Shopping…the little things

Living in Spain for just over a month now it is the little things that you start to notice. I have mentioned shopping and finding our way around locally named products with unfamiliar names, even though they are made by Proctor & Gamble, or Heinz. It is what is not there which is interesting. Bob uses Alfredo sauce in our favorite pasta dish, but not only can we not find it, our friend Xavi who owns one of the best restaurants in town has never heard of it! Looked in all sorts of specialty shops, but no Alfredo. Thankfully we just got a care package from my sister Vicky so we have some Knorr Alfredo sauce. No chili sauce either, and stir fry sauce is also missing, so Bob is having to improvise, which is not so unusual. Bob was ready to try creating a stir fry sauce (we usually use a Szechwan sauce) but we gave our wok away to a friend. Just finding a wok or something similar was fun. By the way, his stir fry sauce turned out to be amazing so I think we can stop looking for Szechwan sauce now. Xavi gave us a jar of chili sauce from his restaurant and has told us about an Asian grocery store in Barcelona which we will have to check out one day.

When I went to use the toilet duck, or pato (toilet bowl cleaner), I wondered why nothing was coming out, so I kept unscrewing the cap till it ran out the sides. Then I noticed that there is no hole in the top of the cap of the toilet duck, very strange. Same shaped bottle, different way of using it. So, talking of cleaning, each culture must have a different scent that means clean. In the U.S., it is noticeable that the clothes of people from other cultures smell different, presumably the washing powder smells different. It does here too, in fact all the cleaning products smell different, even basic things like glass cleaner and Dove soap. Same manufacturers, so they obviously know their market and what people expect. When you clean your house and friends walk in and say, “wow it smells so clean in here”…what is that smell? Have you ever thought about that? I am not saying that the cleaning products here smell bad they are just different. It is just one of those little things.

As I said we get used to buying brands that we know and trust. So what do you do when you go shopping and see this?

We almost bought the Colon cleaner in the third picture just because we figured it must do an incredible cleaning! Ha ha

Unlike America, eggs are not in the refrigerated section. They are just on a shelf. This didn’t shock me as it was the same in Australia.


Milk is most often found (Bob inserted here: after a long search) in a random aisle. Of course, this is the long life or sterilized milk. Some stores do not have regular milk in a refrigerated section. Now that we have figured this out we make sure we go to the right store when we need milk.

The following two photos show the choices for cereal. Seems like a long aisle but look closely…there are not many choices. But at least there are familiar ones.

Some other familiar products.

Another little thing is Ziploc bags. We used to buy these in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club and never ran out. Well they hardly exist here. After four weeks, we finally found a store that had one size of zip and one size of slide lock and very small boxes. Otherwise they have plastic bags with twist ties. You know like we all used in the old days before Ziploc came into our lives. We know we shipped some…we had a healthy supply…but my sister, Vicky, included tons of every size Ziploc in her care package that we got yesterday. Seriously, it almost feels like we just shopped at Costco or Sam’s!

I’m sure there will be more to say about this in the future. I haven’t even mentioned the butchers, the seafood section, the Jamón section etc. There is the fresh bread that we buy almost daily! So, this really is to be continued.

I will close this post with the following observations. They have solved the issue of shopping carts not being returned to the front of the store. A pet peeve of ours is when people are too lazy to return their shopping carts. Well, here it is simple. If you want to use a shopping cart you must insert a 0.50€, 1.00€, or a 2.00€ coin into the handle of the cart. This pushes the locking mechanism out the back of the handle. When you are done you simply take the locking mechanism that is connected to the cart in front and push it through until your coin pops out. Voilà.

shopping cart 1

Another great thing. You bag your own groceries in the bags that you bring with you. If you didn’t bring a bag they will provide a disposable one for a nominal charge. What a great concept and it certainly forces you to remember those reusable bags. Just remember that you have to bag the items yourself so don’t stand there waiting for the checker to do it for you.

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