A Step-by-Step Guide to Grocery Shopping Abroad

No textbook or teacher could ever prepare for grocery shopping in a foreign country.  Even beyond the foods you’ve never heard of, there are so many more questions.  Why are they selling rice in packages bigger than dog food bags?  Why are they also selling cat statues?  Is that duck in a microwavable dinner?  Shopping for food abroad is an experience you don’t understand till you experience it, but here are some key tips to make your trip a bit smoother:A Step by Step Guide to Grocery Shopping Abroad Toulouse France.jpg

1. Bring a bag.

I was so proud of myself grocery shopping for the first time in France, and when I went up to the counter to pay, I handed her the cash.  And that was that.  She just stacked my items on the counter.  I then remembered that in Europe, stores don’t provide bags—unless you pay.  I was too embarrassed to go back and pay for a bag, but days later I bought a plastic bag, which I folded up to put inside my purse.  It doesn’t take much space but comes in handy so you don’t have to pay extra every time you shop.

2. Make a list.

I can pretty much guarantee you will be overwhelmed.  Not only is it in a different language but also offers other types of food you didn’t even know existed.  Before you walk in, create a list of the types of things you need whether it’s snack food or deli meat.  Chances are you won’t be able to locate exactly what you want or are used to, but have an idea of the types of food you want to purchase.Processed with VSCO with nc preset

3. Allow more time.

At home you can easily run in to grab exactly what you need, but give yourself more time to explore.  Being gluten-intolerant, I know this especially well as reading the labels in English takes enough time as is.  But in French?  Grocery shopping may have been just one thing on your list to achieve, but when living abroad, it takes much more effort.  Once you get of the hang of it, you’ll be a pro!Processed with VSCO with nc preset

4. Try something new.

When abroad, do as the locals do.  You may not be ready to eat frog legs, but try even a different type of juice.  I tried strawberry juice, and it was incredible.  I’m excited to try something with litchis in it (because every European seems to know exactly what this is), but I’ve never even heard of this fruit.  You may not like it, but hey, you tried it!Processed with VSCO with nc preset

5. Don’t go the same place every time until you’ve tried out other stores.

It’s easy to stay in the familiar even if it’s only recently familiar.  But keep branching out for the first several weeks.  I went to several Monoprix and thought, meh.  But I found a Monoprix many times bigger with way more selection.  I also tried Paris Shop, an Asian grocery store, which offers foreign and local foods at much lower prices.Monoprix Grocery Shopping France Abroad Travel Expat

6. Don’t feel bad about boring or inexpensive.  

I felt bad about buying Monoprix brand chocolate.  I’m in France; why wouldn’t I buy true French chocolate?  Well, that’s exactly it: I’m living in France.  Life is expensive.  Save your money for eating out several times each week or drinking café au lait.  It’s okay to search high and low for the cheapest brand.  I felt lame at first, but it’s more awkward being worried about paying for dinner or drinks when you’re out.  Even more, you’re living here, not just vacation.  You have to sustain yourself, and you can’t have steak every meal of the day!

You may have taken language courses and researched the city you’re moving to, but you’ll have to learn some as you go, including grocery shopping.  The first few times may be a bit overwhelming, but with these six steps, you’re on your way to becoming a local.



{Do you have any tips for grocery shopping abroad?}

5 thoughts on “A Step-by-Step Guide to Grocery Shopping Abroad

  1. Rosie says:

    I used to write my shopping lists in French, as it was so much easier/ quicker to match it to the products in store that way. I remember seeing white strawberry juice for sale in Japan, but didn’t try it as it was ridiculously expensive. If I see a cheap glass/ bottle of it somewhere, I’ll have to give it a whirl. Fresh litchi are infinitely tastier than tinned – and litchi sorbet is also rather nice, if you ever get the chance to try it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • roundtriptravel says:

      Bonjour Rosie! Great idea 🙂 That’s so funny you mention litchi because I’ve never seen those anywhere in the States, but here I see them quite often. I tried them once and liked it. But I’ll need to search for some litchi sorbet–yum! Happy traveling!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. earthsmagicalplaces says:

    I’m Gluten Intolerant as well so I feel your pain haha, forever googling ‘gluten’ in other languages so I know what to look for on a packet! Still, I love heading to markets, especially in Europe! Can’t beat the fresh produce and the people 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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