Friday, March 28, 2014

The Grocery Adventure

The family needed to learn a few new words when we moved to London.  The most difficult category for me was food as I attempted to adapt American recipes to UK grocery ingredients and sizes.  I feel that I've found acceptable (or sometimes even better) equivalents for some of our favorites.  Before I could become an experienced shopper, I had to learn the lingo:

cookie = biscuit
fries = chips
chips = crisps
pop = fizzy
zucchini = courgettes
eggplant = aubergine
cilantro = coriander
roast = joint
tomato sauce = passata
tomato paste = tomato puree

Size Matters
The selection at my regular grocery is quite good; it's probably just about the size of any US grocery.  I have found that the product selection is nowhere near as plentiful or the packaging as large.  For example our favorite Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Spaghetti sauce comes in a 25 ounce jar.  That was plenty for our family of four to have dinner.  The Marks & Spencer equivalent only comes in 12 ounce jars.  I buy these six at a time to keep the family stocked for a bit.  I'd ask the manager to order me a case, but I have nowhere to store them.

I can't even get started about milk.  The largest size of skim milk I can buy is 4 pints.  That's a half gallon, folks.  I buy these four at a time.  I also have some armageddon milk stashed in a cabinet incase we run out after a weekend at home.  You've never heard of armageddon milk?  It's actually ultra-pasteurized milk that's in a shelf-stable container.  If you have seen the individual Horizon milks then you know what I'm talking about.    

Product Placement & Selection
Eggs are not in the refrigerated section; they are hanging out on the regular grocery shelves.  I asked a lady once if she keeps her eggs on the counter at home.  She laughed and said, "No!  They go straight into the refrigerator."  

The flour and sugar don't hang out in the same aisle.  Flour is over with the baking ingredients.  The sugar is in the cereal aisle.

There's exactly four choices of cake mixes in the baking aisle: Devil's Food, Classic Vanilla, Chocolate Fudge, and Carrot.  One brand is Betty Crocker and the other brand is the store brand.  Betty is charging £2.25 ($3.75) a box, which is horrible since they can often be found for $1 in the states.  I believe there's a Betty Crocker brownie mix, too.  

It's amusing to see some of the "American" products on the shelf or the products that claim to be American favorites.  Unfortunately, the British think our best Mexican foods are made by Doritos & Old El Paso.  Then there's the hot dogs in a jar.  Ew.

I'm sure these smell appetizing  
What's missing?
The whole family is craving a quality Mexican meal.  The salsa from the grocery store is a joke. A George Lopez joke comes to mind when I buy salsa.  He pretends to wipe sweat from spicy hot salsa from his brow and asks if that's a tomato in there.  I feel the same way.  It's more like tomato soup than anything else.  Yes, I can certainly make my own, but the tomatoes at the store need to stop being crunchy and unripe on the inside before I embark on that journey.  I think I came across a salsa verde yesterday, but I have to compare the ingredients to a bottle of Rick Bayless' Tomatillo Salsa just to be sure.  I'm dying for Chicken Enchiladas made famous to our family by our old neighbor (hi!).  

What's new?
While I cannot find refrigerator biscuits in the pop tube, I have found Pain Au Chocolat in the pop tube.  Now that's a delicious way to start the morning.  

The British have a thing for Indian curries.  Curry shops are plentiful for take-out meals, and the grocery has many sauces on the shelf.  We've made Tikka Masala, which was delicious.  My kids licked their plates so it's new addition to the meal rotation.

Fish & Chips is a delicious meal.  I don't think I'll make it at home as I'm not interested in the mess it will make.  It's much easier to buy it down the street.  The mushy peas that come with it are darn good, too.  

At the end of the day I need to be sure what I buy will fit in my grocery trolley.  

When we need more than the grocery trolley can handle, there's always delivery.  I often get free delivery vouchers at the store or splurge on the £4.99 fee.

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