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Grocery shopping in Moscow

October 28, 2013

Grocery shopping….not exactly the kind of shopping that comes to mind when you think about fun shopping. But let me tell you, I will take the kind of grocery shopping I used to do over the grocery shopping I do now, any day. So all of you who groan at the thought of doing your weekly grocery shopping, I envy you. Enjoy it, because trust me, it could be a whole lot worse more interesting.

I will say here that grocery shopping like I will describe below isn’t how everyone in Moscow has to do their shopping. Those who have cars have it much easier.  But for me, without a car, this is what it looks like.

There are several things to consider when shopping here.  The main one is: don’t buy more than you can carry home. This might seem obvious, but sometimes you can get carried away and end up with a bit more than you can easily carry home. This has happened before. And it’s not fun.

Then also there is cost to consider. Some things are really, really expensive. Take for example the mozzarella cheese in this picure below. Guess how much it cost?

A. Eight dollars

B. Ten dollars

C. Thirteen dollars


If you answered C, thirteen dollars, you would be correct. The few items in this picture above (small bag of tortilla chips, bag of potatoes, one tomato, mozzarella cheese, 2 cans of black beans (we’ll come back to those later), a small container of cmetana (sour cream), a small packet of sugar and cinnamon mixed, and a candy bar cost 29.00.  The potatoes were 5.00, the black beans were 3.00 a can, and the chips were 3.00, so those combined with the cheese made up the bulk of the price.

Another thing that adds to the uniqueness that is the grocery shopping experience is that sometimes the grocery store doesn’t even have what you are looking for in the first place. Sometimes (often) you will show up to buy something that they “always” have, and it just won’t be there. For example, last week I went to the store to get bananas and there just weren’t any. There are “always” bananas there!  That is just one example, there have been many times I have needed something, and gone to the store, only to find out there simply didn’t have it.

And then there is the fact that some stores in the same chain, but in different locations, will have certain things that others don’t carry on a regular basis.  For example, the black beans in the picture above. I spent the first 8 months here in Russia scouring the shelves of each store I went into, for black beans. And then last week I found them at the Victoria store near my apartment. I have been in Victoria stores in many different locations around Moscow dozens of times (at least) and never seen them before.  And next time I go, they might simply be gone, never to reappear again. Who knows.

Another problem of shoping without a car is that you can’t simply throw all your purchases into your car and head into the next store if you want to buy something else. They do have lockers in most stores and you are supposed to stop at the entrance and put all your bags into a locker before shopping in the store. If you try to head into a store with bags in your hands from another store…well…you won’t make it very far. At the huge Auchan stores you actually have to stand in line before entering the store and give them all your bags to be sealed into a huge plastic bag before you can enter the store and shop. This proved tricky once when they sealed my entire bookbag and then I had to break it open at the checkout to get my wallet out to pay. I thought the cashier had seen me open it, but apparently not, and then she was suspicious as to why my “sealed” bag had been opened. Gasp, had I tried to stuff groceries in there?

And yet another problem when shopping carless is that you are limited as to which stores you can actually get to. If I want to shop at the huge Auchan stores, which have better prices, I have to take the metro to get there. Thankfully there is one close to a metro. Some other stores I can’t even get to at all. So having to take a bus, and then a metro, both ways, to go grocery shopping, turns shopping into quite an event in and of itself (and that’s not counting the experience inside the store, which is something that must be seen to be believed.) Getting all your groceries safely home via metro is another challenge. The very first time I went grocery shopping after moving into this apartment, was during rush hour, and that means a verrry crowded metro. (Think people so smashed together the door almost doesn’t close, and you literally can’t move.) And…I had bought eggs. Try keeping eggs from breaking in a situation like that. Thankfully, somehow, none of them broke. But I learned my lesson. I will never take the metro to grocery shop during rush hour again.

One last “problem” is that I can’t quickly (or even always) read the labels on the products I am looking at, which makes for some slow shopping at times as I have to read everything and then compare and see if I am even picking up what I really want. I have, at times, bought things only to get them home and realize they were not at all what I wanted. Sometimes they have been close enough to still make do, but not always. One thing I am so looking forward to when I am home for a few weeks is being able to understand everything around me. Conversations. Questions people ask me. Signs. Products. Everything.

Don’t take for granted your easy, convenient shopping experiences, friends!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2013 4:48 am

    What made you decide not to have a car in Moscow ?.I would feel lost without one.

    • November 2, 2013 5:35 am

      Let’s see if I can reply from my email since Russia is blocking my access to my blog. It would be too crazy to have one here, they drive crazy lol. I do miss my car though! Sent from my iPhone

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