Friday, March 14, 2008

To Market, To Market I Go

Grocery shopping takes me the better part of the week. Now that I have most afternoons free, I prefer to do the shopping then, instead of the weekends. Because the stores are so packed on the weekends, this chore becomes downright painful. There have been times that I didn't pick up an item simply because I couldn't get down the aisle! Also, during the early afternoon weekday, the buses are less crowded and I'm pretty much guaranteed a seat. The downside of shopping during this time is that I have to go by myself; which means G.'s strong arms aren't there to help carry the bags. So I'm limited in buying only as much as I can carry; thus, one reason for the multiple trips. The other reason is that I can't or don't want to get everything at one place because of availability, price, freshness and/or convenience. I go to three places: the mega market Carrefour (or in desperation Wal*Mart and sometimes Metro -they carry other imported items like additional cereals and graham crackers), a small neighborhood supermarket and the neighborhood "farmers' market".

I've allocated 1000 Yuan ($140) monthly for food. This is getting harder to stay within budget because the US dollar is getting weaker (in September 100 Yuan = $12, now 100 Yuan = $14) and food prices in China has risen 10% since then. I spend 150Y per week for food, paper products, etc., 200Y per month on the university dining card, 100Y for our monthly Western restaurant meal and 100Y for our weekend ice cream/coffee treats. G. and I have our main meal (lunch) in the university dining halls five/ six times per week where it costs 8-10Y for both of us per meal to eat. The kids have breakfast, lunch and a snack at school. So dinner and weekend meals are usually prepared around the kids' tastes.

Carrefour is the place to buy Western goods. It's here I buy spaghetti, sauce, cereal, butter and cheese (all imported). I can also buy China produced ketchup, Nesquik, coffee, tea, jam, pb, soup, (millions of) noodles, oatmeal, frozen dumplings, frozen chicken breasts, and banana bread. Plus all the other foods and paper products, soaps, etc. a mega market would carry.

The farmers' market: I buy fruit here or at one of the many fruit stands that line the streets.

This is the place for vegetables: Luckily, the kids like rice/noodles/dumplings and vegetables, soup, cereal or spaghetti for dinner.

Fresh chicken and duck are readily available. Also, a lot of pork, lamb, beef and dog(!!) that has been sitting out all day. I've shared many a bus ride with live and dead chickens/ducks. G. has been wanting to buy one of these chickens-not to eat, just to have around! Several of our neighbors have chickens and ducks. Can you tell which one of us was raised on a farm and which one grew up in suburbia?!

The small supermarket: I can get most everything here that I can get at Carrefour (minus the imported and frozen items, jam, pb and banana bread). There are also other mega Chinese markets like TrustMart and ParkNShop, but these do not carry any imported Western products.

The small supermarket carries milk. We get milk and juice twice a week. Juice (more like orange drink) comes in 1, 1.5, 2 and sometimes 3 liter bottles. The largest milk size is one liter (about one-fourth of a gallon). We also like these little bags of milk - stays fresher! Imagine, a year ago, I was buying every week, a gallon each of whole milk, 2% reduced milk, chocolate milk and orange juice. No wonder I needed a car for grocery shopping!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have to pass on some bad news...when it comes to shopping, you will have sticker shock when you get home, too! With the price of gasoline and especially diesel fuel (over $4.00/gallon), prices for food have shot up this past year. Eggs have doubled and OJ is $3.00/half gallon on sale. Good bread is well over $3/loaf and eggs have doubled in price. For the two of us, I used to budget $200-300 per month. Now, I spend at least $300 per month on groceries. I don't even want to go to where a ream of paper costs right now...but I see it often for $5/ream and that isn't premium paper!! I am turning into a bargain hunter and coupon clipper. Aldi's is one of my favorite grocery stores. Welcome U. S. to the world economy!! On the up side, with the sagging U. S. dollar overseas, and the cost of shipping, it is actually cost effective for some companies to bring some of their manufacturing back home.