Food Shopping in Spain

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Fran’s new shopping bag

There are some noticeable differences to shopping for food in Spain compared to the UK. Apart from the slightly different foodstuffs (more fishy stuff and asparagus), the biggest difference is the lack of online food delivery, something I used weekly in the UK as I was working full-time.

The supermarkets in Murcia can be broken down into three categories:

  • Huge French-style hypermarkets such as Carrefour and Alcampo (same as Auchan in France). Usually part of a centro commercial with lots of other shops.
  • Discounters such as Lidl and Aldi – nearly the same as in the UK, including the bit in the middle that sells chainsaws and ski wear.
  • Local supermarkets like Mercadona and Consum. We only use these if we need to pop in and pick up a couple of items.

In Murcia we also have something called Overseas Supermarkets, which is similar to Iceland in the UK, plus has some Waitrose and Gregg’s foods as well.

Handy if you need something peculiar from the UK, or you have a hankering for some Werther’s Originals!

The Carrefour and Alcampo stores are large and sell everything you could think of, including, clothes, electrical items, furniture, tyres for your car, fresh, frozen and food cupboard items. These large supermarkets have several smaller shops around them and can be a little daunting to find the things you need. They generally have an international aisle where you will find teabags, baked beans and a small selection of items that are deemed British. They are also probably the most expensive place to shop, but everything is under one roof. Did I mention they are huge? Not the kind of place to pop in for a loaf of bread. My advice is to turn a trip to these stores into a day out. Have a cake and a coffee at Bombon Boss when you are done so you can rest your poor legs!

The Lidl and Aldi stores are very similar to the ones we used in the UK. However they all have a bakery section, where you can get fresh bread, pastries and donuts. The fresh fruit and vegetable section is much bigger than in the UK with plenty of local rather than imported produce. The vegetarian section in both of these stores is small with limited selection, what they do offer tends to be expensive.

The price of food in Spain has risen noticeably in the last six months, the only things still very cheap are wine and beer. Everything else seems to be getting close to UK prices now.

The Overseas Supermarket in San Javier has a large selection of frozen products, that you would expect to find in Iceland in the UK. If you are from the UK you will feel instantly at home. If you want Dolmio sauce, Whiskas cat food or McCain oven chips it is all here. This is also the only store we have found that sells Quorn veggie products, in their reasonably sized vegetarian section. However the noticeable difference to Iceland at home is the cost, as everything is shipped over from the UK. Most things are between 50% and 100% dearer than the UK.

Breakfast cereal in Spain seems to be mostly very sugary or chocolatey, with a solitary box of corn flakes or granola lurking in the corner. I think cereals in Spain are considered to be mostly a children’s meal, with the adults having a more continental style breakfast of bread, cheese and ham so there is little market for “adult” cereals.

Fresh bread in Spain is delicious and can be very inexpensive. It is usually some kind of baguette with very few preservatives. This means it ends up as solid as a chair leg within a day if not eaten. If this happens you can slice the bread open and turn it into a delicious baguette style pizza. Spain does have long-life sliced bread, usually made by a company called Bimbo. It is OK for toasting, but it is sweeter than the stuff we have in the UK.

Another noticeable thing we found was most stores do not sell UK-style cordials (syrups you make up with water into a drink). I still have not found a substitute for Vimto in Spain yet – except at the Overseas Supermarket.

In all though, food shopping in Spain is as enjoyable as anywhere. Some things in Spain are better and some are worse. If you can adapt your tastes to the local versions of things, it should cost you less than the equivalent shopping in the UK. And at least the weather is nicer too!

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