corner has all of the cold cuts you could ever want and more. I try to only focus on the ones I cannot find in Texas like Kassler (a cold cut version of smoked pork chops) or a nice, fresh piece of Fleischwurst (bologna).
My resolve to not completely pig out this time around is almost gone by the time I hit the refrigerated displays with all their goodies like Milchschnitte – the supposedly light and healthy snack for in-between meals. Milchschnitte won the Goldenen Windbeutel (golden cream puff; a prize for the worst advertising lie in Germany – not unlike the Razzies, except it’s for food) in 2011 because it’s anything but light and healthy, but oh well, in the cart they go. And who could resist grabbing just a few things from the the shelves that are filled with sweets from their childhood? Balisto, Ferrero, Kinder, Haribo, here I come.
And on the way out I see it… hidden between olives, cherries, vinegar, and popcorn…. a single jar of Barney’s Best Crunchy Peanut Butter. It even has the American flag on it! Who would have thought I’d run into peanut butter while grocery shopping in Germany? Can you see it below? and there’s even a German version: Erdnuss Creme.
Remember how a while back I wrote about how I think that peanut butter could be America’s favorite treat? And that there are so many different brands and types in the US? Contrast the picture above with the selection you can find at your local Walmart alone and have a laugh And you American expats in Germany, head over to REWE and get yourself a glass of Barney’s Best. You know you want to
So, now that you know where you can get your peanut butter fix, here are some more tips for grocery shopping in Germany:
- Bring our own bags or be prepared to pay for simple plastic bags to carry your groceries home.
- Bag it yourself. Cashiers in Germany don’t bag your groceries for you – and they don’t bring them to your car like in Texas either. Oh, and you better be quick bagging it all up – people in line behind you will get antsy.
- Bigger does not necessarily imply cheaper. There are big chains in Germany, like Aldi, that are much smaller than your regular Walmart (and I’m not even talking the Superstores here), but have much better prices. In many cases, groceries are actually cheaper in Germany than in the US. I think it’s because of the strong competition among discount chains in Germany.
- Be aware of your store’s opening hours. Grocery stores are not open 24/7 in Germany. Most stores close around 6-8pm. Oh yes, and don’t even try to buy anything on a Sunday as almost everything is closed.
- What you see, is what you pay: VAT is included in the price that is displayed, except…
- Be prepared to fork over some extra cash when you buy bottled water or juice. You pay a “deposit” per bottle that you get back when you return the empty bottle. A lot of the bigger supermarkets have automated machines in the front that take your empty bottles and print a receipt that you can take to the cashier to get your money back.
- Buying fruits and veggies: When you are looking for organic, look for the label “Bio”. And make sure to weigh your fruits and veggies before going to the cashier. There are usually small scales that will print a label right there on the spot. If you don’t stick that little label on your fruits and veggies, the cashier won’t be able to scan them and you’ll hold up the line – again, mean stares from people behind you.
- Oh yes, and don’t forget that one Euro coin so you actually have a cart to put in all your groceries as you stroll through the supermarket