Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Supermarket Run

Today's post isn't nearly as interesting as writing about the visiting the pyramids, checking out an Arab market, or seeing some Antoni Gaudi masterpiece. Rather, it's a mundane account of my trip to the supermarket and the lessons learned. Why in the heck would I write a nail-biter like this? Thanks for asking. I'll tell you.

I have a non-U.S.-born friend who told me this past year that I need to live outside the U.S. so that I can truly appreciate how the world is. (Note: I did spend two years living in Mexico but I came back to the U.S. regularly so my friend, and I, regard it as a part-time experience.) I think my friend was right but the reality is that living in Barcelona is probably akin to living in New York or any other large city in an apartment and without a car; just add in the complexity of a foreign language and a general unfamiliarity and you're pretty close to my new daily life. Wait, that probably applies to New York as well but...

So, yesterday morning I decided to head out to the local Mercadona supermarket. As the crow flies, it's maybe three-or-four miles from where I live. In California, I'd jump in the MINI and head to the local Vons market that was about the same distance away. It'd take me about four-to-five minutes to get there. I'd go in and shop for about 20-t0-30 minutes then head home. All in all, about a 40 minute trip at most; probably much less.

Here's an way-too-much-detail recount of my trip...

1:30pm: Grab grocery cart/bag and leave apartment. See photo below but I definitely feel like an old lady toting the cart/bag with me. To counteract this perceived defect, I tried to dress sporty and nice in a lame, middle-aged attempt to deflect attention from it. I'm sure I failed but...
1:42pm: Catch #27 bus out front of my apartment building.
2:03pm: Exit bus and walk four blocks to the market.
2:08pm: Arrive market.
2:10pm: Dig out 0.50 Euro coin and lock up shopping cart/bag. The cart/bag thing is so popular that they have a spot in the store where you can lock them. Yes, that's my stud machine right there...

2:11pm: Dig out 1 Euro coin and unlock shopping cart. Quick review--you need to have a 0.50 Euro coin and a 1 Euro coin with you when you arrive at the store.

From here, I took my list and went through the store to find all the items. Granted, it took a long time mostly because I had to go up and down each aisle at least twice to find what I was looking for. I'll probably cut at least 10 minutes off my next trip with my new-found knowledge of the store layout and a store-layout-optimized shopping list.

**Bonus** I found rebranded Jif peanut butter! Not the best in my opinion (transfat-loaded, if you must know) but I was happy to find this all-American-food staple at my local market. Now, if they'd carry Laura Scudder's (crunchy of course) I'd be in heaven.

I purchased about 20 items and it cost about 33 Euros ($45 U.S.). The food prices are definitely higher here in Spain than in the U.S. (FYI: the rebranded Jif was the most expensive item I purchased - approximately $5 for the "half-jar" size - Wow!)

2:50pm: Transfer food to my studly shopping cart/bag thingy and unlock. Get 0.50 Euro coin back. Return and re-lock shopping cart. Get 1 Euro coin back.
2:54pm: Walk five blocks to the bus stop. If you're paying attention, the bus goes "down" a one-way street and back "up" another in the other direction.

Oh yeah, it started raining at this point. Yum.

3:03pm: #27 Bus arrives at stop.
3:21pm: I get off the bus outside of my apartment building.
3:29pm: Back in the apartment and start unloading my cart/bag.

It took me 1 hour and 59 minutes round trip to buy $45 worth of food items. Note in the picture above that there's almost no over-sized or heavy stuff; just the basics. Fortunately, my roomie David loads up the family wagon once every other week to make the trip to the local Carrefour mega market so we can get all that stuff.

So, to my friend that told me to live outside the U.S. to experience how life is, here's my review:

Everything takes longer outside the U.S. than we're used to and it costs more with less selection.

Yes, I've truly appreciated living in the U.S. ever since my Mexico days but I definitely treasure the chance to have this experience. I hope it ends up making me a better person. If nothing else, I'm learning something new every day. Thanks!


  1. Wait, I don't get it. Why would you lock, and then immediately unlock, the same cart. And reverse it when you're done. What am I missing here?

    -- Bruce

  2. Bruce- I struggled with that one too. Two carts. Two locks. One from the store. One's mine. :p


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